Bishop Michael Putney has been Bishop of Townsville since the 27th of March 2001. He is a great supporter of ministry with young people throughout the Church. He has many years of experience as a priest & bishop, he also lecturered for many years at the Banyo Seminary in Brisbane.

In our work young people often have questions of faith, and sometimes they do not ask them. Here is a great opportunity to ask your questions and Bishop Michael will answer them. We will publish these answers on the website for everyone.

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Question 1

What advice would you give to someone considering entering a relationship and discerning marriage as their vocation? 

Answer

We are created by God to love each other and for most of us that love will be expressed in the relationship of marriage, which extends to the relationships involved in creating a family.

Men and women are naturally attracted to each other and desire union with each other, and that attraction and desire is what draws them towards each other and so enter into the relationship that can eventually lead to marriage.

However, the love of desire for another has to give way to a self-giving love whereby they choose to love, even when it costs them something of their freedom, and when they have to make sacrifices for the sake of the other.  It is only this latter love that can sustain married life and the raising of a family.  The love of desire passes anyhow and can be replaced by the desire for someone else.  The love of marriage and family must last.  So it depends upon a choice to live not just for oneself anymore and to satisfy one’s desires, but to live for the other, and forever.

Catholics believe that God is involved in all of this and the grace of God can help transform the love of desire into self-giving love.   Moreover, the grace of God can hold people in that love even when it costs them a great deal.

If both are baptised, then their relationship becomes one that binds them together in Christ.  They were baptised into Christ and now the two become one in Christ.  It is he who holds them together, just as he holds each of them separately in his embrace because of their baptism.  So,  for Catholics, marriage is both a richly human, physical, emotional and social reality, but it is also a deeply spiritual and religious reality.  God is involved in it every moment of the journey.

I hope you discover the richness of this vision of marriage and find someone who will share it with you.

Yours sincerely

Bishop Michael Putney


Question 2

I was just wondering how we ought to give reverence to the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament in our Churches this day and age. This is because I have realised that many people find a lot of time to catch up with friends and family in the Church before Mass with no regards for some peace and quiet or for those who need the peace and quiet. I don't mind a gesture of greeting or emergencies but I believe there is a lot of time after Mass and during the cuppa time to catch up. I was just wondering how it ought to be or if people needed to be reminded. 

Answer

Thank you for your letter concerning our respect for the reserved Blessed Sacrament.  It is a very good question.

Our churches serve two purposes.  They are a place for private prayer which is often in front of the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the Tabernacle and they are also places where we gather for celebrating the mass or some other sacrament.  Part of our coming together for mass is our greeting each other so that we actually do form a community for the celebration.   Ideally the greeting could take place outside, both before and after, however this often quite naturally carries over a little into the church.   A little leeway could be allowed in this regard.

This does not mean the churches should just become a place where everybody talks and no-one prays.  It is hard to get the right mix and I regret that some places may have moved a little too far in the direction of greeting and communicating with each other. 

May God bless you.

Bishop Michael Putney


Question 3

I recently watched a film, in which they kept discussing The Rapture. I did some reading up on this and the beliefs around it. The people that believe in the Rapture, are basing it on different sections on the bible: mainly Thessalonians. I was just wondering what the Catholic teaching or beliefs of the Rapture are. I believe that Catholics have the same bible, but interested to know if it is interpreted in a different way. Seems that there are several intepretations

Answer

Catholics do believe the teaching of I Thessalonians 4:16-17 which is often the biblical reference for “the rapture”, however, we don’t normally use the term.

We would believe that at Christ’s second coming those who are still alive will be joined to those already with Christ, but what this will look like we are prepared to wait and see.

Thank you for enquiring.

+Michael Putney.


Question 4

What does the church say about Hypnotism?

Answer 

I was about to answer your question on ‘hypnosis’ and then checked with another bishop who has a Doctorate in Moral Theology, and he agreed with what I was going to say. 

