• Our Blogger

    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.

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

    Lupe on Ask a Priest
    Jeff on Ask a Priest
    John on Church Scandal & the …
    Michael on Church Scandal & the …
    farramb567@gmail.com on Ask a Priest
  • Advertisements

How Do We Get Out of This Mess?

802947510-612x612

His Enemy Came and Sowed Weeds All through the Wheat

These are dark days for the Church.  One of my friends even said, “These scandals make me feel ashamed to work for the Church.” I well understood.  At every Mass a priest mentions and prays for his bishop by name.  What if a bishop should disappoint you or you discover that one was likely a reprobate?  I suspect a number of priests have paused or recently winced during the saying of the Eucharistic prayer.  In any case, we are called to pray for the good and the bad, always remembering as priests that we are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God.

153444973830414067 (1)

Jesus’ apostles often disappointed him— one even betrayed and despaired, taking his own life.  I suppose the best of priests are wounded healers.  Nevertheless, there are certain sins that cry out to heaven.  I am reminded of one of the parables:

“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’” (Matthew 13:24-30)

Is it time for the harvest?  It is so very hard to separate the weeds from the wheat.  Indeed, the weeds threaten to strangle the wheat.  We desperately want to see the weeds bundled and burned.

The Devil Made Me Do It

Alarmists about Vatican II regularly cite a quotation attributed to Pope Paul VI that “from some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God.”  While I neither have a naïve celebratory nor a pejorative view of the Council, I do feel that a diabolical attack upon the Church extending back to the very beginning of the incarnation is reaching a fever pitch in these latter days.  The assault targets both clergy and lay.  The complicit backdrop is a culture where sexual perversion is increasingly regarded as normative, where immigrant families are derided as criminals and subhumans and where mothers argue for the choice or right to murder their children.

 153444973830414067

Just as Christ is the fulfillment of the ancient promise for redemption given our first parents; the devil is all about broken promises.  He corrupted Adam but failed when it came to Jesus and that failure fills him with an eternal spite.  He numbs consciences to the truth about the sanctity of life and the dignity of persons.  He hardens hearts, not merely against charity but even about what should be obvious in regards to compassion, mercy and decency.  Truth is an immediate casualty but so is the love that beckons to us from the Cross.  We become comfortable with our sins and selfishness.  Divine commands become weak suggestions.

Christ was tempted but could not fall; however, we still struggle with the brokenness of the first Adam.  Apart from Christ we are destined to fail.  The world pampers our pride.  The flesh entices our senses.  The devil seeks to oppress and even to possess us.  Satan has a burning hatred for us and the Church.  He lost the war against Christ but continues to corrupt and steal in skirmishes for individual souls.  We should not pretend that the devil is a fool.  He knows that the best way to hurt the Church is to undermine her ministers— as goes the priesthood, so goes the Church.  It was only a matter of time that this crisis would turn to the bishops given that they possess the fullness of priesthood.

Jesus redeemed us and yet some would return to their bondage of suffering, sin and death.  We hear the devil speaking through the mouths of his slaves all the time:  “I am not a saint so why try? May we always be going to hell but never get there.  You can’t tell me what to do.  If it feels good then do it.  It is my body.  Everyone is doing it! Those foreigners are all drug dealers and rapists!  I’ll run over anyone who gets in my way!  Going to church is a waste of my time.  To hell with her brains, I want her for her body.  We don’t want his kind around here. It only becomes a baby if you want it.”  Yes, I am convinced that the devil has a hand in this abuse scandal; but, of course, none of the guilty can escape personal culpability.

Man Has Made Himself the Measure of All Things

153444973830414067 (3)

Everything is salted with sensuality and eroticism: television, movies, music, books, art, the internet, etc.  Fifty Shades of Grey becomes a bestselling book and it leads to sequels and films, affirming that pornography has truly gone mainstream.  We feed our children to demons, not only with abortion but by eroticizing adolescents— dressing them as provocative adults, putting makeup on babies, romanticizing their juvenile relationships and allowing them to set the rules in our homes (giving them everything they want).  We fill their heads with profane music and delight in their dancing, much as did lecherous Herod over Salome.  Nevertheless, denying our own cooperation in sin, we point the finger at others when lines are crossed.  Man imposes his strictures of fad as dictates over natural law, the height of lunacy. Few are willing to admit that gender confusion and same-sex unions have fashioned a twisted parody of marriage. A political correctness mislabels the clergy scandal so that it cannot be adequately addressed. We clamor about a few pedophiles when the problem remains a cabal of unsated homosexual pederasts.

