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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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Faith & Values in the News

Bad Optics: Obama and HHS vs Little Sisters of the Poor

Here is the face of the Religious Liberty Fight.

Cat poop parasite controls minds early — and permanently, study finds

My cat scratches, bites, pees and poops… all without regard to persons or property. She is an absolute menace. Yet, here she is with me 19 years later…. hum, I knew something was off… mind control… help! somebody help me!

Watch how cat acts like both a human and a cat on the toilet

First a story bout cat mind-control and now cats that use the toilet… what gives?

The Ten Happiest Jobs

Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, …

Playing God: Meet the man who built the most lifelike android ever

GF2045 is the brainchild of Russian billionaire Dmitry Itskov, who’s made it his life’s goal to transpose human consciousness into a machine, thus giving us the power of immortality. Oh boy… talk about science fiction, with moral complications!

Motorists beware: New laws take effect Oct. 1

Does tying your kid brother to the roof of the car count as being seat-belted?

American Among Wave of Papal Appointments, Confirmations

Archbishop Augustine Di Noia was one of my favorite professors in seminary a quarter of a century ago. He made Christian Anthropology come alive. Congratulations!

Pope Francis excommunicates pro-gay marriage priest. He’s not the liberal the media wants

Muhahaha! Yes, the Pope is Catholic!

Superdads! Couple adopts 14 kids from foster care

There is nothing I can really say about this… welcome to our brave new world.

Fr. Clements in Chicago made headlines years ago for adopting a boy. It wanted to make a difference for street-tough kids who needed a father. Given the scandals, that is forbidden today. Hum, so two gay guys can adopt children but a celibate Catholic priest cannot… what a twist!

Cardinal Burke: Nancy Pelosi ‘must’ be denied Communion

I wonder how the other bishops feel about this?

Dairy Queen worker’s good deed goes viral

I am sorely tempted toward cynicism and grieving about so many things in our society. What this young man did will make it a little easier to sleep tonight. There is still goodness out there.

Pope says focus on morality can obscure Gospel message

Has a pope ever been so misunderstood?

Muslim Terrorists Caught Crossing US Border

Was this ever on the mainstream news? It is very troubling.

8-foot crocodile spends the night under a lucky guy’s bed

Have you checked under your bed lately? Darn it! I hate it when I find crocodiles hiding under there!

Bill Donohue: Celibacy a ‘Man-Made’ Rule in Catholic Church

Could does not mean it will. People are making too much of too little or nothing. Really, there is no hint whatsoever of any change in Church discipline regarding mandatory celibacy.

Daniel Craig Napolitano, Rest in Peace

My old classmate from college seminary died: Danny Napolitano. My deepest condolences to his family. Rest in peace, Danny.

Deadly brain amoeba infects US tap water for the first time

Hum, and they said the Scotch would kill me… only kidding, I don’t drink… should I start?

Sag Harbor grandmother: I’m LI’s first female priest

A point missed in this scandal is that she received a degree from an approved seminary. Did they know her intentions? Should the laity (not seminarians) receive training from seminaries… particularly if they will use such an academic pedigree to lend credence to rebellion, mortal sin and excommunication?

Scott Mackintosh, Utah Dad, Wears Short Shorts To Teach His Daughter A Lesson

A brave man who loves his daughter… unwilling to shame her, he shamed himself to get the message across.

Priestly Celibacy: Relating to Women

How should the celibate priest relate to women? This question is not simple given that there is an active national debate about how men behave (or misbehave) around women. Some guys treat every woman as chiefly a sexual object. We see this in the proliferation of pornography which focuses upon the desires of men. The sin of fornication is increasingly regarded as a necessary rite of passage and the way to measure the success of the dating experience. Cohabitation now statistically outnumbers married couples. Adultery is a chief cause for separation and divorce. Women complain about harassment, gender stereotypes and abusive and/or forced seduction. It is into this environment that celibate priests are called to respect women, who usually make up the majority of their congregations; however, there can be no romantic associations.

As an effort to safeguard or to insure celibacy, a number of priests in the past were trained to keep women at a distance. This did not mean that they hated women; however, they may have looked upon females with suspicion and tagged them as dangerous. It has been known that some priests have narrowed their friendships to other priests or a few men while treating their flocks (men and women alike) as souls to save but nothing more. We might say that they have attempted to strip gender from the perception of their congregations; but in truth, they have endeavored to neuter themselves. I have never known it to work well.

