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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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Church Scandal & the Devil

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Those who hate the Catholic Church are falling over themselves in blaming pedophile clergy for the abuse and scandals.  They absolutely refuse to acknowledge that the majority of cases are instances of homosexual pederasty.  These critics, that include major newspapers and other news outlets, are in collusion with churchmen who want to protect or hide “gay” priests in the Church and promote the growing acceptance of homosexuality in secular culture.  The devil as the great deceiver has not only corrupted some in the Church but many in our secular society.

When Pope Francis targeted Satan as the primary culprit of the crisis, many public officials, journalists and others roundly ridiculed him.  Article headers around the world heralded a distorted view of his remarks: “Pope Blames Satan Instead of Pedophile Priests!” A spiritual view was derided as a political deflection.  Given that many critics of the Church are also inimical to any and all religious affiliations, this should not surprise us— atheists neither believe in God nor a devil. Nevertheless, the devil is real and if it seems that he is spending an inordinate amount of time and energy attacking the Catholic Church the reason is that she is the house that Jesus built.  However, if he is present in the Church as an interloper, he is alive and well in modern society as a welcomed guest, or at least this is so in terms of his distorted values.  He wants to take ownership of the world and is willing to hide as the ghost in the machine.

Satan_Gustave_Dore_paradise_lost_the_devil_cast_out_of_heavenThe Pope warns us: “We should not think of the devil as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech or an idea. This mistake would lead us to let down our guard, to grow careless and end up more vulnerable.” While other confessions broke away from Catholic unity, the legacy of the Catholic Church goes back to Jesus and the first bishop-priests, his apostles.  The devil hates the Church because she is the present-day realization of the incarnation in the world.  Christ is the head and his Church is his Mystical Body.  There is a profound unity.  Given that none are saved apart from Christ, the same can be said about the Church.  As the Mystical Body of our Lord, she is the great sacrament of encounter with Christ.  Even as the Church is composed of sinners and invites others by divine command, the Church remains holy because Christ is holy.  Our Lord’s redemptive work won the victory over sin and death.  However, the consequences must be unraveled throughout subsequent human history.  The devil has lost the war but he still seeks to steal individual souls.  Given the importance of the priesthood and the Eucharist as at the heart of the Church, the devil attacks where he can cause the most damage and scandal.  Just as he can numb the consciences of mothers about the tragic abortion of their children; he deadens the souls of renegade priests to their heinous acts against God’s children, making a sacrilege of their role at the altar and in the confessional.

None of this mitigates the priest’s own culpability for his sins.  Similarly the bishops have an obligation to insure a priesthood that is sanctified by grace and devoted to a service realized in sacrificial love.  They must be new Christs.  We can accept nothing less as it would come from the evil one.  Bishops and priests are called as ministers of mercy or reconciliation.  It is in this regard that we should not dismiss Satan’s efforts to tempt and corrupt priests.  We are not Donatists and the powers of the priesthood are not dependent upon personal holiness.  However, bad priests do not readily invite others to repentance and holiness of life.  Our Lord abhors duplicity.  Compromise the truth and few will listen to our preaching and teaching.

When the devil targets priests, he uses their own loneliness and brokenness against them.  He sows weeds from the beginning in secret.  Things that needed to be said were not said.  Weaknesses were not acknowledged or treated.  Truth was the victim throughout— in the psychological evaluation, in the acceptance into seminary, in the regular reviews of candidates and even as they prostrated themselves before the altar. Men who were afraid thought they could hide their cowardice and defects within the priesthood even though our Lord had admonished his apostles not to be afraid. Men who were not committed to celibate love came forward with divided hearts to be ordained.  Men who were not humbled by a call of service knelt before the bishop with princely dreams instead.  Men who pledged obedience became infected by the poison of Milton’s Satan who cried, “Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven.” Did any of the rogues possess a genuine conviction to answer a calling from God? If so, what was it that changed their trajectory?  While some of these men deceived themselves; others were given help.

Most priests are good men who seek to realize the holiness of God and the forgiveness of sins, in their lives and in the lives of those to whom they minister.  But it only takes a few bad men to hurt many.  It only takes a moment of passivity or weakness or silence to become complicit in their crimes.

Pope Francis has asked God’s people to pray the rosary every day in October so as to repel the satanic attacks and to exorcise the demonic presence from the Church.  Of course, we should always pray for good and holy priests.  Pope Francis tells us: “The Church must be saved from the attacks of the malignant one, the great accuser, and at the same time be made ever more aware of her guilt— her mistakes— with the abuses committed in the present and the past.”

