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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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A Priest Trying to Understand the Pope

LINK:  Msgr.Charles Pope – One Priest’s Concern About Recent Remarks by the Pope

0002044Priestly men have embraced celibacy and obedience, even when difficult. They weep over their sins and those of their people. They surrender many of the things that most men count as gain, just so that souls might be saved. And what is their reward? Accompaniment with sinners in the world should not mean recrimination of those priestly stewards who struggle to show people the proper direction, the WAY that is Christ. The Pope may feel that he is giving necessary guidance to priests; but where is the support and prayer for them as fishers of souls and as shepherds who daily lay down their lives for their flocks?

Many traditional but loving priests feel wounded by the constant assaults directed toward them. There is a terrible danger in joining the secular chorus that derides priests as worldly, as mean-spirited and as sexual deviants. Most priests are good and faithful men. We are warned by numerous saints that Satan targets the priesthood. Why? The devil knows very well that if he really wants to seriously wound the Church then he must destroy the influence and ministry of the priesthood. Our ordained priests participate in the one priesthood of Christ. The heart of the Church is no vague sentiment for goodness or humanism or even works of charity; no, it is the priestly heart— the burning and pierced heart of Christ.

(Response to Pope Francis’ words on June 16 at the Pastoral Conference of the Diocese of Rome.)

I am at a loss about what the Pope regards as intrusion into people’s moral lives. As a confessor, every priest is FATHER, DOCTOR, TEACHER and JUDGE. We cannot excuse sin because it damages one’s relationship with God. We must know what we are up against if we are to help people. The surgeon uses his scalpel not because he is cruel but because he wants to help his patients. The priest gets no joy in causing pain for others; but he also knows that confession and repentance is vital if there is to be any true accompaniment. This matter comes up in his GOSPEL OF JOY back in 2013: “I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy which spurs us on to do our best” (44). I have never known a priest who wanted to so transform the confessional; but neither do we want to lie to people, offering soothing empty words or an absolution rooted in sacrilege and bound to collapse again into the quagmire of mortal sin.

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It seems to me that this sends the wrong message and undermines the truth of sacramental marriage. Catholics are bound to get married according to the proper form: before a priest and two witnesses. Cohabitation and sexual intimacy is a variation of FORNICATION. How are they faithful if there is no real marriage? There is no vow or promise. Practice shows that such couples are frequently subject to infidelity. There is a fear or hesitance to make a commitment. What we are talking about here is the matter of mortal sin. It is only a feigned parody of marriage. There can be no sanctifying and actual grace in shacking up. Accompaniment should also include helping people in changing their direction. Fellowship on the road to hell is meaningless. The Gospel urges the narrow road. We cannot change Church teaching. Our goal is to help people in their pilgrimage to heaven— to save souls.

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Marriage is based upon human nature. We are sexual beings and marriage is created by God for the propagation of children within the intimate friendship of men and women. Our Lord raises this natural bond to the level of a sacrament. Would not the Pope’s words have every couple question whether or not they are truly married? Culture has a definite influence, but it can no more nullify marriages than a pagan culture can give valid status to same-sex unions. Our presumption is always in favor of the validity of our marriages. Redirecting fault for failed marriages away from the couple to the culture is to strip them as moral agents of their overall responsibility. Would he argue that a clashing culture invalidates other sacraments? If it can negate marriage then what about priesthood? We do not want to go down this road.

Not Quite Alone in the Dark

scare7I will begin with the admonishment, “Beware of what lurks in the shadows!” Properly forewarned, I will tell my story. My brothers and I delighted in scaring one another and/or testing our courage. We would tell scary stories in closets. We would make faces in the dark and then shock one another with a flashlight showing a devilish grin or eyes popping out. I was probably the best with scary faces. Even today, young mothers should probably remember this when babies spy me over their shoulders and start to cry. Did I make a face or am I just naturally scary looking?

