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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Our Pro-Life Commitment

The Cemetery of the Innocents


Here is a picture of me and the Knights of Columbus who set up 721 crosses that represent the children lost to abortion in one hour of one work day.  This MEMORIAL OF THE INNOCENTS was set up at Holy Family Church in Mitchellville in 2009 and every year since then.  We often have it up until the annual March for Life in Washington, DC.  We received a lot of support although there were a few complaints.  One lady argued against putting such a thing up at Christmas time.  I explained that Advent and Christmas was the perfect time.  During Advent we recall the Christ-child in the womb and on Christmas he is born.  We are reminded that every child is a reflection of the Christ-child.  Another person argued that it was insensitive as she was a pro-choice Catholic.  I told her that she was deceived.  There is no such thing as a pro-abortion Christian; abortion attacks the central mystery of the Incarnation.  Abortion is murder and as such it is a repudiation of Christ’s Gospel of Life.

One of my favorite memories is working with the American Life League back in 2005 and the CRUSADERS FOR LIFE.  Here is a reposting of the news around that event at my old parish, Holy Spirit Church:

A.L.L. Crusaders Come to Washington 2005

A dozen young people from colleges across the country walked from Augusta, Maine to Washington, DC in “Defense of the Catholic Church” and to spread the message that you cannot be Catholic and pro-abortion. Nevertheless, while many have applauded young people for taking up the “right to life” cause, this group of remarkable crusaders was purportedly banned from speaking in churches by several dioceses like Philadelphia and Baltimore.

Myself, Dr. Grier & a Crusader


The American Life League ran a series of stinging ads challenging the American bishops to enforce canon law and to protect the Eucharist from sacrilege when pro-abortion politicians and others (who have made such “public” stands) take it upon themselves to receive Holy Communion. The young people have shown no spite or anger, only sadness that some of the nation’s shepherds have chosen to remain on the sidelines. One priest remarked that the ads in protest were so severe that the American Life League owed the leaders of the Church an apology. However, others thought that these good men should at least have shown the same respect and hospitality to the young marchers for life as they have in the past to the high profile anti-life politicians. While they were able to find lodging in the city, they attended 9:00 AM Mass at Holy Spirit Church on Friday, July 30 and were invited to say a few words afterwards. I contacted the archdiocese’s Pro-Life Office several weeks earlier about the matter to insure a level of approbation and to insure proper discretion.  (Although the ads pained him, to his credit, Cardinal McCarrick did not formally forbid the young people to speak in his churches. Throughout, nothing the young people said violated the archdiocese’s rules against participation in partisan politics– they did not name politicians by name, did not tell people for whom they should vote, and spoke with respect in regard to the Church’s shepherds.)  Following the celebration, a reception was held in the Parish House were the young people had a hearty breakfast and got to meet parishioners. Also in attendance was SK Reginald Grier, a parishioner, a fourth degree Knight of Columbus and volunteer member of the archdiocesan Office for Black Catholics. John Stakem, a Knight of Columbus from St. Pius X Council, and past parishioner was present, too. John Stakem and Joseph Markauskas were long-time pro-life volunteers and were involved with the local pregnancy center. Joe and Betty Markauskas had even offered to give the young people housing while in town. We were very pleased that the director for the Forestville Pregnancy Center was present, Chyllene McLaughlin, along with her assistant. We wanted to communicate to these young people that they were not alone. Holy Spirit Parish, the Knights of Columbus, and the Pregnancy Center in the larger pro-life community, was very much behind them.

ALL Crusaders at Holy Spirit Parish


May God bless them for their sacrifices and may their witness bear fruit.


FRANK:  News releases indicate that the Church after Vatican II had converted the Kennedys and other Catholic politicians into believing that the liberal backing of the culture of death is acceptable.

FATHER JOE:  What news releases were these? Cite them; I would like to read further. As far as I recall, John Kennedy was chastised by churchmen for his liberal response about how little his faith would inform his work as president. As for the other Kennedys and the issue of abortion, I fail to see how Vatican II can be blamed for their pro-abortion stances. I have read and studied all the Vatican II documents and post-conciliar documents. Nothing comes to mind that would condone such thinking against the Gospel of Life. Are we throwing mud again? Give me specifics, please.

