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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 – The Best Match for Ministry

If priestly celibacy were the product of historical development, then that evolution began among the Jews and the periodic celibacy pursued by the priests of the temple during their tenure of service. However, it is not the misbegotten child of the Middle Ages as the strained research of certain scholars might imply. They are wrong to deny its presence already well formed during the Apostolic and Patristic periods. It may not have been absolutely mandatory; but as I have already said, there is growing evidence for perpetual or absolute continence among the ancient married priests of the Church.

Apologists for married priests will quickly point to the selfless ministers in Protestant communities. They observe, and I have no reason to question it, that these men are sustained by their wives and families, often as collaborators in the ministry. The wives of Orthodox priests tend to become the supporting mother-figures for their husband’s churches. They would similarly point to married men in other professions: doctors, police, firemen, teachers, etc. Well, yes and no, I am sure there are wonderful instances where spouses and children can sustain a man, giving him the strength and courage to go on. But the fact remains, that there are only so many hours in a day and we can only stretch ourselves so far. Most ministers I know keep regular work hours. Many may have weekly bible study and counseling, but only weekend services. I recall reading with great sadness about the first of the Episcopalian priests who entered the Catholic Church and got ordained. His wife said she thought his life would be the same but it was not. She grew to resent how his ministry took precedence and how he was often absent from the home in the evenings. One day she swore she had enough and gave him an ultimatum: “It is the priesthood or me, you have to decide, one or the other!” He told her that he would not leave the priesthood. Now he serves as a celibate priest because she left and divorced him. Married doctors have a terrible divorce rate, with the ones who marry nurses faring the best. Physicians of the soul have been freed of the marital burden for a reason. It is not crass or political. Celibacy best matches up with the life and service of a priest. I am not saying that married men could not be priests, only that such a priesthood would differ accidentally and in other ways hard to express in a few words.

Faith & Values in the News

More than 100 teens rescued in weekend sex-trafficking raids, FBI says

Lock up the traffickers and throw away the key!

Archbishop Tutu would pick hell over an anti-gay heaven

Well, so much for submission to God’s will. At least he is honest in choosing sides, as well as in denouncing traditional Christianity (i.e. Catholicism).

Proof that animals can stand like people, may take over the world

Certain evolutionists assert that standing upright on two legs freed the hands and acted as a catalyst for the development of modern man. Does this mean that in imitating human beings, animals are on their way to becoming true sentient people? Hum… funny photos!

Bush 41 shaves head in support of 2-year-old cancer patient

We need more stories like this!

Marriage rate in the US hits a new low

Goodness! Heterosexual couples don’t want to get married but gay couples do. What a world we live in!

Calif. inmates illegally sterilized, new report shows

Left unsaid is that past sterilizations helped to hide the molestation of women prisoners by their jailers. We had similar incidents in facilities for the mentally challenged. In any case, forced sterilizations is a major human rights violation.

Woman marries bridge like that’s a totally normal thing to do

What can I say? Maybe we had better keep up the Maryland Catholic Conference Marriage Matters campaign?

23 Scouts hospitalized after lightning strike in Belmont, New Hampshire

Struck by lightning and burned, rushed to the hospital and the boys still reported that “there was nothing to worry about.” God bless the Scouts, they are tough… they are men!

Matt Birk skips White House visit over President’s remarks

Great testimony and witness from a pro-life and pro-marriage Catholic!

Valedictorian tears up speech, recites Lord’s Prayer instead

Amen!

2013-14 Officers of Fr. Michael C. Kidd K of C Council

CIMG0466

We had the installation of our new officers on July 27, 2013.

Held at Holy Family Church and Hall, Mitchellville, MD.

