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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 Teacher Questioning a Reading Given Students


I am a new English teacher at a Catholic school. I want to be very careful about exposing students to inappropriate literature. I don’t want to give scandal in any way.

My question is this: is it a sin for me to have them read books that may have inappropriate content like sexual innuendos or rape?

My other question is this: the teacher before me assigned a book for summer reading called Native Son, which I am now reading.

There are some inappropriate parts like the ones I mentioned above.

I am worried that I am committing a sin by letting the students read this even though I didn’t pick it. Should I email the students (they are seniors in high school) and tell them they don’t have to read it?


Is it a sin?  Reading the book in question may not be sinful but this leaves open the issue as to whether it is age appropriate.  The fact that it is approved and assigned has been taken out of your hands.  I would suggest doing your best to help the young people deal with the themes— especially with a superficial and flawed understanding of religious faith. 

I knew Native Son was being read in college but did not know it was on high school reading lists.  There are a couple of versions available and I know that an earlier abridged version is still in print.  The work deals with themes that are still quite contemporary regarding race and justice.  While there is value in this, I would hope that teachers would use the work as a starting point for discussion and not as an apologetic that would project (as the author might) a future world.  The author has been accused of adopting a Marxian dialectic and while religion plays its part in the text, the assessment is negative.  Indeed, Richard Wright arguably sees Christianity as part of the problem, offering a mythical “pie-in-the-sky” that avoids seeking social change in the here-and-now. The current Black Lives Matter organization much in the news right now espouses on its website such a position.  The Klan’s notorious use of a flaming cross has turned off many people of faith.  Ideally Christianity should give us a thirst for justice and change that reflects the values of Christ’s kingdom and the brotherhood of man. It is not an opiate that appeases or short-circuits movement toward such reform. Of course, one of the greatest heroes of the struggle for racial justice is the Baptist minister, Dr. Martin Luther King.  Many in the black community are at odds over the role of faith. 

As for elements of sexuality, it is a part of our humanity; although I must admit to being turned off by any writing that is flagrantly erotic.  The issue or rape is a serious one.  Be careful about this because boys can be immature and insensitive just as girls can sometimes display heightened sensitivity, fear and woundedness about the subject.  While tame by comparison to this book, I recall as a high school boy being surprised and shocked by the clandestine “fog scene” in Tom Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles.  The next time we meet her she is pregnant— what?