Forbidden are a host of words and concepts like purity, chastity, virginity, temperance, obedience, duty, sacrifice, etc.  Truth is no longer “what is” but simply “what we want it to be.” A Christian society has largely vanished.  Many elements of the Church have given up the fight and have been seduced.  Custody of the eyes is virtually impossible.  If there remains any element of shame from damaged consciences and complicity in scandal then it is brushed aside by critics upon others.  We find much of this transference in how the Church is faulted, especially her clergy.  A problematical infestation of active homosexuals is ignored or tolerated because the culture wants to affirm and normalize homosexuality.  Thus, the errant priests who largely target males are labeled as “pedophiles” when in actuality they are essentially repressed homosexuals acting out with other men or committing pederasty with older minors. (I must quickly add that this judgment should not diminish a respect for persons or insinuate that all homosexuals are a danger to minors. We need to be sympathetic to those who seek to be chaste and celibate, even if they should not be welcomed into holy orders.)

153444973830414067 (4)

Where do we go from here?  Silence is not the answer; indeed, it becomes part of the problem.  Moving the men around is not the answer; like shipping the trash out to sea it only makes a problem for others somewhere else.  Much of the damage evades healing, at least in this world.  What is done cannot be undone.  (Many of us hoped and prayed that this problem was largely behind us.)  Now we know that most of us will be long in the grave before these troubled seas are calm again.

The late cardinal-priest Avery Dulles was a prophet about this problem, urging adequate protections for innocent priests but also alerting the bishops that they should not exclude themselves from inspection, reprimand and public penance. When these issues first began to make headlines the USCCB recommended a day of penance for the laity to pray upon this issue— but the criticism was rightfully made that the laity would prefer to see the bishops and priests on their knees.  The situation with the disoriented and misbehaving clergy might have been a symptom of a sick society and a repressive Church but still people were right to argue about the blinders that some of the shepherds were wearing.  I suppose the issue of fault is often connected to liability and lawyers.  It should be about contrition, amendment of life and penance.

The revelations during the last few weeks have caused many of us who love the Church, clergy and laity alike, to weep as we have prayed.  How can we win back the confidence of God’s people as credible witnesses to the Gospel? The flock has every right to be upset at the many allegations of misconduct and the passivity from bishops in protecting our children.  Where was accountability in all this?  How could anyone move up the ranks of the hierarchy when there were sordid rumors and even past settlements for sexual misbehavior?  Many of us are shaking our heads; it is so unbelievable.  And yet, like throwing gasoline into an open fire, there are many in authority claiming “I did not know” or “We thought we could morally reform the man” or “A few of the details need correction or clarification.”  No one should be falsely charged, either in the commission of heinous acts or as concealing that which cries out to be known; however, missteps were made and we will never move forward while there is a refusal to accept responsibility for how matters were handled.

I’m Mad as Hell and I am Not Going to Take This Anymore!

Most bishops do not regularly live and work in parishes.  They may not be fully aware of how angry people are.  I am reminded of the 1976 movie Network where the television newscaster shouts, “You’ve got to say: I’m a human being, g-dammit! My life has value! So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell: I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”

153444973830414067 (5)

As I said, the faithful have every right to be upset.  They deserve good and holy priests.  They should expect that their bishops and priests would love and protect them, especially the children.  Will we see more empty pews?  Will needed funds dry up?  I cannot yet say, although I have heard more than one person say that he or she will be cutting back.  As with the lawsuits and large monetary awards to victims and their lawyers— we could also end up victimizing the faithful in the pews and the needy in our communities. While the Church’s moral authority is compromised, we are still a voice and helping hand for the oppressed and the poor.  What will happen to them if our resources are stripped away from the Church?

A Proposal for the Future

I have a hard time believing some of the things I am hearing.  I do not want to believe it all.  The deteriorating situation signifies bad news in terms of our credibility in proclaiming the Good News.  Again, what must we do?  Msgr. Charles Pope writes:

“As a lower-ranking priest I cannot issue demands or send binding norms to those in wider and upper ranks of the hierarchy, but I do want to say to God’s faithful how powerfully aware I am of their justified anger and agree with their insistence that something more than symbolic action or promises of future reform is necessary.”

