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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: Clerical Culture or Brotherhood?

While a man is responsible for his own priesthood and the promises associated with it; he is connected to his brother priests by a shared sacrament and a common way of life. Since the scandals of recent years, we have suffered a stinging critique of the clerical culture. However, many elements of this culture are expressive of the unique challenges and lifestyle for men committed to the Church, to the worship of God and to the service of his people. It is only natural that there should be a close brotherhood among these select few men. Christ is the one high priest of Christianity. This truth makes the unity of the priesthood quite profound.

At the same time, priests may spend more time alone and in their ministry than with priestly associations or collaboration. The shortages in vocations have crunched free time and vacations. Priests might live down the street from each other and yet rarely see each other except when helping with confessions or saying a special Mass. Unless given a charge associated with the chancery, priests even less often spend time with their bishops. Canonically, bishops are supposed to have a father-son relationship with their priests. Nevertheless, in practice, some priests fear appointments with their bishops because they might signify an unwanted transfer or disciplinary action. (Speaking for myself, I am very grateful for the generosity and kindness of bishops in my Archdiocese. But not every diocese is the same.)

Despite a few sensational exceptions, priests who violate their vows of celibacy are usually quickly found out. If the scandal is great or the violation severe, he will be removed from ministry and possibly laicized. In practice, the men are disowned. Their names disappear from ordination lists and from active directories. It is as if they never were. This response does not puzzle me, because I am well aware of the danger of scandal and how the sin of one touches us all. But still, I have always been troubled by this because it so conflicts with the analogy of family between the bishop and his priests. No matter what a man does, does a father disown his son?

Connected to Christ and his brother priests, each priest participates in the sacerdotal office of his bishop. Through ordination, the bishop shares his apostolic succession with men called to the priesthood. Promises of obedience and celibacy are made, to him and to his successors. While this priesthood is permanent and self-sustaining (not perpetually generated by affiliation with the bishop); the priest can only function if he has faculties or jurisdiction to do so. These come from the bishop and along with his ordination touch upon an important truth: the priest works as an extension of his bishop’s hands or ministry.