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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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The Pope & Bishops, Official Interpreters of Scripture

Luke 10:16: “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

Matthew 16:18: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death (gates of hell) shall not prevail against it.”

Malachi 2:7: For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and men should seek instruction (law) from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.

The Holy Spirit has functioned as the very soul of the Catholic Church, insuring the efficacy of the sacraments and the truthfulness of official interpretations of the Word of God and his will for us. Certain Protestants claim an immediate mastery of all Scripture as long as they approach it prayerfully and with care. However, the Holy Spirit is not like a light switch that we can turn immediately off and on. While not utterly invalidating the personal meanings we might find in bible reading, we leave the authoritative renderings to the Magisterium (the Pope and bishops in union with him). It is interesting that the fundamentalist Protestant claim makes more of a demand upon the Holy Spirit and infallibility than does the Pope, himself. He only offers a declaration after extended investigation and consultation, and even then, after much prayer. Unless it is a matter essential to the faith, he usually does not invoke this authority. Infallible papal declarations are quite rare. The Pope does not make something true; rather, he draws our attention to what we have always believed.

For more such reading, contact me about getting my book, DEFENDING THE CATHOLIC FAITH.

The Bible is Not Self-Interpretive

2 Peter 1:20: First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.

2 Peter 3:16: . . . speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. (regarding Paul’s letters)

Acts 8:30-31: So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come and sit with him.

These three passages make it evident that the Bible cannot explain itself. It is the inspired book of the Church and the Church is its authorized interpreter. The Holy Spirit inspired the Bible and it is that same Spirit which safeguards the teaching of the Church regarding the truths of faith and morals. Private interpretation is not absolutely dependable and must be supported by the interpretation given by the Church. Peter argued such about the Old Testament as well as Paul’s letters. Philip explains the Christian understanding of the messiah in Isaiah as referring to our Lord. As representatives of the Church, ministers of the Gospel appointed by Christ, they were authorized to fulfill this role.

For more such reading, contact me about getting my book, DEFENDING THE CATHOLIC FAITH.

The Issue of Heresy

Galatians 1:8-9: But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.

These are pretty serious words. Paul is speaking about the early oral tradition of the Church. Paul says that he offers what he himself has received. He speaks as an Apostle of the one true faith, of the one fold of Christ. Sometimes anti-Catholic critics try to use this verse, out of context, against Catholics; however, it will not wash. Like a boomerang it flies back into their faces. They are the ones who discount the role of this oral tradition and the Church that safeguards it. Separated from this living tradition and the true Church, Protestantism has fractured into thousands of sects, each claiming the Bible for their own.

2 Timothy 4:3: For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.

Titus 3:10: As for a man who is factious, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned.

Romans 16:17: I appeal to you, brethren, to take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them.

2 John 10:11: If any one comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into the house or give him any greeting; for he who greets him shares his wicked work.

This is precisely what happened. Heresies afflicted the Church, almost from the very beginning. Nevertheless, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Catholic Church has grown stronger in the face of opposition and has defined her beliefs with deeper insights into the Gospel. The breakaway churches have no safeguard to insure their fidelity in the truth. Indeed, people shop around for a church and minister that fits their tastes. Usually, this means a congregation that fails to challenge its people on basic elements of the Good News. Even fundamentalist Protestant churches, so quick to take stands against Catholicism or issues like homosexuality, can be quite liberal on matters like divorce and artificial contraception. As for the topic of abortion, that attacks at the very heart of the mystery we call the incarnation, there is, and more so than not, a deafening silence in most Protestant churches. Some of their teachers go to ridiculous extremes in order to attack the Catholic faith and our practices. One minister maligned priestly celibacy as unnatural and perverted, something that would necessarily lead to all sorts of immorality and abuse of others. Only later did his words return to haunt him when his own child became pregnant and threw his words into his face; after all, she said, “I am just doing what comes natural.” Lost in the debate was the possibility of self-control and the wonderful gift that is celibate love— something praised by St. Paul. It should be said that this same MARRIED minister later got into his own mess of trouble with an adulterous affair. His glass house was shot full of holes! The so-called bible-alone method fails again and again. Without a history and a teaching Church, ministers quickly allow their own pet ideas and ambitions to cloud their proclamation. Some are afraid that the truth will forfeit their congregations; so they change the truth and convince themselves that they are right. Others are as befuddled as those who seek them out for guidance. Liberal Protestantism has taken such a path as far as it can go, straight into agnosticism and a loss of belief altogether. We need to pray for all such lost souls.

