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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Catholic Bytes


“It is of course horrible and scandalous what some in the Church have done and utterly reprehensible, but I can’t get past the fact that despite all the failings of the clergy, that Jesus Christ’s love for us is real and I need to cling to it with all my strength,” said Father Conrad Murphy.  (CLICK the picture to read the article.)


7 Responses

  1. Thanks for the response, Chris 🙂

    I have just about given up on the CC. It is not just the predation scandals, horrifying as they are. I gave up because I’m sick to death of the double-talk. Change I can cope with, not that I like it much; what I cannot cope with, is being led by what the CC said to have unquestioning trust in it, only for the CC to turn round and trash a lot of the stuff that it had earlier claimed must absolutely be believed or else. A supposedly infallible Church, should not do that. Much as I admire Pope Francis, he has reversed Catholic teaching on the death penalty – which means that that the CC has for most of its life taught falsely that the DP is admissible. That falls under faith and morals. Therefore, the CC cannot be infallible in its teaching on faith and morals. Thereforel it is false to say that the Popes, the bishops with the Pope, or the Church, are infallible in faith and morals.

    A fallible Church, full of sins & scandals and errors, is not a problem. A Church that insists that it is infallible, but reverses its teaching, is a huge problem. Unlike Puddleglum the Marsh-wiggle in “The Silver Chair”, who was determined to live and die a Narnian even if there was no Narnia, I can’t live and die a Catholic if there is no Catholicism. If the Church trashes its own doctrine, that doctrine must be in error, or the trashing must be in error. If PF is a heretic, for trashing infallibly true doctrine, why have none of the bishops said so ? But if it is the act of a heretic to trash infallibly true doctrine, how is John Paul II not also a heretic ?

    One wearies of asking these and other questions, and getting no answers, but only more stuff to confuse and bebother one. One is left to find answers for oneself. For all her fine talk and her boasting, the CC is just one, very flawed, totally fallible, confused and untruthful sect among others. Her “unchanging” doctrine is only unchanging until it is changed. If a doctrine like the permissibility of the DP can be reversed, what is there to prevent the exceptionless prohibition of abortion being reversed ? Post-V2 Popes have already reversed the Papal magisterium of those Popes who condemned religious liberty – why should the magisterial teaching of those more recent Popes be regarded as binding and irreversible, when they did not treat the magisterial teaching of their predecessors as binding and irreversible ?

    The Church is not united, so it is not One. The less said of the untruthfulness of its claims to be Holy, the better. It is not Universal. As for being Apostolic, dating back to the Apostles is useless if one does not have their Spirit and *ethos*. The uncharity of Catholics for each other shows that they are united in charity and peace.

    It can of course be said in reply, that the Church is held together, not by the empirically verifiable unity, holiness, universality, and apostolicity of people in the Church, but, by the Unity, Holiness. Universality. and Apostolicity of Christ or of the Most Holy Trinity. Which is a good point. The problem is, that if the Four Notes of the Church are primarily true of Christ or God, and only secondarily true (by participation in Christ ?) of the Church, that leaves no reason to restrict the Notes to the CC alone. Those Notes are realised, in varying ways and degrees, in all Christian Churches. The CC may be a Talking Horse – but that distinguishes the CC only from Horses that Aslan has not made able to talk. It does not distinguish the CC from other Narnian Talking Horses, who also talk by grace of Aslan, just like the CC.

    The Church at Vatican 2, by starting a way of thinking that emphasised the many graces found in other Churches, has comprehensively torpedoed its own supposed necessity & uniqueness. The only thing it seems to have that no other does, is, the Petrine office. And the Popes have been a very mixed bunch. The Petrine office is as much an occasion or cause of disunity, as of unity. It cannot be relied on not to reverse doctrine.

    Of the train-wreck that is the Pauline Liturgy, the less said the better. The real scandal is not the Papal reversal that allowed altar-girls, scandalous as that is; but the fighting, and animosity, between Catholics, over the “sacrament of unity”.

