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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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No One Has a Right to Hurt You

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My husband hits, shoves, and gets in my face when he is angry. Last night he ripped the covers off the bed and threatened to beat me for making him angry. He keeps telling me that if I leave he will kill himself. He says he will try harder to keep me locked in (take the car keys, block the door, install cameras, etc.). He is only like this when he gets mad, but then he starts hitting his head on the wall or other forms of violence for “hurting me in the first place.” He leaves things undone for months and when I go to pick up or do the job myself, he gets angry. One time he thought I was throwing out his computer games and so he ran up and started hitting me. I am not sure what to do. Do I seek counseling? Would it be a sin for me to leave him?  What if he really did kill himself? If I left would the authorities take our child?  Would they accuse me of kidnapping? I feel trapped. All he wants to do is control me.  When I ask him what is wrong he says that he is too busy with work.  They work him very hard for little pay. He comes home tired and then only wants to watch TV or play on the computer.

He went to talk with a priest and he came home acting very nice and sorry for his actions. Things were fine for about two weeks and then they slowly went back to the way they used to be.

Response

Look at this situation for what it really is. Your husband needs serious help and you are endangered. He is an abuser. You state that your husband…

  • Hits
  • Shoves
  • Gets in your face when angry
  • Ripped the covers off the bed
  • Threatened to beat you for making him angry
  • Says that if you leave he will kill himself
  • Says he will try harder to keep you locked in
  • Hits his head on the wall for “hurting” you
  • Leaves things undone
  • Gets upset when you do his job yourself
  • He ran up and started hitting you

Seriously, look at this list!  Do you have family that would take you in for a while? He needs counseling. Given his violence, you would be within your rights to report him to the authorities. What he is doing to you is criminal. I think you have to protect yourself and your child. Your husband is out of control and dangerous. If you are worried that he would claim spousal kidnapping then a police report would help your argument. Talk with the local social services for direction in your area. It would also be good to get a list of people who have witnessed his bad behavior. Do not accept lame excuses about work, no matter how badly he is paid. Poor people are not necessarily bullies. You feel that you are at a loss because you are afraid of doing what must be done. No one, not even your husband has the right to verbally and physically assault you. If he touches you again in a violent way, call the police and send him to jail. But given what he has done already, I still think it would be better for you and the child to find a safe haven while he learns to deal with his problem.

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Old versus New Testament Morality

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We read in Leviticus 24:17-22:

“Anyone who takes the life of a human being is to be put to death. Anyone who takes the life of someone’s animal must make restitution—life for life. Anyone who injures their neighbor is to be injured in the same manner: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury. Whoever kills an animal must make restitution, but whoever kills a human being is to be put to death. You are to have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born. I am the Lord your God.”

However, in contrast we read in Matthew 5:38-42:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

These passages directly contradict each other.  How can the Bible be God’s inspired Word if it be inconsistent?  How are we supposed to know which to follow?  What do we believe?

Response

Remember that for the Christian it is a question not only of what we believe but WHO we believe.  Jesus is God’s Incarnate Son.  As such, he has the authority to abrogate or change elements of both Levitical and Mosaic Law.  He does this clearly in regard to the Writ of Divorce.  He says that from Genesis (natural law) this was not the way things were supposed to be.  Moses allowed divorce because of the hardness of hearts.  Jesus disallows it.  The weight is with Jesus because as divine, he is the formal lawgiver.  Note the scene of the Transfiguration.  He is viewed conversing with Moses and Elijah.  Jesus is the fulfillment or consummation of the Law and the Prophets.

One must not read the Bible as if it were a Morality Manual.  It is a collection of different types of literature written over many centuries.  God’s revelation comes through the prism of changing cultures and situations.  While there are certain teachings that will always apply because of our fixed human nature; there are other disciplines and laws that change with the seasons of history, particularly because of spiritual and material advancement.  I was going to say “maturity” but given terrorism, war and oppression, I am not convinced that men and women are any better (morally) today than in the past.  Just as our capacity for good has expanded, so has our ability to commit the most repellent evils.

While the commandments retain their force (it is wrong to steal, murder, etc.), the disciplinary laws of Leviticus do not apply to Christianity. We must distinguish between the divine law and man’s interpretation of the law. St. Paul makes it very clear that we are no longer under the yoke of the old Jewish law. Rather, we are given by Christ the two-fold commandments of love. Again, just as Jesus could rescind the Mosaic Law about a Writ of Divorce, his teachings and practice mitigated any response of vengeance. Indeed, following the precepts of Christ, the Church nullifies the law for ritual circumcision.  Faith and baptism is the manner we enter this new People of God.  Justice is still real but ultimate punishment belongs to God. Jesus urges us to practice mercy. We would no more seek to enforce Levitical laws than we would want Muslims to enforce Sharia laws.

Even in Prison, Share Your Life with Jesus

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I would like to apologize to my Holy Father Pope Frances for my inappropriate behavior. I know that I have greatly disappointed him. I feel guilty because he is such an inspiration to me in his witness of humility and love. I expressed anger five times to protect the health and safety of my parents and I confessed that anger.

I see an opportunity for greater redemption ahead of me by not giving in to anger in the future. I have been condemned to prison but I have committed no crime. God will be my judge about my thoughts and deeds. While in prison, I pray for others without ceasing as I suffer and offer penance for my sins.

Response

The Pope might inspire you, but your essential faith relationship is with Jesus. It is not a matter of letting the Pope down. Our misbehavior or sins offend God. When we do wrong, we should go to Confession and seek to amend our lives. As for anger, it is a matter of human emotion or chemistry that we sometimes get upset. It is a passion that must be ruled by reason. There is also righteous indignation, as Jesus displayed toward the money changers. The sin of anger is something else altogether. Wrongful anger is intertwined with hatred, fury and frustration. Such wrath is savage and out of control. This type of anger is in opposition to the love of God and neighbor. That is really why we regard it as a sin.