My parents had added two bedrooms to our small house. There was an interconnecting hallway room with three doors. There was no light in the small space. When all the doors were closed, it was quite dark. Mike, Danny, Paul and I would play in the room. The hard tiles made marbles exceptionally good fun. We would also play dare games, sitting in the blackened enclosed space, making eerie sounds and telling scary stories, daring each other to be the first to open a door and run for it. I was quite good at this game.

I recall one in particular . . .

“Hey, Joe, come and play!” I heard my baby brother Paul call out.

Okay, I thought, this will be good. He’s the easiest one to scare. I entered the dark space and closed the door behind me. Surrounded by pitch darkness, I sat down on the floor, facing where my brother was obviously sitting.

I started, “Booooo! Muhahaha! I’m coming to get you! Muhahaha!”

“I’m not scared,” Paul cried, “now it’s mine turn.”

“I’m coming to get you!” he parroted in baby fashion.

I interrupted, “Oh come on, try something different.”

“Let me finish!” he complained.

“All right, go ahead, give it your best shot.”

“I will, I really will,” he responded. His voice had taken on a shrill quality. Hum. He was getting better at this. “I’m coming to get you! I’m not your brother! I’m coming to get you! I’m not your brother.” His speech entered into an up-and-down sing-song kind of pattern. It was really quite unusual. “I’m coming to get you! I’m not your brother! I’m a demon from hell! I’m not your brother!”

He really was getting good at this. The voice he was using was now nothing like it was usually. I tried to interrupt again. “Uh, that’s pretty good, but it’s my try again,” I said.

Nevertheless, he did not quit. It was as if he no longer heard me.

“Stop it, I said, it is my turn,” I argued.

Still he continued in the peculiar rhythmic speech. “I’m not your brother! I’m a demon from hell! I’m coming to get you!”

I could not believe it, I was actually getting scared. He would not stop, that was unlike him. Paul always listened to me. His voice got louder and he began to hold the vowels longer. The words were clear but the inflection was all wrong, as if he did not know how to speak as a human.

“I’m not your brutheeer, Joooooe! I’m a deeemon from hell! I’m going to get you! I’m right next to you! Ready to grab you! Take you with me to hell! I’m not your brother! I’m a demon from hell! A demon from hell! From Hell!”

I yelled at him to stop but he wouldn’t. I had all I could stand. This was a little too scary and on top of that I had to go to the bathroom. I opened the door. Light poured into the small chamber. I stared at my brother, well I would have, except there was one small problem. He was not there. I had been in the dark space alone. I stared in disbelief and ran to the kitchen where mom was cooking. My brother Paul was eating a cookie. He had been there the whole time. I had been by myself or worse, maybe not? I can still hear the shrill sing-song voice after all these forty plus years, “I’m not your brother! I’m a demon from hell!”

The darkened space was created by the addition of two rooms upon the house. We had neglected to have that section blessed and there were no holy pictures or crosses in the enclosed space. Maybe this oversight was all the thing that I had encountered needed to violate our home. Or, perhaps it was all the overworked imagination of a young boy?

One evening not long after, I recall awakening in the middle of the night and putting my hand out into the hallway beyond my bedroom door. Again, in the darkness there was absolutely no light to see. Everyone was in bed asleep except for me. I dared myself to get over the fear I had experienced in the connecting space to the new rooms. There was nothing in the dark that was not there in the light, right? I had to prove it to myself. I would not be a coward. I stretched out my hand as far as my arm could reach. Just as I was ready to dismiss my earlier experience, something grabbed at my finger tips and I quickly withdrew my hand. I shook with fear in my bed. The grownups were wrong. There was SOMETHING IN THE DARK that was not there in the light!

Humanity has always feared the unknown associated with the darkness. We cling to the light. Many of the dying saints have begged to have a lantern or candle burning by their bedsides so that they might not have to die in the darkness. May we take comfort and courage in the true Light of the World who leads us out of the darkness of sin and death.