• Our Blogger

    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.

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

    Darla on Ask a Priest
    Jonathan Edwards on Ask a Priest
    Michael on Ask a Priest
    Bryon on Ask a Priest
    Barbara on Ask a Priest

Dr. Stephen Hawking & Life After Death

I am increasingly amazed and impressed by Msgr. Charles Pope’s expertise and the range of his wisdom on the ADW Blog.  As someone who has long been intrigued by the complementarity of truth between science, philosophy and theology, I read with great interest his response to Dr. Stephen Hawking’s atheistic and mechanistic view of creation and reality.  Dr. Hawking is very much in the news because he has pontificated that there need be no God and no afterlife.  He suggests that religious believers are just poor people who are afraid of death.  It should be noted that there is no evidence that he has studied religion with any depth and neither is he a philosopher.  Dr. Hawking is a scientist.  His world is that of numbers and that which can be viewed in a telescope.  Msgr. Pope rightly suggests that he is no more qualified to speak on religious questions than the good priest would be to lecture on string theory.  Dr. Hawking has jumped to a conclusion without sufficient study and reflection.  Coincidentally, the great expert on black holes has suffered professional setbacks lately for espousing scientific opinions (within his field and about evaporating black holes and alternative dimensions) with little or no hard science to back up his claims.  He looks impressive in his chair and linked to a computer and voice synthesizer, but the researcher may be slipping more and more into science fiction and fantasy.  What I am trying to say is what Msgr. Pope says so much clearer than I could; Dr. Hawking is not infallible and has a personal opinion about religious faith that should not muster great weight or concern.  The media treats him much in the way they reported on the late Dr. Albert Einstein– with exaggeration and almost cultic worship.

Msgr. Pope notes that the famous scientist views his brain much as a computer and that when it stops functioning, that will be the end of him.  This is not so much a scientific view (as it cannot be proven) but a philosophical one.  Here too Dr. Hawking is outside his area of expertise.  I would also suggest that something of his fatalism is due to his personal condition.  He has remarked that he feels like a brain trapped in a useless and dying body.  Separatists identify the person with the mind and view it  (much like a computer) in opposition to the rest of the “robotic” body.  This is not a true Christian or Catholic perspective.  We regard the human person as a whole and the mind is not merely “thinking meat.” The Church speaks of human beings as spiritual-corporeal-composites.  The body breaks down but the soul has no parts and is immortal.  God has promised us restoration of the body and soul.  While it is true that some fear death, Christians also believe that love is stronger than death and place their confidence in a personal and corporate relationship with Christ.  The Church proclaims that Christ is risen and that he desires to share his life with us.  God has even planted a desire in us for happiness, reunion and life.  This yearning is neither accidental nor capricious.

Dr. Hawking has given a heroic witness of living and working through terrible adversity.  But his answer that people should live their full potential and forget about an afterlife is no real answer.  It is unfortunate that a man who has pursued truth would dismiss the genuine journey of others to find ultimate meaning.  If the good doctor had lived at an earlier time in history there would not have been the technology to keep him alive and to allow him to work or communicate.  Others in our own time have disabilities of both the mind and body.  If human life is only valued in terms of utility and there is no higher value then the recourse of people with his mindset would be a massive campaign of euthanasia and suicide.  Those suffering severe retardation and in coma could not actively engage in any effort for the good life or for any potential, earthly rational or otherwise.  Indeed, dissenters have argued to strip the title “human” from any entity that does not have a clearly rational potential.  Does the media really understand what kind of nightmare world that Dr. Hawking’s views would create?  Msgr. Pope sees these very same danger signs.  Such ideas were tested before by the likes of Margaret Sanger and Adolf Hitler; ironically they would result in a eugenics that would have cost Dr. Stephen Hawking his mortal existence.

Father Kidd Council Does It Again!

Geony Provido, the Grand Knight of Father Michael C. Kidd Council, received various awards for our local council’s accomplishments at the Maryland State Convention of the Knights of Columbus. Geony produced masterful reports and did an exceptional job for the 2010-2011 Fraternal Year. Congratulations!

Responding to an Attack Upon Catholicism

PAUL:  You people are very sick.

FATHER JOE:  You are very angry and judgmental about Catholicism.  Are you a fallen-away Catholic?  Many Catholics find comfort and helpful guidance in Catholic faith and values.  You are too quick to tear down and attack that for which you seem to lack authentic understanding. Sin is the sickness, not religious faith.  You are no better than the people you ridicule.  You are also a weak sinner who needs Jesus and his mercy. 

PAUL:  The Catholic Church has made so many “rules” that do not even exist in the Bible.

