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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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The Proper Response to Scandal is Not Defection

ARTICLE: “Want to leave the Catholic Church? Officially you can’t” by Dan Waidelich.

SOURCE & DATE:  Washington Post – October 22, 2018.

REFLECTION:

The reporter notes that Mary Combs left the Church 15 years ago over the clergy sexual abuse scandals in Boston.  We are told that she looked at “the collection basket, imagining the money paying off victims.”

While one can readily appreciate how terribly she was disheartened, there was nothing particularly noble or heroic about her personal defection.  While such scandals, then and now, should make the laity angry— the proper response is not to run away but to stick it out and fight.  It may be that the clergy are overly identified with the faith; but the laity constitutes the largest segment of the Church.  She should have looked at that collection basket and realized that “there” in the purse strings is power to compel reform.  This is not blackmail.  The laity as a matter of justice can demand that the resources they share go to building up the kingdom and not be squandered in covering up for sin or for appeasing greed and ambition.

Unfortunately, anger spoke louder than her own calling or mission as a disciple.  Indeed, it also eclipsed the many needs that emerge from charity toward the poor and the hurting.  Despite the presence of evil in her ministerial ranks, the Church still does much good for the disadvantaged and the oppressed. Indeed, Catholic Charities is the largest and most active social outreach organization, just behind the U.S. government. Mary Combs walked away from that element of her discipleship in the Church because she was upset by weak and sinful men.

Judas signified one-twelfth of the world’s bishop-priests in 33 AD.  He betrayed Christ and later committed suicide.  Did everyone who had followed Christ leave the Church because of his sin?  No.  They realized that despite human iniquity, Jesus was indeed their Messiah, Savior and Lord.  Peter, the first of many popes of the Church, fearfully denied even knowing Christ when Jesus was being tried.  Nevertheless, our resurrected Lord would respond to his affirmations of love by restoring his authority as the visible head of the Church.  Just as we shake our heads today at the clericalism of our priests and how ambition sometimes overshadows servanthood, we can also recall James and John asking for a special place at Christ’s right and left.  Similarly, the apostles argue among themselves as to who is the greatest.  And yet, when the going got tough, all but John ran and went into hiding.  At the Last Supper they had each been given the authority sacramentally to re-present the mystery of Christ’s paschal mystery and his saving oblation in “memory” of him.  But when they had the opportunity to walk physically with Christ to Calvary, there was only one apostle who accompanied him to the Cross so as to witness the mystery firsthand.

“Now there’s this Pennsylvania scandal,” Combs said. “Hundreds of priests abusing thousands of parishioners and a coverup that went all the way to the Vatican — again.” We are told that she now attends Grace Lutheran Church in Virginia. This is no solution either.  Once a Catholic, always a Catholic.  While even Protestant churches have their own scandals, they are historically also breakaway institutions from Catholic unity.  They may possess certain saving elements which they took with them from Catholicism, i.e. the Scriptures, faith in Christ and baptism.  Sadly, they have also forfeited a genuine priesthood and Eucharist.  This signals that her defection is rooted, not just in a repugnance to clerical scandal, but in a lack of a true and complete Christian faith.  We are told that she took comfort when the Pennsylvania stories broke, in knowing that she was done with Catholicism.  Unfortunately, while we leave judgment to God, he will judge her not as a Lutheran but as a Catholic.

The current scandals should not confirm Mary Combs and those like her in their defection.  Indeed, it should be a clarion call for all to come back and to make right that which has gone wrong.  Those who have courageously stayed with the Church must demand a full accounting of past misdeeds, transparency in the future and a purging of those persons from ministry who can no longer be trusted.  There needs to be a genuine purification and reform.  This must be done by those who have remained faithful and those who have repented of their own failures or defection so as not to be part of the problem but of the solution.

Jesus instituted the Church and gave us ministers and sacraments so as to provide for his people.  He did not say that the Church would always be perfect, only that he would sustain her and that she would be made holy by the bridegroom, Christ.  The devil has had a hand in the corruption of churchmen.  Violations of priestly celibacy as with other sins can be healed by our merciful Lord and even forgiven by God’s faithful people; however, those who have harmed minors and those who have engaged in same-sex acts have no place in the priesthood.

The Washington Post article, while heavily focused on the issue of clergy abuse, actually targeted the question as to whether one could technically leave the Catholic Church. Rev. Thomas Ferguson, vicar general of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Va., affirmed what Catholics should already know that it is impossible to defect from the Catholic Church. Our affiliation with the Catholic faith is stamped upon our souls at baptism.  It is the Church directly instituted by Christ.  Any movement away from that Church distances us from our Lord.

