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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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Denial of Revealed Truth

When we speak about pervasive sins against the Holy Spirit that infect modern society, at the top of the list is a resistance to the truths of both revelation (divine positive law) and creation (natural law).  While this rejection can include doctrinal truths about God, frequently the subject matter is in the area of morality.  It is for this reason that I have sometimes thought we need a council to revise the Creed, not to deny any truths already defined, but to add to the section on the Trinity, Christ and the Church a series of clarifications on what constitutes the human being, the sanctity of life and proper behavior.   

While we as Catholics need to assent to the dogmatic truths promulgated by the Holy Father and the Magisterium (those bishops who teach in union with the Pope), such is not absolute.  The private opinions and many pragmatic decisions of the Pope would not necessarily incur the charism of infallibility.  However, given his position, we should give a general religious assent or respect to whatever the Pope teaches in his ordinary Magisterium.  Solemn definitions as with the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception of Mary are regarded as certain.  Pope Benedict XVI has made clear that his predecessor Pope John Paul II’s declaration on a male-only priesthood is also infallible.  Most things the Church teaches that compel assent are found in the Creed and catechism, as long as the Church herself regards the matters settled.  While we give them religious respect or assent, there are few items in flux like the extent of just war theory or the constantly edited teaching against the death penalty.  Sometimes the Church, herself, may grapple with the words to express something she believes. 

We posit the Bible with teaching all necessary salvation truths.  Christian doctrine is formed against the background of Sacred Tradition and the living witness of the faith in history.  While we have a healthy appreciation for mystery, we do believe that faith consists of object truths that we can come to rationally know and appreciate.  Unlike some of the Protestant churches, we do not subscribe to any faith versus reason mentality.  Rather, we hold to the notion of a reasoned faith and the complementarity of truth (in science, theology and philosophy).  Ours is not the God of chaos but of order.       

If a person after adequate religious formation still refuses to believe dogmatic truths then they can fall into heresy— especially if they are teaching falsehoods to others.  Catholics need to trust both the guiding role of the Holy Spirit in the Church and God’s inspiration over Scripture.  Some critics may fall so far that they deny the existence of God entirely through the sin of apostasy.  The conundrum today is how well do Catholics actually know their faith and did they fully cooperate with the catechesis originally given them.  I often regret that adults go through their lives with a grade-school appreciation of their holy religion.  Modern Catholics are notorious for allowing dust to build up on their bibles and for sporadic church attendance.  Formed more by a materialistic and secular society, should we be surprised by their defection and adoption of false views about God and the moral life?

Many Catholics pick-and-choose what they want to believe, and given the scandals, few give any significant respect to the learning and status of their priests.  Certain priests bear responsibility for this, either due to their poor witness or questionable preaching.  The issues are so numerous that they would defy any effort at an exhaustive list.  When it comes to the dogmatic questions, there is a poor appreciation of the Trinity, misconceptions about the incarnation of Christ as God and man, a frightful dismissal of the Holy Spirit in piety, ridicule of the necessity of the Church and her reduction to a purely human institution, the denial of Mary’s virginity, misconceptions about the afterlife and the heresy of universal salvation, etc.  When it comes to moral questions, every commandment is under assault.  Catholics rationalize away the genuine meaning of marriage as a holy sacrament— celebrating instead (without shame) the sins of fornication, adultery, homosexuality, artificial contraception and abortion.  A political and legally enforced gender dysphoria undermines the Church’s basic Christian anthropology— despite biblical mandates and the clear boundaries of natural law.  The saving value of baptism and the need for the sacraments is impugned by so-called believers who do not bring either themselves or their children to the Church and Christ. 

Dissenters now outnumber faithful believers.  No matter how ignorant a person might be, many place their personal understanding over that of the Church that is guided in the truth by the Holy Spirit. This is tragic and is a problem that will not be fixed overnight.  What can we do?

Here are some ideas to pursue:

1. Encourage the faithful remnant to practice their faith and insure that there is sound religious education.

2. Encourage the faithful to pray at home and that there is no witness from parents contrary to our faith and morals.

3. Encourage couples to pursue chaste courtship over the current dating practices that encourage promiscuity.

4. Remind believers about the danger of calumny in regard to what they say about the clergy and the Holy Father.

5. Offer religious festivals, novenas and other parish activities that will firm up the connection to local churches.

6. Offer Catholic Bible Study and Book Study Groups, share informative faith videos and promote other efforts at adult religious formation.

7. Offer Teen and Young Adult Programs as an antidote or challenge to society’s formational efforts.  

8. Offer Sunday homilies that truly inspire and feed souls.

9. Make available suitable times for the sacrament of penance.

10. Make every parish into a “Catholic Information Center” with bibles, catechisms and other books and pamphlets.

11. While being compassionate and welcoming to those who come to worship with us, encourage dialogue and reconciliation with those disturbed or estranged by irregular unions, sexual orientation and gender identity.

12.  Encourage parishioners to become more involved with efforts for racial and ethnic justice, care for the poor, and to promote the sanctity of life.