    The CC has nothing to offer that makes it any better than any other Church; The Eucharistic Presence can be found elsewhere, as can the graces of the sacrament. One of the reasons I’ve given up, is that Eucharistic miracles, *if* they happen, show the dogma of Transubstantiation to be false. But if the CC defined as a dogma something false, how can it be infallible. or have any authority to require internal assent from Catholics to its dogmas ? It has made a fetish of infallibility, but infallibility has proved to be a rope of sand, so everything dependent on Rome’s (pseudo)-infallibility is falling apart.


    A response is difficult as you jump from subject to subject.

    You say you are sick and about given up on the Catholic Church. I can well understand being disappointed in men, but your main focus should be on the following: (1) the truths conveyed by God in sacred tradition and in Scripture; (2) the encounter with the saving Christ in the Eucharist and sacraments; and (3) a firm faith that the Catholic Church is the house instituted by Christ. If you properly believe these things and practice your faith then nothing and no one would be able to separate you from our holy faith.

    There will always be sin, scandal and those who cannot handle the truth. While formulations of faith may vary and be good and bad; we must also deal with dissent and challenges to God’s revelations to us. This was true in the past as with the reformation and it is true today, especially as we confront a hostile secular modernity.

    You make a big deal about the reversal of teachings; but while the Holy Father can interpret revelation and/or give legitimacy to the development of doctrine; he does not have the authority to utterly dismiss doctrinal or moral teachings. Neither can he fabricate new teachings out of nowhere. I suspect you make too much of the recent death penalty revision as even Pope John Paul argued that while the state technically had the right, it was best not to employ capital punishment within a culture of death. While the Church has traditionally permitted the state the right to execute certain criminals to preserve order and to protect the innocent; is such really necessary today? Pope Francis seeks to make the prohibition more absolute and yet he has yet to claim the many conditions for an infallible statement. Further, while a just or Christian state may have such authority over life and death; do we really want to concede such jurisdiction to civil states that permit infanticide and abortion? Can we give the power to kill the guilty to those who are enablers for the murder of the innocent? An altered paragraph that will probably be changed again, even in the universal catechism, is hardly enough to concern us about what the Church teaches. If such a change should be judged as a legitimate evolution based on the Gospel and the witness of the early Church over later compromises; then time will tell and we will see a lot more writing and debate about it. Stay cool. It is disconcerting to have Christians upset and arguing over the possible execution of human beings. As a pro-life people we should adopt the high ground. We may have to protect some who are guilty to insure the survival of those who are innocent. Those philosophers who speak of universal goods would probably applaud this movement. These are the same thinkers despised by modernity for defending the sanctity of life and the dignity of persons.

    The Pope can require religious assent even over matters that are dubious but that in no way undermines papal infallibility. Remember, this gift of the Holy Spirit is not absolute and would not include personal ideas, practical decisions and individual holiness. The conditions for infallibility are as follows:

    (1) Exercise his office as the chief shepherd and teacher of all Christians;
    (2) In virtue of his supreme apostolic authority (Peter);
    (3) Defines a doctrine of faith and morals; and
    (4) A teaching that MUST be held by the whole Church.

    Further, such solemn definitions come after consultation with the world bishops that compose the Magisterium. A matter is defined when there is a consensus on a question and it is something that has been long believed, even if the how of the matter or the theology was initially unclear (as with the Immaculate Conception).

    Your attempts at a logical syllogism are fallacious. (1) You do not properly understand the scope of infallibility— in regards to the Pope, the councils, the Scriptures and the received traditions. (2) We also do not stand alone. There must always be concurrence between what is and what came before. (3) Has teaching been reverse or have parallel traditions now taken prominence that were formerly eclipsed (as with Justin Martyr)? Many in the early Church disavowed the right to execute people. The late Pope John II was hesitant to grant such authority to totalitarian and Communist states that punished people for political reasons. Remember, that capital punishment must not be capricious. What crimes would deserve such a penalty? The Old Testament condemns homosexuals to death. The old west had courts that ruled for the hanging of horse thieves. The French Revolution chopped off the heads of people for minor transgressions. The Mexican government during its civil war executed priests before firing squads. If we only execute murderers then do we distinguish between first and second degree or between calculated murder and manslaughter? What about abortion… do we kill the women who had their babies destroyed or just their doctors? If we penalize one group of killers but not the next, have we not been seduced by the same subjectivism that afflicts so much of modern society? Saying that one might theoretically have the right to execute criminals is far removed from the practical aspect of actually doing it. Some authorities contend it is wrong to strip a person of life and the opportunity to repent and be saved. Long before Pope Francis and Vatican II, the US Bishops in the 1930’s objected to the use of the death penalty due to the disproportionate number of Catholic immigrants (Irish, Italians, etc.) facing the gas chamber or electric chair.