At the end of his article at the National Catholic Register, he states:

“Remember, too, not every bishop or priest is equally to blame. Some are suffering as much as you are. However, no one, clergy or lay, should exempt himself from the task of summoning the Church to reform and greater holiness.”

That is exactly the case and I would like to applaud his courage and forthrightness in saying so.

153444973830414067 (6)

It is my view that only something drastic will make any difference in the current climate of anger and distrust.  I am only a priest and maybe a poor one, but here are my suggestions:

  • There should be a new review board given over entirely to the laity (men and women) where bishops could participate as observers and advisors (on ecclesial protocols as well as canonical and theological questions.)
  • While certain facets of professional secrecy and the seal of confession would have to be respected, there should be no secret agreements and a general transparency in the process.
  • There would need to be collaboration with the Holy See, not only to modify certain canons of the Church (returning to the explicit language of the 1917 code), but to create an independent canonical board and to facilitate canonical trials.
  • This review board should also become a clearing house for charges against clergy, especially bishops; priests would be able to share what they know without fear of reprisal in their dioceses.
  • There should be a general purge of those in the upper hierarchy who have tolerated active homosexuality or who have failed in their duty to protect vulnerable persons and the young from predator priests (through either silence or shuffling clergy elsewhere).
  • There should be a bill of rights for priests to insure justice and due process in determining innocence or guilt along with a provision for legal representation (an innocent priest should not be reduced to bankruptcy in trying to defend his good name while Church lawyers defend bishops).
  • Continue to insure that those who have abused or harmed minors would be permanently removed from Church ministries.
  • Insure that all programs of priestly formation also include regular psychological evaluation from a therapist who assents to Church teaching on human sexuality, not minimizing issues like consensual heterosexual relations (fornication), homosexual acts, masturbation, pornography and/or a general discomfort around women.
  • Forbid seminary formation to anyone who has committed homosexual acts and permanently remove any priests from ministry who violate their celibacy in committing them.
  • Suspend a priest from active ministry who has violated his celibacy with heterosexual acts, requiring either his laicization or that he spend five years doing penance in a monastic environment along with appropriate counseling prior to returning to ministry in another (arch)diocese.
  • Reparation for victims that brings some degree of healing and help to those harmed while not destroying the resources that rightly belong to those in the pews and to those assisted by our charity and justice initiatives. (Do we have to review the “corporate sole” model?)
  • Promote policies that both protect vulnerable persons and yet insure fair and just treatment for those accused.
  • As witnessed by Pope Francis, bishops should be required in all cases to live a very modest lifestyle with no more perks than those given to the poorest priest.
  • A penitential reform within the Church that would fully restore the Friday fasting and abstinence practices of the past for everyone and add particular acts of penance (over and above this) for all bishops and priests.
  • A daily campaign of praying the Rosary and/or the Liturgy of the Hours for the sanctification of priests, the fidelity of the Church and the conversion of sinners.
  • Restore the Prayer of St. Michael the Archangel to the liturgy, either at the end of the bidding prayers or at the conclusion of the Mass (Satan needs to be uprooted).

Reverse the Pyramid: Faithful Laity Can Save the Church

This is one of those situations where the good suffer along with the bad.  The true “sensus fidelium” is not with dissenters, but with the faithful laity and they are the ones through their prayers and intervention who will now make a difference. Everyone should pray for the Church. Dialogue with the bishops and priests must be fair and open.  This is not a situation the bishops can fix.  As one person said to me, “Their credibility is shot!”

pyramid inverted

I noticed online that a few of the Hollywood celebrities have added their two cents (mostly negative) to this crisis in the Church.  It would seem to me that when it comes to scandal they should be the last ones to talk, but I suppose it makes good fodder for deflection.  Pointing to the sins of others takes the attention off one’s own. Years ago when these scandals first broke, I asked an elderly priest (who has since gone to God) about such matters.  He explained that he was surprised about the child abuse but that the problem of errant priests was not new.  However, he explained, the Church treated transgressions (as when a priest fell with a woman) entirely as moral ones, not focusing on psychological issues or any kind of pathology beyond the man’s control.  It was presumed that after a reprimand, going to confession, a retreat and a verbal assurance of repentance— that a priest might be returned to ministry.  Evidently, when it came to some of them, and particularly regarding disordered urges and an attraction to youth, no such assurances could be trusted.