FATHER JOE:  The Catholic Church has rules for good order, but the commandments and the ecclesial precepts find their basis in the Decalogue given to Moses and the two commandments of love from Christ.  We also believe in natural law.  God gave us reason to appreciate the harmony and order of his creation.  Values that reflect divine positive law and natural law are not capricious.

PAUL:  Since when do “men” speak for God or Christ?

FATHER JOE:  As for men speaking for God, such is the witness of the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles.  Our Lord, himself, while critical of the hypocrisy of Pharisees, admonished the Jewish people to do as they say and not as they do.  Jesus establishes a new covenant people and gives the Church’s leadership something of his authority.  The Church is entrusted with the Gospel and even collects the books and letters that would constitute the New Testament and the complete Christian Bible.  Men in the Church have also been responsible for the translation of the Scriptures.  Apart from the community, and men wise in the ways of God, you would not even know God’s Word.  If men and women did not pass on the faith, you would not know Jesus or the story of salvation.  The Catholic Church was preaching the Good News before there was a complete Christian bible and while the Gospels were only an oral tradition.  

PAUL:  Where in the Bible does it say one should confess sins to another man, say a few Hail Marys, Our Fathers (and of course put some $$$ in the box!) to be forgiven? PLEASE show me this. IT does not exist.


Jesus, being God, knew the hearts of men.  Nevertheless, sinners still needed to repent and believe.  Priests have the authority to forgive sins, but few have the power to read souls or minds.  That is why the confession of sins is crucial, making possible an adequate penance and counsel.  The prayers or acts of penance and/or mortification show God our thankfulness for his mercy and make a certain degree of reparation for temporal punishment due to sin.  There is precedent for confession in the Old Testament: Leviticus 5:5, Leviticus 26:40-42, Hosea 5:15, Job 33:27-28, Joshua 7;19, Jeremiah 3:13, and Proverbs 28:13.

Tithing or support for the Church is a Christian obligation; however, it is not normally an element of penance arising from the Sacrament of Confession.  The Lord gives priests something of his authority so that they might perpetuate his ministry of reconciliation. We read in 2 Corinthians 2:10-11:  “Whomever you forgive anything, so do I. For indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for you in the presence of Christ, so that we might not be taken advantage of by Satan, for we are not unaware of his purposes.”  St. Paul goes on to write:  “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). Another important text is 1 John 19: “If we acknowledge [confess] our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.”   There is also James 5:16: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.”  Looking at the Gospels, texts like Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18 are important.  Often cited is John 20:21-23:  “(Jesus) said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’”

PAUL:  What good does it do me to pray to Mary? She cannot save ANYONE. Only Christ can forgive your sins. Pray to him, not some guy in a fancy box who will then give you his recommended “Penance.” How ridiculous!

FATHER JOE:  Yes, only Christ can forgive sins, but the ministry of Jesus is perpetuated and mediated within the saving community of the Church.  Penitents receive absolution from a priest, but the proper object of the prayers is always God.  Indeed, even prayers to Mary and the other saints, while they invoke intercession and solidarity, are still directed to God.  Those who have already made it to the promised shore continue to love and pray for us.  The graces from the deposit of the saints can also be accessed.  Nothing is lost.  Christ is present and his saving work is active in his Mystical Body, the Church.  Confession is a sacrament that can be conducted behind a screen or face-to-face.  There is nothing ridiculous about this.  Indeed, it is beautiful.  God loves us and gives us all we need for spiritual perfection.

PAUL:  Catholics need to read their own Bible and quit making up their own human rules!

FATHER JOE:  Catholics have wonderful bibles and the Scriptures are proclaimed at and substantiate the Mass and Reconciliation.  Human rules or disciplines in the Church amplify the law of God and give order to our Christian discipleship.  Such is the mandate given to the apostles and their successors as our lawful shepherds.

PAUL:  Please tell me where in the Bible sins are labeled as “mortal”? — MORE Catholic rubbish.

FATHER JOE:  For someone who argues “sola scriptura,” you seem to be in great ignorance of biblical truths.  It is sad that someone who claims to be a Christian would insult learned believers who take their faith seriously.  The Bible teaches degrees to sin.  All sin, even “venial” or lesser sin, is disobedience and a failure to love as we should.  However, certain sins are most grave and bring upon us the sentence of death, in other words, these are “mortal” sins which kill the soul and breech our relationship with God.  The Old Testament admits to degrees of sin (see Genesis 18:20).  The New Testament amplifies this truth (see John 19:11).  Just as our Lord could raise the dead, the absolution in the sacrament of penance can restore a contrite soul back to life.  “If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly” (1 John:16-17).