    The death penalty question is not settled but I would not be surprised if we should risk erring on the side of the unviability of life. Just as with slavery, I could well imagine that a case could be made for the organic development of doctrine. Many churchmen over the centuries argued that along with recognition by the state there came a compromise on social issues like the legitimacy of war (when is it just), how far do we go with self-defense and the matter of the death penalty. While always condemned, the movement on abortion has become clearer and today affirms the sanctity of life in the strongest terms.

    Certain teachings are interdependent upon others. For instance, while the ideal state may be a nation where the Church and state are one, we must be realists and note that along with monarchs, such countries have disappeared. Today, if the Church is to flourish and survive in secular or Islamic states, then there must be religious liberty. The way the Church processed the question has not changed but the world has and along with it the appropriate praxis. Religious liberty as we know it is not license for immorality or nonsense. We extend rights to all so that our own rights will be respected. The United States has shown how the Catholic Church can flourish under such liberty. Indeed, the Church faced some of the most virulent persecution from states that were once purportedly Catholic. While certain questions of morality are absolute and cannot change; the Social Gospel has evolved to face new questions and a changing world.

    As a priest I see parishioners collecting coats for children, food for the poor, toys for children in the missions, and money to support those hurting from natural disasters. We stand outside abortion clinics praying our rosaries. We march for life. Volunteers help out at the Special Olympics. The Knights and their Ladies sing Christmas carols at the local nursing home. Behind the US Government, Catholic Charities is the largest provider of food, clothing and services of any such organization on the planet. Nevertheless, you impugn the charity of our good people. If you do not know the Church as one, holy, catholic and apostolic then it is because you have lost the faith and cannot see clearly. What have you done personally to promote the faith and to assist the hurting? Seriously, what have you done? You complain but share nothing of your credentials or witness on behalf of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

    The glue that holds the Church together and that gives efficacy to the four marks is the one signified at Mass with the sign or kiss of peace. We are one in the Lord. We are one in Christ. Expressed as a handshake and historically by a “pax board” placed on the altar and then bestowed as an extension of the altar by the sub-deacon to congregants for kissing; it speaks to a meaning often lost in the rush of the liturgy. It is by a divine command that we must be reconciled to each other before approaching the altar. That is only possible if we are in right relationship with God. We worship God. Our worship is made possible and pleasing to the Father because of the redemptive work of Christ and his identification with the priest at the altar who becomes another Christ— not necessarily because the priest is holy, but because Christ is holy and has all the power. The sacraments are safeguarded for the people of God. Our Lord sent the Holy Spirit upon his Church and he has never abandoned us, despite the storms of persecution and dissent. Given the presence of Christ in the priest and Eucharist, the altar becomes associated as well with this presence. Of course, the presence of Christ is also found in the proclaimed Word and in the Church as his Mystical Body. This presence joins us into an intensely intimate union.

    The four marks are only fully realized in the Catholic Church. Any assertion otherwise is heretical. Your association with the Narnia stories of the Anglican C. S. Lewis is somewhat convoluted and impossible to follow. The Catholic Church is the true Church. Protestant churches are regarded as ecclesial communities but not true churches as they have forfeited apostolic succession, the priesthood and a valid Eucharist. The orthodox churches have all seven sacraments but lack full unity in their breach with the Petrine See. Theologically these nationalistic churches are regarded as defective for not accepting the full authority of Peter in his successors. They have also made compromises upon marriage that Catholicism still resists, despite suggested overtures from certain churchmen to those in irregular unions.

    The notion of grace outside the juridical Catholic Church was not instigated by Vatican II but had always been understood. God acts where he wills. The wonderful theologian Karl Adam speaks about such grace in his book, The Spirit of Catholicism, first published in 1927, many decades before the council.