As far as I am concerned, hypnosis would not normally be acceptable because we surrender control of our faculties to another person.  In the wrong hands, this person could do damage to the one being hypnotised.  However, hypnosis in a properly controlled situation could be acceptable for therapeutic reasons.  In other words, it is not a party game but a medical treatment that a person would only undergo in a situation where they had real confidence in the professional using hypnotism. 

May God bless you.

 

+Michael Putney


Question 5

Can someone be a priest or religious if they are not social by nature and like to spent most time, if not all time, to themselves, by themselves in whatever they do. Just asking because I believe being a priest or religious you work with people and you are their for the people, in the service of God.

Answer  

Psychologists sometimes say that there are two types of people in the world.  Introverts who gain their energy by being on their own and extroverts who gain their energy by being with people.  A lot of priests and religious are introverts and therefore like to spend time on their own, and are very happy doing that.  But they rise to the occasion when they are involved in their ministry and work very well with people as well.  So there is no problem for an introvert becoming a priest or a religious.  He or she would feel very much at home.

However, if someone found it very difficult to be with people and preferred to avoid them altogether, he or she would find it difficult to be engaged in the ministry they would have to do as a priest or a religious.  It would be a very demanding and perhaps painful task for them, and if they avoided it, they would be failing to do the work for which they were ordained, or to which their religious order is dedicated. 

In other words, it depends on the degree to which a person likes to be on their own as to whether or not they should become a priest or a religious.

 

May God bless you.

Bishop  Michael Putney


Question 6

What is the official religious stand-point on same-sex marriage?   

Answer

For Catholics and many other Christians, and indeed for adherents of other World Religions, marriage is not just about a relationship between two people.  It is also about the families that grow from that relationship.  This is one of the major reasons why Catholics and many others believe that marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.

In the present climate where the question of extending that definition of marriage to same-sex couples is beginning to become a major subject for discussion and debate, it is important that our position is properly understood.  We are not opposed to homosexual people, because we would thereby be opposed to some of the members of our own churches and indeed of our own larger network of family and friends.  Many also are very open to seeing legal recognition extended to same-sex couples so that they can enjoy certain privileges under the law.

What worries people like myself is that a word that has meant one thing for thousands of years and across the boundaries of cultures and religions, will all of a sudden be changed to mean something else.  It will be disconnected from the generation of children and it will no longer mean what the men and women who married in the past presumed that it meant.

I can understand same-sex couples wanting to be recognized by society, but I wish they did not want to change the definition of marriage to do so.  For us it is not just about two people loving each other and wishing to have a legally recognized relationship.  It is about the love between a man and a woman that is generative of children and creates families which are the foundation of our society and our religious communities.

Words and titles do mean something.  "Marriage" is a word which has always had a particular meaning for us and we ask that in the campaign for same-sex couples to be given legal recognition this meaning not be changed.  To do so would be, in a sense, to take away the right of heterosexual married couples to retain the identity they have had up until this point.

The Church's position on this matter is not a popular one because people interpret it as resisting the right of same-sex couples to equality, and it is sometimes even interpreted as an opposition to homosexual members of the community.  It is not either of these.  Heterosexual married couples also have rights.  I believe they have the right to the institution we have known and valued for thousands of years, and which is enshrined not just in our legal framework, but is also very often in our religious framework.

I am sure it is not always easy to be a gay or lesbian member of our larger Australian community and I abhor any violence or lack of respect that is shown towards them.  It is also not easy always to be a Christian in the Australian community anymore, because our position is often seen as old-fashioned or opposed to the freedom and rights of others.

I hope my simple explanation of why we stand where we do on this matter can be respected by others in the same way that I am very willing to respect the integrity of those who argue the opposite case.

MOST REV MICHAEL E PUTNEY

Bishop of Townsville

(published in Catholic News June 2011)


Question 7

I'm an eleven year old boy and I was wondering how you came a priest then a bishop?

Answer

Thank you for your question.  I decided I wanted to be a priest when I was in Grade 4 here in Townsville.  I was an altar server at St Mary's Church, West End and just knew in my heart that I wanted to do what the priest who was celebrating mass was doing.