153460881053501909 (1)

There has been a great deal in the news about allegations of misconduct by Cardinal McCarrick.  He has resigned from the College of Cardinals and Pope Francis has ordered him to pursue a “life of prayer and penance.” There is not much more that I can say about what has come out about Cardinal McCarrick.  He was a great communicator and extremely charismatic.  We clashed years ago when I openly opposed the practice of giving Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians.  I am still deeply troubled about such policies, although the scope seems to be expanding to include invitations for those in adulterous unions to take the sacrament and even to receive absolution.  How can the mortal sins of enabling murder or committing marital infidelity properly dispose one for the divine mysteries?  I shake my head.  Maybe I am too stupid to understand?  I promised him years ago that I would pray for him daily.  Now, more than before, I am dedicated to keeping that promise.

The Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on sex abuse in the Catholic Church was hard to read.  I became overwhelmed by grief and wept.  How could this happen?  Priests are called “Father” and fathers are supposed to protect, nurture and heal their children.  My next emotion was anger.  Men broke their promises and they lied about it.  Others were so afraid of scandal and litigation that they apparently kept silent.  Was this the Church for which I sought to be a priest by entering the seminary 40 years ago?  Our faith is ultimately not in weak men but in Jesus who is God come down from heaven to save us.  Given all the negativity and the painful stories, how is it affecting the people in the pews?  (I am planning a monthly parish program on the saints.  That is where we find the real legacy of the Church.  We will focus on those who faithfully ran the race and won their crowns.)

Years ago when I heard that Cardinal Wuerl was coming to Washington I was delighted as I had been a fan of his catechism, The Teaching of Christ, going back to my college seminary days.  His little book, The Mass: The Glory, the Mystery, the Tradition, co-authored with Mike Aquilina, is a real gem and a useful tool in teaching about the Eucharistic liturgy.  As one of his priests, it is hard to hear all the criticism from his time in Pittsburgh.  It seems to me that he did so very much to make a positive difference in protecting children.  Did he stumble at some point?  I am certain that there are many families and victims appreciative for what he tried to do for them.  There has been some talk that the Grand Jury Report got a number of particulars wrong.  I am not in possession of all the facts and so I will leave it up to others to figure out.  I will keep him in my prayers, especially in the Mass, and urge our good people in the pews not to despair.

I am reminded of John Cardinal Newman’s work on the Arian crisis and St. Athanasius when so many of the bishops had fallen into heresy. He concluded that in the fourth century the laity were the heroes who had saved the day for the true faith. While the Lord will be the one to ultimately separate the weeds from the wheat or the goats from the lambs, we need to trust our good lay men and women today.  I am not talking about dissenters but the homeschooling family, the teacher in the parish school, the volunteers running the bible study, the Blue Army lady always rattling off her beads in the lonely church, the teenager eager to serve Mass, the Knights of Columbus men who actively live out charity in communities, the virtuous souls who march for life and stand outside abortion clinics praying for the unborn and their parents, the reader faithful to his service, the altar guild ladies who help set up for the liturgy, etc. Allowing the laity to take the lead may be hard for bishops as it seems to be a surrender of their authority; however, in truth this is precisely the kind of humiliation that may restore their moral jurisdiction as servants of the Most High God.

Statement from the Archdiocese of Washington to Pastors

Many of you have addressed the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, as well as the Archbishop McCarrick matter in homilies or comments to your parishioners.  Cardinal Wuerl requests that you not shy away from addressing these matters again in a spirit and manner that you feel appropriate. He also requests that you include in your Prayers of the Faithful the following intercession:

“For young people and our most vulnerable that they remain safe and protected, and for those survivors of abuse whether by power or violence, especially by the clergy who have not lived up to their call to holiness. Let us pray to the Lord.”

Finally, as a concluding prayer after the Prayers of the Faithful, he requests the following Prayer for Healing Victims of Abuse from the USCCB:

God of endless love,
ever caring, ever strong,
always present, always just:
You gave your only Son
to save us by the blood of his cross.

