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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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Your Mission is Not Conversion?

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Matthew 28:18-20 – “Then Jesus approached and said to them, ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.'”

The Holy Father praised the moderate Islam that is being fostered in Morocco? And yet, converts to Christianity are not recognized and they must often worship in secret. Conversion from Islam to Christianity is illegal. Missionary outreach or evangelism is punishable with three years in prison. Jesus commanded us to be fishers of men… so how can the Pope say that making converts is not our mission? Catholics and other Christians are suffering for the faith… is it all for nothing?

I hear the story is getting a lot of press worldwide, not just among Muslims but among Buddhists and Hindus.  The link here is to a Jerusalem newspaper.  It has also made big headlines in the Hindu newspapers of India. Evidently this is being thrown into the faces of Christians who have sought to make converts there. There will be a lot of ripples from this.

It may be that I am too thick to understand the Holy Father. Certainly we should strive to live in peace with others. My posture will always be one of respect and obedience… even if I am somewhat befuddled. I may also be somewhat over-sensitive… particularly when it comes to the situation of Christians persecuted for their faith. The first glimmerings of my call to priesthood came with an admiration of those Catholics and clergy who suffered for their faith… oppressed by non-Christian religions and/or by Communism. My thoughts also turn to China where many worry about the underground church and pray that we have not betrayed them.

The Spread of ISIS Terror into Asia

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ISIS now has a foothold in the Philippines. Pray for our Catholic brothers and sisters.

Interfaith Pollution of the True Faith?

I thought it was a joke or exaggeration, but when I visited the website for the Catholic diocese of Hallam in the UK under Bishop Ralph Hesket I was shocked to see that charges of religious relativism or indifferentism might have merit.  As part of a national interfaith outreach, Christian believers were encouraged to visit and honor pagan shrines.  I fail to fathom how this is either genuine dialogue or true ecumenism.  Despite the directions given, Catholics should not bow to pagan images or eat the food that has been offered to idols.  Christians were persecuted and even martyred in the early days of the faith for refusing such acts that compromised the true faith and pampered superstition.

Indeed, the early apologists argued that despite the generosity of the pagans toward the poor, Christians should not eat the food of pagan sacrifices because the pagan deities were actually demons.

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Moses was commanded to remove his sandals when he encountered God in the burning bush. But what we have here is an image of Buddha and a pagan shrine.  While these locations may hold anthropological interest for learned Christians, most would best avoid such places. As Christians we may honor persons and give deference to religious liberty that also protects our rights in a multicultural society, but we should not underestimate the general ignorance and tottering faith of many Christians.  Already many are adopting Eastern ideas about the yin and yang of the Tao, the transmigration of the souls, the spirituality associated with yoga, and a pantheistic view of creation.

The removal of shoes may be a small concession but the added flower presentation and material sacrifice of money, mimics or parallels the offertory at Mass.  Christ and the Church he instituted is the one way that God has established for our salvation.  No one comes to the Father apart from Jesus Christ.  A confession of faith can be made both in words and with gestures.  We must be wary of making a wholesale compromise of the truth. Buddhism is incompatible with the Christian kerygma.  Pope John Paul II was criticized for his assessment in CROSSING THE THRESHOLD OF HOPE.

Do we draw near to God in this way? This is not mentioned in the “enlightenment” conveyed by Buddha. Buddhism is in large measure an “atheistic” system. We do not free ourselves from evil through the good which comes from God; we liberate ourselves only through detachment from the world, which is bad. The fullness of such a detachment is not union with God, but what is called nirvana, a state of perfect indifference with regard to the world. To save oneself means, above all, to free oneself from evil by becoming indifferent to the world, which is the source of evil. This is the culmination of the spiritual process.

While some might note Buddhism as more a philosophy of negation than a deistic religion, the diocesan guidelines also threaten to taint the faith of believers under an effort to show respect to the adherents of Hinduism.

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The early Christians were put to death for refusing to throw the smallest fleck of incense into the fire for an idol of Rome and its emperor. Just as we would not expect Hindus to bend the knee and cross themselves in our churches; neither should Hindu shrines be honored by Christians with bowing before the idols of false deities. This act impugns the heroic sacrifices of the early martyrs. Such concession signifies a cowardice to accusations of intolerance where there should be a brave act of witness that promotes the missionary spirit within the scope  of both understanding and charity.

