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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: In Order to Be Loved, We Need to Love

If the priest feels he has no one who really loves him, he may respond in kind and stop loving. When this happens the priest begins to die. The very meaning of his celibacy and priestly service is as a formula of loving. He should realize the love of Christ on the altar and upon the Cross. Just as muscles weaken with inactivity, a priest’s spiritual heart atrophies if he avoids loving. This can also happen with priest-transfers. It hurts to constantly make friends and then move on. He might reach a stage where he stops loving those around him so as to avoid being hurt again. Complicating the situation is the general understanding of love. The word has too many definitions and yet, in practice, is often immediately and popularly equated with romantic situations. The priest (and the Church he serves) must allow himself to explore the myriad colors of love that are in sync with his vocation as a celibate priest. The issue of scandal, first with defections for relationships with women and second with a failure to adequately protect children, has precipitated a forced dissipation in the priest’s fatherly associations. In the tradition of Don Bosco and Father Flanagan, priests interceded for the needs of children and spent time with them. The ever tightening policies and fear of litigation have stripped the priest of this sacred trust and have thus diminished both his effective value and his satisfaction from ministry. The circle of religious brothers and sisters, as well as other priests, has been devastated by the diminutive nature of current vocations. Like a bubble that has popped, he is no longer surrounded by these supportive relations. The general air of hospitality and volunteerism exhibited in parochial settings has been increasingly strained by recriminations and suspicion toward clergy. The priest is no longer welcome in every home and those that do extend invitations might seek to link their generosity to a manipulative favor, often to the detriment of another parishioner. When the pastor fails to comply or refuses to share secrets that fuel gossip, he is summarily dismissed, never to cross their threshold again, barring the possibility of last rites. Even requests for sick calls are fewer than in the past and are frequently redirected to extraordinary ministers.

Eros is denied the priest, at least in its extreme and consensual manifestation; but also weakened are paternal love and fraternal love. Society as a whole and the Church authorities strip away the priest’s supports leaving little or nothing to replace them. It is no wonder the married-priest movement is picking up steam. Platters are becoming empty and priests are hungry for friendship and sharing love.

Nevertheless, with all the contemporary hurdles, most celibate priests are happy, even if increasingly lonely. They find real and sustaining satisfaction from prayer and worship. While they take care of many, there is an indescribable delight over the absolution given individual sinners. God has entrusted them with the authority to forgive transgressions, great and small. With a gesture and a few words, they can steal the damned from the devil. They have power over hell. Never in the history of the world had Almighty God given such power to men as he did to his priests. He can draw God down from heaven and place him upon the altar as our food and he can plant his Spirit and grace into human hearts, transforming a sinner into a saint. Good priests are always in awe of that with which God has entrusted them.