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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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Consecration of a Woman Bishop… Nope!

I read in the news this morning that the consecration of a female Episcopal bishop (Susan Bunton Haynes) scheduled for February 1 at St. Bede Catholic Church in Williamsburg, VA was cancelled after a backlash from parishioners and a petition of 3,000 names from the faithful.

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Former auxiliary of Washington, Richmond Bishop Barry Knestout lamented the cancellation. Thanking the bishop for the offer, Haynes changed the venue to the Williamsburg Community Chapel.

Explaining himself, Bishop Knestout stated:

“In granting permission for this ordination to be held at St. Bede, we were welcoming, as the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council encouraged, those who have in common with us ‘the written Word of God, the life of grace, faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit’ (Decree on Ecumenism, 3). We were following the example of St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, who enthusiastically engaged in ecumenical outreach and hospitality. We look forward to continuing our ecumenical dialogue with the Episcopal community and to working with Bishop-Elect Haynes in fortifying the long standing, cordial relationship between our communities and our joint service to the poor. As I assure Bishop-Elect Haynes of my prayers for her and the community she leads, I ask our Catholic faithful to pray for them, too, and to pray that the fruits of the Holy Spirit, along with humility, kindness, gentleness and joy be expressed and strengthened in all our faith communities.”

The bishop is a good man and a caring shepherd.  He means well.  While I would seriously question theological concurrence in this invitation with St. Pope John Paul II or Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, most of us would likely agree that we should acknowledge a commonality with Protestants in regard to faith in Jesus, the Scriptures, the need for saving grace, the theological virtues, and the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The problem, as I see it, is the missing middle-term that would allow the leap to a false ordination in a Catholic church. When we hit the wall regarding dialogue, the best of churchmen will note the need for charity and our partnership with Protestants in reaching out to the poor (the social gospel). This is well and good as we can even work with non-Christians for the poor and the oppressed. However, here too there is not total agreement as many liberal Protestant faith communities do not respect the right to life of the unborn (not to mention disparity on issues like contraception, divorce and remarriage, active homosexuality, etc.).

My first encounter with Protestants using Catholic facilities came in 1983. Not only was there a major coming together of various branches of Lutheranism, the Lutherans and Roman Catholics had apparently resolved a 500 year dispute on the matter of justification. Lutherans came to Washington from around the country. A church had to be found large enough for all the participants. It was decided that the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception would host the event. As a seminarian at Theological College, I was recruited with others to assist the many visitors. (I have to admit that I took a somewhat wicked delight in reminding Lutheran guests that it was the Holy Year of the Redemption. If properly disposed, pilgrims to the shrine would get a papal indulgence!  I could imagine Luther spinning in his grave.) I remember meeting the famous actor and singer David Soul there; his father was a Lutheran minister and he was very involved with the church in those days. The Lutheran Church in America, the American Lutheran Church and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches planned to merge in 1987 (strangely enough, another Holy Year albeit specially called by the Pope).

I had reservations about the gathering and yet it seemed to me possibly expressive of a true ecumenism, i.e. the reassembling of Christendom with the hope (even if unspoken) of reconciliation with Rome. However, when it came to this Virginia happening— there was no real dialogue, no real agreement and no movement to true unity. Indeed, the planned event would celebrate feigned holy orders, a Eucharist bankrupt of the Lord’s presence, and the promotion of heresies: denominationalism and the ordination of women. True ecumenism was an effort to take perennial Catholic truths and practices and make them palpable for separated brethren so that they might come home to the Mother Church. It was not about watering down what we believe or surrendering or polluting the full meaning of the Church’s institution and her sacraments.

Authentic ecumenism would acknowledge human rights or liberties for those outside the Catholic Church; however, it would never falsely compromise the spiritual standing or sovereignty of Catholicism as the one true faith.  While the bishop defends the initial decision as “hospitality to a Christian neighbor in need,” I would argue that this was hospitality taken too far. It would be different if we were truly speaking about a situation of real need as when a church is destroyed by a natural disaster or vandalism and a congregation needs a place for weekly worship. While our focus as Catholics is always upon our Mass as a valid and true worship and sacrifice; all Christians are commanded by divine law to render worship the best they are able, especially on the Lord’s Day. (However, there was no real emergency here. While smaller there were several local Episcopal parishes available.  Indeed a hall or hotel banquet room could have been rented.)  Further, an ordination speaks to the very institution of the Church. Given that we reject Anglican orders across the board and the ordination of women as even a possibility given the revelation we have from Christ and the solemn definition of St. Pope John Paul II, such an invitation posed an egregious mistake. The critics of the Decree on Ecumenism have warned that misreading or interpreting it as is done here can readily lead to religious relativism. Perhaps there is some substance to their critique that it lends itself to such misunderstandings? Catholicism is not simply another denomination alongside Episcopalianism; Catholicism is the true Church instituted by Christ while Anglicanism has forfeited much of its ecclesial identity with the break in apostolic succession. What does such a “hospitality” communicate to women dissenters in the Catholic Church who have been told that Holy Orders is closed to them and that merely attempting to get ordained will result in excommunication? Does it give them false hope? Is it a slap in their faces?

