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The Heat & Controversy Continues…

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The three bishops essentially cite Pope John Paul II. The argument seems more and more with the historical Magisterium itself and settled doctrine. Here is one instance:

“The other principle is that of truth and consistency, whereby the church does not agree to call good evil and evil good. Basing herself on these two complementary principles, the church can only invite her children who find themselves in these painful situations to approach the divine mercy by other ways, not however through the sacraments of penance and the eucharist until such time as they have attained the required dispositions” (John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 34).

When it comes to the “ordinary magisterium” and opinions that conflict with settled doctrine, filial correction is an act of loyalty. Indeed, silence would be the act of betrayal.

While annulments are now free (they used to cost a thousand dollars or more) this is the first year in the Archdiocese of Washington (so I am told) that we have not had a backlog of cases. Many couples in irregular unions now feel that annulments are unnecessary and that they can freely return to the sacraments. I have had several people in my parish drop writing their cases while citing news about the Pope and “changes that are coming.” Misunderstandings abound… but there is also legitimate confusion where there should be clarity.

There are a number of voices that interpret any criticism or request for clarification as disloyalty to the Pope and as dissent.  However, one cannot be a dissenter when he or she stands with the long-standing and immutable doctrines of the Catholic faith.  One critic said that we should immediately discount the remarks of these “no name” bishops.  But note that they quote the saintly Pope John Paul II of living memory!  Further, Bishop Athanasius Schneider is not a “no name” bishop. He is a man dedicated to Catholic truth and one who has paid his dues in terms of faith witness. Although he is German, his family was sent to a gulag by Stalin. His mother was imprisoned and martyred in 1963 for helping and sheltering other Christians and a Ukrainian priest. He grew up in the outlawed underground Catholic Church and took his early sacraments in secret. He is the auxiliary bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan and titular bishop of Celerina. He has added his voice to many others in regard to the interpretation of Amoris Laetitia. While whole conferences of bishops have offered correctives, as in Poland, there are notable names daily added to the list as having serious concerns. The names (to name a few) include Cardinal Burke, Archbishop Chaput, Archbishop Sample, the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, and two respected Catholic philosophers, John Finnis and Germain Grisez.

Popes can interpret but they cannot reverse or make up new Church teachings. The case must be made, as Cardinal Wuerl suggests, that Church praxis and discipline can change without altering Church doctrine. However, it has not yet been made and many of us cannot imagine how it might be done. One cannot legitimately silence a debate or discussion with ecclesial authority when the overwhelming gravity seems entirely with traditional and perpetual teaching. Those who claim to be following the Holy Father are suggesting that we can invite those in adulterous unions to receive the sacraments, including both the Eucharist and confessional absolution. A number of priests feel, as I do, that this would make us accomplices in the mortal sin of others (who are neither contrite nor who have a firm purpose of amendment).

Marco Tosatti’s sensational blog, in my estimation goes too far. He writes:

“La mia fonte in Vaticano mi ha confidato che ieri sera Bergoglio si è trattenuto a Santa Marta con diversi ‘addetti stampa’ vaticani e ‘consiglieri’ vari per una riunione sul come affrontare questo nuovo ‘imprevisto’ della Correzione dei Vescovi di Astana. La fonte mi ha detto che Omissis era furibondo. E’ andato su tutte le furie. Perchè non sopporta nessuna opposizione. Lo hanno sentito urlare: ‘Se ne pentiranno! Se ne pentiranno amaramente!’. Riferito ovviamente ai coraggiosi Vescovi che hanno ‘osato’ contraddire il neovangelo della neochiesa: l’Amoris Laetitia.”

This is really more gossip and possible calumny than information that furthers the discussion. I just cannot imagine the vindictiveness that the blogger suggests. Absent is the charity exhibited by the many bishops and priests wanting clarification while rightly professing fidelity and respect to the Holy See.

The best posture is to pray for the Holy Father and for faithful and loyal clergy who are trying to safeguard the truth while showing real compassion to sinners. Pray for the couples and families as well… many of us want to bring them spiritual medicine, not placebos.

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Not the Clarification for Which Many Were Waiting

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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.