CHAPLAIN – Rev. Joseph Jenkins

GRAND KNIGHT – Manuel R. Rodriguez

DEPUTY GRAND KNIGHT – Ken Zemrowski

CHANCELLOR – Jaime G. Cardano

RECORDER – Alexander Wong

ADVOCATE – Akinbode A. Akinola

WARDEN – Curtis L. Person

TREASURER – Kevin Renze

FINANCIAL SECRETARY – Porfirio Concepcion

INSIDE GUARD – Michael Turner

OUTSIDE GUARD – Innocent K. Okeke

LECTURER – Calvin Halloway

TRUSTEE 3-YEAR – Andres Padilla

TRUSTEE 2-YEAR – James Murry

TRUSTEE 1-YEAR – George H. Johnson

CONVENTION DELEGATE – Andres Padilla

FIRST ALTERNATE – Terry Reinhart

SECOND ALTERNATE – Saturnino Foronda

Priestly Celibacy – Universal & Absolute?

Despite how it sounds, it is not my intention to disparage the good works accomplished by our few married priests. They are good and holy men. Nevertheless, if I had my way, all priests everywhere would be celibate. Married men accommodated and ordained priests from the Anglican Communion have been given a great gift. I assent and bend my will entirely to the universal Church which made this overture; however, had I my way, they would have been offered the permanent diaconate but no more. But that personal opinion really amounts to nothing.  I am not infallible and I pray not to be a fool.  Again, I do not mean to be hurtful. But a door has been opened and we may have a hard time closing it. I have confidence that the Spirit is alive and well in the Church, even if I fail to understand God’s mysterious ways.  The liberal voices are well aware of how such openings might be exploited; however, their delight is muffled by the conservative character of the candidates who cross the Tiber. These men belong to Pope Benedict and the dissenters hated Benedict. These religious refugees yearned for the doctrinal and moral integrity of Roman Catholicism. Too long they suffered under questionable orders, priestesses, and now the benediction of homosexual unions. Many progressive Catholic voices would prefer that Catholicism mirror such Protestantism, not flee from it. In other words, these Anglicans joining the Church are good men, Catholic before they knew they were Catholic, and the right-thinking sort of men. But they are married and that is the conundrum. How do we fit them into our priesthood without changing our priesthood? How might it affect vocations? What resentments might it spur? We are just now finding out but the future is still unclear.

Why is this a big deal with me? “Water flows downstream.” We normally move in the direction of least resistance. If we are gradually transitioning to a priesthood with optional celibacy, I foresee a day when the celibate diocesan priest will virtually disappear. Under such liberality, the majority of celibate priests would belong to religious orders or special societies. If healthy heterosexual men are given a modified choice, most of them would opt for both marriage and priesthood. Once celibacy and priesthood are no longer linked, it will be harder to argue necessity or the value of supererogation. We really do not want to go this route. I believe in freedom and in most things tend toward libertarianism. But basic human values must be preserved and a celibate priesthood has a significance that is all its own. The choice is to become a priest or to get married. Compromising that choice risks losing it altogether. Do we really want to see this flame of sacrificial loving extinguished?

Priestly Celibacy – Ministerial Availability

Is celibacy an obsolete construct? Could it be abandoned without damaging the body of the Church? My response is that it is more pertinent and valuable in our age than in any preceding it. We need this sign of contradiction so that we might not be swallowed up by the hedonism of our day.

