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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: Challenges to Priestly Fellowship

I have already spoken about the need for close friendships among the presbyterate. The priest shortage and the busy lives of clergy make this increasingly difficult. But there is another factor that damages efforts at fellowship among clergy and that is ambition or careerism. I have always thought that such was poison to the essence of priesthood as servant. Nevertheless, men get caught up in titles, positions of honored trust, desires for influential parishes and dreams of the purple. The best bishops battle this attitude in their priests, insisting upon hearing their opinions and urging against “yes-men.” Ambitious men might distance themselves from certain assignments and from brother priests who are seen as an embarrassment or possible roadblock to their desired promotion. They fear guilt by association. There is also the dilemma of dishonesty. A priest could be afraid to share personal struggles and feelings because tongues might wag and his reputation would be tarnished. A priest might have personality quirks and phobias. He is relegated to special ministry or a hospital. He wants to be a pastor but he is not trusted. No one shares the truth with him. Rather, he is given feigned praise for his dedication to sick calls or even with secular matters like cutting the grass or watching the boiler. Whatever the reason, certain priests find themselves distanced from their brother priests. This intensifies their eccentricities and their experience of loneliness. Such might also amplify their struggle with feelings of inadequacy and self-worth. Priests should not be so self-possessed that they ignore the needs of others, either parishioners or brother priests. Given the scandals, the current atmosphere is not a healthy one among priests and their bishops. One case of injustice, even if only apparent, resonates in a negative way throughout the presbyterate. Priests view themselves as very vulnerable to allegations and gossip of any kind. This effectively shuts down communication or dialogue. I recall one priest literally bragging about his disclosure to the bishop of what he presumed to be a secret sin or scandal of a brother priest. When I asked if he had privately discussed his concern with his brother, he said no. I was very blunt, which wins me few accolades, and told him that he wronged his brother in ministry. His allegations were proven to be largely groundless and a good man suffered needlessly. He was trying to win points as a squealer; instead he should have followed the Scriptural pattern where Church censure is the final appeal. Both men, in this instance, were now needlessly alienated from others in the presbyterate. Who will share anything with a man who only tattles? Who will seek active fellowship with a man charged with scandal and immorality? Priests need to preach and witness to what is right. But they are fundamentally ordained as healers. If we forget this, then we have lost sight of a truth that resides at the very heart of the priesthood.