Stuck Between the Rock & a Hard Place

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Who are we going to punish? I worry about this as a priest in reference to the distribution of Holy Communion, absolution in the sacrament of Penance and in terms of preaching a faith message from the Scriptures that might immediately be interpreted as “hate speech.” Passivity and toleration is not enough to appease certain people… it is being demanded that conventional Christians become advocates for sinful behavior. If a priest gives the sacraments to anyone, no matter what their views and lifestyle, then does he not become an accomplice in their sin? Would he forfeit his own immortal soul for causing scandal and violating conscience, the commandments and his sacred duty? For the sake of accompaniment, can a bishop or even pope force a priest to say or do something that he views as sinful and wrong?

ATHEIST COMMANDMENT 4

“Every person has the right to control over their body.”

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This modern commandment is directly connected to the issue of legalized abortion. Atheists deny the existence of a soul. Thus it is easy for many of them to discount the embryonic as human with rights. Despite a human developmental trajectory, the unborn (at least at early stages) is judged as no more than tissue or at most, only a human being “in potency.” This commandment would have more credibility if there were respect for the body and/or the separate but dependent integrity of the unborn child. Frequently language games will be employed to avoid the truth about the child’s humanity in the womb. When it comes to issues like partial birth infanticide an irrationality takes hold. It is argued that it would be cruel to adopt a child out to strangers; and yet, with adoption they would become a loving family. The blindness of selfishness is heinous. If there be a physical defect, a strained comeback might point to a dubious or difficult quality of life. Frequently there is an appeal to overall viability although medical science is saving the lives of increasing premature babies. Certain ethicists have noted that young children (up to maybe three years of age) are not really viable without constant adult intervention. They just do not know how to care for themselves. That is why a few rogues are proposing “post-birth abortion.” Beyond the logical inconsistencies, the pro-abortion position gives rights to some and strips them entirely from other persons. The definition of a baby becomes shallow: “it is only a baby if you want it.”

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Life issues are often interconnected. A consequence of this maxim would also be assisted suicide. If the person has absolute dominion over the body then he or she can terminate the life of that body whenever he or she deems to do so. With God extracted from the equation, he no longer has sovereignty and out goes the fifth commandment: “Thou shalt not kill.” Turning to lesser matters, it would also permit all sorts of bizarre tattoos and piercings. Indeed, one could turn his or her body into a for-profit advertising banner if so desired. This is really a monstrous commandment and points out that separated from God; we really do not know how to be good. Since we are our bodies, this permissive commandment would also open the door to all sorts of distortions in sexual behavior, way beyond the evils of artificial contraception and fornication. The Christian would argue that personal control of the body is not absolute. We must respect that all life belongs to God and the plan of nature by which we are made. We must also respect others, including the little people who start out in the womb.

Letter to the Editor: National Stud Day

When in concurrence, good parishioners like Bernie Saffell would put their names to Msgr. William Awalt’s letters so that they might be published.  Here is one that was sent to The Catholic Standard.  Bernie was a dear friend to us all.  As I recall, he died back in the 1990’s due to an infection from a heart procedure with angioplasty.

Letter to the Editor of the Catholic Standard

With tongue in cheek, but I do believe with a little bit of logic, it might be better to change Father’s Day to National Stud Day in view of recent developments in National life.

Listen to people as they gather around a crib of a newborn child and say he has his father’s eyes, or nose, etc.  Now “lawmakers” who fine and/or imprison those who don’t support “their” child tell us a father doesn’t even have to be told when his child is tortured and destroyed through abortion.  Paid butchers now for fear of malpractice suits have to make sure they destroy and mutilate a child in the womb during an abortion lest by accident the child live and they could be sued.  This they do to the father’s child without even having to tell him.  Talk about withholding information “until the next of kin is notified.”  One doesn’t have to be a lawyer or a genius to know that abortion is the killing of human life.

One of our justices doesn’t believe in overturning prior Supreme Court decisions if proven incorrect.  We’d still have slavery if that were the case.  Someone else says you can kill a child if conception came about through incest or rape.  Why does the tragedy of that conception allow an innocent child to be killed for his father’s sin?  What did the baby do wrong?  Does one tragedy justify another?  Someone else is running around with semen looking for a place to implant it.  Doesn’t that make a “father” a stud?  We are responsible for all our choices.  Why are we not responsible for “pro-choice” deciding to kill a child?  Certainly we are free to choose but morally responsible for the results of that choice.

