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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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The Devil Dances on the Graves of Priests

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I have this mental image of the devil dancing wildly on the graves of priests? Why is this? Do the eyes of the soul see the true agent behind our many troubles? Within a lifetime we have witnessed a terrible collapse of the Church… almost unbelievable scandal, massive defection, the end of a society with Christian values and a priesthood that has gone from being deeply revered to widely scorned. The character John Adams in the musical 1776 sings, “Is anybody there? Does anybody care? Does anybody see what I see? … Come what may, come what may– Commitment!” Many good priests share such sentiments, albeit for the Church. We will continue to love and care for our people. We will pray for the children who were catechized and forgot us. We will do our duty.

The Rights of the Accused: Innocent Priests

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This is an insightful article that every priest AND BISHOP should read from my old friend Fr. Tom Guarino.

Rolling Stone, Alan Dershowitz and Catholic Priests by Thomas Guarino

The Conspiracy:  An Innocent Priest by Msgr. William McCarthy

Sacrificing Priests on the Altar of Insurance by D. Shaneyfelt & J. Maher

MCC Will Not Oppose State Funding for Planned Parenthood

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Maryland Democratic leaders support Planned Parenthood funding bill

I am aghast that the Maryland Catholic Conference will not oppose the bill which would replace federal funding for Planned Parenthood with state funding. It was reported in the Baltimore Sun that Mary Ellen Russell, executive director, accepts the argument that the money will not go toward abortions. Not only are their books not so discriminating, freeing funds for abortion still makes for more abortions. And does not the Church continue to oppose artificial contraception?

Reflecting on a Papal Homily

I wanted to give some extended thoughts about the papal homily on Friday.  The Gospel reading was from Mark 10:1-12:

“Jesus came into the district of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds gathered around him and, as was his custom, he again taught them. The Pharisees approached him and asked, ‘Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?’ They were testing him. He said to them in reply, ‘What did Moses command you?’ They replied, ‘Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.’ But Jesus told them, ‘Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.’ In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this. He said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’”

The Holy Father stressed in his homily that Jesus “doesn’t respond as to whether it’s licit or not; he doesn’t enter into casuistic logic.”  We are told that the question was a trap.  It had previously circulated what Jesus would say.  At the Sermon on the Mount where he gave us the Beatitudes, he had already stated:  “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.’ But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery’” (Matthew 5:31-32).  The rejection of the authority of Moses might be interpreted as opposition to God.  Our Lord avoids the trap of this charge (their “casuistic logic”?) by placing the question in the context of creation and not the Mosaic Law.  Divine authority has precedence over that of Moses, who makes a human decision to allow a writ because of their hardness of hearts.  Our Lord, as he so often does, re-frames the question, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” Much more fundamentally, he answers that marriage is the enduring reality or truth and that there is no such thing as divorce.  That is why he can so immediately associate divorce with adultery.

Is this faithful to the text?  It seems clear here and even more so in the Gospel of Matthew that while Jesus does not fall for the tricky question, he does render a response that goes beyond the given parameters— beyond Mosaic or Church laws— adding his voice to natural law.

When I reflected on the Scripture text, I had to wonder if Moses did what many of the bishops and theologians are trying to do today— to sidestep a teaching that seems too difficult and arduous for many to follow.  I do not believe that the various requests for clarification from the Holy See are attempts to trick Pope Francis.  The requests are coming from his friends who likewise love him, the Church and Christ.  The question was “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?”  Jesus’ response was clear.  He cannot abandon her because there is NO such thing as divorce!  When his apostles ask about it, Jesus is blunt— the human construct of divorce leads to adultery.  Note that our Lord does not shy away from using the word, “adultery,” a biblical term that certain churchmen are insisting we avoid so as not to hurt feelings; thus we now speak of couples in “irregular unions.”  I hate to say this but the casuistry seems to be on the other side.

The new question can be framed very simply.  “Can and should couples who are cohabiting and/or living in adulterous situations be invited to receive Holy Communion and be given absolution in the sacrament of Penance?”  There are only a few responses that respect the constant truth and teachings of the Church:

(1)  If the care of children or the needs of the partner demand that the couple remain together, and if there would not be dire scandal, an internal forum solution might be permitted where the couple live as brother and sister.

(2)  While it might seem severe or heartless, given the gravity of adultery, the Church could rightly insist that the couple separate.

(3)  The members of the irregular union might seek an annulment of the prior bond; if granted, the union could be regularized with a convalidation.

(4)  If an annulment is not possible and the couple cannot separate, they would be urged to attend Mass but not invited to take Holy Communion.  If the prior spouse should die then the marriage could be convalidated.  If the irregular partner should die, the remaining member could be absolved in Penance and again take Holy Communion.