For more such reading, contact me about getting my book, DEFENDING THE CATHOLIC FAITH.

Commanded to Keep Traditions

2 Thessalonians 2:15: So then, brethren, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.

2 Timothy 2:2: . . . and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

If these statements did not appear in the Bible, I would suspect that “bible alone” believers would immediately pounce upon them as distortions of the truth by Catholics. Most ministers actually avoid such passages, perhaps with the hope that if ignored, they might go away? The Catholic Church is the most literal bible Church of all in that she makes the entirety of Scripture her own. We keep alive the faith and traditions which come down to us from the Apostolic Church.

A number of years passed before the final composition of the New Testament. Some say the Book of Revelation may have been finished as late as 100 AD. And yet, there is a letter from Clement, the bishop of Rome, in other words, a Catholic Pope, written to the Corinthians in 93 AD. The Catholic Church was teaching and preaching even before the Bible was completed. This is a historical fact! The first complete compilation of the New Testament was not officially completed until the Third Council of Carthage in 397 AD. This runs smack in the face of those who claim only private interpretation of the Scriptures. The Bible, from beginning to end, is the Catholic Church’s BOOK. It was only after the persecution of Christians and the peace given by Constantine in 313 AD that the Church could share the inspired documents preserved by various congregations. The bishops would then have to authenticate the writings, deeming which ones were doctrinally sound and also inspired. If this decision were deemed infallible and such is implicit by our acceptance of the New Testament books, then this Church is still infallible. If not, then the New Testament can be disregarded as inconclusive. Non-Catholics are unable to go back to review the work of Catholic scholars and bishops since the source documents have long returned to dust. Catholic monks throughout the centuries copied the original papyruses. Protestants must, on this account, TRUST that the Catholic Church worked under divine inspiration. Given that this is the past case— then why not now? This also casts dispersion on any theory of private bible-alone interpretation.

Before the invention of the printing press (1440 AD), bibles were scarce and the cost was prohibitive. Most people were not literate. The Church made recourse to ritual and art to get across the Scriptural message. Any bible alone notion would have excluded the majority from any real comprehension of the truths of Christ and our stories of faith. This would have been ludicrous! To insure that the Bible was not lost, they were often secured in churches so that the unscrupulous would not steal or destroy them. Faith-filled religious spent their whole lives copying the Scriptures by hand. Such care and self-sacrificing devotion is a sure rebuttal against those bigots who insist that Catholics tried to destroy the Bible.

For more such reading, contact me about getting my book, DEFENDING THE CATHOLIC FAITH.

Tradition Supplements the Scriptures

John 20:30-31: Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.

John 21:25: But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

On one hand the Church is told that the Holy Spirit will teach the Church all things, and yet there is the admission in Scripture itself that it does not include everything. The early Church practices and extends its faith with only a partially written account of Christ’s life and teachings. The living tradition of the Church does not replace the biblical testimony, but supplements and helps to interpret it.

For more such reading, contact me about getting my book, DEFENDING THE CATHOLIC FAITH.

Christianity is Not a Book Religion

                             

Romans 10:17: So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ.

Mark 16:20: And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it. Amen.

Mark 16:15: And he said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.”

There is nothing here about a book-religion or any kind of bible-alone church. Rather, we see what the Catholic Church has done for two thousand years. She preaches the Good News.