PAUL:  Just step into our church, sit down and let us read you a few verses, then we’ll pass the basket around again for a few more of your hard earned dollars… I have been to Rome and viewed all the wealth the Catholic Church has managed to gather from “devout Catholics.”

FATHER JOE:  Participation at church is more than just going through the motions.  Most parishes and Catholic pastors struggle to be good stewards of the resources given us by God’s good people.  We do not preach a prosperity gospel but witness in a way that brings the truth to ignorance, healing to the hurting and hope to the oppressed.  The Church is a treasury of the Western world’s history and culture.  But she is also the refuge of a billion people in this world and many more in the next who count Jesus Christ as both their personal and corporate Savior.  The Pope intervenes annually for the poor and collections are taken the world over to cover the shortfall.  Would you have us sell all our churches for secular condos and for shopping malls?  Your bigotry betrays your reason.

PAUL:  My wife was refused entry into the famous “Vatican” because her shoulders were not completely covered. Christ said bring ALL sinners, He has no Dress Code for his house! I found it very funny how a young girl in line ahead of us (most likely 8 years of age and obviously a virgin) was allowed in without her shoulders covered at all, yet a married woman was not! MORE Catholic B.S.!

FATHER JOE:  The dress code for the Vatican and meeting the Pope is well documented.  The problem was that you and your wife did not respect the Holy Father enough to make proper preparations.  Comparing the status of an adult woman with a child and then making a comment about her sexual condition shows the great depth of your spiritual sickness and moral depravity.  All churches have dress codes of one sort or another, the same for synagogues and mosques.  Would you have churches allow people to enter with vulgar tee-shirts or naked?  As for our Lord, he told a parable that you have evidently forgotten:   “But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’  Many are invited, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:11-14).  Every Mass is a sacramental participation in the heavenly marriage banquet.  Our dress and posture should show the proper respect, not simply to the Pope, but to almighty God.  Tell your wife to cover up next time.   

PAUL:  NO ONE could ever convince me that this cult called Catholicism is true followers of Christ. The weak minded will believe ANYTHING these “men” tell them and empty their pockets if they are convinced it will get them to Heaven.

FATHER JOE:  If you believed Catholicism was a cult then why would you even try to enter the Vatican?  Were you up to no good?  The weakness of argument and mind is yours.  You throw out straw man arguments that are parroted from old anti-Catholic sources.  I hear a lot of prejudice and anger speaking, but little in the way of reasoned argument.  Typical of your type, you falsely characterize Catholic beliefs and then you attack what you yourself have fashioned.  No one can buy his or her way into heaven.  The Catholic Church has taught for 2,000 years that Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life.  Jesus is the anointed one or Christ.  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. 

PAUL:  All people really need to do is READ THE BIBLE THEMSELVES and understand that ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL!

FATHER JOE:  The Bible was once used in arguments for slavery.  You cannot use the Bible like a moral manual.  However, I will admit the there is much in the Scriptures, particularly in the message of Christ, which stresses the inherent worth and dignity of all men and women.  St. Paul makes mention that in Christ there is neither free nor slave, Jew nor Gentile, male nor female… all are called to the saving grace of our baptismal faith.  Man was made in the image of God.  The forgiveness of sins restores our full likeness.

PAUL:  Just because some guy wears a fancy robe (and a KKK hat) doesn’t make him (or her) any “holier” than anyone else on this planet. Nor does it give him (them) the divinity to make some “new heavenly rules”!

FATHER JOE:  The racist KKK is also historically anti-Catholic and you are mouthing many of their old slanders against the Catholic Church.  The robes do not give our shepherds their authority.  It is given to them by Christ.  They share in the apostolic succession that keeps us in both historical and spiritual unity with Christ.  The apostles passed on their authority and we still proclaim the ancient faith.  Christianity did not begin as a book religion.  As I have written before, the Church was proclaiming the Gospel and baptizing new believers even before there was a New Testament.  The Magisterium does NOT invent new heavenly rules.  Rather, the Church passes on what she has been given.  The problem is not that Catholicism added anything; rather, it is that anti-Catholic fundamentalists like you have subtracted out elements of the faith given us by Jesus Christ.

PAUL:  Personally I follow the guidance delivered by The Bible, not a bunch of men and women who think they are “cleaner than the rest” because they supposedly don’t have sex (let’s not talk about the altar boy molestation that has occurred time and time again and mostly hidden or covered up by the Great Catholics!)