Priests must acknowledge they are men, not robots. Men relate to women differently than they do to other men. This does not have to be a bad element. Women can bring out a sensitive and courteous side in men. Look at how gentlemen treat their mothers and daughters. Women by their witness and interaction can assist the priest in extracting or bringing to the surface his sympathetic side and gentleness. The failure to properly acknowledge and treat women will result in a coarsening of priestly manners. He becomes distant, authoritarian and legalistic.

While celibate, priests are increasingly surrounded by women. Women are both employees of the Church and volunteers. I am not speaking here simply of housekeepers and cooks. Married and single women are catechists, youth ministers, liturgical musicians, readers, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, altar servers, secretaries, parish business managers, parish associates, etc. This is in addition to traditional service in altar guilds, rosary groups, sodalities, etc. Women work and are present in rectories, parish schools, and in our churches (both in the pews and assisting the priest at the altar). Most parish priests find themselves more surrounded by females than males. Women among the laity have increasingly taking up the slack from the diminishing numbers of women religious, although nuns and sisters will always have an important part to play in the life of the Church. I make these lists to demonstrate that the priest does not and cannot escape the presence of women. They are integral components of the Church. The celibate priest, as the Church’s man, must be comfortable working with and for them. They will be his coworkers and friends. Having said all this, he should be ever cognizant of the boundaries that must never be crossed. He has to be prepared to exhibit a certain distance or even coldness if a certain boundary line of intimacy is skirted. Some women will fall in love with priests. He must let them know by word and manner that he is not interested. Priests will also find themselves falling in love; it is here that clergy need to be reminded of their celibacy so as to create the necessary space for fidelity in their vocation. His priestly work and the life of prayer and worship are his shield from falling. Nurturing his friendships within the presbyterate is also encouraged; there is a certain solidarity and understanding among men who share the same life and dedication to the Lord.

Priestly Celibacy: Evolution of a Sacrament

If the celibate priesthood represents the providential development of this sacrament, would not the general allowance for married priests represent a denial of this grace-filled trajectory? We are creatures who live in time and it is only in the fullness of time that the mysteries of God and of his Church are unraveled. The deposit of faith is fixed but not stagnant. The priesthood must be understood within the context of its purpose and history. I personally fail to see how a reversal can be permitted. It would seem to be a movement against the stream of history and the retrogression of holy orders to an earlier stage of development or appreciation. Our thoughts these days are so much about what the Church and the priesthood used to be. It may be that some critics are so desperate for the damage to be repaired that they would risk further harm by making more radical shifts. Pope Benedict XVI ardently sought to restore balance and to give an interpretation of Vatican II through the eyes of tradition and not modernity. As to what approach we are now taking, only time and prayer will show. However, whatever we do, the needs of the Church and the value of the priesthood should be given full measure over self-seeking desires and personal or particularized relationships. Marriage might make a priest very happy but it would probably cost the Church. I am not convinced by arguments that it would enrich this vocation in any significant manner to offset what would be lost.

Priestly Celibacy: Obligatory or Optional?

We are repeatedly reminded that the Eastern rites have both married and celibate priests. But the fact that most Catholic laity in the United States seem unaware of this is evidence that this witness is largely off the radar. Instead, it is the preference for marriage among the many visible Protestant clergy that catches our notice. It is here that most will make the comparison. Some denominations will not even commission or ordain men unless they are already married. Such is viewed as a divine command and a source for both maturity and stability. It is for this reason that it makes national headlines when married Episcopalian and Lutheran ministers are received and ordained in the Catholic Church. A new model of ministry is being introduced into Catholicism and one that is both condoned by modernity and challenging to our accepted vision of the priesthood. Some find this prospect exciting. Others find in it an ominous and frightening omen. Speaking for myself, I usually err on the side of human freedom; but about this issue, I may not seem consistent. There are certain basic values and rights about which human freedom is limited. What is the will of God in all this? What is best for the Church? I would keep matters as they are with a priestly celibacy that is both mandatory and absolute.

Priestly Celibacy: Changing More Than Rules

It seems to me that the discussion about married priests is too quick to dismiss the depth of meaning given the celibate priesthood. Celibacy is more than a discipline; it is the chief modifier and visible component to the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church. Indeed, mandatory celibacy has come to personify our priesthood. This is why we must approach this debate very carefully. Most of our priestly men identify themselves— their personality, their station as they face God, their place in both the secular and faith communities— by their stance with celibacy. In other words, it might be a discipline, but it has come to permeate and inform everything that makes them priests. While thousands of men left the priesthood in the 1960’s and 1970’s to get married, realizing that the discipline was not changing any time soon; now we run the risk of a new exodus should celibacy become optional. A tiny few married priests from the Episcopalian church is one thing; a wholesale batch of married men and the return of men who left to get married (unlikely) would be another. It would shake the priesthood as we know it to its very foundation. As I wrote before, I also fear that we would needlessly hurt good men who remained at their posts as celibate sentinels, even when such was a terrible and costly sacrifice. Heartstrings were tugged, they fell in love, and yet, they remained faithful to their promises. Celibacy can be a great joy but it can also be a source of heart-rending tears. Whatever the Church decides to do, we must not be blind or insensitive to the cost paid by the diocesan priesthood. We would be changing more than rules.