Gentle Jesus, shepherd of peace,
join to your own suffering
the pain of all who have been hurt
in body, mind, and spirit
by those who betrayed the trust placed in them.

Hear our cries as we agonize
over the harm done to our brothers and sisters.
Breathe wisdom into our prayers,
soothe restless hearts with hope,
steady shaken spirits with faith.
Show us the way to justice and wholeness,
enlightened by truth and enfolded in your mercy.

Holy Spirit, comforter of hearts, 
heal your people’s wounds
and transform our brokenness.
Grant us courage and wisdom, humility and grace,
so that we may act with justice
and find peace in you.

We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

FROM CARDINAL WUERL:

153460881053501909

Episcopal Support as Pope Carries Out Reform

Statement Regarding Archbishop McCarrick

Statement on PA Grand Jury Report

Statement in Response to Grand Jury Report (in full)

But Judging Credibility in Abuse Cases Is a Tough Call

“I Met with Every Victim” (TV Interview)

FROM OTHER SOURCES:

Scapegoating Cardinal Wuerl

Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report Debunked

Pope Francis is on the Side of the Victims of Pennsylvania Abuse

The Good Ole Shepherds Club

Bishops will Have to Sacrifice Power & Privilege to Resolve the Abuse Crisis

Bishop Morlino: ‘Homosexual Subculture’ a Source of Devastation

After PA Grand Jury Report, Will Laws Change to Better Protect Children?

US Bishops Express Anguish Over Abuse Reports

Active Homosexuality in the Priesthood Helped Cause This Crisis

Janet Smith to Bishops: ‘Save the Church — Tell Everything’

Advertisements

Not the Clarification for Which Many Were Waiting

alsedis

CLICK THE PICTURE ABOVE FOR LINK

Last year the Buenos Aires bishops interpreted the pope’s apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia so as to permit those sexually active in invalid unions to receive Holy Communion (in certain cases). The Holy Father praised their interpretation in a private letter (September 5, 2016) to Bishop Sergio Alfredo Fenoy, the Delegate of the Buenos Aires Pastoral Region of the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina. He wrote, “El escrito es muy bueno y explicita cabalmente el sentido del capitulo VIII de Amoris laetitia. No hay otras interpretaciones.” (Translation: The document is very good and clearly explains the meaning of Chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia. There are no other interpretations). On June 5, 2017 by order of a papal rescript, both the Criteria or Interpretation of the Buenos Aires bishops and the papal letter were published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, purportedly making this the position of the Church’s “authentic Magisterium.” This seems to conflict with the teaching of Pope John Paul II and with the current Code of Canon Law (canon 752). It would affect our discipline about Holy Communion and even Confessional Absolution. Cardinal Wuerl insists that the doctrine has not changed, just the pastoral discipline. I think I will go back to praying on my knees for awhile on this one.

Conflict Between Homosexuality & Catholicism

Msgr. Pope followed up his post on fornication and cohabitation with one on homosexuality. This is a real hotbed issue (no pun intended) and I suspect that in the face of growing political and social acceptance, many preachers and religious leaders are hesitant to take it on in a critical fashion. Given curt responses from Pope Francis and Cardinal Dolan which were quickly misconstrued, many are wrongly anticipating a change in the Church’s stance toward homosexual acts. This just is not going to happen. Our respect for natural law and for the authority of Scripture and Tradition make any compromise absolutely impossible on this issue. The mechanisms in place that safeguard the deposit of faith will allow no repudiation of basic moral truths— what befell the Episcopalian churches can never happen in the Catholic Church.

141114182030239

Men and women are their bodies. They are ordered toward marital union and propagation. Same-sex unions are inherently disordered and closed to biological fruitfulness. That is one of the reasons why the first element of the faith attacked was our adoption services. The Boston and Washington Archdioceses had to shut down their programs because of legal insistence that children be adopted by homosexual and lesbian couples. We could not do it. The Church cannot deliberately participate in an act that would cooperate with moral evil or place children into a position of suffering spiritual harm. Homosexual acts neither further the end of procreation nor foster genuine fidelity or union between spouses. Homosexual marriage is regarded by the Church as an empty secular legal construct which is, in fact, an outright deception or fiction. Both natural bonds and sacramental unions require the proper matter of men and women… their whole selves and bodies.

