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Question 70.
Dear Fr Christopher,

your blessing.
I would like to ask for your advice on a problem I have been facing lately. I never had many friends but I consider those I have really valuable. One of those valuable friends is a 22 year-old guy that I met in college. He is definitely one of the persons that I would treat as a family member since I respect and love him like my brothers. I am quite certain that he considers me as a good friend of his as well. The problem that I am trying to deal with is the fact that an aspect of his life is quite different to what I would consider moral. Specifically, he leads a life full of sexual pleasures, having countless girlfriends and considering sex as one of his major needs that he cannot live without. Although I have tried to talk to him, nothing seems to work. If he was in a long-term relationship some moral issues would still be there since sex outside marriage is definitely a sin. But changing sexual partners like shirts not only is a sin but it is undeniably inhuman as well. Human beings unlike animals are rational creatures, they have feelings and they create bonds based on these feelings. They are not just led by their instincts and they absolutely do not become slaves of these passions. He seems to be really addicted to this. His family do not give the impression that they care about the situation. I know that I cannot do much and I sometimes feel really helpless because I witness a tragic situation involving a beloved person that I can do nothing about. This is what makes me sad.
Moreover I have started thinking what my place is in this picture. Could I just ignore this parameter of his life and focus on those elements in his character that have attracted my respect and love? This could be a permanent but highly hypocritical solution. Could I still be friends with someone who willingly does something I consider cheap and dirty? On the other hand, how could you just say goodbye to a person who has earned your friendship and love? How can you disregard the fact that you have shared unforgettable moments together, especially when you were in need and he was by your side?
That is the presentation of the problem. Your own view on the situation and how I can handle it would be really important to me.
Thanks a lot.


Answer to Question 70.