I would argue that here is a case in point where the laity (expressing a genuine “sensus fidelium”) have spoken and have made a difference with their prayers and arguments in opposition. If we are worried about clericalism or absolutism from bishops, then here is something of the needed corrective. Instead of castigation of the so-called “conservative” and “religious right” that have long sought solidarity with the Holy See and the perennial teachings of the faith, maybe the hierarchy should better listen to their concerns?  Those laity who are true “signs of contradiction” are witnesses for us all.  Yes, these voices from the laity may represent only the still faithful remnant.  Those voices that would tolerate sin and most every liberality speak instead for a fallen world.  They would compromise the Gospel of truth for a gospel of nice.  True faith going back to our Jewish roots has never exhibited a blind toleration, always opposing false worship and sin.  The shepherds of the Church, and this includes the Pope, are the servants of the Word and the truth, not the masters. Beyond this immediate news item, no leader of the Church, of any standing, can in principle urge sinful behavior or demand silence in the face of error.  The clergy and laity must walk together, acknowledging their differing roles but always respecting each other’s faith and the divine Spirit that sustains us in the truth and gives efficacy to the sacraments.

The question is also being raised that if a Catholic church can be used for the consecration of an Episcopalian woman bishop and that a false Mass might be permitted upon the altar then why are the SSPX not allowed to use our worship spaces for a real Catholic priest to offer a valid Mass and for far smaller numbers (desperate for a place to worship)?  Why does ecumenism swing only to the left?

Vatican Leaks & Obedience

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Just thinking out loud… if the Holy See has a so-called secret letter sent to bishops which it wants to keep internal or confidential… is the leaking of the letter to the press a venial or mortal sin. Might it be a form of gossip or calumny? Further, as with the reception of stolen goods, does the publication of such information constitute a moral transgression, especially for believers and/or Catholic organizations? Sometimes I wonder about the extent of obedience and respect that the Church can demand or expect from her “loyal” subjects. Peace!

New Constitution for Russia, Good or Bad

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I suspect that those of us who grew up during the Cold War will be the ones most concerned about any major political changes (good or bad) in Russia.

The Trials of Fr. Fernando Suarez

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The famous Filipino healing priest gave a service here at Holy Family a number of years ago (with archdiocesan permission).

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Here I am with Fr. Fernando Suarez who offered a healing Mass and service here at Holy Family on August 30, 2013. We figure about 650 people came out.

The Coming Militant Atheism

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It may be if you live long enough, you can see things happen that would have been unimaginable years earlier. As a youth, the matter of atheism was a subject that evoked for me immediate sentiments of revulsion. Atheism was debated in a civil fashion by philosophers, but at the grass roots, atheists were lumped together with pornographers and godless Communists. The equation was simple:  no deity equals no positive values.  This was likely too simplistic.  Many scientists espoused evolution but this was not yet a topic hijacked by non-believers. Catholics and others who espoused intelligent design made the appropriate accommodations. As for the Big Bang, far from disproving creation, it seemed to reaffirm the faith and the appreciation that at the beginning, God said, LET THERE BE LIGHT. Fundamentalists may have insisted upon a biblical chronology, but the Catholic Church maintained a Vatican astronomer and regarded the Bible as our guide as to how to go to heaven, not as to how the heavens go.

Starting in 2008, I was surprised at the vigor of the attacks against believers from atheists. The Communist party in the United States sought to exploit this phenomenon.  Most atheists I had known were tolerant of believers and recognized we lived within a culture where faith of some sort was important for many people and where tolerance should be exhibited. The so-called Blasphemy Challenge seemed fueled, not by a scientific and/or philosophical atheism, but largely by anger and as a knee-jerk reaction to scandals, hypocrisy and fundamentalism from the various denominations of Christianity. Since the Scriptures spoke about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as the unpardonable sin; young people were dared to post videos of such blasphemy.