Msgr. Pope is quite right that both the Old and the New Testaments reject homosexual activity. Indeed, some contend that just quoting Old Testament sanctions for homosexuality would constitute a hate crime. St. Paul is clear; it is in conflict with the values of Christ’s kingdom. While certain revisionist churches come straight out and criticize God’s Word as wrong (culturally conditioned stereotypes over immutable objective truths), there are also biblical authorities who engage in fanciful exegetical gymnastics to make provision for such acts despite black-and-white condemnations. They point to their credentials or alphabet soup after their names as if that makes them a suitable parallel magisterium. Desperate to find loopholes, they propose theories and speculation as if they are fact. They insist that only a homosexuality, really a pederasty that targeted children was condemned— not consensual relationships between adults. They argue that the divine prohibition only targeted lustful promiscuity— not faithful monogamous and loving relationships. They would have us take their word on this, as neither the “letter” nor the “spirit” of God’s Word makes such strained distinctions. It is a contemporary reading into Scripture what is not there. It is much like a loose constructionist arguing for rights or interpretations in the U.S. Constitution which the framers never imagined. They would do for faith what politically motivated judges would do for the laws of our land. Redefinitions of marriage are an instance where both secular law and religious truth are corrupted.

Jesus is not recorded as having explicitly condemned homosexuality, but this works against the revisionists in that he did clearly override the Mosaic writ of divorce. Silence can only be interpreted to mean affirmation of the traditional opposition. Further, the living Word is manifest both with the incarnation and the Gospels and with the entirety of inspired Scripture. The teachings of St. Paul, St. Peter, St. Timothy and St. Luke are also the teachings of Christ! That which is objectively true does not lose its binding force. We stand under God’s Word, not above it. The Pope and the bishops pass on the saving deposit; they cannot revoke or utterly change it. As much as they might want it to be otherwise, they do not have the authority to make homosexual acts good or acceptable before almighty God.

The Church has made an ardent appeal to natural law, especially to those who do not share our faith. We have seen this in reference to racial and ethnic inequality, artificial contraception, abortion and now homosexuality. Dissenting revisionists would have us do to our bodies what we would never do to our automobiles— there is a refusal to acknowledge the specifications of human design as that of two complementary genders. Men and women are made for each other. Homosexual sex would be like trying to run your car on molasses instead of gasoline. You are not going to get very far. Homosexual unions are not going to generate children. Cars filled with molasses are not going to be speeding down the highway— they will be stopped alongside the road, ruined for the purpose for which they were really made. Same sex unions often damage their bodies and health, resorting to parodies of the marital act, a feigned intercourse. Like jigsaw puzzles, the pieces are damaged and do not fit no matter how frustrated people try to force them.

Msgr. Pope rightly writes, “Whatever pressures many may wish to place on the Church to conform; however they may wish to ‘shame’ us into compliance by labeling us with adjectives such as bigoted, homophobic, or intolerant— we cannot comply with their demands.”

The civil rights won for ethnicity and gender would now be wrongly extended or ascribed to sexual orientation. Opposition of any form will be counted as discrimination. Within only a few generations, homosexuality has gone from being criminalized to being a “right” protected under law. Indeed, now the criminals would be those who oppose it. Do they see this as “pay-back” time? Here we find the bottom line and we must be prepared to pay a heavy price for any non-compliance. Try as we must to make a distinction between orientation and activity; the truth be said, gays increasingly spurn with impunity any such delineation. They argue, “Can you hate black skin without hating the black man? Can you view males as superior to females without belittling the gifts of women? Then how can you say that you hate the sin of homosexual sex while loving the person who defines himself by such intimacy?” We must be ready and careful in how we answer.

My priest friend cites the universal catechism:

[CCC 2357] Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

[CCC 2358] The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

[CCC 2359] Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

It is probable that there are many in the Church who wishes that our doctrine on human sexuality was different. However, we are constrained by Scripture, Tradition and the Natural Law. We must not usurp God’s authority. Illustrative of how want to play God on this issue, medical research has gone into how lesbians might clone or mix DNA through clinical intervention. It has been speculated that homosexual men might be augmented to allow them to carry a child in the linings of the stomach. Already, they seek adoption of children and IVF is routinely used for surrogates and lesbian insemination. Proponents are feverishly striving to make right that which is blatantly wrong.