The original Protestant churches were regarded as groupings of fallen-away or lapsed Catholics.  Over time, many were born and raised in these communities, never juridically united or formed within the fullness of the Catholic faith community.  What might merit them through ignorance will not satisfy for Catholics who should know better.

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?

The Low Regard for Anglican Orders

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“The decision to ordain women, which the Church of England took in 1992, damaged the relationships between our Churches, and the introduction of female bishops has eliminated even a theoretical possibility for the Orthodox to recognize the existence of apostolic succession in the Anglican hierarchy.” Pope Leo XIII had the same verdict about Anglican orders back in 1896 in the papal bull “Apostolicae curae.”

SCRIPTURAL LITANY OF MERCY #1

Litany Composed by Fr. Peter John Cameron, O.P.  (MAGNIFICAT)

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Offered at the 12 Noon Mass at Holy Family 12-13-15

Throughout the ages, almighty God has manifested his unfailing mercy.
Oh infinite, divine mercy, you are:

Response: Lord, have mercy on us.

Beauteous Creation brought forth from the abyss of nothingness.
The breath that turned muddy clay into a living human being.
The leather garments that clothed sinful man and woman.
The ark that saved Noah from the cataclysm of the flood.
The rainbow—sign of your covenant with the earth.
The halt put to building the haughty Tower of Babel.
The everlasting covenant made with Abraham.
The angel who stayed Abraham’s knife above his son Isaac.
The stairway shown to Jacob in a dream.
The forgiveness Joseph offered to his treacherous brothers.
The hope of liberation promised in the burning bush.
The miraculous passageway through the parted Red Sea.
The authority of Moses and the attained Promised Land.
The manna in the wilderness for those facing famine.
Flowing water to drink from a rock in the desert.
The gift of the tablets bearing the Ten Commandments.
The Ark of the Covenant.
The certainty that filled Joshua to serve God alone.
The strength of Samson.
The tenderness that moved Ruth to stay with Naomi.
The voice that beckoned Samuel in the nighttime.
The kingly anointing of Saul.
David’s defeat of the Philistine Goliath.
The Temple built by Solomon.

Third Sunday of Advent
December 12 & 13, 2015

Celebrant: What is mercy? Mercy is the experience of God’s love that forgives faults, heals hurts, and connects us more deeply to God and each other. Pope Francis describes mercy as “the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness” (MV, 2). This Advent as we prepare our hearts to welcome Jesus and to share His love, reflect on how you can open your heart to God’s mercy and share that mercy with friends, family, and those most in need.

(Archdiocesan Resource Prayer)

LITANY OF THE MERCY OF GOD

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Prayed on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (7:30 PM Mass)

Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, Have mercy on us.

Response: We trust in You.

Mercy of God, supreme attribute of the Creator,
Mercy of God, greatest perfection of the Redeemer,
Mercy of God, unfathomable love of the Sanctifier,
Mercy of God, inconceivable mystery of the Holy Trinity,
Mercy of God, expression of the greatest power of the Most High,
Mercy of God, revealed in the creation of the heavenly Spirits,
Mercy of God, summoning us to existence out of nothingness,
Mercy of God, embracing the whole universe,
Mercy of God, bestowing upon us immortal life,
Mercy of God, shielding us from merited punishments,
Mercy of God, raising us from the misery of sin,
Mercy of God, justifying us in the Word Incarnate,
Mercy of God, flowing from the wounds of Christ,
Mercy of God, gushing from the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus,
Mercy of God, giving to us the Most Blessed Virgin Mary as Mother of Mercy,
Mercy of God, shown in the revelation of the Divine mysteries,
Mercy of God, manifested in the institution of the universal Church,
Mercy of God, contained in the institution of the Holy Sacraments,
Mercy of God, bestowed upon mankind in the Sacraments of Baptism & Penance,
Mercy of God, granted in the Sacraments of the Altar & the Priesthood,
Mercy of God, shown in calling us to the Holy Faith,
Mercy of God, revealed in the conversion of sinners,
Mercy of God, manifested in the sanctification of the just,
Mercy of God, fulfilled in the perfecting of the saintly,
Mercy of God, font of health for the sick & the suffering,
Mercy of God, solace of anguished hearts,
Mercy of God, hope of souls afflicted with despair,
Mercy of God, always and everywhere accompanying all people,
Mercy of God, anticipating us with graces,
Mercy of God, peace of the dying,
Mercy of God, refreshment & relief of the Souls in Purgatory,
Mercy of God, heavenly delight of the blessed,
Mercy of God, crown of all the Saints,
Mercy of God, inexhaustible source of miracles,

Lamb of God, Who did show us Your greatest mercy in redeeming the world on the Cross, Spare us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, Who mercifully offers Yourself for us in every Holy Mass, Graciously hear us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world through Your inexhaustible Mercy, Have mercy on us.

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.