In truth, many of these efforts involved a confused appreciation of religion, since the only unforgivable sin may be a suicide that expresses a cold hatred of God free from emotional distress and mental anguish. Can people hate what they say they do not believe in? Jesus probably referenced those who discounted the workings of the Holy Spirit in his miracles, healings and the forgiveness of sins. They blasphemed the works of God as having a demonic source. The next stage in the assaults was the so-called Eucharist Challenge where religious terrorists stole the consecrated hosts for desecration. They faulted Catholics for getting upset and for attempts to protect the Eucharist. Indeed, emails and comments sent to me would even deny Catholics the right to believe in the Eucharist. We were mocked as stupid and delusional. While we would claim that everyone has a right to their opinion, these new more militant atheists would shut us down and repress religion. But wait a minute, is that really new? Islamic nations and Communist China still restrict religious liberty.  The Chinese totalitarian regime demonstrates how a militaristic atheism would repress churches, temples and mosques.  There are Catholic clergy and other believers in prison for refusing to submit to such manipulation.

Here is a poster from an anti-Catholic campaign of the Communist Party in the United States:

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Here at home the American Communists are supportive of the new atheists and deliberately seeking converts.

  • They encouraged families to see the film, THE GOLDEN COMPASS which mocks the faith and treats God as the great enemy.
  • They attacked Pope Benedict Emeritus as a NAZI and the Church’s stand against homosexuality as a witch-hunt.
  • They ridiculed the Church’s stand for the sanctity of human life as simply making women into egg incubators.
  • They promoted Evolution and Creationism, not as part of a serious discussion, but because they vehemently hate religion.

They would persecute and subjugate the faith if they got the chance. Young atheists should not fall prey to their mindset; rather, they should relate to people of faith with a shared sense of human decency and respect of persons. We can disagree but we should not seek to ignite the emotions behind a rhetoric that fuels violence and gives rise to mob violence. Communism is not only about atheism but about aggression to fulfill an ends. It leads to dictatorships and repression. Basic human rights given by nature are stripped away. Communist or socialist atheism makes itself the arbiter of right and wrong, based upon the needs of the many and the state but would sacrifice the individual and the weak.

Communist or socialist atheism and similar forms of militant atheism as we have experienced here in the West represents a real threat to the salvation of souls and the freedoms we hold dear.

Priests Forbidden to Marry

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Many years ago I had a website called the GEHENNA PAGE (1996-97). There really were no blogs back then and the Catholic presence online was pathetic. However, anti-Catholic sites were popping up everywhere and little men were pontificating like popes against the Church. I posted this response below to one critic’s biblical proof texts which were supposed to hurt the Church.

Contending that it was from the devil to prohibit the good of marriage, he made the following citations:

Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the last times some will turn away from the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and demonic instructions, through the hypocrisy of liars with branded consciences. They forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected when received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the invocation of God in prayer (1 Timothy 14:1-4).

I responded that these words refer to a false asceticism and not to the practices of Catholic Christianity. The early Church and well into the Patristic period, had to deal with cults and movements which made all sorts of exaggerated claims and required various austire practices. Some urged a return to Jewish dietary laws. Others wanted to go to dangerous extremes with fasting and abstinence, perpetually destroying joy in the goods of creation. There were even movements which urged strict celibacy upon all members as the only way to enlightenment and salvation.

The Catholic position is quite different. Our use of fasting and abstinence is not perpetual and it is not a rejection of certain foods as unclean or unworthy of man. Rather, their absence, to coin a cliche, is to make the heart grow fonder. It is precisely because something like meat is good that we might temporarily abstain. Jesus himself fasted and prayed in the desert and alluded to it in the future as something his followers would do. As for marriage, Catholics believe that Christ raised it up to a level of a sacrament, a special sacred sign of his relationship as the bridegroom to his bride, the Church. It is a mysterious means of encountering the Lord himself and receiving grace. Obviously, if such is the Catholic view, we would not be seeking to degrade it by our practice of celibacy. Priests and religious vow celibacy freely, not because marriage is bad, but because it is so good. Celibacy becomes a wonderful gift, freely embraced, as a sacrifice for God and his holy people. Jesus was celibate. St. Paul not only practiced it but encouraged it. The celibate priest becomes a sign of contradiction pointing toward the kingdom of Christ while living in a hedonistic world. It is not a rejection of love, but a selfless abandonment to divine love as manifested in service to God’s people, the Church. It is not a calling for everyone, just as not everyone is called to priesthood or consecrated life. The majority of people seek holiness in marriage and family life.