Dear T.
You told me much about your friend but very little about yourself. To properly help you I need to understand your religious beliefs. From what I can gather you understand that sexual relations outside marriage is a sin. Can I then assume that you lead a celibate and spiritual life? I will assume that that is the case and answer you accordingly.
Your friend may be a baptized Christian but that doesn't mean that he understands the Christian way of life. Like most people he probably claims to be a Christian, but he has no knowledge of God and the ways of the spirit. When he says he believes in God what he really means is that he believes in the existence of God. He doesn't as yet understand the meaning of this life as preparation for the future and eternal life with God. He lives according to the laws of this world because that is all he understands. To change and put aside his worldly behaviour and live spiritually he need to be spiritually enlightened, but that will only happen when he is ready to seek God and open up his heart to let God enter and enlighten him. Until then he can only live according to the world and no matter how much you or anyone else preaches to him about the rights and wrongs of worldly living he will not understand.
He cannot see anything wrong with living only for the pleasures of this world. He is doing what he feels is natural to human behaviour and for his age. The passions and especially the sexual passions are so strong that even monks, who practice celibacy and live holy and spiritual lives, battle with them often into old age. Sexual desire varies from person to person. There is no way of measuring what is considered as normal. Some people have a lot, some people have a little, and most people are somewhere in the middle. Age plays an important factor as does biologically levels of hormones such as testosterone. Your friend is only 22 and at an age when the sexual passions are at their strongest. On top of this he probably has a very high natural sexual desire often called libido. He is releasing this sexual drive in the way he has been taught by modern society. The Church may preach about sex before marriage as a sin, and it is, but times have changed since the canons were written and we all need to be more understanding and compassionate. In older times, before sexual liberation, people married very young (often 18 or even younger) giving them a lawful outlet for their sexual desire. In our times we expect our children to finish school, do their army, go to university, get settled professionally and earn enough money to support themselves before considering settling down with a wife. Today most people marry in their thirties so what are they to do with their sexual desires until then? I am not condoning sex outside marriage, but at the same time we need to understand that society's views on sex have changed dramatically over the past few decades. There was a time not so long ago when marriages were arranged and couples got to know each other intimately on their wedding night. Today people would not think about marrying someone unless they first experience living together as man and wife to see if they are sexually compatible whatever that means. In most cases for someone to determine what is "good sex" it means sexual experience with other partners.
Your friend may now be living his life immorally and in a way that you disapprove, but he is only living how society expects him to live. As he gets older his sexual drive will slow down or when he finds a woman that he falls in love with, he will discover that sex is only truly fulfilling when it is the expression of love and will probably stop sowing his seeds here and there and chose to settle down with the one woman he loves.
In the meantime what do you do? Do you turn a blind eye or break your friendship with him? Most of us who have come to know God sees thing very differently than the rest of the world. We live in the world, but as Christ said, we are not of the world. The things that seem important to the world like fame, wealth and sexual pleasures don't seem the least important to us, because we understand that these things are only temporal and our aim is not temporal things, but eternal. Often people who have been enlightened to understand such things can feel out of place in the world and can feel lonely if they don't find others who share their beliefs.
I think this is want you need to do. Find, possibly through the Church, others who are of the same mind as you. Your friend is not different from most lads his age, but you are and you need to discover others who are on the same spiritual wavelength as yourself. You are not alone, there are many lads your age who feel exactly like you about living morally and respecting others. Where do you find such friends? Most, like you, do not have many friends, because they feel out of place with what society expects them to experience. Many find friends through monasteries or their local church by involving themselves in parish activities. I am not saying you should become a monk, but if you have a monastery close by that you can visit from time to time, you will soon find others who are of the same mind as yourself.
But you ask; what should you do about your friendship with your current friend. It's very easy to tell you not to have anything to do with him, but that is not the Christian way.
There is a saying that we can choose our friends and not our relatives. If he was your brother would you disown him? Of course not! As you consider him as family you should still keep your friendship with him, but maybe reduce the social contact and activities you have with him. Being a Christian means learning to love all people no matter what faults they might have. That means learning to accept people without judging them because they live differently to ourselves. We can hate the sin but we must love the person. This is Christ's message that escapes many Christians. We see people fasting and praying, going to all the Church services and making many prostrations, yet they don't seem to get anywhere spiritually and this is because deep down they consider themselves better than the next man and, like the Pharisees in Christ time, they judge everyone who falls short of what they consider a good Christian must be. At the end of our days all our spiritual efforts will be accounted as nothing if we didn't at the same time learn the meaning of love. This is the only true Christian virtue and we will be judged according to our love for others. If we cannot love our fellow men then in truth we donít love Christ, because he has created each man in his own image and likeness.
As Christians we must learn to accept everyone as our brothers in Christ. Thus we should not avoid them as though they had a contagious disease because they are different to us, but rather show them that we love them as we love all Godís children.
The way to learn love is to separate the sin or passion from the person. No matter what the sin, the person is a victim of his passions or the devil's temptations. He is in need of help not banishment from our eyes.
The consequence of Adam's fall was that God's image in man became distorted. The fall brought corruption into human nature: evil and death entered into the world and all aspects of human life went astray from their original form and purpose. This damage to human nature had an adverse effect on all forms of private and social life. Thus, natural attraction between individuals sometimes becomes disordered, taking various forms of sexual perversion such as promiscuity, prostitution, fornication, homosexuality, marital unfaithfulness and so forth. We all have to some degree these distorted sexual passions and most of us learn to keep them under control, but for others it is not so easy and they need to learn how to cope with their passions in a way that would be considered acceptable human behaviour.
If they are willing to hear, we can with love and compassion try to help them realize that their lifestyle is contrary to the will of God. We thus should try and increase in them a knowledge of God which will in time bring them to question their actions. If they are not willing to listen, we cannot continue to bombard them with our opinions and beliefs. The only thing we can do is remember them with love in our prayers just as we would pray for someone who is ill.
You mentioned that you have already tried talking with you friend, but that didn't work. Did you really expect it would? It just shows how strong the sexual passions are in some people. They can and have overcome the strongest of people and have destroyed families and friendships. Don't allow his sexual needs to ruin your friendship with him, but at the same time make other friends who are more like yourself. To be fair to yourself, you cannot be his friend socially if his interests are very different from yours. His way of life might in the end lead you astray from the way of life you hold as proper and sacred. Maybe you cannot be his friend, but you can be his brother.

With love in Christ
Fr. Christopher