I continued to want to be a priest right through my childhood and my time in high school.  When I left high school I went to the seminary in Brisbane, where we were living at that time.  I trained for seven years and was ordained a priest for Brisbane Archdiocese.  I worked there for some years and eventually became a lecturer in Theology in the very  seminary where I had trained.  Then in 1995 I received a letter telling me that the Pope John Paul II wanted me to be an Assistant Bishop in Brisbane and then in 2001 I received a telephone call telling me that the Pope now wanted me to become Bishop of Townsville.

I have never changed my mind from what I wanted when I was in Grade 4.  I knew that God was more important than anything else in life and to spend my life helping people to know and love God seemed to be just the best thing anyone could do.  That has been my experience ever since I became a priest and I wouldn't wish to do anything else.

You might like to think of becoming a priest yourself.  If you are interested, you could contact me again.

I wish you God's blessings.

Bishop Michael.


Question 8

What is vocation?

Answer

Thank you for asking about "vocation". It tends to be more of a church word because it comes from the Latin vocatio and vocare, which are translated as "call" or "calling".  Hence, "vocation" is used in the church to describe the calling we have from God.  Our first calling is to be a disciple of Jesus.   If we are an adult, this call can lead us to baptism.  If we were baptised as a child, it leads us to embrace our baptism and choose personally to become a disciple of Jesus.  This calling is universal for all Christians.

The second calling we have is to follow Jesus in a particular state of life.  This can be as a married person,  a priest, a member of a religious order, or a single person who lives a dedicated life in the church.  This second calling we share with lots of others.  For example, I am a priest and I share that vocation with lots of other priests around the world, maybe hundreds of thousands of them.  The same is true for a married person, and so on.

But there is a third calling that each of us has that is uniquely ours.  It is the calling not simply to be a disciple, and not simply to be a married person or a priest or whatever.  It is a unique calling to serve God in a particular place, in a particular time, in a particular way.  We are each called to do something that is uniquely ours with our life.  For example, I was called to be a priest, but I might have been called to be a missionary priest and to go to work in a foreign country, or to be a monk living a life of prayer, and then to be called to a particular monastery in a particular place.  In fact, I was called to be a priest in Brisbane, then to teach in a seminary and finally to be the Bishop of Townsville.  Each person is called to do something with their lives that no-one else can do.  Another example would be that of a married follower of Jesus who was also called to be a doctor who works to serve other people, or to be a teacher who helps young people to grow in faith, or a worker who works with integrity and witnesses to his or her faith in the workplace by the way he or she lives, and so on.

These three different calls very often come as one call.  We just hear a call to be a priest, which is really our way of being a disciple, and to go to the seminary for a particular diocese in a particular country; or to be a good doctor who serves people with their spouse, and that is the way they are called to be a disciple of Jesus.  The three calls may be all wrapped up together.  Sometimes, on the other hand, they are quite distinct and even follow each other in time.

We will be happy in life if we discern what God is calling us to, and then say ‘yes'.

May God bless you as you deal with your own particular vocation.

Regards, 

MOST REV MICHAEL E PUTNEY Bishop of Townsville 


Question 9

Is stem cell research considered ethical in the eyes of the church? This is not only the issue of using embryonic stem cells but also whether or not it is right to use the stem cells to repair conditions that would otherwise be impossible to repair. Curing some of these disorders (such as Parkinsons) could be seen as God not wanting us to be able to cure them because we need such advanced technology to cure them.  If God had intended them to be cured, wouldn't God have made the diseases able to be cured with simpler types of treatment?

Answer

I am sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you.  In fact, the system we had set up for questions to come through to me broke down last year, and I only received a whole group of questions last week.

Apart from the question of the use of embryonic stem cells in research, which raises all kinds of ethical issues because it involves the destruction of human life, you have asked a very interesting question of cures depending only upon advanced technology.

The most fundamental question that has troubled people throughout history when they think of God is the question of evil.  How can a good God let suffering occur?  People try to answer this question in different ways.  For example, some point to the many reasons why a world without suffering would be a different kind of world and so many good things would not happen.  However, evil remains a mystery, meaning something that we never quite can get our minds around but rather live with and grow deeper in our understanding of as time goes on.  Ultimately we must really deal with the mystery of God and the mystery of human beings.  With our human minds we can never work out why God acts in certain ways, and why certain things happen, but we can, if we draw closer to the mystery of God, come to sit more easily with all the issues that are involved and grow in insight and some understanding about them.