FRANK:  Having attended the seminaries after Vatican II where the divinity of Christ was challenged, as well as the papacy, and all that was to be infallible before the “Catholic reformation” of 1962-1965; what is your take on recent developments and the continued blasphemies to this day condoned by the Church where the USCCB still can’t come to a consensus to deny our Lord to baby-killing Catholic politicians?


Certainly there was a heightened stress upon the humanity of Christ in many theological schools after Vatican II. However, I do not recall ever being taught that Jesus was not a divine Person.

Fr. Patrick Granfield taught my class on the papacy at Catholic University and his lectures defended the Holy Father’s authority with a great deal of explanation.

Those things that were changed were not deemed infallible but rather mutable accidentals. This thinking was even shared by Pope Pius XII prior to Vatican II on matters like the prehistoric generation of human beings and the liturgy.

A revision of the liturgy was in the working stages going back to the 1930′s and 40′s. The reformed liturgy we have now has lasted a few decades and will probably remain for many more, although with the old liturgy alongside and with continuing adaptations by the Holy See. We have had to suffer the experimental phase, but Pope Benedict XVI said that such has come to an end.

As for the passivity of churchmen in reference to Holy Communion and the standing of pro-abortion politicians, such is also not attributable to Vatican II. The Church has gone through periods in the past where it was the lackey for parliaments, kings and queens. The Popes made clear statements from the 1600′s onward that slavery was detestable and should be abandoned. However, Catholics owned slaves in the colonies and later in the United States of America. The Jesuit landowners of Maryland had slaves. Bishops were often mute on the subject, except for admonishing their baptism in the faith. Dissent is not something new but something very old.


Father Joe, Your welcome to the pro-life young people did not go unnoticed. I know it cost you personally.  I think you can be rude and you definitely lack tact, but it did take some nerve to stand virtually alone and make the challenge against silence or business as usual.  You honestly shared your heart to the bishops and your brother priests.

You asked…

Would you give communion to Nazis who promoted the murder of Jews?

Would you give communion to White Supremacists who incited the lynching of Blacks?

Why should we prize the life in the womb any less or their murders as somehow less grievous?

Silence befell all the big guns. You lost a lot of friends that day. If you had career hopes in the church, they were suddenly shattered. Hushed and whispered voices were the only response, “How do we shut this priest up?”

You became an embarrassment. I could not do what you did. You angered a lot of people. You took a promise of obedience and you were reprimanded for your slight as an act of betrayal. Some of us witnessed it, although you were left unnamed.

You changed after that, became quiet, even sullen. It was as if something died in you. You gained weight.

I know you were disappointed in me. But to be frank, I was afraid. Who are we to question the shepherds over us? What happens if we tell the majority of Catholic politicians they are no longer welcome at the altar?

Take care of yourself.

FATHER JOE:  I was going to erase this comment. I still might. If you are who I think you are, email me. Peace!

(I am not really brave.  I speak my mind and I love the Church.  When all is said and done, I do as I am told.  I am the Church’s man.  Some would contend that I am too conservative or right wing.  But how can we be too committed to the Gospel of Life?  Every day I work to control my temper.  As long as I can remember, I have been very passionate about our faith and its values.  Am I ambitious?  Like most priests, it is nice to know that one is appreciated and that one’s talents are acknowledged.  However, by comparison to most priests that I know, my rating would be very low.  It is not false humility but the truth when I say that I count myself as the least of my brothers.  As for the bishops, it must be a frightful responsibility they carry.  Who would want it?  They are criticized from every side.  It is easy for us to judge, but we do not walk in their shoes.  Pray for priests and pray, especially for our bishops.  They are Christ’s apostles in the world today.)

DR:  I nominated you for a pro-life blog award (FATHER JOE Blog).

JOHN:  Fr. Joe, abortion is murder. These babies can’t speak for themselves. Other bishops have stood up and said priests should not give communion to pro-choice politicians as they have the power to stop the murder (Bishop Burke-former bishop of St. Louis archdiocese and Bishop Finn of Kansas City diocese, for instance.) I’m glad priests like you and Fr. Frank Pavone speak out on this issue. It’s a serious matter and it should be treated as such. Thanks for all you do.