    You slur the papal office as a source of disunity over unity. This is ultimately disrespect to Christ who told Peter that he was rock and that on this rock he would build his Church. You evidently no longer believe Scripture or the words of our Lord to preserve and to remain with the Church until the final consummation. Here is the root problem in your comment. You have lost faith, not just in the Church, but in Jesus Christ.

    You further malign the ordinary form of the liturgy which I and many other priests faithfully offer daily. You may not like it but it is still a re-presentation of the sacrifice of Calvary and its Holy Communion feeds the people of God with the real presence of the risen Christ. That is what you call a train-wreck. But, in truth, many souls are fed by it and reach their destination in the kingdom because of it. I say this as one who promotes the freedom of both the ordinary and the extraordinary form of the Mass.

    I must admit that I opposed the initial employment of altar girls; however, here too I believe God’s grace can work to the benefit of the Church. Where you see a problem, I see an opportunity. I write in my parish handbook for servers: “In my reflection on the qualities which would be proper to the girls who would serve at Mass, my thoughts turned to Mary and her service in the Jewish temple. One of the Jewish priests told her, ‘My daughter, you will assist at the exercises of divine praise and song in honor of the Lord with all reverence and devotion, and always pray to the Most High for the necessities of his holy temple and of his people, and for the coming of the Messiah.’ She was only a young child and remained on her knees. She listened to his words and then asked for his blessing. We are told that she distinguished herself and came to understand all the mysteries and ceremonies of the temple. ‘She never failed in any ceremony or duty, no matter how small. She was most eager for humiliation and most submissive (humble)’” (City of God by Mary of Agreda). I also write: “As servants and handmaids, our young men and women together work around the altar just as all of us must labor together in the world to please God and to better the lives of others. Just as we would hope that our young men might be inspired to consider a vocation to the priesthood; it is desired that our young ladies might give some thought toward a calling to the religious life as either a sister or a nun. However, whatever they decide, we hope that they will maintain their primary calling as Christian disciples.”

    You are presumptuous that the Eucharistic presence can be found elsewhere. Most Christian faith communities have neither the priesthood nor a Eucharist. Eucharistic miracles speak to the reality of the Church’s claims, and do not invalidate them. But the singular visible signs that God sometimes offer pale by comparison to the invisible miracle and mystery of transubstantiation— “this is my body, this is the chalice of my blood.” Behind the accidents or appearances of bread and wine is the risen Lord. We may not understand it but we believe it because we trust the words of Christ. Every reception of Holy Communion is a sacred encounter between ourselves and the God made man who saves us. He gives a pilgrim people himself as rations from the promised shore, food for the journey. Praise God!

  2. Father Joe: What you state is primarily what I was trying to express, although perhaps rather poorly. The RC Church has the vehicles available for eternal salvations; other denominations lack this or part of them. They embrace many of the fundamentals of the RC Church, but unfortunately, are on the outside looking in on much of what is needed to insure salvation. I am aware of this; I know many non Catholics who are good Christians however, and am confident they will be among the saved. My seminary training taught me this as well, but perhaps more on a conservantive level since I am older than you and influenced by the pre Vatican II Council Church, Nevertheless, the tenets are basically the same.
    Thank you for your reply.
    28March, St. John Capistran C

  3. I believe many Catholics have left the Church because of these on going scandals, and they find solace perhaps in other denomionations who teach many of the same tenets as the RC Church teachers. I also am aware that many of these beliefs were cherry picked by Luther, at al However, I recall good Sister Julia saying in grade school that all good people can go to heaven; those who cannot are those who deep down in their hearts feel the RC Church is the true Church but do not embrace this true Church. My blessed wife led a saintly life: she was a devout Methodist. I am sure she sits at Almignty God’s table. So, “Outside My Church there is no salvation” has qualifications.


    There is some truth to what you say although there are many important tenets of faith not shared by non-Catholic faith communities: the sacrifice of the Mass, the real presence of the Eucharist, the priestly power to forgive sins, the cooperative role of Mary, etc. There is also the Catholic teaching about the Church (the mystical body of Christ) as necessary for salvation. Thus, the status of someone raised outside the Catholic Church (who is ignorant of these truths) is very different from one raised within the Church. Catholics are held accountable to a higher standard since they have been given so much more. Everything necessary for salvation can be found in the Catholic Church. This is not true outside the Church. A shared faith and love for Jesus Christ is an insufficient reason to jump denominations.