FATHER JOE:  The scandal of abuse by clergy is indeed a terrible business.  But most priests are good men who love the Lord and try to make a positive difference in the lives of the people they serve.  Speaking for myself, my one great ambition is to go to heaven and I would like to take a few of my friends with me.  We have different roles to play in the body of the Church.  We need each other.  We all need Jesus.  Priests do not imagine themselves as “holier than thou.”  Even the Pope regularly goes to confession.  We acknowledge in the sacrament, and at the beginning of every Mass, that we are sinners in need of a redeemer.  LORD, HAVE MERCY ON US.  CHRIST, HAVE MERCY ON US.  LORD, HAVE MERCY ON US.  A priest who hears confessions and offers absolution is humbled that God would make him into an instrument of healing and mercy for others.  The priest Confessor counts himself as the first among sinners.  He is not perfect either.  That is why all priests are to be guarded about hypocrisy and self-righteousness.  As for the Bible, you speak as if I and all Catholics are ignorant about God’s Word.  That is not true.  Of course, we could all know it better.  I think you have a long way to go before you can make a claim upon teaching biblical truth.  Why do I say this?  Not only do you show your lack of biblical formation again and again, you demonstrate nothing of the heart of Christ’s message.  There is nothing of charity in what you say.  Without charity, you have nothing.  I tell you this because, even though you have upset me, I am required to forgive and share the sacrificial love of Jesus.  I want you to be in good standing with the Lord.  You do not seem to have any awareness that attacking the Church, which is all the Christian people and not just buildings or clerics, you attack Jesus Christ.  

PAUL:  Jesus said it is good if a man CAN abstain, he never said you MUST abstain to spread his word, another Catholic “invention.”

FATHER JOE:  No, it is your invention.  One does not have to be a celibate priest in order to spread God’s Word.  The Roman Catholic Church prefers a celibate priesthood, although various Eastern rites of the Catholic Church have married clergy.  Our deacons are also given Holy Orders and the vast majority of these Catholic ministers are married men.  They witness marriages, perform baptisms, offer funeral services, work as chaplains and bring Holy Communion to people.  They do the very things we see Protestant ministers doing and more.  We also have religious brothers, sisters and members of the laity who teach the faith and proclaim the Gospel by word and witness in the larger community.  Further, there are growing numbers of Catholic lay evangelists, who are married and single.

PAUL:  I have also never seen anything in the Bible that said masturbation is a “Mortal Sin.” Wow! I guess this means that about 99% of all men will rot in Hell— ANOTHER Catholic rumor.

FATHER JOE:  Do you have a hang up about sex, Paul?  Sexual sins are serious because we are corporeal beings.  Our bodies are not robotic appendages or extensions, but are intimate elements of our identity as persons.  Masturbation as a sin constitutes serious matter, but all good confessors also give weight to issues like habit, passion, an erotic society and media, etc.  Anything that takes away freedom necessarily affects the consent.  As a priest my concern about any of the sins is not to steer people toward hell but to direct them to heaven.  You may have passed over into the dark area of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.  I would plead that you be careful about this.  The Old Testament and the rabbinic tradition placed a great emphasis upon fertility and the blessing of posterity.  Masturbation is a trespass against this good of God.  Masturbation or Onanism is condemned by God (see Genesis 38:9).   Complicating matters further, it is a matter of course that masturbation is inextricably connected to lust and adultery in the heart.  Such is also condemned by God (see Matthew 5:28-29).           

PAUL:  I am sorry, but the God I believe in would rather a man touch himself then take advantage of another.

FATHER JOE:  This is why I am worried about you.  Men can struggle with chastity and still not take advantage of others.  The lines of dichotomy that you draw are false.

PAUL:  All the Catholic Church wants is MORE Money. You have to make your monthly payment to get to their heaven…

FATHER JOE:  Up until a few months ago, I was driving a 1995 used car.  Now I have moved up to a 2002 used car… still nine years old!  I wear shoes until there are holes in them.  I think I live fairly simply.  Compared to the Protestant ministers in my neighborhood, I am probably the poorest man among them.  Most Catholic priests would be in this category.  Yes, we ask for donations, but to pay the bills.  We also feed the poor and help those who are hurting.  Money is raised not to buy anyone’s way into heaven but to help relieve the hell that people suffer here on earth.  You have it all wrong.  Your false judgment against “all” the Catholic Church is nothing less than a sin.

PAUL:  I went to Catholic school for the first five years of my education. It finally reached a point where my mother could not afford the tuition. She was told by the clergy that she would go to hell because she removed my sister and I from the school… Pretty cool huh? What a bunch of sickos….