Priestly Celibacy: Too High a Price for Women?

Given how we understand the priesthood and the demands that we make upon our clergy in the Roman Rite, would the allowance for married priests constitute a violation of human justice? If there is the fear of breaching the seal of confession while talking during sleep, would the couple not be obliged to keep separate bedrooms? The demands of parishioners would take precedence over the needs of his wife and children. Is this fair to them? Given that his first wife, the Church, must always be given her way; what resentments might emerge from the second wife and his family? There is a moral quandary because spouses and families should not be deprived of their due. Right now we have a few married priests (approved of course) who keep their families in neighborhoods apart from where the men serve. Their salaries are enhanced and they are treated differently than celibate clergy. Indeed, I have known several over the years who housed their families in adjacent dioceses or across state lines. What if all priests were treated the same? Could married clergy raise families on a salary rated below poverty level? I was assigned to one parish that was surrounded by drug pushers, pimps with prostitutes and crack houses. My deacon was pistol whipped outside the church doors, the rectory was robbed and dealers shot two bullets through my bedroom window. Would we send a married priest into such an environment? Would they obey and go?

Knowing the life of a traditional Catholic priest, would it really be love to want to subject a woman to the sacrifices and absences that would come along with marriage to one? Even the military man has a term of service. The situation with the priest would be permanent. Several years ago we had a crisis with our local police. The tremendous strain on relationships gave the officers a high divorce rate. It was bad enough that their women had to accept the dangerous profile of their jobs but then the city mandated that police employed had to live within the boundaries of the District. Housing in the better part of town was expensive. The men did not want to house their families in the ghetto or where gangs might identify their wives and children for assault and kidnapping. A number of men tried to skirt the new rules by taking out post office boxes in the city and lying about where they actually lived. They were desperate but good men. Priests have always lived where they worked. The late Archbishop Sheen pressed upon priests that they should live no better than the people they serve. This has often been a point of comparison between Protestant ministers and Catholic priests. Priests must always be accessible or available. They do not work strictly assigned hours. What might this do to a family? The demands are quite different, but the Lutherans have married ministers and they are rightly distressed about the high divorce rate among their pastors. Do we really want to go this way? I noted before that the first married Episcopalian priest who was received and ordained in the United States is now divorced. His wife left him, saying that his prior ministry did not prepare adequately for his life and ministry as a Roman Catholic priest.

Priestly Celibacy: Prophets or False Prophets?

Everyone has an invested interest. Some legitimately feel that wider permission for married priests would resolve the vocations shortage. Shortages in Protestant ranks hint that this may be a false premise. Others have a wayward democratic view about such issues. Unfortunately, many in the pro-marriage camp also subscribe to women priests and that is a deal breaker. The issue of celibacy may be one of discipline; but, the prohibition against women priests is irreformable doctrine.

Most celibate priests probably want to maintain the status-quo. They know firsthand the value of priestly celibacy. Priests who left ministry to get married are wholeheartedly in favor of a liberalization of the rule. However, it is doubtful that such a dispensation for new priests would be applied to the old. The men who left for marriage violated their promises and while some were laicized, a number defected to other churches, rejected the see of Peter and embraced heresy in faith and morals. There would be no place for these aging men in the Catholic ministries. Much is made of the thousands who left in the 1960’s and 1970’s, but time is running out. They are entering the retirement years and many are dying off. Soon they will be all gone. Were they prophets to a married priesthood in the near future? If so they were like the Hebrews who corrupted themselves by worshipping a golden calf after their liberation from Egypt. Before God’s people reached the Promised Land that whole generation and Moses would pass away. This might not seem fair, but it is probably the way it will play out. The Church will not reward disobedience.

Celibacy flows naturally from the sacerdotal calling. Everything about the demands of priesthood, its intrinsic nature, and its place in salvation history (Scripture and Tradition) promotes the organic development of celibacy. Celibacy is not outdated. It has not worn out its welcome or exhausted its utility. It is my conviction that a married priesthood can be tolerated if necessity dictated; but the ideal or preference must remain a celibate priesthood. If we can get along fine without married priests (and vocations are up and growing) then we should maintain mandatory celibacy, even if a married man might rarely be ordained for purposes of ecclesial reunion.