The theme of availability which is furthered by celibacy is usually crudely understood as one having the time to respond at a moment’s notice to the urgent needs of our people. While this is certainly a partial definition, it has a far more pervasive scope. The premise that “no wife and no children” equates to a freedom to serve fails if the celibate fills the vacuum with selfish preoccupations. He must be wary of becoming the proverbial old and angry bachelor. He must place the needs of his people and the demands of God before strictly personal pursuits that give pleasure. A physical creature of desires and passions, he might place the love of entertainment or traveling or drinking or eating before his role as servant. He might also begin to waste time with unhealthy rumination about his choices, resenting the decisions he made or faulting the Church for his unhappiness. (I think this is where we discover a number of aging dissenters and those who abandon their ministry and/or break their promises.) Availability is not simply time management or sitting around like Bruce Wayne waiting for the Bat signal to call him to the rescue. The celibate priest makes Christ available to the People of God. While a husband and wife encounter the Lord through the symbolism of their bodies; the priest is wedded to the Church and facilitates our meeting with Christ through his priesthood and in the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. This assignment or coming together is best furthered when there is no distraction. Just as the maleness of the priest speaks to his role as an icon for Christ, so too in a lesser manner does his celibacy resonate with the life of our Lord. He has nowhere to rest his head. He looks around at the vast crowds of searching humanity and laments that they are like lost sheep needing a shepherd. Even when he seeks out deserted places to pray, they find him out and he responds with teaching them of God’s love, healing, forgiving and feeding them. He also fights for them, knowing that the devil is like a prowling beast, ready to devour them. The urgency of the priests who share in the high priesthood of Christ is that they must be ever on guard to do battle. Indeed, the battle never stops. He crushes sin with the extension of his hand and the words of absolution in the Confessional.  He makes present the saving presence and sacrifice of Christ at the altar.  On the road or in a chapel, he says his prayers, giving God his due and interceding for his flock. Alone in his bed he clutches his rosary, still throwing himself completely into the burning hearts of Jesus and Mary. He begs that he might be consumed so that souls might be saved.  Not in an exclusive relationship to one person, but to the Mystical Body of Christ, his whole life finds meaning with the proclamation, “I am totally yours!”

Priestly Celibacy – A Preservation in Holiness

Some critics of celibacy felt bolstered by the scant references to married clergy in the New Testament, and yet such evidence was hardly conclusive. Were the children of priests conceived before or after the men were ordained? There is growing historical evidence that married men, in agreement with their wives, set aside a sexual life for the sake of the faith community and in respect to the Eucharist. This might seem nonsensical to us today but the Church, early on, placed a significant meritorious value in celibate discipleship. It is the witness of the apostles who abandoned their families and earthly work to follow Christ. It is the realization of the calling given the rich man to sell all he has, to give it to the poor and then to follow Jesus. It is a level of sacrifice that the world does not want to understand. We must be honest.  Many of our own people, baptized Catholics, are more formed by the world than by the Gospel. That is why they fail to understand and thus undermine the great gift of single-hearted virginal love.

Celibacy was not inflicted upon the Church simply to make life difficult. It was composed to substantiate the best form of ministerial discipleship and to bring errant men back to a holiness of life. Celibacy was not a medicine against marriage, because matrimony was no disease. Rather, it was an antidote to divided hearts, mistresses, illegitimate children, and other forms of wrongdoing and/or sin. The resources of the faith community were being exploited by unscrupulous men and wrongly passed on to their offspring. Celibacy was the Church’s way of shouting, enough! Similarly today, the problem is not celibacy but rather the failure to remain faithful to this chaste way of loving. It is no wonder that the ire of Christ was most raised by the evil of hypocrisy.

Priestly Celibacy – The Reasons Behind It

Until recently, the celibacy of Catholic priests was regarded by their own religionists as uncontested. If you wanted to be a priest then you had to forsake the possibility of a wife and children. Such was the complete package and a man could not sign up for one without the other. Now changes both inside and outside the Church have brought that complementary dualism into question. My personal concern is that some celibate priests may come to resent married clergy and that married priests might regard celibate men as oddly eccentric, aloof and angry. How can a faithful celibate priest, who fell in love but kept his promises with distance, prayer and tears, not feel a wound in his heart reopened when he must work side-by-side with a married priest who has both his religious calling and his beloved spouse and children? He would have to be an absolute ice-man or robot to avoid real internal pain. Bishops seem aware of this and that may be why married priests, formerly of the Episcopalian tradition, are frequently given special assignments removed from the regular pastoral duties of celibate priests. I also have to wonder if such were a factor in the growing Anglican-usage parishes. This allows them to be Catholic but makes for distance from traditional settings and celibate clergy while grouping them with other former Protestants who have sought reunion with Rome.