The question why God didn't make it easier for us to cure all diseases is really a more refined form of the basic question: why does God let there be diseases at all?, or diseases that we can't fix very easily.  I don't know the answer and really no-one does, but I do agree with Pope Benedict that the test of our humanity is how we deal with suffering, both the suffering of ourselves and the suffering of others.  Somehow our humanity has this question at its heart.

So, for me, a world without suffering would be a world that did not enable me to be human in the deeper way that I have grown over the years because of my suffering and that of others.

Don't ever give up on exploring the mystery of your own life and the mystery of God, but never expect to be able to get an answer that means there is no longer any mystery.  If you could, then you would not be dealing with God.

Regards, 

MOST REV MICHAEL E PUTNEY Bishop of Townsville 


Question 10

Why does God choose some people? For example, Padre Pio used to talk to angels when he was small, Anne Catherine Emmerich used to see visions when very young, St Joan used to hear voices.....all babies are innocent while they are young....so why doesn't everyone get visions when small and only some?...If he had given everyone visions I am sure the world will be a good place.

Answer 

Each of us has been created in God's image but we are also made to be our own individual and unique person.  God chooses to reveal himself in a way that is unique to each individual because he knows what is best for each of us and knows when to reveal himself and when to give us time to seek him. 

If you look at the lives of people in the Bible, you will see that each person who was touched by God and experienced Him revealing Himself to them, experienced God in a different way.  Moses found him in the burning bush, Elijah in the gentle wind, and St Paul was blinded and knocked to the ground.

We encounter God at various times when God is ready to reveal himself and at a time when we are ready to experience him.  Some of the saints experienced God in very tangible and extraordinary ways, such as visions and voices; but not all.  For many, God did not give them any great sense of his presence for much of their lives.  They experienced what St John of the Cross called "the dark night of the soul".

The saints, too, always discouraged people focussing on the extraordinary, because it was too easy to settle for those special signs of God's presence and not make the difficult journey of growing closer to God every day.  Also, people can easily mistake for signs of the presence of God what in fact are simply their own emotions, or events that have other natural explanations.  It is a very tricky area and not the normal way God uses for us to grow close to him.  God seems rather to want us to grow gradually as we long for him more and more, and seek him with greater eagerness.  We change so that we are more and more able to receive his gift of himself, but always the fullness of the gift still remains something that awaits at the end of our lives.

It is more important for you to allow God to reveal himself to you and to be open to his presence in both big and small aspects of your life than to dwell on how he does not reveal himself to you.  Looking at the lives of saints and those whose lives we admire help convince us that God does work in people's lives and that he does reveal himself to us.  This can encourage us, but the most important question we need to answer is: how is he revealing himself to me today?

Regards, 

MOST REV MICHAEL E PUTNEY Bishop of Townsville 


Question 11

I have been married to my husband for over 20 years and have 3 beautiful children, the oldest has just been confirmed whilst the other two have both taken their first holy communion.  My husband is a Catholic and was so when I married him (I was a protestant).  We both decided to bring our children up in the Catholic faith and I am very proud to say that they are lovely thoughtful children that attend mass at least once a week (even our son now at university). My question to you is:- If my husband has been divorced twice before I met him, which meant that we had to get married in a registry office, does this have any effect on me?   ( I have only ever been married to my husband ) becoming a catholic.  Can you please let me know what/how to tackle this situation?  Many thanks for your time and consideration  

Answer

If you were not a Catholic and were married to a Catholic in the Church, then there would be no impediment to your becoming a Catholic if God was calling you to do this.  However, if your marriage is not one that is recognised by the Church, for example because your husband had been married before, you would need to approach the Marriage Tribunal of the Church to see if there could be a possibility of your obtaining an annulment or dissolution of your husband's first marriage so that you would be able to have your marriage recognised by the Church.