Radical feminists claim that their body is their own, but so is the baby’.  The child is housed by the mother, but not her body.  Potential fathers are killed in the womb by a sex-choice decision that causes them to be aborted.

When are good and wonderful fathers going to rise up and say enough is enough?  You can’t do this to my daughter and son.  I am not a stud but a father, and trying to be an image of our heavenly Father who loves all life, especially that made in His image and likeness.

Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.  The road to madness in abortion is paved with illogic, sentiment run amuck.  The Constitutional fathers are spinning in their graves as they are accused of being the authors of a constitution that supposedly allows the killing of unborn babies.

Bernard Saffell

Washington, DC

 

 

Counseling for Catholic Marriages

Catholics with marital problems should have readily available avenues within the Church for professional counseling in the hopes of salvaging their marriages.

More can be done to prepare priests for this kind of work but I think there is also a need for full-time professionals with training in psychology and intervention-counseling. These counselors should be well-versed with the Catholic faith. If they are not on the same page with us about human sexuality and the value of marriage, then they can escalate a problem instead of being part of the solution.

  • When red lights appear in the Pre-Cana preparation, referrals can be made before marriages in the Church.
  • When problems develop within marriages, referrals can be made to facilitate healing or reconciliation.
  • When questions arise about sexual identity and remaining in good standing with the Church, referrals might be made to assist people in coping and to counteract bias from non-Catholic sources.

While there are good independent counselors who charge fees, I would also recommend that there be professionals hired directly by the Church. Their salaries might be shared between parishes as within deaneries. They would work closely with pastors, while preserving confidentiality, to either prevent bad marriages or to salvage troubled ones. Such staffing should be viewed as serious as religious education directors, office managers and bookkeepers. In any case, a public list of counselors vetted by the Archdiocese should be readily available to pastors and the people they serve.

Catholic marriage counseling is necessarily different from that which is offered by those who do not share our understanding of marriage or our views about human sexuality. These counselors need to discern how a troubled Catholic marriage might be fixed. The truths of faith are integrated into our appreciation of psychology. The goal is to have couples living a daily vocation where there is both joy and sacrificial love. Marriage is viewed as a covenant and as a permanent union. Too many quickly jump to divorce as the answer. Catholics should see that as an option generally taken off the table.

Instead of urging an immediate divorce, a separation might be promoted so as to further the conversation or to prevent verbal and/or physical abuse. If a marriage has terminal problems and cannot be salvaged, then the counselor might suggest an annulment. That is where the pastor and/or the officials on a Church Tribunal would enter the picture. However, this is inherently always a sad or tragic situation. It means that avenues to save a marriage have failed.

Right now we have noble efforts like Retrouvaille but there is a pressing need for something more clinical.

A Few Thoughts about the Synod Relatio & Debates

My head is spinning about some of the things that are being seriously argued at the Vatican’s Synod on the Family. I am already concerned that a Commission was established to look at streamlining the process for annulments even prior to the start of the Synod. It seems to me that if such were a concern then the bishops would then request the Holy See to do so. Will the documents which will be formulated reflect the majority view and Catholic tradition or will there be attempts to steal the show for the minority progressives?

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What is it about this new Synod document that has critics saying it signals a revolutionary shift in favor of same-sex couples? It is acknowledged that this “relatio” urges clergy to make “fraternal space” for homosexuals. But what does it say? We read:

“Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a further space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of proving that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?”

Are we reading the same document? All I see are questions. Hopefully they are not rhetorical. Do we eject gay brothers and sisters from our churches? No we do not. Can we invite them forward for Holy Communion? Yes, provided that they maintain chaste and celibate lives. Can we affirm or value their sexual orientation? No, we cannot do so. Such would devalue the true meaning of marriage and human sexuality. We cannot move away from the assessment of disorientation or that same-sex carnality is mortal sin.