Christians need to respect the Eastern effort to discern truth while not abandoning our own rich inheritance.  The missionary effort, going back to the days of St. Francis Xavier, had many successes.  But we must admit that the faith also suffered from the stigma of being Western and foreign.  Right or wrong, the saint regarded all the Hindus as devil worshipers.  This is part of our historical faith inheritance.  Doors were closed where the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes might have opened them.  There is said to be an evolution in Hinduism toward monotheism; but this truth is already realized in Christianity.  We must be careful that weak Christians do not embrace Eastern religion due to an attraction to the strange or exotic.

Pope Paul VI stated in NOSTRA AETATE the following:

Thus in Hinduism, men contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry. They seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition either through ascetical practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with love and trust.

We would not deny any elements that are true in such religions, but there are also wrong turns and false understandings (error).  All salvation truth subsists in the Catholic Church.  We do not have to look elsewhere. People who are largely ignorant of their own rich Christian faith inheritance might be lost if we are passive to their involvement in other religions.

Catholics should bow or genuflect before the Christian altar, or the Crucifix or the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle but NOT before the image of alien gods.  Definitely they should not eat the food given to them, demons or not.

1 Corinthians 10:18-22 – Look at Israel according to the flesh; are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? So what am I saying? That meat sacrificed to idols is anything? Or that an idol is anything? No, I mean that what they sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to become participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and also the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and of the table of demons. Or are we provoking the Lord to jealous anger? Are we stronger than he?

At a time when exorcisms are on the rise, this is the height of idiocy.   We can respect persons and work together for a more civil and caring society; however, we should not do so at the cost of our immortal souls.  Ignorance of the truth may save some from the full weight of judgment.  However, our Catholic and Christian community will be judged according to our understanding and fidelity to the revelation of Christ that is passed down to us in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

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Catholics and other Christians might visit such sites for educational purposes. They should do nothing that suggests worship. Pope John Paul II argued that the Allah of the Muslims is the same Father God of the Christians. This may be, but there remains much that divides us, particularly the role of Jesus as Lord and Redeemer. The Pope states:

Some of the most beautiful names in the human language are given to the God of the Koran, but He is ultimately a God outside of the world, a God who is only Majesty, never Emmanuel, God-with-us. Islam is not a religion of redemption. There is no room for the Cross and the Resurrection. Jesus is mentioned, but only as a prophet who prepares for the last prophet, Muhammad. There is also mention of Mary, His Virgin Mother, but the tragedy of redemption is completely absent. For this reason not only the theology but also the anthropology of Islam is very distant from Christianity.

A gesture for peace is also fine, as long as we do nothing to undermine or apologize for our identity as Christians. We should also insist that the Islamic community become more pro-active against discrimination and violence against Christians throughout the world.  Otherwise, gestures of human respect (not divine worship) become empty.

While we can respect others, we should not be giving directions to Christian believers on how to commit idolatry.

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The Sikh religion is inherently pantheistic.  We believe that God maintains creation but he cannot be identified with it.  While its tenets include reincarnation and various Hindu teachings; it is monotheistic, rejects the caste system and the use of idols.  It also espouses a syncretism where it tries to unite various beliefs from disjointed sources.  Christianity might adopt elements of culture and even the symbols of others (as it did in the Roman and Greek world) but the content is always that of the Gospel.  The blunt matter is that, no matter how interesting, this still constitutes a false religion for Catholics.  Ours is a jealous God.  He will not share us with others.

While certain traditionalists would attack overtures toward the Jews, we must always acknowledge that Judaism is a true, albeit natural religion.  While they have yet to embrace the revelation of the Trinity, the Jewish faith was called into existence by Almighty God.  Pope John Paul II insisted:

The New Covenant serves to fulfill all that is rooted in the vocation of Abraham, in God’s covenant with Israel at Sinai, and in the whole rich heritage of the inspired Prophets who, hundreds of years before that fulfillment, pointed in the Sacred Scriptures to the One whom God would send in the “fullness of time” (cf. Gal 4:4).