“President Bush has had a very cozy relationship with the Vatican, and set a presidential record by meeting with the Pope six times.”

Very cozy indeed, sometimes for the good, and at other times for utterly and criminally contra-productive [things], such as siding with Bush in Criminal Wars (for the Vatican just Abortion is a Crime) or siding with Israel on their Criminal Occupation of Palestine.

All Thanks to Vatican II Double Crossers.

FATHER JOE:  I am not sure I would coin the Bush Doctrine or International efforts in such negative terms. However, as for the Pope, you seem to be terribly deceived. The Vatican opposed the invasion of Iraq. Tarek Aziz (the former president) was a Catholic. He made a retreat in Rome and saw the Pope (John Paul II) the week prior to the invasion. The state of Israel is also not entirely happy that the Vatican, again and again, sides with Palestinians (who are largely Islamic but include an ancient Christian community). Formal recognition and diplomatic ties were held up because of Vatican concerns for the Palestinian people. The late Arafat, at the end of his life, remarked that he saw the Vatican as his ally in the conflict for Palestinian rights. Zionism was condemned by both the UN and by the Church. Arafat used to attend the Christmas Mass in Bethlehem with his wife (who is a Christian). The Catholic Church is no one’s stooge, not for Bush and not for Israel. The Holy Father (both JPII and BXVI) has spoken to President Bush, (he meets a lot of people) and they share much in regard to the unborn, however on matters like the Middle East and capital punishment, there is a great divide.


Tomorrow marks the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

Think of the millions of lives that were snuffed out in this “free” country.

May God have mercy on us!


I am completely against abortions. I have children and I have learned that some vaccinations are grown off of human diploid cells from aborted fetal tissue, not to mention all the other chemicals, heavy metals, and animal products. That seems like it might be a problem to me. Now that I know this, would it be wrong for me to continue to vaccinate my children? Is it just a money scheme? I really don’t want that stuff in my kids.

Divorce & Remarriage, a Witness from the Other Side

I want to share a response to my remarks about Catholic teaching from a man hurt and angry about his wife’s divorce and subsequent remarriage. While we only know his side of the case, I found myself very sympathetic toward his concerns. No annulment was granted and yet it appears that her pastor permitted her to return to the sacraments. This is problematical and, not privy to the situation, I am at a loss as to what the extenuating circumstances might be.  The reader should be warned that while I censored a couple of words, the language is sometimes harsh and crude.  Further, we have many good people who have suffered divorce, received proper annulments and have started to rebuild a life wounded by  an earlier bad and invalid marriage.  I praise the Lord for how the Church and divine grace has brought healing and hope to their lives.  But this post is about someone who is still hurting and who feels left out or abandoned.  We do not know the grounds for the divorce or why the annulment was denied.  What we see is a man angry that his wife divorced him; angry that she has married again and will not be coming home; and angry that a seemingly passive Church will not excommunicate and punish her.        

Here is what Karl wrote, please note that my response immediately follows:

As a victim of a destroyed marriage due to the Catholic Church’s acceptance and encouragement of divorce, adultery and remarriage without an annulment (which is exactly the situation I faced), your question of divorce is invalid and shows that you really do not know what is going on in the Catholic Church.

I speak from experience.

I have seen tremendous evil and have begged for intervention at every level in the Catholic Church and only am ignored in spite of the FACTS!

Father Joe, the Church is a whore and the clergy are her pimps and none of them care to really understand the evil they are about.

With a broken heart, I say this is absolutely true and if the Pope had the COURAGE to give me a private audience, along with my adulterous wife, her lover and all of our children, he would be heartbroken if he opened his mind, which I think is beyond him. He would see what I have seen and see how my pleas for justice and for healing a Sacramental marriage have been ridiculed and ignored, while the adultery of my wife and her lover, in the face of two Roman Rotal decisions in favor of OUR SACRAMENT have been encouraged and supported for now over sixteen years!

Show some guts and get me a Papal audience, at the Church’s expense and the Pope will never be the same about these issues if he could but open his mind and LISTEN.

For the record, such as this commentary, it is a scandal and should not be said, unless it IS true; before Jesus Christ I have stated herein what is the TRUTH and am very willing to be held accountable for it, but only by those capable of objective, truthful analysis and free from assailing by any legal entity or ecclesial entity. I know their blood thirst for vengeance.