V. The tender mercies of the Lord are over all His works.
R. The mercies of the Lord I will sing forever.

Let Us Pray.

O God, Whose Mercy is infinite and Whose treasures of pity are inexhaustible, graciously look down upon us and increase in us Thy Mercy so that we may never, even in the greatest trials, give way to despair, but may always trustfully conform ourselves to Thy Holy Will, which is Mercy itself. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Mercy, Who with Thee and the Holy Spirit doth show us Mercy forever and ever.

R. Amen.

The Penitential Rite & Forgiveness at Mass

MARK:

I’m having a difficult time understanding the Penitential Rite at Mass.

If we have gone to confession and confessed our sins, why are we supposed to call them to mind at Mass?

Aren’t we forgiven and isn’t that an invitation from the Evil One for us to continue to dwell upon our sins?

Didn’t the Psalmist say that our sins have been removed from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103)?

FATHER JOE:

Catholics do not believe in the notion of “once saved, always saved.” We return to Confession again and again to have sins forgiven. Similarly, the Mass forgives sins, although we are generally asked to refrain from taking Holy Communion if we are in a state of mortal sin. The Penitential Rite does indeed have a type of absolution and we often speak of it as forgiving small slights or venial sins. The movement of the liturgy parallels the outreach of John the Baptist and later Christ and his apostles. The pattern established is a simple but important one: REPENT and BELIEVE.

At the beginning of Mass we want to spiritually prepare ourselves. Unlike Confession, where we acknowledge particular acts of personal sin; at the beginning of Mass, we reflect upon our general sinfulness and continuing need for conversion. Sins may be forgiven, but sometimes the bad habits, selfishness and weakness of the flesh causes us to sin again. In any case, we are not yet the Christians we are supposed to be. The Mass is a powerful instrument in our transformation ever more and more into the likeness of Christ. Further, while the absolution of Confession forgives sins, we still owe God penance to appease for the temporal punishment due to sin. The Mass possesses infinite graces to assist in this regard.

It is the true that the devil would have us deny the Lord’s mercy. We should not doubt the power of the priest’s absolution and the truth that sins are forgiven in Christ. However, we could also sin by presumption, supposing that we no longer needed divine mercy and grace. We are called to be counted among the saints. But the truth be told, most who walk the earth are still sinners who struggle daily with the world, the flesh and the devil.

As for the psalms, remember that they were written long before the coming of Christ and his redemptive work. They could offer a limited foreshadowing or anticipation of what was to come, but that is all.

Psalm 106:4-5: “Remember me, LORD, as you favor your people; come to me with your saving help, That I may see the prosperity of your chosen ones, rejoice in the joy of your people, and glory with your heritage.”

The forgiveness and salvation often beseeched by the Hebrews was more connected to the nation than individuals. If God looked with favor upon you, it was interpreted through prosperity, land and children. Jesus brings a different kind of mercy. He is the Messiah who conquers the devil, sin and death— not the Romans. He tells us to pursue the imperishable treasure of heaven. The New Jerusalem or New Zion is not the political state of Israel, but the kingdom of God— a kingdom that breaks into the world first through the person of Jesus and later through the Church.

C. S. Lewis & Transubstantiation

Cynthia G writes:

Concerning CS Lewis, Father, I read that he was contemplating joining the Catholic Church when he died, and he never wrote anything about having a problem with Mary, although in one of his books, The Great Divorce, I think, he said that he couldn’t “get” the concept of transubstantiation.

Father Joe responds:

The issue about transubstantiation comes up in his Letters to Malcolm, my least favorite of his works. He personally found the Aristotelian distinction between substance and accidents difficult to grasp. I suppose it sounded too cold for him and removed from the perception of the apostles, although he admits it is unclear how they conceptualized the Eucharist. Lewis certainly believes that there is something significant about the Eucharist, far removed from a mere empty symbolism. He thinks of the veil being the thinnest in its regard. I suppose one might say that he preferred a mystical awareness, one probably better befitting his literary approach. Critics remark that it represented a divide with Tolkien. However, it should be noted, that Lewis was an Anglican. While many of his views are very Catholic, it remains that Anglican orders had been declared null-and-void by Catholicism. If there is no valid priest then there is no genuine Eucharist or REAL PRESENCE. The stumbling block might have been this objective reality. The Anglican Eucharist feigned being something that it was not. A man with a sensitive soul about such things might on some level, even if unconscious, register this shortcoming.

It reminds me of a Catholic friend who used to delight in his visits to the area of first going to the Episcopalian Washington Cathedral and afterwards to the Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. When I asked about it his response was both rude and funny. He said he went to the Cathedral to experience the gothic beauty and the REAL ABSENCE. Then he went to the Shrine with its many conflicting styles so as to encounter the REAL PRESENCE.