The College’s own Father Joe Hlubik, Catholic Campus Ministry (CCM) priest, hosted the annual Ask-A-Priest event Oct. 16 in the Cromwell Main Lounge. The talk, which lasted over two hours, included anecdotes of Hlubik’s and the students’ own questions.
The students’ queries ranged from playful to serious, from asking whether or not animals go to Heaven, to what kind of sin warrants the need for confession. Hlubik replied to the former by answering that animals are not endowed with souls, and so, do not go to Heaven. To the latter, he answered that a mortal sin requires a confession – it is a sin of such seriousness that it “separates us from God.”
While discussing sins, Hlubik explained that not every sin is sinful, in fact, “there might not even be any sin at all.” It depends on the context and the intent; stealing a loaf of bread for your starving family will not warrant a need to confess for Hlubik.
When asked if he believed missing mass is a sin, Hlubik compared it to a job – if you’re a good worker, but you miss work a few times a year without a good reason, you probably won’t get fired, but you may feel the trademark Catholic guilt. If your lack of working is affecting your performance, then there is a problem. “A lot of people will claim to be Catholic on Ash Wednesday,” Hlubik said, bringing up the fact that two-thirds to three-quarters of Christians miss mass on a regular basis.
Audience member Celia Chazelle, professor of history and the First Seminar Program class American Christianity, added that some people do not go to mass because “they’re pissed off.” She introduced the political element present in the church, saying, “They’re asked to pray for a pope that has said things that have offended them . (There is) a disconnect.”
Hlubik also addressed difficult topics, like homosexuality. He was careful with his words, saying, “The church would say . practicing homosexual acts would be wrong.” But he was quick to add that the church does not say that being homosexual is wrong. When asked his own view on premarital sex, he replied he believed it to be wrong, but “not that wrong.” Hlubik was careful not to condone it, but gave his own opinion that it is not a mortal sin.
When asked why women cannot be priests, Hlubik replied, “I can’t even fathom a theological argument.” He explained that his own hypothesis involved the fact that the women already serve as the “heart and soul” of the church – they keep the tradition going. Hlubik guessed that if women could serve as priests, the church might become too woman-centric, leaving men totally out of the mix.
The mood of the meeting was not constantly serious. It was broken several times by light-hearted questions, like when Diana Karakos, sophomore international studies major, asked Hlubik how difficult it is for priests to be celibate. Hlubik was very good-natured in his answer, saying, “Sex drive, next to hunger, is probably one of the strongest drives,” and calling his own celibacy “God’s gift.” Hlubik also explained that it is more difficult for some than others, mentioning a long-ignored tradition of priests having secret romantic lives.
The topic of women in the church continued when Karakos mentioned Juana Inés de la Cruz, a nun from the 1600s who found fulfillment through her education and religion. Cruz couldn’t understand finding fulfillment through having children, and so mirrored the expectations of a Catholic priest.
If you’re wondering why we should trust one man with all of our divine questions, don’t expect Hlubik to be the one to offer you a reason. One anecdote of his revealed his mother’s own doubts of his abilities. When she had claimed one should confess their sins every time before taking communion and Hlubik disagreed, she answered, “Well, I’m going to ask someone that knows.” Apparently, even a man of God can still be deemed wrong by his mother.
The talk ended a little before 11 p.m., with Hlubik not advertising Catholicism and instead advocating that students have faith in something. “I do think that you need faith to have religion, but you don’t necessarily need religion to have faith,” he said. Hlubik doesn’t claim to know all the answers or to always speak a divine truth. Instead, “I claim to be a sociopath who’s a caring sort.”