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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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Father Joe Meets Babylon 5’s Na’Toth (Julie Brown)

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Father Joe with Julie Caitlin Brown who starred on Babylon 5 as Na’Toth. I have inserted a pic of her in makeup.  She was one of the guests at this year’s Shoreleave Convention in Baltimore, MD.

Priestly Celibacy – Priests are Men Not Angels

People fail to appreciate that they are their bodies. A body without a soul is a corpse. A soul without a body is a ghost. The whole person is a spiritual-corporeal composite. There is a profound unity that Catholic morality and sacramentality respects but which many dissenters have rejected. If the body is not really “you” then it no longer matters what is done with the body. Pleasure is pursued, fertility is destroyed and the sacrament of marriage becomes mute. Marriage only makes sense if we see ourselves as animated bodies, one male and the other female. Once this distinction is dismissed, the immorality of our age comes rushing in.

Genuine celibacy appreciates our bodily nature. We are not angels. Even resurrected men and women will be restored body and soul. The celibate is in tune with his own flesh, and by God’s grace, seeks to master his passions. He does so not because he hates the body but because he wants to offer himself entirely to the Lord. God in Jesus Christ took to himself a human body. Christ is still God and man. It is a permanent expression of his identity. The incarnation makes possible the divinization of humanity. Indeed, the body (particularly upon a cross), is immediately reflective of the Lord and his saving mystery. Jesus gives a human face to God. He is the revelation of the Father. The celibate priest, standing alone before his people, is a powerful symbol of this mystery. Like Christ, he surrenders his body in fidelity to his mission and to the needs of God’s people.

The prospect of virginity and/or celibacy seriously upsets some people. They may be resentful because they forfeited their own purity and cannot go back or because they know full well that they were the instruments that despoiled others of their gift of innocence. Many cannot stand evidence of these chaste callings because they know all too well their own weaknesses, the out-of-control rapture of lust and the bondage of sexual addiction. They resent that there might be a few who could tame the beast when they could not or gave up trying.

Church authorities need to reprimand but can be excessively severe with men who violate their promises and succumb to temptation. Of course, we should remember the old saying, “it takes two to tango.”  Everyone is aware of salacious reports chronicling how priests were pursued by the “cassock chasers,” women viewing celibate men of the cloth as singular challenges and as forbidden prizes. Priests are human.  A man might turn to cold showers, fervent prayer, distance to certain females and support from brother priests; and yet, he remains a man struggling with sin and weakness.  He might stumble in his discipleship.  If so, the Church needs to respond appropriately to his contrition and remorse.  When a priest is forced out of ministry, it is the end of his world.  The priesthood is not his job; it is who he is.  The dismissal and laicization of a priest strikes me as a form of capital punishment, a sentence of death.  He can go on and maybe start over, but there is an important part of his identity that we have buried.  When priests learn of a brother in their ranks who has fallen for female charms, we often hear remarked, “There but for the grace of God go I.” When priests concelebrate the funeral for a brother in holy orders, we breathe a sigh of relief for one who ran the course and did not stumble terribly and get lost along the way. I have often thought that the powers-that-be are far more harsh with a fallen priest than with the ordinary laymen who regularly visit the Confessional. The latter might commit the most egregious moral trespasses and get off with a few Hail Marys and Our Fathers; but the former in priest’s collar is frequently disowned and ruined. Sexual attraction can be almost overwhelming and those good men who fall, not the reprobates who hide their sinful lifestyles, are often immediately consumed by guilt and regret. The priest preaches a higher standard that much of the world rejects; however, if the priest should stumble, then he is ridiculed as a hypocrite and stripped of his vocation, even if he still wants to be a good and holy priest. Fallen nature seems to have a mind of its own. Some embrace a life of sin and are excused by our society; others fight sin and the devil knowing all the time that if they should lower their shield even for a moment, the enemy might get the upper hand. The celibate priest is a crucial sentinel. Armed with the authority to absolve sin and to confect the Eucharist, he does battle. A few married priests are in the ranks but the celibate men are at the front of the assault. It may be that some of them will play the part of Uriah the Hittite.*  Their celibacy is an extreme that shows that we need not be mastered by the world, the flesh and the devil. They might be wronged, even by just authority; but they remain loyal.  They fight where the confrontation is most fierce. It is likely that a few will pay a frightful price. The more that one has been given, the more one will be held accountable. The priest knows the truth and cannot feign ignorance. Many people fall but only as if from a few feet off the ground. When a priest falls, it is as from the roof of a skyscraper. The fall will likely kill him.

*(David sought to disguise his sin with Bathsheba by sending her husband to her chambers; but Uriah took his rest with the other fighting men.  Angered by this, David ordered that Uriah should be placed at the front of battle and abandoned.  This effectively murdered the loyal soldier.)