The people in the Marriage Tribunal in your diocesan offices are experts in helping people like yourself.  I really encourage you to approach them.

May God bless your efforts in this matter.

Regards, 

MOST REV MICHAEL E PUTNEY Bishop of Townsville 


Question 12

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my question. I am a senior in high school and I will be attending a catholic university next year. I myself am not catholic, however, i would like to convert to catholicism post graduation. Lately I have been getting this feeling, that I believe is a calling from the Lord telling me to become a Youth minister. If i choose to become a youth minister though, am I allowed to get married even if I become a youth minister at a catholic church? How much on average do youth ministers earn per year? I believe working for the Lord is enough compensation in itself. Thank you for your time, I hope to receive an email from you soon. God Bless.

Answer  

Your commitment to serve others in ministry is commendable.  It is wonderful to hear that you see this ministry as a vocation or calling from God. 

The simple answer to your question is yes you can be a youth minister and be married at the same time.  It is important to note however, that if you are married that your vocation of marriage is the priority, youth ministry comes after. 

Youth ministry is a highly demanding, challenging and yet rewarding ministry.  Every youth ministry role has its joys and challenges.  Each youth ministry position will have a different wage depending on your skill and experience level and what you have been asked to do in your ministry.  I would suggest that you talk to youth ministers in your area to see if they are willing to discuss what you can expect.  Generally, a youth minister would start with a youth group or movement group, then work at a school or parish level, before looking at something like diocesan youth ministry or heading up a movement.   Each person's life journey is different and I encourage you to look into this further as your vocation. A spiritual director or companion may help you in discerning your vocation.

Regards, 

MOST REV MICHAEL E PUTNEY Bishop of Townsville 


Question 13

I have had an opportunity of reading some materials on the day of rest and have become totally puzzled by them. Was the day of rest ever changed to Sunday fronm Saturday? If no, which day of rest did Jesus and his disciples keep? This is really bothering my Christian faith.  

Answer  

Saturday was always the "Sabbath", or day of rest, for Jews, like Jesus himself.  However, after his death and resurrection and his ascension to the Father, the early church grew apart from the continuing Jewish community which had not accepted Jesus as the Messiah.  So eventually it changed the day of rest to Sunday because that was the day of the Lord's resurrection and seemed to them to be the day that Christians should keep as their holy day.  Christians have kept this day holy right from the beginning.  It is still a sabbath for us in the sense that it is a day of rest, a day we give to God and then to our families and friends, and a time also for being restored so that we can return to whatever work God has given us in the following week.  Sunday is the Christian Sabbath.

Regards, 

MOST REV MICHAEL E PUTNEY Bishop of Townsville 


Question 14

What is the importance of having a youth day? Why should you have a youth day with the youth of your Church?

Answer

I have been to two World Youth Days, one in Cologne in Germany and then one in Sydney, and thought that they were both wonderful experiences.

World Youth Day (WYD) provides an opportunity for young Catholics from a variety of countries, ethnic groups and walks of life to come together and to express their Catholic faith and share this with other young Catholics, and even with the pope and the bishops of the world.

WYD also gives young people an opportunity to increase their understanding of Catholic teaching through what we call ‘Catechesis', which is part of every  WYD week.  They can also grow in their personal faith through journeying on pilgrimage and experiencing God in a foreign environment and through those around them.  The main focus of the pilgrimage to WYD is always God whom we know through Jesus Christ and whom we meet above all in the eucharist.

WYD also provides an opportunity for young people to express their youthful enthusiasm in ways that are sometimes not possible in their everyday faith community. 

There are many reasons to hold WYD and I believe it gives the rest of the Catholic Church encouragement knowing that young people are so enthusiastic about Jesus and the Church.  As long as young people are part of the Church, the Church will be alive a vibrant and WYD illustrates this as no other event can.

Regards, 

MOST REV MICHAEL E PUTNEY Bishop of Townsville 


Question 15

I am catholic. Is it against my Catholic faith to move in with my girlfriend way before being engaged and married (we're not having sex)?