The Pope has asked us to add to the rosary the traditional intercessory prayer to St. Michael:

“St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.”

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What is with the Angels in the Cherubic Hymn?

QUESTION:  The Catholic Melkites include in their liturgy a Cherubic Hymn where the Cherubim are called “many eyed” and the Seraphim are “six winged” and soaring on their “pinions”. Can you please take some time and explain some of the meaning?

ANSWER:

As for the Cherubic Hymn, the emphasis is that we enter into the angelic praise and glory to Almighty God. The Sanctus serves a similar purpose in the Roman Catholic liturgy: Holy, Holy, Holy. The more traditional Trisagion is found in our Good Friday Liturgy and is a component of the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

“We, who mystically represent the Cherubim, and chant the thrice-holy hymn to the life-giving Trinity, let us set aside the cares of life that we may receive the King of all, who comes invisibly escorted by the Divine Hosts.”

Holy God, Holy [and] Mighty, Holy [and] Immortal, have mercy on us.
Holy God, Holy [and] Mighty, Holy [and] Immortal, have mercy on us.
Holy God, Holy [and] Mighty, Holy [and] Immortal, have mercy on us.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Holy and Immortal, have mercy on us.

Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy and Immortal, have mercy on us.

While the gravity is with God and not the angels, the description of the angels is taken from Isaiah 6:1-3.

“In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, a with the train of his garment filling the temple. Seraphim were stationed above; each of them had six wings: with two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they hovered. One cried out to the other: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!’”

The references to wings and eyes are all symbolism. Seraphim are pictured with six wings and are associated with the purification that comes from fire. Cherubim are imaged as with four wings and many eyes or faces. They are understood as all seeing. Catholic tradition places seraphim at the first rank of the angelic hosts and cherubim at the second. St. John of the Cross writes that the seraphim covering its face with its wings symbolize “the darkness of the intellect in God’s presence.” He continues that the covering of the feet symbolizes “the blinding and quenching of the affections of the will because of God.” It thus constitutes humility of the creature before the Creator.

“With the two remaining wings they flew, indicating both the flight of hope toward things that are not possessed and the elevation above all earthly or heavenly possessions that are not God” (The Ascent of Mount Carmel, II, 6.5).

Can the Most Wicked Be Forgiven?

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Mike asked a few questions about forgiveness that I have heard from others and are worth sharing.

1.  I have been wondering about forgiveness in general. Are there any sins so bad that they will never be forgiven, regardless of how much you repent and accept Jesus?

As long as you are alive, there is hope. If you are sorry, you can be forgiven. However, after death, our orientation and choice becomes permanent.  Of course, we are creatures of habit.  The longer we wallow in our sins, the less able and willing we might be to crawl out of the hole we have made for ourselves.  God wants to save us; but, we must also want to be saved.

2.  As an extreme hypothetical, if Lucifer suddenly repented and asked for forgiveness from God, would he be forgiven?

This is regarded as a nonsense question. It contains within itself a self-contradiction. The devil is a pure spirit. He lives outside of time. He has turned away from God. He cannot turn back. He hates God. This status is forever. Hell is more than a place. It is also a disposition. That is why the devil can say, “I am hell.” We should not feel sorry for or romanticize about the devil. We in our mortality are capricious in our choices. But the angels and the souls of the dead live in eternity. All they know is the eternal now. They are what they are. There is neither the desire nor the opportunity to change. Just as the saints are safely in their heaven forever and ever; so too are the damned fixed in their perdition, lost forever. The fallen angels define something of their angelic natures by their rebellion. They cannot be remade.

3.  Does God’s forgiveness only apply to humans, in other words?

Yes, only “living human beings” can avail themselves of God’s mercy. The demons would have none have it. Indeed, they hate the Divine Mercy, itself.

Another question came from Sarah.  She writes:

I did the Blasphemy Challenge years ago and regret it now that I’m re-discovering faith. Was it an unforgivable sin?

As long as there is breathe in your body, sin can be forgiven.  The atheists who promoted the “challenge” did not understand hyperbole and the correct reading of Scripture.  Sin is only unforgiveable when there is no sorrow for sin and repentance.  One cannot simultaneously reject God’s mercy and invoke it through contrition.  Are you sorry for your sins?  The Divine Mercy is ready and desirous of forgiving you.