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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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Priestly Celibacy of Apostolic Origin

Some have assumed, usually those desirous of a change today in discipline, that priestly celibacy was only of later manufacture by the Church. Despite growing evidence to the contrary, they still resist the fact that it is of apostolic origin. Legislation in its favor appears in the fourth century; but, this merely confirmed or codified what was a practice and growing preference in ministry. Hebrew priests of the Old Covenant embraced a periodic celibacy or abstinence during the time of their service. Given that the office and service of New Covenant priests is permanent and perpetual, it would logically make sense that their celibate lifestyle should also never know compromise. This hints to a practice in biblical and patristic times that critics in our sexually addicted society might find unfathomable: that many if not most married Christian priests practiced perpetual continence. As they sought to be new Christs for their communities, they imitated the chaste (dare I say virginal) love of Joseph and Mary. Two themes permeate the Catholic appreciation of celibacy: first, that it is an eschatological sign for the sake of the kingdom (Matthew 19:22) and two, that it should allow us an undivided joyful heart (1 Corinthians 7:32-35).

I know well the biblical texts which speak of the bishop (1 Timothy 3:2), the priest (Titus 1:6) and the deacon (1 Timothy 3:12) as “the husband of one wife.” The Church grew quickly and leadership was desperately needed. It was vital that they were men of faith with a certain degree of stability. The Council of Carthage (390 AD) unanimously stressed that an absolute continence was a fitting discipline to honor the sacraments “so that what the apostles taught and antiquity itself maintained, we too may observe… It is pleasing to all that bishop, priest and deacon, the guardians of purity, abstain from marital relations with their wives so that the perfect purity may be safeguarded of those who serve the altar” (CCL 149, 13). It might seem peculiar to us today, but a man’s fidelity to a monogamous union was interpreted as evidence that he could be just as faithful to perfect continence after ordination.