For more such reading, contact me about getting my book, DEFENDING THE CATHOLIC FAITH.

From President Bush to President Obama

PRESIDENT OBAMA 2011

Today marks the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that protects women’s health and reproductive freedom, and affirms a fundamental principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters.

I am committed to protecting this constitutional right. I also remain committed to policies, initiatives, and programs that help prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant women and mothers, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption.

And on this anniversary, I hope that we will recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights, the same freedoms, and the same opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH 2001

Good afternoon, friends and fellow citizens. Two days ago, Americans gathered on the Washington Mall to celebrate our Nation’s ideals. Today, you are gathered to remind our country that one of those ideals is the infinite value of every life. I deeply appreciate your message and your work. You see the weak and the defenseless, and you try to help them. You see the hardship of many young mothers and their unborn children, and you care for them both. In so many ways, you make our society more compassionate and welcoming. We share a great goal: to work toward a day when every child is welcomed in life and protected in law. We know this will not come easily, or all at once. But the goal leads us onward to build a culture of life affirming that every person, at every stage and season of life, is created equal in God’s image.

The promises of our Declaration of Independence are not just for the strong, the independent, or the healthy. They are for everyone– including unborn children. We are a society with enough compassion and wealth and love to care for both mothers and their children, to seek the promise and potential in every human life. I believe that we are making progress toward that goal. I trust in the good hearts of Americans. I trust in the unfolding promise of our country– an expanding circle of inclusion and protection. And I trust in the civility and good sense of our citizens– a willingness to engage our differences in a spirit of tolerance and good will.

All of you marching today have never tired in a good cause. Thank you all for your conviction, your idealism, and your courage. May God bless you all.

Holy Spirit & Infallibility of the Church

John 14:26: “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

The same Holy Spirit that would inspire the writing of the Scriptures came first to the Church and has never abandoned her. Jesus sends this Spirit, not merely upon isolated individuals, but in a nurturing and protective way upon the Church, notably the Apostles and their successors, the bishops. The Spirit of God has preserved our assurance of the truth and our unity in faith. Protestant churches have no ecclesial safeguard and are liable to constant and unforgiving fragmentation.

For more such reading, contact me about getting my book, DEFENDING THE CATHOLIC FAITH.

Mission of the Church Took Precedence over the Scriptures

Matthew 28:18-20: And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

This selection from Matthew reveals that Jesus, to whom all authority properly belonged, extended or gave something of his power to his Apostles so that they might teach the truth and baptize in the name of the Trinity. He also tells them that they will not be orphaned; that he will always be with them. Christ will literally continue his saving work through them. Christ will be made present in the proclamation of the Word of God and in the Sacraments. Baptism is the first and the doorway to the sacramental life. Note regarding the apostolic age, that except for the Hebrew Scriptures, there is as yet, no New Testament. The Gospel is entrusted to the Church and only later will this oral tradition be put to writing. Letters will be collected and the Church will determine which books constitute the inspired canon. Except for a few deletions, the Protestant Church only has its bible thanks to the stewardship and faith of the Catholic Church.

For more such reading, contact me about getting my book, DEFENDING THE CATHOLIC FAITH.

Response to an Anti-Catholic on John 6 & More

One anti-Catholic apologist declared as blasphemy the claim that Catholics “eat” Jesus. In the same breath, he contended that popes forbade bible reading as illegal. Both statements are inexact and misleading. Catholics receive in Holy Communion the sacrament of Christ’s real presence and do so by the Lord’s command. As for the Scriptures, the prohibition was not against reading Scripture but against those translations and texts of the reformers which distorted the true Word of God. Remember, even Martin Luther inserted his own theology into the sacred texts and omitted books (from both the Old and New Testaments) which he found disagreeable. Viewing the Church and the civil society as two sides of the same coin, both Catholics and Protestants alike sometimes exerted undue force in maintaining the ranks and orthodoxy. Exaggerations of anti-Catholics regarding such coercion are not to be taken seriously. Further, the Church herself, then as today, was often incapable to stay the hand of civil authority intent upon using religion as an excuse for intolerance and brutality. Incidents of murder and torture by “unholy Romish priests” are rarely documented; in any case, there is something demented in referencing incidents which happened centuries ago as if they happened last Tuesday.

