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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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Confession to a Priest & Petitioning Saints

ANTI-CATHOLIC ASSERTION

Sins and needs are to be confessed only to God.

[Confession to God] If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins, and cleanse us from every wrongdoing (1 John 1:9).

[The Our Father] “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

[One Mediator, not the saints, the Pope, or the priests] For there is one God. There is one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as ransom for all (1 Timothy 2:5). But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one (1 John 2:1).

CATHOLIC TRUTH

Two practices are involved under this heading: the confession (of sins) to a priest and the making of petitions to Mary and the saints. While they are very different topics, they are often linked in attacks because both involve the approach to someone other than Jesus. Catholics go to a living priest for the Sacrament of Penance. We pray to the living saints in heaven for their intercession and prayers to God. The fundamentalist has trouble with intermediaries. He insists that we must go directly to Jesus and to Jesus alone. Outside of the sacraments, some insist that we cannot even ask the living (in this world) for solidarity in prayer. Their view of a personal and privatized faith becomes so extreme that every believer becomes an isolated Church of one. Catholicism recognizes that we are not alone. Our priests perpetuate the ministry of Jesus and apply his mercy to our lives precisely as members of the Church, something larger than ourselves. Our recourse to the communion of the saints testifies to our confidence in the resurrection. Death does not destroy the bonds forged in life. Indeed, the saints are alive and remain members of the Church who have made it. They live in glory. They are where we hope to go. They have become what we seek to be. Jesus uses human priests to bring his forgiveness to the Church. Jesus allows the saints in heaven to pray for and with the Pilgrim Church on earth.

The use of 1 Timothy is quite interesting because the anti-Catholic apologist affirms the value of good works in fidelity and love to Christ: “But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him. This is the way we may know that we are in union with him: whoever claims to abide in him ought to live [just] as he lived” (1 Timothy 2:5-6). I would suspect that he would not like this message very much. As usual, none of his citations contradict Catholic faith. Sins can be forgiven, even outside of the sacrament of Confession. However, one must still admit sinfulness, be sorry, and offer an act of contrition. The sacrament is a special and certain way we receive God’s mercy. The Church reserves to herself the confession of certain serious sins so that we may assuredly be forgiven, receive the graces to amend our life, repair the rift caused by sin in the Mystical Body, and receive appropriate counsel. Because of his configuration to Christ, the absolution of the priest in Confession resonates in perfect harmony with the expiation of the Cross. Christ forgives our sins. He has extended something of this authority to his Church as an element of his abiding and healing presence. The anti-Catholic critic has trouble with Confession for the same reason that he cannot abide the general ministry of priests, the authority of the Pope, and the intercession of the saints: his is an intensely privatized faith which makes no concession to a church other than periodic fellowship. Churches, as long as they are not Romanized, are interchangeable and maybe even considered unnecessary. Such is a theology incompatible with the Scriptural view of the Church as the new People of God or the new Israel or Jerusalem.

[Precedent in the Old Testament] The Lord said to Moses: “Tell the Israelites: If a man (or woman) commits a fault against his fellow man and wrongs him, thus breaking faith with the Lord, he shall confess the wrong he has done, restore his ill-gotten goods in full, …” (Numbers 5:5-7). He who conceals his sins prospers not, but he who confesses and forsakes them obtains mercy (Proverbs 28:13).

[David confessed his sins to Nathan the prophet and was given assurance of pardon] Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan answered David: “The Lord on his part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die” (2 Samuel 12:13).

[Responding to John the Baptizer] Then there went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region about the Jordan; and they were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins (Matthew 3:5-6).

[Responding to the Apostles] Many of those who had become believers came forward and openly acknowledged their former practices (Acts 19:18).

[Ordained ministers exert Christ’s forgiveness over sins] So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20). He therefore said to them again, “Peace be to you! As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” When he said this, he breathed upon them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained” (John 20:21-23). “Amen I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven” (Matthew 18:18). And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

I will address the matter of Mary and the saints elsewhere.

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