    It is true that God can save whom he wills. The Catholic Church even prays for those outside her confession. However, we are not saved simply by being “good.” Such a view would make us the agents of salvation.

    Instead, it is a gift from God given by our response to his demands and the saving kerygma. Any “who believe that the Catholic Church is the true Church” must join if they are to be saved.

    However, most who remain outside the juridical Catholic Church do not wholly believe what Catholics believe— particularly about the institution of the Church and her role as the sacrament of salvation. Thus you are quite right for espousing hope toward our separated brethren who love the Lord and keep faith with Christ as best as they know how. As a seminarian, I took classes with Catholic, Lutheran and Methodist professors and students. We studied the important differences but also the many elements that make us true Christians (starting with faith and baptism).

  4. Dear James and Raymond,
    I too have been deeply angered and very hurt by the behavior of some of the clergy in the Church. I am even more angry at our bishops in this round of discovery than I was with the priest crises in 2002. But I will never leave because I know that I must separate, as difficult as that might be, a bunch of fallen sinners from the truth that can only be found in the Church Christ created. Their behavior doesn’t change that truth.

    Our faith is not based on men and woman but on the supernatural Church that Christ left us. We live in a fallen world that is getting worse almost daily. What is happening in the Catholic Faith is happening everywhere, most recently with the Baptists releasing info on more than 700 abusers in the ministry. The school system is no better. This isn’t an attempt to excuse anything, but rather add context to where we stand in our society.

    Those that place their faith in men will ALWAYS be disappointed. Our faith belongs to our Lord alone. His truth doesn’t change based on a bunch of sinful behavior because the Lord doesn’t change. I believe that He is pruning His church and this includes the clergy and well as many of those in the pews. After spending years away from the Catholic Church I came to the realization that if you proclaim to be a Christian there is only one place where the complete truth is found. Not only the complete truth but the sacraments too. Overlooked in all of this is that the vast majority (by far) of men in the priesthood are holy, committed to their vocation, and rejoice in their celibacy. They need our prayers now more than ever as they are carrying a heavy burden right now.
    Lastly, I have had to look in the mirror and ask myself the question, is my faith based in men or in the Lord’s Church? Am I just using this as an excuse to cover for my own loss of faith? Yes, my anger is just, and my sadness is deep, but there is simply no where else to go.

  5. I truly understand the rationale given here for staying with the Church throughout this horrendous scandal, but believe most of this reasoning can also be found in other denominations.
    Let me state here that I am a practing Catholic, born and reared in the Church and trained for some time in the seminary.

  6. The above comment is exactly right. The whole mixture of events has made the Church a toxic environment – in the words of St Paul, “a ministry of death”. So why would people want to stay in it ? Appealing to people’s loyalty is not good enough.


    The ultimate and real ministry of the Church is always the proclamation and the living out of the Gospel of Life. Jesus had his Judas and the Church today has hers. However, the Catholic Church is still the house that Jesus built. We receive salvation truth and sanctifying life through faith and the sacraments. Our response must be that of Peter when our Lord sadly acknowledged those who walked away because they refused to accept the teaching of the Eucharist. Jesus asked his apostles, “Are you going to leave me, too?” Peter, sometimes weak and sometimes strong, responded, “Where would we go, you have the words of eternal life?” This is a dark time for those of us who love the Church, care about our families and cherish the truth. Our prayers have us weeping with heaven. But we do not cut and run. If all should forsake the Lord, each of us would still be called to fidelity. This Lent we can truly appreciate divine summons, “Take up your cross and follow me.”

    35 missionary priests were killed last year. This does not count the many local or indigenous clergy who were murdered. Did anyone see headlines about this? Please do not define the priesthood by the current scandals. We have many holy men who are following Christ and laying down their lives to share the healing and mercy of the Good News.

  7. Unfortunately, especially for Holy Mother Church, many victims as well as non victims, find this repugnant and leave this environment just as an abused child, wife or even husband are encouraged by counseling or even the law, to leave this abhorrent and dangerous situation.

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