The question was always, why have married priests?  But now everything is turned around.  The question becomes, why have celibate priests? There are three basic arguments:

  1. Given that celibacy is obligatory and made as a vow or promise, the first rationale is ecclesial authority and long-standing tradition.
  2. Given that the priest must go where he is needed and immediately do as he is told, the second argument is availability and that he lives to serve the family of God, not for himself.
  3. Given that he is an eschatological sign of the kingdom, the third assertion is that his witness as “the poor man” and his cultic service as a priest of the altar should point toward spiritual realities unmarred by entanglement in matters of the flesh and the world, notably sexual expression.

The first reason was challenged by the manifold changes after Vatican II. Everything seemed to be in a state of flux. The liturgy changed overnight, fast laws were modified or abrogated, and there was a paradigm shift in our attitude toward the world and other religions. Many priests were ordained thinking that the policy on priestly celibacy would change and become retroactive. However, it did not change and thousands of priests left ministry, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s. It is no wonder that Pope Benedict’s emphasis on tradition also included a reaffirmation of priestly celibacy. Unfortunately, many are presumptuous that Pope Francis will be more accommodating to those who hope to see the discipline made optional or dismissed. I do not believe it will happen. Why? It is because of how the other two reasons fit into the model of poverty and living for others that are thematic for his papacy. If he demands that priests live simply and drive used cars, then he definitely would not want to see priests caught up with the worldly affairs of a wife and family.

The other two reasons are assaulted by the charge that celibacy is a discipline, not an intrinsic doctrine that is essential to priesthood. This is actually the consensus or general thinking of the Church; however, a few of us wonder if the distinction might be too pact or simplistic. God seemed to tolerate polygamy and divorce in the Old Testament but Christ made it clear that such does not reflect the true mind of God and human nature. Given the great need, the novelty of Christianity, the rapid growth of the Church and the lack of viable single candidates, could it be that God tolerated married men in his priesthood until such became unnecessary? The apparent fact that men called to holy orders in the early Church often lived as if they were not married, in perfect continence with their wives, would seem to give substance to this supposition.

A further support to this view is the long-standing predominance of celibacy into the modern era. Just as the Holy Spirit safeguards the authority of the Church and the faithful transmission of the deposit of faith, might the celibate priesthood be an expression of his work that is reflective of divine providence? Yes, it is true that a few married priests (but not bishops) minister in the small Eastern rites of the Church; but these few exceptions are dwarfed by the number of celibate priests serving in the West. What about the Orthodox churches? As Pope Benedict XVI rightfully reminded us, while their sacraments are efficacious, they do not accept the full juridical authority of the Holy See.  The Orthodox churches are true churches, albeit defective. The Protestant denominations are classified “theologically” as ecclesial communities.  Such means that Protestants have lost apostolic succession and thus have no authentic priesthood or Mass. The Orthodox have both but they also suffer the dire loss of the Petrine see and thus forfeit the full protection of God against error.  Their teachings and practices would not “immediately” inform Catholicism given the juridical break.  The witness of the Eastern rite churches (in union with Rome) is more significant and must be given a certain consideration on all questions of faith and discipline.  In any case, note that the Orthodox have both married and celibate priests but ONLY celibate bishops. Even they seem to discern that there is a serious difference. Roman Catholicism readily recognizes this and wants all her priests to match the same high standard. The Church needs it and God deserves it.

Please note that references to other denominations are not intended to be pejorative, just informative of a demarcation between them and Catholicism.  It is not possible today to speak about Christian ministry and to avoid comparisons.  Only briefly hinted at in this posting, many Protestant churches would reject any definition of their ministers as priests; others would define the priesthood differently or have a disrupted apostolic succession.  Their views would have little or no standing in the Catholic context.   Catholic deacons can do all that a Baptist minister can do:  baptize, celebrate a communion service, witness a wedding, visit the sick, preach from the pulpit, teach, etc.  Our deacons are both married and unmarried.  The similarity or comparison between many Protestant churches and Catholicism in ministry is not between the priest and minister, but between the minister and deacon.  Of course, the deacon is also in Holy Orders and is ranked among the clergy.