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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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Priests Cannot Bless Sin

The news has been on fire with the fact that certain German Catholic priests plan to bless same-sex couples on May 10 in defiance of the Vatican decree against it. What exactly does it mean for a priest to bless these couples?  The priest in his very person is an icon for Christ and for his saving activity or ministry in the Church.  It is for this reason that he is forbidden to be present as a witness at marriages not condone as licit and valid.  His very presence signifies approbation or authorization.  Priests can bless persons, places or things.  The word “blessing” can mean many things, but always it signifies divine favor and protection.  What is the statement being made?  What is the spiritual effect of such a blessing or is this merely a political statement.  Certainly we want to elevate the dignity of others as persons with value and rights.  However, can a priest truly bless that which is objectively regarded as wrong and sinful?  Would not such an attempted benediction signify a blasphemy and sacrilege?  When general blessings are given, a priest incurs no culpability if some should lack the correct disposition.  However, the person who dissents and wants his or her wrong labeled as virtuous or a right likely incurs judgment for mortal sin.  If a priest deliberately seeks to bless that which is offensive to God then that priest becomes a broken sign and is personally convicted before the Lord.  Is not the prohibition against blessing same-sex unions more than a disciplinary decree but rather reflective of the Church’s fidelity to the commandments and the moral law?  Maybe we should be more concerned about the formation and inner dissent of these priests than anything, no matter how problematical, they threaten to carry out?  The mind of Christ is also that of the Church.  The compassion of Jesus sometimes embraces a tough love.    

The statement from the dissenting German priests cannot be allowed to stand without consequences.  It is a dare to the universal Church: 

“In view of the refusal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to bless homosexual partnerships, we raise our voices and say: We will continue to accompany people who enter into a binding partnership in the future and bless their relationship.  We do not refuse a blessing ceremony. We do this in our responsibility as pastors, who promise people at important moments in their lives the blessings that God alone gives. We respect and value their love, and we also believe that God’s blessings are on them.”

Perhaps it is due to the heightened eroticism of our times, but I would fault these shepherds for buying into the notion of transitive gender and deviant sexual intimacy as signposts to personal identity and expressive of genuine love.  As I have written before, the Church would have little concern if such people would broaden their identity beyond any disorientation and commit themselves to a celibate brotherly and sisterly love.  No matter what they want or how hard they try, priests cannot in truth extend the benediction of Christ and his Church over sodomy and equivalent sins.      

The statement from these dissenting clergy speaks not simply to errors in their thinking but also to a heresy of the heart.  They write: 

“Theological arguments and knowledge gained are sufficiently exchanged. We do not accept that an exclusive and outdated sexual morality is carried out on the back of people and undermines our work in pastoral care.” 

Their general assumption is that the Scriptures, our appreciation of natural law and Church moral teaching are wrong.  This is an affront to the Holy Father and the Magisterium over faith and morals.  They have made up their minds.  They buy into the notion that modernity is better attuned to the truth than ancient teachings from faith.  They make themselves the slaves to fashion and fad and cease being sentinels of Christ and signs of contradiction to an unbelieving world.  It is no wonder they have so few conversions to faith because the world has converted them.  No, we are not morally better today.  Indeed, there is a satanic veil that covers the consciences of many so that the truth about the sanctity of life and the dignity of persons cannot be easily discerned.  They wrongly argue that human nature has evolved or changed so that answers from the past are now outmoded and needlessly burdensome.  They are saying that the Church has been wrong for 2,000 years and now they are an enlightened few that can dictate to the rest of the Church.  Note the use of the word “exclusive,” meaning that they reject any form of universal truth or morality— collapsing entirely to a capricious moral code and relativity.

What the organizer Klaus Nelissen says is utter nonsense.  He states, that since Monday is traditionally a day off for priests, “No bishop can tell them not to do it, since they are doing it on their own time.” He speaks about the priesthood as one might a 9 to 5 job.  The vocation of priesthood never lets a man off— he is a priest 24 hours a day, every day— it is who he is.  He has vowed obedience to his bishop and the Holy See.  If Nelissen is a priest, I would urge censure and immediate evaluation of his fitness for priestly ministry. 

The Vatican is clear.  Pope Francis has tried to reconcile with the gay community but about the blessing of same-sex unions, he is adamant:  the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions because God “does not and cannot bless sin.” Such unions even if recognized by the state cannot be blessed by the Church. The Vatican statement asserted, “For this reason, it is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage, as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex.”