Priestly Celibacy: Is It an Argument One Can Win?

I know what the critics are saying:

“There are plenty of women willing to endure all sorts of hardship and poverty for the men they love, even if those men should be priests. Why not let them decide and make a try of it?”

“If the refugees from Anglicanism can have married priests in the Catholic Church, then how is it fair or just to deprive our own boys of a wife and family?”

“The Eastern rites are in full communion with Rome and yet they have married priests. These men serve well and their wives become loving spiritual mothers over their faith communities. Does not mandatory celibacy impugn their witness and the value of these women? Can we claim that their concept of priesthood represents an earlier period of faith development that we have matured beyond in the West?”

How does one respond and not sound like a bigot? Might any defense of mandatory priestly celibacy be interpreted as an attack upon married clergy? I can argue that there are only so any hours in a day. I can insist that it is wrong to inflict upon women and their children the arduous sacrifices that would accompany such unions with Roman Catholic priests. I can lug it out with the insistence that the priest is already married to the Church and one wife is enough. I can remind everyone that priesthood is a gratuity and that no one deserves or merits it. I can make the contention that God will only truly call those who have been given the gift of celibate love. But no matter what I say and do, some will be angry that anyone would oppose the momentum for married priests.

What will they say? “You just want to keep the priesthood safe for hiding homosexuals and pedophiles. What is wrong with you? Do you hate women? Are you afraid of them?”

Popes say the Strangest Things

Pope Francis stated in a homily:

“The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation. The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us.”

“‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can — must! Because he has this commandment within him.”

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the blood of Christ. All of us, not just Catholics. Everyone!”

“‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the blood of Christ has redeemed us all!”

It is well understood that Pope Francis is struggling to speak and do things on a level that most people might grasp.  But something is getting lost in the translation.  I am getting so very tired of orthodox bloggers, conservative news sources and Vatican facts checkers bending over backwards to explain that what the Pope said was not really what he said. (Am I doing that here?)  Pope Benedict XVI was careful to nuance his teachings so that only dissenters could take exception. But the free-form of Pope Francis seems to allow for a certain degree of ambiguity which is exploited by progressives. I blame in part an intoxicating atmosphere for change which is based more on minor symbolic externals and disjointed phrases than upon anything really substantive. Let us look at the whole business in a sober way. What has happened to feed this feeding frenzy in the media for religious liberals?

1. It is reported that back in his home archdiocese, he was not very forthcoming about permitting the Tridentine Mass. This along with the life-sized puppet-Mass gave the SSPX people a stroke.  But, of the course, the Eucharist is still the Eucharist: sacrifice, real presence and all.

2. He purportedly saw little reason for the special provision permitting Anglicans to retain their traditions and become Catholic, or so he purportedly told an Anglican bishop. This is suspect because Anglican orders are judged as null-and-void. He has lately been more accommodating than his predecessor.  Recently there was a commotion from a homily interpreted as saying atheists and non-Christians could get into heaven apart from Christ. But I really doubt the Holy Father embraces either religious indifferentism or salvific-universalism. The Vatican clarified the homily by quoting the catechism. As soon as the clarification was offered, Jewish critics decried the intolerance of saying that there was no way into heaven apart from Jesus.  (Of course, take Jesus out of the equation and there is no more Catholic Christianity or Church.  That is not going to happen!)

3. Although the law of the Church specifies that only the feet of men can be washed on Holy Thursday, he washed the feet of men and women (actually youth at a detention home). The ceremonial was always traditionally associated with the apostles and the institution of the priesthood. As with the altar girl business a number of years ago, this damaged the credibility of priests who abided by the rules, even in the face of much recrimination.  Nevertheless, this is the stuff of discipline and not strict doctrine.  The Pope evidently connects the foot washing more with the baptismal priesthood of believers:

“For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28).

4. His Secretary of State was quoted by a newspaper as saying that celibacy was not of divine law and so it could theoretically be abrogated to “reflect the democratic spirit of the times.” Just because something can be done does not mean that it will or needs to be done. I am betting that the discipline will be renewed and expanded.