We have a genuine historical and faith relationship with the Jews that we do not share with other religions. Interfaith efforts should not be so diffusive that we lose sight of this fact.  The Jews are our elder brothers and sisters in faith.  Their story is part of our story.  The truths of the faith preserved and passed down by the Hebrews made possible the coming of Christ and his kingdom.  While we believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah and the fulfillment of the covenant, God has not forsaken his first people.  God keeps his promises.  There are NOT two covenants.  Both Pope Benedict XVI and the late Cardinal-priest Dulles clarified that there is ONLY one covenant. The covenant of old now embraces (in Jesus Christ) both the first and the new People of God. We pray and hope that those first called will one day come to a full awareness of the fulfillment in Christ.

Muslim Terrorism Does Not Exist?

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Muslim terrorism does not exist

Is it true?

Back in 2006 Pope Benedict XVI urged that the concept of holy war or conversion at the edge of the sword be repudiated. Immediately the summons went out for Muslims to kill the Holy Father. Even the more liberal critics were surprised at the apparent millions of enemies of Western civilization and our cherish rights and freedom. The call went out for the execution of the Pope. Many moderate Muslims remained quiet or on the sidelines. Salman Rushdie could go into hiding, but Pope Benedict XVI could not. He showed his courage, with an abiding faith and confidence in Christ.

It was not a few words taken out of context that caused all this turmoil. This was a volcano growing beneath us for some time. Christianity and Islam never made a true peace, but rather had maintained a truce centuries long. The problems and conflicts remained. Both are missionary faiths. While they share certain religious elements, with each other and the Jews, they are in their core identities quite different. The Church has learned the hard lesson of tolerance and patient endurance; many in world-Islam have not. A Christian martyr dies for the faith loving and forgiving his murderers. A Muslim martyr sacrifices his life as well; however he is driven by hatred to take his enemy with him. There is a physicality and coarseness to Islam that distresses Christians, especially things like the seven virgins that wait to be despoiled in the afterlife as a reward to righteous Islamic male adherents. There are many personal things about Mohammad that repulse Christians, and yet any honest historical appraisal (not to mention real criticism) earns immediate rebuke, threats and maybe even death. This makes dialogue very difficult, if not impossible.

The Pope spoke about the Muslims as our brothers and sisters, and fellow sons and daughters of Abraham. He said that violence cannot be used in the cause of furthering religion. There was no way radical Muslims could agree to this. The signs they carried in protest said it all, Jihad was a basic tenet of Islam as they understood it. Despite the naysayers, the worldwide protests seemed to indicate that it was this form of Islam, and not the tempered version we usually see in the U.S., that was the true face of this worldwide religion.

Despite apologies from the Holy Father for any misunderstanding, events escalated. There was no more pretense. While men gathered at the mosque in Southern Mogadishu, a powerful Islamic cleric of Somalia, Sheikh Abubukar Hassan Malin, declared on a Friday night at prayers: “We urge you Muslims wherever you are to hunt down the Pope for his barbaric statements as you have pursued Salman Rushdie, the enemy of Allah who offended our religion. Whoever offends our Prophet Mohammed should be killed on the spot by the nearest Muslim. We call on all Islamic Communities across the world to take revenge on the baseless critic called the pope.” The Mujahideen Army of Iraq threatened a suicide attack on Pope Benedict XVI. They wanted revenge for his daring to quote a historical figure that criticized their religion and the violence of Jihad. Their website posted this command, “smash the crosses in the house of the dog from Rome.”

Given current tension and this crisis of a decade ago, is Pope Francis right in his assertion? What is his evidence in a terrorized world that “Muslim terrorism does not exist”?

Muslims & Religion in Schools

WHOA! This School Allows School Prayer, But Only For…

People are upset that Muslims are given facilities to pray in schools. I am more upset that we as Christians have so easily surrendered this liberty and have allowed the component of religion to be stripped from our lived culture and from the teaching of social studies. Freedom “of” religion does not mean freedom “from” religion. Such a mentality impoverishes us all and represents a sanitized or censored diversity. Removing the factor of religion falsifies history, as with Columbus, leaving us with charges of genocide, forced slavery, and greed but saying next to nothing positive about his faith and missionary mandate to bring the saving faith of Christ to the New World.

