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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 – Qualified to Instruct Couples?

Marriage preparation can be quite an ordeal for the celibate priest, not because he is ignorant or because he is envious of what these couples possess; but rather due to the lack of faith that is increasingly brought to these forums. Couples are often having sex and living together before marriage. They want a church wedding for aesthetic reasons or because of parental pressure; but they, themselves, neither practice their faith nor give much thought to Catholic truths. The priest comes across as an intrusive busybody who wants to know their business and then tries to tell them how to behave. The response is either anger or ridicule. “Who are you to tell us what to do? Just because you cannot ‘get laid’ is no reason to tell us that we should not have sex! We love each other. If only you loved someone or had someone to love you, then you would know. You’re not even fully a man! Just tell us what is the minimum we have to do to get married. That is all we want from you!” As an effort to avoid such confrontations, either the priest relinquishes his moral authority behind silence or humor, or the couple will purposely deceive the priest and conceal fornication and cohabitation. Such a situation might be similar for a married minister, with the exception that he would not be mocked as an ignoramus for being celibate. Nevertheless, it is into this setting that the celibate priest should still instruct upon the sacrament of marriage, the openness to human life, the value of coming to the marriage bed undefiled, and the theology of the body. Retaliating against criticism, some priests will argue that a celibate priest can speak about such themes just as a doctor can be informed as to how to treat cancer, without having cancer, himself. The problem with this analogy is that marriage is compared to a disease. A better analogy might be with the astronomer. He can tell you all about the moon even though he personally has never walked there. Similarly, before you drove a car, you studied and had to pass a test on the manual which gave you pointers and rules for the road. Sex and marriage are far more complicated than driving. The priest speaks not for himself but from the experience of the Church and her teachings, as in the universal catechism. Important guidance is given as to how couples can live out their marriages, sacramentally and naturally. Love and joy are enhanced by such positive direction, yes, even if it comes from a celibate priest. But he does not stand alone. There are many married Catholic lay men and women who stand with him and give witness to the truth and value of Catholic teachings.