The option being argued the Malta bishops and by Cardinal Coccopalmerio is not one that reflects the perennial teaching of the faith, or more recently that of Pope John Paul II.  The Cardinal directly teaches that if the adulterous and/or cohabitating couple means well, then they could be invited to take Holy Communion.  While this might appease the subjective and make people happy at the moment; objectively it would constitute the sin of sacrilege as the couple in mortal sin are not disposed to the graces of the sacrament.  There must be contrition and amendment of life.  Both here are compromised.  While adultery might still be regarded as sin, such a change in discipline would wrongly indicate that it was no longer regarded as serious or even mortal.  Given the growing dissent, we need Pope Francis to give a magisterial answer to the confusion that emerged from his exhortation.  That answer should also reflect continuity in discipline and teaching.  Indeed, all he has to do is assert that Cardinal Müller has spoken for the Holy See.  The good Cardinal recently asserted that those in irregular unions who want to receive the sacraments must practice “perfect continence.”  He further stated:

“For us marriage is the expression of participation in the unity between Christ the bridegroom and the Church his bride. This is not, as some said during the Synod, a simple vague analogy. No! This is the substance of the sacrament, and no power in heaven or on earth, neither an angel, nor the pope, nor a council, nor a law of the bishops, has the faculty to change it.”

Adultery is serious, not simply because of infidelity between spouses; it spiritually ranks up there with idolatry.  Christ identifies himself with the beloved.  Betrayal of a spouse is betrayal of Christ.

Good Seminarians Expelled, Say It Isn’t So!

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Malta’s Archbishop: Seminarians Can Leave if They Don’t Agree With Pope Francis

I never thought I would see the day when men of true faith and obedience, and yet struggling to understand the interpretation of a “progressive” pope, would be shown the door.

England Consecrated to Our Lady

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Freemason Service at England’s Mother Church on Same Day as Consecration to Our Lady

I was told once that there are no coincidences.

A Priest Trying to Understand the Pope

LINK:  Msgr.Charles Pope – One Priest’s Concern About Recent Remarks by the Pope

0002044Priestly men have embraced celibacy and obedience, even when difficult. They weep over their sins and those of their people. They surrender many of the things that most men count as gain, just so that souls might be saved. And what is their reward? Accompaniment with sinners in the world should not mean recrimination of those priestly stewards who struggle to show people the proper direction, the WAY that is Christ. The Pope may feel that he is giving necessary guidance to priests; but where is the support and prayer for them as fishers of souls and as shepherds who daily lay down their lives for their flocks?

Many traditional but loving priests feel wounded by the constant assaults directed toward them. There is a terrible danger in joining the secular chorus that derides priests as worldly, as mean-spirited and as sexual deviants. Most priests are good and faithful men. We are warned by numerous saints that Satan targets the priesthood. Why? The devil knows very well that if he really wants to seriously wound the Church then he must destroy the influence and ministry of the priesthood. Our ordained priests participate in the one priesthood of Christ. The heart of the Church is no vague sentiment for goodness or humanism or even works of charity; no, it is the priestly heart— the burning and pierced heart of Christ.

(Response to Pope Francis’ words on June 16 at the Pastoral Conference of the Diocese of Rome.)

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I am at a loss about what the Pope regards as intrusion into people’s moral lives. As a confessor, every priest is FATHER, DOCTOR, TEACHER and JUDGE. We cannot excuse sin because it damages one’s relationship with God. We must know what we are up against if we are to help people. The surgeon uses his scalpel not because he is cruel but because he wants to help his patients. The priest gets no joy in causing pain for others; but he also knows that confession and repentance is vital if there is to be any true accompaniment. This matter comes up in his GOSPEL OF JOY back in 2013: “I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy which spurs us on to do our best” (44). I have never know a priest who wanted to so transform the confessional; but neither do we want to lie to people, offering soothing empty words or an absolution rooted in sacrilege and bound to collapse again into the quagmire of mortal sin. 

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It seems to me that this sends the wrong message and undermines the truth of sacramental marriage. Catholics are bound to get married according to the proper form: before a priest and two witnesses. Cohabitation and sexual intimacy is a variation of FORNICATION. How are they faithful if there is no real marriage? There is no vow or promise. Practice shows that such couples are frequently subject to infidelity. There is a fear or hesitance to make a commitment. What we are talking about here is the matter of mortal sin. It is only a feigned parody of marriage. There can be no sanctifying and actual grace in shacking up. Accompaniment should also include helping people in changing their direction. Fellowship on the road to hell is meaningless. The Gospel urges the narrow road. We cannot change Church teaching. Our goal is to help people in their pilgrimage to heaven— to save souls. 

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Marriage is based upon human nature. We are sexual beings and marriage is created by God for the propagation of children within the intimate friendship of men and women. Our Lord raises this natural bond to the level of a sacrament. Would not the Pope’s words have every couple question whether or not they are truly married? Culture has a definite influence, but it can no more nullify marriages than a pagan culture can give valid status to same-sex unions. Our presumption is always in favor of the validity of our marriages. Redirecting fault for failed marriages away from the couple to the culture is to strip them as moral agents of their overall responsibility. Would he argue that a clashing culture invalidates other sacraments? If it can negate marriage then what about priesthood? We do not want to go down this road.