FATHER JOE:  Given how you have misrepresented so much else, I have a hard time believing what you write about this anonymous priest.  The poor man may have had a bad day or what you say is an exaggeration, but such a tale is hardly a good reason to turn against the Church.  I was turned down for Catholic school entirely.  Sister told my mother that I was “sickly and stupid,” and so I went to public schools all the way through High School.  I failed first grade and the public school teacher wanted to send me away to a special school for “retarded” children.  Yes, that was the word she used.  Another teacher came to my rescue and helped me to stay in the school the following year.  I did not give up on life or learning.  Neither did I turn away from the Church.  I became a priest.  I am sorry that you did not have such strength of conviction or faith.

PAUL:  Oh and one more thing (sorry, I forgot!). The God I believe in would rather a couple use a condom to prevent the spread of disease and an unwanted child. There are enough sick people and starving children on this planet.

FATHER JOE:  Men and women are not simply animals in heat.  The marital act is non-contraceptive intercourse between a husband and wife.  Regardless of age and fertility, it is that TYPE OF ACT that is open to the generation of new human life.  Condomistic intercourse is not the marital act.  Not only is it closed to the gift of children, it also places a barrier between the spouses in terms of their mutual fidelity.  The natural law is circumvented in regards to the giving and receiving between spouses.  They are to surrender everything they are to the other and become one flesh… not one flesh divided by a piece of latex.  This is not simply a mechanistic reservation, condomistic intercourse is an entirely different TYPE OF ACT from the marital act, an act that renews the marital covenant, a covenant elevated by Christ to a sacrament which points to his unity with his bride, the Church.  If marital couples are faithful to each then there is no chance of HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases.  As for the contraceptive intent, it is the handmaid of abortion.  You display this slippery slope in your language about “an unwanted child.”  No child should be unwanted.  Once we start thinking like that, we become enemies of the Gospel of Life proclaimed by Jesus and the Church.  If couples hate, or do not want children, then they should not get married.  Couples who are not married have no right to the sex act.  Our Lord prophesied during his passion about such an attitude as you display.  “A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children, for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ At that time people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?’” (Luke 23:27-31).    

PAUL:  Sex is a wonderful experience shared between two people in love. But according the Catholic’s way of thinking you need to have a newborn at least once a year because birth control is a MORTAL SIN… How stupid is that?! They just want MORE Catholics to send them more money!

FATHER JOE:  The marital act is indeed a beautiful expression of love between a husband and wife; however, not every form of sexual expression is legitimate or worthy of our humanity.  But I guess you have a problem with any restrictions.  Once again, though, you falsify the Catholic stance toward the propagation of the species.  Natural family planning can help couples space births and to have children.  As long as it is used unselfishly, such family planning has value.  Artificial contraception is deemed immoral but there is no Church requirement that people reproduce like rabbits.  Next, you connect the matter of sex to money… the two topics that seem to obsess you.  The Church embraces millions upon millions who have little voice except that of the Church seeking justice.  She does not write them off or give preference to the rich.  Indeed, despite how they tax the resources of the Church, the late Pope John Paul spoke about the vast multitudes of the poor as the true treasure of the Church.  The Church has a preferential option for the poor.   

PAUL:  I pity you all for being so brainwashed. But then again look at the other cults of the world (including the one run by Jim Jones) who have convinced weak minded individuals to follow them!

FATHER JOE:  You would compare the Church to a cult where a madman murdered his followers?  The Church does not brainwash people or seduce weak minds.  But the enemies of the Church do precisely this, and it appears to me that you are one of their victims. 

PAUL:  Stand up for yourselves people and pray. God WILL listen to you. Some people do need a little guidance along the way but NEVER believe things “men” speak of. There is no need to obey rules made up by a cult intent on controlling your life. Read your Bible and you will learn what GODS will is, not some guys making up the rules as they go…. Catholicism = The Earth’s Greatest Cult (good luck with that!)

FATHER JOE:  Our good Catholic people do pray, sometimes standing and sometimes on their knees.  Catholics are increasingly knowledgeable of their bibles and have the wisdom of the saints, the Church fathers and theologians and biblical exegetes.  We are not afraid of learning.  Ours is an informed faith.  These sources of Christian doctrine are far more reliable than that of one ignorant and angry anti-Catholic fundamentalist.  You offer no reasons why anyone should follow you over the 2,000 year old institution established by Christ.  Do you belong to a church or are you a cult of one.  If Catholics read the Bible and study their faith, then the ignorance, prejudice and treachery of men like you is immediately exposed.  Catholicism = Christianity, pure and simple!