As Christians we must accept the fact that marriage is between one man and one woman. It is a relationship that is to endure until the natural death of one of the spouses. The marital act which they share must always further the oneness of their union, promoting the fidelity of the spouses and (in type) open to procreation. Sexual congress outside of marriage is morally wrong and sinful. Thus, by definition, acts of masturbation, fornication and homosexuality are wrong and sinful. All sexual sin is serious, but certain sins are worse than others. Obviously, when another person is dragged down with us, the sin takes in the accomplice. Men and women who have sex outside of marriage do wrong, but as according to nature. Homosexual acts are not only wrong, but are counted as contrary to properly oriented human nature. Men and women who are not married are called to live chaste and virginal lives. Exceptions are NOT made for heterosexual couples planning to get married or for homosexuals who want to take platonic friendships to the so-called next level.

We should not hate homosexuals. We should avoid various forms of discrimination against them as persons. However, we can do nothing to support or enable a homosexual lifestyle. This is where we find the clash today. Oppose homosexuality and you are stamped as bigoted and hateful. There may even come a time when we will face hefty fines and even imprisonment. There have already been cases where people have been legally compelled to take re-education or sensitivity classes.

I have known a number of heroic homosexuals who embraced celibacy, living out their need for intimacy in the COURAGE community in terms of daily prayer, meditation and Christian service. We all need both to love and to be loved. COURAGE is an affiliation established by my cousin the late Fr. John Harvey. These men and women are wonderful witnesses and signs of contradiction to our hedonistic times. Sadly, they are ruthlessly attacked by other homosexuals. Despite negative charges, they do not betray who they are; rather, they affirm their identity and struggles while placing the weight on their Christian discipleship and obedience. They have not been abandoned by God or his Church. God’s grace can empower all who are disposed to his goodness and presence. We are all broken. We are all sinners. It is in Jesus that we find the beginnings of healing and our ultimate salvation.

If one would like to pursue an instructive bible study on this question, Msgr. Pope directs the reader to the following texts:

  • Genesis 19
  • Leviticus 18:22; 20:13
  • Romans 1:18, 21
  • Matthew 15:19-20
  • 1 Corinthians 6:9-20
  • Galatians 5:16-21
  • Ephesians 5:5-7
  • Colossians 3:5-6
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
  • 1 Timothy 1:8-11
  • Hebrews 13:4
  • Revelation 21:5-8; 22:14-16

Can a Priest Deny Sacraments to a Gay Man in the Hospital?

The news was on fire this morning about a DC priest who purportedly refused to give Last Rights to a gay heart-attack patient at the Washington Hospital Center.

Oh boy, here we go again! This man condemns the priest but we only have his side of the story.

I suspect there is a lot more to the story than what we are hearing.  A priest was requested and Father Brian Coelho came to the bedside of the patient, Ronald Plishka.  The priest followed the ritual by offering the Sacrament of Penance prior to the Anointing of the Sick and Holy Communion.  If a patient is unconscious, the priest will often presume contrition and a desire for the sacraments, giving absolution even without auricular confession.  In this case, the patient was alert and responsive.  The patient seemed to want to make small talk and remarked about how as a homosexual person he was so happy that the Pope was accepting of gay people.  But he next asked if this admission bothered the priest, almost as if he were baiting him.  The priest said it did not but offered to pray with him.  Nothing more was said about Extreme Unction and Viaticum.  While left unsaid in the article, this intimates that this dialogue took place as part of a Confession.

Because the disagreement probably happened during Confession, the priest is silenced by the seal and cannot share his side of the story. Indeed, he would face automatic excommunication if he says anything… something I hope that Church authorities appreciate. Even they cannot question the priest.

Instead of a civil conversation, the patient rejects the offer of prayer and tells the priest “to get the [deleted] out of here!”  That in itself probably demonstrates an improper disposition for God’s mercy.  Then the doctors came in to calm him down.

We should pray for all the parties involved. 

Can We Tolerate Civil Marriage over a Church Wedding?