The reference to doing “good” is in relation to the natural order. Popes have long appealed to believers and men of good will. It is here where we meet and many an atheist was moved to faith by the shared work with figures like the late Mother Teresa. As for redemption, the Church does not teach that all will be saved (universalism) but rather there is a universal call to salvation. We need to respond to the redemptive work of Christ. It is that response, accepting Christ as our personal and corporate Savior, affiliation with the Church and sacraments, and obedience lived out in charity that merits salvation or eternal life. On a natural level we are all created by God and in that sense we are his children. However, according to a spiritual level or sense, we are made adoptive sons and daughters of the Father through the regeneration of baptism. I personally like to make a distinction between the words “image” and “likeness.” We were all made in the image of God (we have souls composed of mind and will). Grace restores us to the likeness of God (holiness/right relationship) that was forfeit through original sin. None are saved apart from Christ. Since the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, none are saved apart from the Church. The Church takes care of her own but also intercedes for the world: unbelievers, Protestants, Jews, Moslems, Hindus, etc. We pray for them and leave the question of individual salvation to God. This is what the Pope means when he talks about not judging.

A wonderful corrective to the confusion evidenced in last week’s headlines is today’s second reading at Mass:

1 Timothy 2:1-8

First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers,
petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone,
for kings and for all in authority,
that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life
in all devotion and dignity.
This is good and pleasing to God our savior,
who wills everyone to be saved
and to come to knowledge of the truth.
For there is one God.
There is also one mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus,
who gave himself as ransom for all.
This was the testimony at the proper time.
For this I was appointed preacher and apostle
— I am speaking the truth, I am not lying —,
teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

It is my wish, then, that in every place the men should pray,
lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument.

What about the Holy Father’s statements on homosexuals? I will devote a short post on that alone, later. But do not jump to the wrong conclusions.  Precision of formulation is important and I suspect we will see more of an effort in this regard.  The deposit of faith is safe.  The faith is secure.  The Holy Spirit will not let us down.

Priestly Celibacy: Changes Coming Under Pope Francis?

The new Vatican Secretary of State, Italian Archbishop Pietro Parolin, was interviewed for a Venezuelan newspaper. The reporter from El Universal asked various questions but the discussion perked a lot of ears when the topic turned to priestly celibacy. The Archbishop’s statement was nothing new but it was immediately sensationalized. He simply replied that celibacy belongs not to “Church dogma,” but to “Church tradition.” Thus, he admitted, it was a topic that was open for discussion. While it is obvious that any possible change would not include men in consecrated life or religious orders, the discussion and/or debate would be reserved to diocesan or secular priests. Religious priests take vows of celibacy, obedience and poverty. Diocesan priests currently take promises of celibacy and obedience. The one indispensable promise is obedience. Speaking as a diocesan priest, I think that the issue of married priests is more problematical than many would think and for many of the same reasons why it is incompatible for men in religious orders like the Jesuits, Dominicans or Franciscans. While they take no vow of poverty, many if not most of our diocesan clergy purposely live as poor men, looking upon the Lord and his people as their great treasure. I think it is best that we do nothing to cause divided hearts. Celibacy is not so much a loss as it is a gain, granting a freedom to love and minister courageously and beyond measure. A married man is anchored by the world. He must look backward again and again to insure that his family is secure and still tagging along. He wants to run with his priestly discipleship but must walk so as not to abandon his wife and children. Both priests move forward but one must be more measured.

I am not saying that a man who loves his wife cannot love the Church. But I do believe it narrows his vision. The celibate is fortunate in that he can love in a broad or expansive way. He has no children of his own and yet, in a fashion, all children are his children. Similarly, even to the stranger he is called, “Father.”

The celibate tries not to grieve about what he has given up. He knows full well that an intimate shared life, sexual expression and a family are beautiful things. But celibacy is wonderful, too. He focuses on what he has, not upon what is missing. The priest is a man of prayer and service. These are the exclusive poles of his life.

Yes, the celibate priest has his struggles; and yet those challenges make him more sympathetic to others who face obstacles— injustice, poverty, suffering, sickness, dying, betrayal, abandonment, loneliness, you name it. His celibacy allows solidarity with them. We live in a veil of tears. Sin infects men and the structures of society. We cannot have everything we want. The celibate priest witnesses that no matter what the struggle or loss, God has not abandoned us.  The Lord gives us what we need.

When we think of celibacy, we envision something personal, and yet it is a sacrifice embraced for the community. It is a gift that God gives which the priest must share. He is not called simply to be a hermit, but a man who lives for others.

The promise of celibacy is regarded as a discipline, not to measure a man’s spiritual muscle and depth of commitment, but to express the immensity of God’s love for his people. He keeps his promises just as married couples are faithful to their vows. Both celibate priests and married couples are living parables to a world filled with broken promises. They testify by their lives that in the face of serious challenges, promises can be kept with joy and that this precious faithful love has not disappeared from the world.

I cannot say if all the excitement signals change regarding the discipline or not.  It is my preference that mandatory celibacy remains undisturbed.  But, whatever happens, the Church will survive and God’s grace will always animate and enliven God’s ministers and flock.