You may be a nobody among priests, Father Joe, but what you have read here is the TRUTH. Ignore it or say it is the rant of a madman and your Savior will know what is in your heart.

You can also be assured that there are many others who have experienced what I have and know this but who are ignored by the Catholic Church.

We DO NOT NEED OR WANT kind words. We DO NOT WANT spiritual direction.

We want accountability among the priests and bishops for what has been done to us. And we want it done publicly since publicly our marriage has been violated.



We want our marriages healed, which in cases like this can only be accomplished with Canonical sanctions – EXCOMMUNICATION.

Excommunication is supposed to be used to restore a person to the state of grace but instead nothing is done while our spouses are completely accepted by the Church as a couple, albeit not married in the Church, but nevertheless functioning as a married couple, while usually deceiving all by saying the arrangements are “brother and sister.” All this is with Rotal decisions stating just the opposite.

When was the last time brothers and sisters dated or took a romantic vacation together?

I dare you to have the [deleted] to preach about this scandal from your pulpit. I would come to hear you and answer questions if you had the guts and were willing to openly challenge the Bishops and the Pope.

I would like to hear what you think, but do not waste my time with piety if you are moved to believe that there is some truth in what I have told you. (I have heard so much [deleted] empty words from priests!) But I am passed being patient/understanding unless the person is willing to go to the wall with me on this issue.

You have no idea of the rage that this injustice breeds or the guilt we feel for our rage and our desperate desire to get rid of all the anger, to heal our marriages to forgive and to be forgiven. But not a single Bishop, at least in the US, cares enough to make this a prominent issue for the press, since the rest of the Church will do NOTHING.



Dear Karl,

I am sorry about what happened to you in your marriage. Even the Holy See has offered subtle warnings and guidance about the large number of annulments in the United States. The response is usually that we have the largest number of canon lawyers in the world or that Americans are generally immature and have difficulty making true commitments. Along with you, I think there is rampant abuse in the system. However, just because divorce and remarriage seems easy in this nation, and I have only had two annulment cases out of countless ones submitted that were turned down, still the truth remains that Jesus hates divorce and it is labeled “sin.” Admittedly, there are priests who would disagree with me, at least as to how this teaching is expressed. Certainly the Separated and Divorced Catholics groups might find such a verdict painful; however, I find disturbing that a number of sanctioned support groups often function as dating services for men and women who are not free to marry or even to have romantic relationships (adultery) . I must quickly add that this is NOT the case with all groups which focus on healing after these losses.

I know it is anger and frustration speaking when you label the Church “a whore” and all her clergy “pimps.” But remember, that no matter how sinful the membership (including the clergy), the Church is holy because Christ is holy. The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ. As for clergy, yes we have more than our share of rascals; but I would contend, from my own associations, that most of them are good men who love the Lord and sacrifice much in the service of his people. Good priests keep their promises, just as we want married couples to keep theirs.

It would seem that if the Roman Rota ruled in favor of the sacrament of marriage between you and your wife, then the Pope is actually already on your side. Unfortunately, it is a big Church and even papal universal jurisdiction has a hard time breeching the mechanizations of the local churches and the various bishops. One of the reasons that Rome insists that a second tribunal affirm or cancel the decision of the primary tribunal is to help insure justice.

I know a good man, and a devout Catholic, who suffers daily because his wife left him for another man. He fought the divorce and later he tried to stop the annulment. However, he failed. He still goes to Mass and often he weeps at prayer in loss for her and in distress about the Church. He is absolutely convinced, despite the verdict of the marriage tribunal, that she is still his wife. He spurns suggestions that he should date and marry again. That would be adultery, he tells everyone, and knowing him I would be inclined to agree with him. I never met his wife and cannot say what kind of person she is, but knowing her husband (or ex-husband) my impression of her is not good. I am not blind that such things are going on. But neither can I water down what has always been the official teaching of the Church, and a prohibition (against divorce) that comes from the very mouth of Jesus.

The difficulty is that there are some invalid and unlawful marriages.

If the groom sleeps with the maid of honor the night before the wedding, I would say there is something seriously wrong already with the necessary intention.

If the man is partially paralyzed and impotent, he cannot lawfully consummate the marriage.