Mother Teresa’s Nuns Executed

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Mother Teresa’s nuns have a charism to tend the needs of the poorest of the poor. Friday, March 4, 2016, Muslim terrorists executed them.

Four nuns and ten civilians were killed. Msgr. Paul Hinder, apostolic vicar to Southern Arabia, spoke to AsiaNews about this morning’s “religiously-motivated” attack against the convent of the Missionaries of Charity in Aden, in southern Yemen. At 8:30 AM, the prelate said, “People in uniform stormed the compound where the Missionaries of Charity live. After they killed the security guard and all the employees that stood in their way, they came for the nuns and opened fire, killing four [sisters]. One (the superior) managed to hide and survive. Now she is in a safe place.” The victims are Sister Anselm from India, Sister Marguerite from Rwanda, Sister Judit from Kenya and Sister Reginette also from Rwanda.

The attackers seized Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, a Salesian priest who lived at the facility. At the time of the attack, he was in the chapel praying. Overall, 16 people lost their life: four religious and ten lay people, employees of the community that also housed senior citizens and disabled people. Msgr. Hinder said: “We knew that the situation was difficult and that the sisters were running a certain risk. They decided to stay no matter what because this was part of their spirituality.” Groups linked to al Qaeda and jihadist militias linked to the Islamic State group are active in the country, which adds to the spiral of violence and terror.

No Where to Run, the Church & the World

It is argued that the Catholic Church has lost the contraception fight and now must move on. Similarly, I am today hearing the same said about other issues. Pope Francis is asked about homosexuals and he says, “Who am I to judge?” Critics rashly interpret this as a change in the Church’s stance and a leading gay magazine names the Pope as “Man of the Year.” A special synod is called on the family and revisionists suggest a coming change regarding the reception of Holy Communion by divorced and remarried Catholics. But the Pope is still Catholic and I think the dissenters are in for a big surprise. It may be that we cannot judge the souls of individuals, but we can make moral distinctions between right and wrong. Those who commit serious sin are not in a proper disposition for the sacraments. The Pope is the servant of the Word, not its master. He cannot invalidate either divine positive law or natural law. Of course, what might happen is that many Catholics will become accustomed to an ever permeating silence— about birth control, about gay relationships, about invalid marriages, and God-forbid, even about the murder of unborn children. Here again with this last point, too many make too much of papal remarks about there being other moral concerns beyond abortion. The fact is the Church is facing conflict from every angle, including the martyrdom of Christians by ISIS swords.

An essential thrust to Vatican II was a dialogue with the world, not so that the Church might be converted to the world but that the world might be more receptive of Christ’s kingdom. Many of us feel that this remains an important mission for the Church. However, critics can rightly point at instances of impotency and weakness toward a hostile world that seems to be more successful than we are at winning hearts and minds. The Church faces a mocking atheistic secular modernity on one hand and a radical militant Islamic extremism on the other. The Church is not only caught in the middle but old friends have changed alliances.

Can the Church engage cultures that feign courtesy when we are on the same side of its agenda but otherwise find ourselves targeted for extinction? Fight against the death penalty for the guilty and we are applauded; but then we are commanded to lay down our arms in the battle against aborting children and euthanizing the sick and elderly. The bishops are praised for supporting healthcare but condemned for not wanting to provide free contraception and abortifacients. The Church was once rendered accolades for her orphanages and adoption services; but today is shut down for refusing adoptions to homosexuals and lesbians. The Islamic world once protected Christian minorities, and utilized them in government and in schools of higher learning; after all, they were the one minority that was so small it would never be a threat to the ruling powers. But today, fanatics will not rest until every drop of Christian blood is spilt or the men are converted. From the Islamic East to the Secular West, there is nowhere to run and no place to hide. It is for this reason that I fear silence. Peace today will only lead to worse wars tomorrow. Silence will be interpreted as assent, or worse still, retreat.