QUESTION: Dear Father, I am seeking for advice that comes from my religion. I am a Catholic and a Filipino. I want to get married but my girlfriend and I don’t have enough money budgeted for a church wedding. We are looking for a civil wedding but based on our faith, this wedding doesn’t have a blessing from our Lord God. Is it possible that we can get married through a civil wedding and after that go to our parish priest to bless us as a couple? Can we have our honeymoon then? Please give me advice. Thank you and God bless.

ANSWER:

You seem to already know the answer.  I cannot tell you anything different.  It might sound harsh, but I will keep you both in prayer. 

Some countries require a dual ceremony, even Italy, since priests do not function as magistrates of the state. In the United States, parish priests are authorized to witness weddings that are recognized both by the Church and by the state. You are right that the Church gives no weight to a strictly civil wedding. It must be witnessed by a priest and at least two witnesses.

I have heard your plight before and I am not very sympathetic. You could still have a church wedding because the sacraments are free. You do not need the expensive window dressing. My father got married in his blue suit, the only suit he owned. My mother wore her prettiest dress. The family had a picnic afterwards. They lived happily as man and wife until my father died 40 some years later. They had seven children and went to Mass every Sunday.

Get your priorities straight. Marriage outside the Church would place your beloved in serious sin and cut you both off from absolution in Confession and the reception of Holy Communion. A fancy gown and reception is not worth your immortal soul. Any children conceived deserve a mother and mother who are truly married in the eyes of God. Otherwise, what would it make you?

A priest could con-validate a civil wedding, but this does NOT bless the prior secular bond. The con-validation would be your true wedding. What came before was play-acting. You would have to repent, receive marriage preparation and receive the sacrament of Penance before the con-validation. Many priests today refuse to give large church weddings for couples civilly married and/or with children. Instead, they insist upon small con-validations with a few family and no music and no Mass. The reason for this is simple, so that other couples would not imitate such shameful and sinful acts. It is a proper punishment and/or penance for couples who are more interested in “show” and “money” then in “truth” and “virtue.”

God gives helping graces to couples who share the sacrament of marriage.  Believers who reject the covenant of marriage for a secular contract forfeit divine help, cause scandal, and threaten each other with the prospect of perdition.  That does NOT say love in my book.

Can the Most Wicked Be Forgiven?

devils summer-picnic-outdoors-clip-art_420988

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.

Priestly Celibacy – Under the Shadow of Scandal

While it might seem that “conservative” clergy, to borrow a political adjective, are resentful toward the laity who “would dare” reflect upon priestly celibacy; such is not really the case. Our ire or hurt is only aroused when there is a lack of appreciation or thankfulness for the very real and substantive sacrifice made by priests on their behalf. Our gift of celibacy, enabled by divine grace, is offered to God so that we might more completely and intimately belong to the people we serve. It seems to me that there are two erroneous extremes: the first as a dissent or dismissal of celibacy as wrong or ill-opportune and the second as a cold indifference. It is frequently proposed that priests who stumble regarding celibacy struggle under a sexual immaturity or impeded development (although these critics often wrongly clamor for earlier sexual acting-out as the preventative).

Indeed, I read one researcher who taught that the crime of child molestation was symptomatic of stunted psychosexual development; having retarded their own maturation at childhood, their preoccupation remained with children. Not being a social scientist, I cannot say for sure if this last assessment be true. It seems to me that the actual culprit is a grossly misaligned sexual orientation. Men who abuse children are both sick and criminals.

While the American Psychiatric Association and liberal politicians would grant homosexuality the status of normalcy; the Church deems such attraction as disorientation and the commission of subsequent acts to be wrong and sinful. It may be that certain homosexuals entered the priesthood to disguise their attraction; however, the Holy See has judged homosexuals as unfit candidates for holy orders. There is much worry, even if unsaid or denied, that most clerical child abuse cases were homosexual in character.

Consecrated men who fall with adult women also sin grievously, but according and not as opposed to nature. Despite this, especially in light of criminal allegations against pederasts, certain bishops now wrongly punish such clergy as if they had broken civil law or endangered the innocent. While no molester of children can ever return to ministry; the man who stumbles with a consenting adult woman may need fraternal correction and prayer more than clinical exile for treatment or forced laicization. The priesthood of this man might be salvaged, yes, even if a child is the fruit of a forbidden liaison. It comes down to authentic penance and reform from the priest and how much God’s people are willing to forgive.