If there is an absolute opposition to children and intercourse is always contraceptive, the marriage is negated by the rejection of its principal object or good.

If the girl’s “pappy” forced the boy to marry his daughter at the end of a shotgun, then coercion negates the authenticity of the bond.

I have even turned down weddings that other priests eventually witnessed, as when one or both of the parties is mentally deranged. I recall one lady who was a heavily medicated paranoid schizophrenic. The drugs that drowned out the invisible voices would deform any child conceived. I recommended that she keep a platonic friendship, but that God was not calling her to marriage. They went to another priest and he did the deed. She got pregnant and had to go off medication. As a screaming insane person, necessity required that she be tied to a bed for months. Her husband walked off, like I suspected he would. The child had all sorts of defects and was eventually taken away from her. It was a real mess. She was incapable of the responsibilities of marriage. And her spouse was a lazy bum.

Prenuptial agreements are the big topic these days. They imply a level of doubt that invalidates the vows. Such contracts are forbidden to Catholics, but couples sometimes lie to priests.

These are real if extreme cases, but they represent some of the genuine areas where tribunals are “supposed” to judicate.

I have even had guys who were married before who tried to hide their previous bonds! One girl had gotten married by a bogus priest!

Another fellow had a vasectomy and failed to tell the bride. She wanted a big family and found out afterwards that all he wanted was to violate her virginity.

I have seen it all. I am not the proverbial ostrich with its head buried in the sand. And yet, I sympathize with you and share your concern about laxity in the annulment system.

I have never met the current Pope myself and so I am the last one to ask in getting you an audience with him. However, he is no fool, and I think he is aware of the abuses that are happening. Much is going on behind the scenes to improve things, but I suspect it will move too slowly to assist you. I am sorry for the pain you feel. I do not know about any “blood thirst for vengeance” and do not know the particulars in the case your wife brought against you. However, I can promise you my prayers and personal good will.

Yes, I suppose you could say that I am a “nobody among priests,” but every priest can forgive sins and confect the Eucharist, and so in this light I always feel especially privileged and blessed.

I beg you not to reject the compassion, spiritual direction and formation that the Church and good priests have to offer. You may not want kind words, but I suspect that Jesus would want me to extend them to you, all the same. As for direction, I must encourage you to stay close to the Church and to Jesus. Our Lord’s sacred heart knew what it meant to be betrayed and abandoned. Find solidarity with him in prayer and hope to enrich and live your life. We really have little or no control over what other people do. We do have some say about what we, individually, do. We all have crosses of some sort or another. Join yours to Christ’s. Life is not fair. People we want to respect disappoint us. The “happy ever after” ending of fairytales often does not materialize…at least not in this world.

It is right to want “accountability” among our priests and bishops, but as the Scriptures tell us, “vengeance” belongs to the Lord. God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is that great Tribunal before which we will all one day stand.

People argue for the censure of excommunication these days as if its imposition would cure everything. It does not restore a person to a state of grace. Indeed, it often hardens hearts and people walk away from the faith entirely. It does the opposite from what we might expect. The person is cut off from the Church, the sacrament of salvation. What we should not forget is that which is most basic in regard to rebellion, and that is plain old mortal sin. It does not have to be imposed; the person incurs it immediately and directly by enmity with God and the violation of his commandments. Clergy and other Church officials who do not take their responsibilities seriously, or who are hypocritical, will be punished by God. People who “knowingly” commit adultery will be punished as well. St. Paul says that adulterers, fornicators, and homosexuals will have no part in the kingdom of God. It does not get more serious than that. Please do not forget, that while righteous indignation is permissible, violent anger and seeking revenge are also serious sins. Jesus gave us a response pattern; he forgave his murderers from the Cross.

Catholics not married in the Church are not truly married. You write, Karl, that your wife and her “new husband” are “…functioning as a married couple, while usually deceiving all by saying the arrangements are ‘brother and sister.’” There is a peculiar arrangement permitted by the Church where pastors can allow a couple not married in the Church to feign such a situation in the attempt to avoid scandal. It is called INTERNAL FORUM. However, the couple has to be elderly and the annulment has to be impossible to receive. They are forbidden to publicize the true nature of their relationship and they are forbidden to have any sexual congress. They must live as brother and sister. Is this what happened? [Rome and certain canonists, I learned recently, have become much more strict and hesitant to tolerate internal forum situations.]