As a so-called case-in-point of past intolerance, the news contrasted this development with the story of Barb Webb who was fired from a Catholic school when she and her partner announced her pregnancy. Similarly, her partner, Kristen Moore was asked to resign from her post as a music director at a Catholic parish. The secular media glossed entirely over the moral issues that extend beyond same sex unions, like the freezing of embryos, donated semen and IVF technologies. All these elements are reckoned as moral evils and sinful.

This relatio is being interpreted precisely as Cardinal Kasper would suggest. The doctrinal truth is eclipsed, if it remains, for the sake of a pastoral provision or slackening of discipline. The same reasoning he uses for divorced and remarried couples is being applied to active homosexuals. I find this reckoning very disturbing. Discipline can be distinguished from doctrine but discipline is always at the service of doctrine. There are doctrinal elements that cannot be ignored. It is contradictory to say that gay acts are sinful and then to value, in any way, homosexuality. It is contradictory to say that marriage is a lifelong institution and that divorce is a sin, while inviting couples to receive Holy Communion who are living in adultery. The truths of Scripture are clear and we must always be at the service of the truth on every level: doctrinally, canonically and pastorally.

The document recognizes that same-sex couples live lives where they render “mutual aid to the point of sacrifice [which] constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners.” Critics are saying that this is a crack in the door that may one day lead to full acceptance. I would say that this is not the case. The statement is one that reflects the immediate horizontal human condition but says nothing about the vertical supernatural dimension. It is a mere statement of fact that these couples support each other in their day-to-day lives. However, this does not mean that they are in right standing before God. Mortal sin is still mortal sin. I suspect that there are many “nice and pleasant” people who make good neighbors and yet will suffer damnation and hellfire. We are not saved by simply being nice but by being faithful and obedient to God. The Church can relax certain disciplines but she cannot change divine positive law. My fear is that tolerant language might enable or encourage more sinners to remain within their sins. The Church must be a place for saving truth and grace. She should never be an enabler for sinful lifestyles or blasphemous acts like receiving the Eucharist while ill-disposed or in mortal sin. This document does NOT acknowledge the “holiness” of such couples as was suggested in the Huffington Post article by Antonia Blumberg (1/13/14). It simply asks if we might tolerate with passivity and silence the situation of people living in sin.

I cannot buy this application of any “law of graduality.” No matter how slow might be the movement to holiness; the Church should never compromise on the fullness of truth. Confessors can exhibit great understanding and compassion for married couples who use artificial contraception, with the hope that they will eventually come around to the Church’s understanding of human dignity and the full value of the marital act. It is here that I can well appreciate “graduality.” However, this is not the same as cohabitating, adulterous and same-sex couples. They have no right to a shared bed.  In their regard, where there is neither contrition nor amendment of life, absolution must be withheld. Similarly, while they should attend weekly Sunday Mass, they should abstain from taking Holy Communion. The priest will not usually embarrass people in public but he fails his sacerdotal charge if he does not challenge such couples in private.

This law or better yet, theory of graduality was very much the rationale for the “open table” of Anglicanism. It was hoped that this welcoming to receive the Eucharist would draw others into greater unity. Contrastingly, the “closed table” of Catholicism sees Holy Communion as an expression of an ecclesial unity that is already realized. This is representative of the ancient tradition wherein heretics and grievous sinners were denied the sacrament or even excommunicated. The Church’s censure of interdict would also illustrate this posture. One had to be properly disposed and graced to receive the sacrament. Anything less was judged as blasphemous and scandalous. One should not pretend there is a union that is not truly there. This resonates with the current debate about divorced and remarried couples as well as with active homosexuals. We cannot allow a false compassion to tolerate normalization for the sake of public acceptance while the pastoral accommodation is deceptive to the doctrinal truth and the spiritual state of souls before God. We can move away from using pejorative biblical terms like “sodomites” and “adulterers,” but the underlying reality will remain the same. Does this really serve the summons to repent and believe?

If we change the discipline for those in serious sin and the intrinsically disordered, would we not logically have to open up Holy Communion to others (particularly Christians) who might be in ignorance of the full ecclesial reality but who live moral lives? It is a real can of worms and I would prefer to leave it closed. But that is my opinion.