Answer  

The Catholic Church always sees sex as an expression of committed love and the kind of committed love that is total and permanent and open to the conceiving of children.  Hence, it believes that physical sexual relationships belong in marriage.  In theory there is not problem in sharing a house with anyone.  However, it might be difficult to move in with your girlfriend if you love her, and at the same time be strong enough to resist the attraction of getting involved with her sexually.

I hope your love for her respects her integrity as a person and that both of you realise that sex is about committed love, and committed love is about marriage and children.

I wish you God's blessing on your friendship.

Regards, 

MOST REV MICHAEL E PUTNEY Bishop of Townsville 


Question 16

Is it a mortal sin to look up bikini models? Is it a mortal sin to have impure thoughts?

Answer

It is neither a sin to look at bikini models or have thoughts about sex.  In the case of bikini models, we see them in newspapers or at the beach.  If however we decide to look at them in a way that turns the woman into something other than real human beings with whom we could have a mature, respectful relationship, then we are beginning to sin.  To look at other people as objects for our pleasure and to dwell on this or indulge this so that they cease to be real persons deserving our respect and honour, is to sin.

Sexual thoughts come to us all the time, because that is part of being human.  They only become impure when we indulge them and dwell on them in such a way that people about whom we are thinking become again simply objects for our pleasure, rather than real people.

Men and women were created to complement each other.  Each of them is meant to be for the other a cause of wonder and delight, and this is how God intends us to see the opposite sex.  It is one thing however, to look at a woman and acknowledge that she is beautiful.  It is quite another to look at her, acknowledge that she is beautiful and then begin to think of her as a sexualised object.  God never intended us to objectify women.  He wanted us to become one with them in marriage, where we honour them and are totally committed to them as a husband and father to the children that come from a marriage relationship.

Being sexual and responding sexually to women is not a sin unless we indulge these reactions at the expense of their human dignity.

May God bless you and your sexuality.

Regards, 

MOST REV MICHAEL E PUTNEY Bishop of Townsville 


Question 17

I have a bit of a problem and I don't really know who I can talk to about it. I thought that maybe you could help me? My problem is this. I have a hard time in my Psychology class mainly because of the teacher. She often tells us things I don't agree with and whenever I try to tell her of other opinions or views on something, she just doesn't understand me. We've often argued in the past. Then the situation got worse when I decided I didn't want to write an article for the local conference with her. Not because she was that bad, but she just didn't get the point of the paper and it really upset me. I gave it to another teacher to read, and that guy was really impressed. I know I let her down in a way, but then she never really showed any interest in the work. She procrastinated with reading it and when I asked her to come up with the title, I gave her my email address, so that she could contact me and tell me what she had thought of, she never wrote to me. So I figured it wasn't that important to her. Although, I must admit that when I told her I wouldn't work with her any longer, she was upset. I bet she didn't understand why I had to do that. And I'm really sorry if I really hurt her feelings but that really seemed to be the only solution at the time and I had to think fast. Anyway, I was thinking... maybe if I talk to her about Christianity and its differences from Psychology, maybe she'll understand my points better and maybe if I offer her to read the Father's Love Letter (a compilation of quotes from the Bible telling about how much Father loves us), it'll help us to connect; I could give it to her in Italian, she says she speaks Italian... And then I could write another article for her... It's just... I'm not sure if I should do all that... I've prayed about it but I still don't know what to do... Hmmm, if I doubt, then I shouldn't do it, right? Maybe I still want to establish some sort of a rapport with her, or maybe I just want to make sure she doesn't think I try to prove her wrong each time I disagree with her. I don't know... What do you think I should do? Should I talk to her about Christianity and how it's different from Psychology and write another article for her, or should I just leave everything the way it is? Thank you.

Answer

If I understand your question correctly, you sometimes debate with your psychology teacher from a religious point of view and your teacher does not find this acceptable.

If we want to share our faith with others, it is best to do so in a way that can be heard by them and welcomed by them.  Therefore we have to be respectful of the context and the topic of discussion and the requirements for the particular kind of discussion which, in this case, would be an academic one, and one abou