The Catholic Church is the source for the Scriptures: members from her community were inspired in their authorship and by her own authority she determined the canon. The proliferation of bibles throughout the world was not the fruit of Reformation-Protestantism but of the mechanical printing press. Rome has encouraged the reading of the Bible and has long offered a special indulgence to those who do so every day. Unlike the anti-Catholic fundamentalist, the entire Bible (without deletion of books) is offered her people. Further, her use of a lectionary system for liturgies has resulted in a greater variety of biblical passages than what is usual in Protestant services. The Catholic faith is affirmed by an honest and comprehensive understanding of Scripture while the anti-Catholic resorts to biblical fragments, out of context and ignorantly misinterpreted. One anti-Catholic bigot notes that John 6 is frequently used against him by so-called “idolatrous” and “pagan” Catholics. He cites John 6:51,53-58:

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

The anti-Catholic bigot argues that Catholics neglect verse 63 which illustrates, so he says, that Jesus did not mean what he said literally: “It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”

In other words, until verse 63, Jesus is lying? Sorry, I do not think so. Our Savior is not fickle in his teachings. He would not deliberately mislead and anger the Jews; he meant what he said about the Eucharist. This verse becomes clearer if we look at the one which follows it: “But there are some of you who do not believe.” This resonates with verse 52, conveniently omitted by the anti-Catholic apologist: “The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?’” Did the critic purposely omit this line, knowing that he found himself associated with the disbelieving Jews? It sure seems that way. The Jews are murmuring because they do not like what they hear. Some of their number walk away. They know full well that Jesus means what he says. Their sensibilities, especially regarding blood are offended. They will have none of it. It is a mystery that requires supernatural faith to accept. Verse 63 is not a reference to Christ’s Eucharistic body but is used as it was previously in John 3:6-7. We read: “What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above.’” “Spirit . . . flesh” is a Hebraic form of speech which does the very opposite of what the anti-Catholic bigot claims. It affirms the truth of Christ’s Eucharistic teaching and that to accept it we must be given the gift of faith by his heavenly Father.

We need to pray that the anti-Catholic bigot will be given a greater share in the true faith. He is usually filled with much anger and hate. He can only measure his own religion in reference to that which he opposes. I would fathom to guess that were there no Catholic religion, he would have no faith at all– or perhaps I should call it an anti-faith? He is quick to judge and to damn Catholics even though there is no consideration that if he is wrong then he has blasphemed the work of the Holy Spirit.

The anti-Catholic may also sin by presumption of God’s saving grace. We live in the “sure and certain hope” of our salvation, leaving our eternal destiny to divine providence. The Lord says, “Therefore, by their fruits you will know them.” While the fruits of Christ’s presence and loving ministry are manifested in the life of the Church, the anti-Catholic critic contends that Jesus shall respond to us with the words from Matthew 7:23, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you workers of iniquity!” Many of our Protestant brethren, with whom we would differ on points of doctrine and manners of worship, work alongside us in the promotion of the Gospel of Life. However, the anti-Catholic bigot contends that these groups are contaminated by their association with Catholics and thus are also lost. What can we say to such a critic? If all he understands are isolated bible texts, then let him pay heed to this one: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:15-16).

Every Catholic needs to remember the anti-Catholic and the fallen-away Catholic each time he receives Holy Communion. We need to dedicate our Holy Hours to prayer on their behalf and make reparation for their insults against Jesus, his Mother, and the Church. May our prayer rise like incense to heaven and be found pleasing to Almighty God.

For more such reading, contact me about getting my book, DEFENDING THE CATHOLIC FAITH.