The trouble here is that the companionship and affection owed to the lawful spouse is still withheld (or given the wrong party).

Almost everyone in my last parish was elderly. It was a small place. Over the years, however, I have spoken about the sacrament of marriage and the evil of divorce. A number of my priest friends have done the same. I am not sure this necessarily brings one into opposition with the Pope and every bishop, either. Archbishop Wuerl has said wonderful things about the indissolubility of marriage in his catechism and television program.

Let us avoid vulgarity. Dialogue must be respectful. I am a priest and I belong to the Church. The question is not whether I will stand with you, Karl, but whether or not we will both stand with Jesus.

You do not want to hear pious talk, but honestly, there are some wounds that cannot be healed in this world. Life is messy and we struggle in a society of sinners with too few saints. All God is asking of you and me is that we be faithful. We may never know success, but that is okay, as long as there is fidelity.

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Father Joe

Questions & Answers About Indulgences

What exactly are the eternal punishments due to sins?

When we speak of eternal punishment, we are referring to the everlasting pains of hell.

What then are the temporal punishments due to sin?

Punishments, which take place in the temporal realm or in time, are basically the ills and struggles of mortal life. We all know sickness and dying. We experience loss and grieving. We face man’s inhumanity to man as well as natural disaster. The pains of purgatory would also be added to this list.

In what ways are the temporal punishments due to sin forgiven?

There are many ways, including penance, prayer, good works, and indulgences.

Can it really be shown that Jesus gave his apostles the power to grant indulgences or to remit the temporal punishment due to sin?

Yes, this power is found in the sacred charge given Peter by Jesus: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). The authority is given to Peter from Christ to remit whatever it is that hinders people from the gate of heaven.

Is it lawful for the Catholic Church to charge money for granting indulgences?

No, it is not. Such trafficking in indulgences is an abuse that has always been condemned by the Church.

But, did not the Pope charge money for the indulgences sold to help build St. Peter’s in Rome?

The charge behind this question is a gross distortion of the facts. The conditions placed upon those desiring such an indulgence were clearly enumerated: they were first to make a good confession, and only then as an act of penance, they might offer some money to the building of the great church. However, no one was obliged to make this payment, as there were many other ways to have temporal punishment forgiven.

Wait a minute, how can this be true? The Dominican monk, Tetzel, told the crowds that the payment of a dollar could gain an indulgence of past and even of future sins.

Well, if the monk really said this, then he was sorely mistaken. Such behavior would have been in contradiction to Church teaching. Reputable authorities give a different picture of Tetzel. Indeed, in 1517, he published a thesis upon the subject wherein he writes that to gain an indulgence there must be sorrow for sin, a good confession, Holy Communion, fasting, and church visitation. He also writes that the indulgence does not forgive sins, but only the temporal punishments of past sins, and not of future sins.

Why does God not forgive sins directly, without priestly and papal mediation?

Such is well within the prerogatives of God; however, he wisely created the ministry of priests. First, the priest functions in Christ’s name and corrects the sinner from his evil ways. Second, the priest imposes a penance upon the sinner, just as our Lord would do if he still visibly walked the earth. Third, the encounter with a minister of the Church amplifies the certainty of God’s friendship and mercy; one does not have to endure a life of uncertainty about the forgiveness of one’s sins.

Could it be that indulgences might forgive the temporal punishments imposed by the Church, but not those put into place by God?

No, the authority here is absolute. “Whatsoever you shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.” This power granted the Church through Peter makes no distinctions.

What does the term “treasury of the merits of the Church” mean?

This has to do with the infinite merits of Christ, the “superabundant merits” of the Virgin Mary and those of the saints. Our Lord gave the Church the power to distribute these merits to penitent sinners and to remit to them the temporal punishments due to sin.

Will not people abandon a spirit of penance if they see that temporal punishments can be forgiven easily?

No, because to gain an indulgence, such a contrite heart, free from sin, and averse to evil inclinations, must be present. Such a disposition can quite easily shorten the time of penance.

For more such material, contact me about getting my book, CATHOLIC QUESTIONS & ANSWERS.