As for your being in prison and innocent, I have no details and cannot say for sure what you are talking about. However, where ever we find ourselves, we should strive to be the Christians that the Lord wants us to be. If your life is hard, remember what was commemorated each year during the Triduum and Easter: Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and then Easter. Jesus was betrayed by those he loved, falsely accused, tortured and crucified on the Cross. He surrendered his life to atone for all the sins of the world. He took the punishment that was rightfully ours. Rising from the dead, he promises that those who believe in him will have a share in his life. Join your sufferings to the passion of Christ. Know that in Jesus Christ even the dark things of life can be transformed. The Cross was a sign of defeat but now it is a sign of victory. Keep the faith.

Dealing with a Transgendered Spouse

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I am a Catholic and I am seeking your help. My husband of thirty-one years has told me he is gay. He says he has felt this all his life. I am crushed. I feel my entire marriage has been a lie. He moved out of our house to live with a twenty-seven year old transgendered prostitute. Honestly, I am at a total loss. My heart is broken and I am deeply pained.  My thoughts about all this preoccupy my waking moments and I cannot eat and sleep.  My husband wants a divorce. I have decided to grant him the divorce because I cannot handle his cheating and deception.

Please help me through this time. I do not know where else to turn.  I have prayed to God for guidance.  But I still feel hurt and betrayed. Is there a prayer you would suggest? Any help would be gratefully appreciated.

Response

Your life together was not a lie… not for you. Remember the good times. His defection from you is like a death. There is anger and grieving. But eventually you have to let go. Do not allow this to drag you down. Move on and make a new life for yourself.

You are not responsible for his deception and infidelity. Given that he married you and that for many years you were unaware of his sexual deviancy, there is no certainty that he is honest even now about his orientation. You have every right to be upset. Since he left you to pursue a life of depravity, no one would fault you for giving him the divorce he wants. (However, it should be documented that he abandoned you— he is at fault.) Further, make sure that you are financially or materially secure.

As for what prayers should be offered, the Rosary is always efficacious. Instead of any particular prayer, that for which you pray might be the more important. Try not to hate your errant husband but rather pray for him as a poor sick man who has lost his way. He may not come back to you (indeed you may not want him back in your life) but you can ask the Lord to save his soul. You should also pray for peace in yourself. There is so much we cannot change. Suffering touches us all. We should not despair. Our Lord was also betrayed and made his passion the means of saving us. Offer your heartache with that of Jesus on the Cross. It is in Jesus that the dark elements of life can be made redemptive.

Blame When a Child Falls Away

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My son was three years old when my husband had a serious car accident. My husband ended up having a traumatic brain injury. That was nearly twenty years ago. Obviously, this caused multiple issues in my family. My son is now claiming to be an atheist. I am blaming myself for this. I struggled to pass on the faith and raised my son largely on my own.  Given how much there was on my plate, I feel that I was not a good parent. How can I bring my son back to God?

Response

I know families that pray daily, go to Mass every Sunday and had their children catechized to receive their sacraments… and still there are some that stray from the faith. Blaming yourself will not help. We live in a society where modernity targets faith for ridicule. What can you do? Pray for your family and continue to witness by your life what the faith means to you. Maybe in time this testimony of yours will bring your son home to the safe harbor of faith?

The Importance of Fatherhood

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A person may have trouble seeing God as a loving spiritual Father when one’s biological father has caused sexual abuse and physical trauma. Is one still culpable when past abuse makes faith in God difficult?  Does God understand why some of his children hesitate to call him by the title Father?  I know counseling helps but it does not make the problem go away.

Response

God understands everything, but the appreciation of God as our heavenly Father is a constitutive element of Christian revelation. We would short-change ourselves by eliminating this title that identifies the deity as a “personal” God who has created us out of love. Today there are many families where the father is missing and the mother is the sole parent. This is a terrible loss although these mothers are often very courageous and sacrificing for their children. The question is asked: How can these children possibly come to an appreciation of God as Father when they have no role model of fatherhood in their lives? It is a problem. But instead of eliminating any paternal theme, it is properly argued that we should accentuate it. Why? The fatherhood of God might be the only Father that many people will ever know. It should be a corrective to deadbeat dads or men who corrupt themselves through abuse or the abandonment of their families. If there be genuine healing, then an understanding of true fatherhood has to emerge. Otherwise, the spiritual life becomes stunted. Indeed, the familial relationships of the next generation are also damaged. How could one who flees the notion of fatherhood ever fully embrace healthy spousal love where the couple becomes mother and father?

Grieving & Angry at God

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My sister recently lost her husband to cancer at the age of 55. My teenage nieces are having a difficult time coping. They are angry at God and refuse to go to Mass.  I am looking for advice or words of comfort.

Response

The Blessed Mother lost her son Jesus when he was between 33 to 35 years of age. Our Lord rose from the dead and promised us a share in his life. We are all mortal and we will all die. But, there is hope in Christ. I would urge them to attend Mass and to pray for their father. We can intercede for souls and assist them into heaven. Our heavenly Father did not spare his own son. However, we are urged to trust Jesus when he says that he goes ahead of us to prepare a place for us. Instead of getting mad at God, this should be a time of increased devotion. The mystery of the communion of the saints is that we are still attached to our beloved dead in Christ. We can apply the fruits of the Mass for poor souls in purgatory. It is in Jesus that love is stronger than death. Despair and anger is not the answer. Tell them to find hope and peace.