Noting that Peter was married, he asked how could the purported apostolic line come through Peter when Catholic priests and bishops were celibate? The critic followed with more piece-meal verses:

And when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed, sick with a fever (Matthew 8:14).

Now Simon’s mother-in-law was keeping her bed sick with fever, and they immediately told him about her (Mark 1:30).

But he rose from the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a great fever, and they besought him for her (Luke 4:38).

These references to Peter’s mother-in-law do indicate that Peter was married; although her absence from these texts might lend one to think that she experienced some mishap or was away. Be this as it may, the Catholic Church has never hidden the fact that Peter and other religious leaders of the Church were married. Indeed, the Catholic Church had a married clergy all the way up to the 12th century. The Fourth Lateran Council was quite decisive in mandating compulsory celibacy for any who would be priests of the Roman or Western Rite. The Eastern rites of the Catholic Church, to this very day (in Europe and the Far East especially) have an optional married clergy. These priests are in full union with Rome.

Also, in our own nation many Protestant clergy, Lutheran and Episcopal, have entered into the Roman Catholic priesthood, even though they are married and have families. Those who are raised in the Western rite realize that celibacy is a special gift and a particular charism of our priestly experience. It is a sign of a wondrous single-hearted love. One of the fruits of this sacrifice is the availability that a priest can give to his prayers, study, and service.

Any indication that Peter’s married state would affect apostolic succession is a low blow. Those who followed Peter had a spiritual and not a physical affinity to the great apostle. While the Church has known nepotism, such is the exception and not the rule.

No one forces a young man to become a priest or brother. There is no coercion for a woman to become a nun. They know that vows of poverty, obedience, and celibacy are part of the package. If God gives a person a vocation in the Catholic Church, we believe that he will give each of them the graces and gifts to follow this life.

I have heard it said that a majority of men who leave the priesthood to get married ultimately have failed marriages. I pray this is not the case.  Promises are made to be kept. The problem is not the Church or God; the dilemma is people who are unwilling to surrender their lives fully to Christ. Marriage is also a sacrifice, amidst the joys. However, if we trust God and walk with him, he will guide our path.

Acknowledging that St. Paul was single, he claimed that the apostle thought we should have the freedom to marry. The debate continued and the anti-Catholic critic quoted more poorly applied Scripture:

Do we not have the right to take along a Christian wife, as do the rest of the apostles, and brothers of the Lord, and Kephas? (1 Corinthians 9:5).

The Catholic Church also recognizes the right of people to get married. However, the Church has a right of her own to regulate her ministries. Permanent deacons, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, Catechists, Readers, Acolytes, and Lay Evangelists and Ministers all serve the Church and may be married. Would the anti-Catholic demand compulsory matrimony? I hope not. Those who opt for priesthood in the Roman Rite also freely embrace celibacy. This is no less than what St. Paul did. After listing all the various rights that a follower in Jesus possesses, he acknowledges that he has chosen not to use these rights for himself.

Here are some Scripture citations of my own:

[After listing the right to marry among many other freedoms, St. Paul says] Yet we have not used this right. On the contrary, we endure everything, so as not to place an obstacle to the Gospel of Christ. … I have not used any of these rights, … (1 Corinthians 9:12,15).

[After speaking about marriage] This I say by way of concession, however, not as a command. Indeed, I wish everyone to be as I am, but each has a particular gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. Now to the unmarried and to widows, I say: It is a good thing for them to remain as they are, as I do, … (1 Corinthians 7:6-8).

[Advice to Virgins and Widows] Now in regard to virgins, I have no commandment from the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. So this is what I think best because of the present distress: that it is a good thing for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek a separation. Are you free of a wife? Then do not look for a wife. If you marry, however, you do not sin, nor does an unmarried woman sin if she marries; but such people will experience affliction in their earthly life, and I would like to spare you that. I tell you, brothers, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully. For the world in its present form is passing away (1 Corinthians 7:25-31).

[More on virginity] So then, the one who marries his virgin does well; the one who does not marry her will do better (1 Corinthians 7:38).

[About a widow] She is more blessed, though, in my opinion, if she remains as she is, and I think that I too have the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 7:40).

[Celibacy is a sign of the kingdom!] His disciples said to him, “If the case of a man with his wife is so, it is not expedient to marry.” And he said, “Not all can accept this teaching; but those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born so from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made so by men; and there are eunuchs who have made themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let him accept it who can” (Matthew 19:10-12).).