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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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Reflecting on a Papal Homily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is Conservative, Liberal & Then There is Sick

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Milo’s Right: That’s Why Catholics Go to Church

I must be getting old. Sorry, but who the heck is Milo?

Seems like a lot of hype about one strange and confused young man. Definitely he is someone who needs prayer more than either admiration or recrimination. But like I said, I had never heard of him until the last day or two. My conservatism is more in tune with Bill Buckley Jr., Jack Kemp, Bill Bennett and Ronald Reagan than either this juvenile weirdness or the polarizing populism of Trump. I much prefer gentlemen debating ideas than demigods deriding persons and shouting for attention.

Battling Churchmen, Confusion & a Seismic Shift in the Church

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Cardinal Müller: Communion for the remarried is against God’s law

Cardinal Müller, German bishops clash on interpretation of Amoris Laetitia

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

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Vatican’s top legal aide says divorced-and-remarried may receive Communion

Cardinal Müller and Cardinal Coccopalmerio seem diametrically opposed. Do we need further proof of confusion?

I am increasingly disheartened about this. It makes me want to run to a monastery and turn my back on the whole business. I am sorry but I cannot see how such convenient semantics can possibly serve the truth that comes from Christ’s lips. Is it not a slap in the face to heroic Catholics who embraced the moral life despite great sacrifice and loss? I feel Muller is right but will he win the day? The interpretation of this cardinal directly clashes with Muller and is light years away from Cardinal Burke. He points to paragraph 301 of Amoris Laetitia: “it can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace.” How can this be? Human nature has not changed… Christ has not revoked his words about divorce and adultery. Did we needlessly allow King Henry VIII to walk away with a whole nation on this point? We can say the doctrine is unchanged but the shift in praxis threatens to distort the teaching beyond recognition. How is this not a surrender to modernity?

Are other priests troubled in conscience about this? Have I taught people wrong for 30 years? No, I will not believe it.  I am too young to retire and not yet sick enough to die. We all better keep praying about this!

Finding Hope & Not Despair in the Synod

I am troubled that otherwise orthodox Catholic critics are suggesting that the Synod on the Family in Rome will signal a fall into apostasy.  While there may be a number of wrong-thinking priests and bishops, I have confidence that nothing of the Church’s doctrinal integrity will be sacrificed to pastoral expediency.

While the deposit of faith is both fixed and develops, there can be no revocation of objective truths.  Those couples living in second marriages or irregular unions cannot be uncritically invited to receive Holy Communion.  They may come up without our invitation; but we cannot encourage people to commit either mortal sin or sacrilege against the Eucharist.  No degree of penance would suffice unless there is genuine repentance and a firm amendment of life.  Any projected change in discipline or a so-called pastoral provision cannot justify regularizing church life for recalcitrant adulterers.

Despite the derision by angry critics that many priests are spineless wimps, most men in ministry are dedicated and courageous in their service.  Priests who seem to turn a blind eye to scandalous behavior are often in the dark or uncertain about the marital status of others.  The opposite may also be true.  Their apparent passivity may consist of knowing too many facts about which they are duty bound to keep within professional secrecy and/or the seal of Confession.  A priest may do nothing by word or gesture or intimation based upon what he learns in the sacrament of Penance.  This is the case even when absolution is withheld.  Such a predicament does not prevent others from condemning faithful priests who are already suffering when they must treat adulterers, active homosexuals and child-murderers as if they are Catholics in perfectly good standing.

Of course, it is no wonder that many of the laity might expect churchmen to invite blasphemy against the Eucharist when ministers are generally forbidden by their bishops to refuse the sacrament to others for fear of negative publicity or scandal.  We have witnessed for many years the tension of various pro-life groups with certain U.S. Bishops demanding that they turn away from the altar pro-abortion politicians and others who enable the murder of the unborn.  This conflict has yet to be resolved and continues to alienate those who should be on the same side and working together.  In any case, there is a vast difference between a general passivity and a universal invitation.

The Holy See and the Church are servants of the Word, not its master.  The words of St. Paul about fornicators, homosexuals and adulterers cannot be stripped from Scripture or from the constant tradition of the Church.  Similarly, the notion of the “closed-table” finds it roots in St. Paul and the censures of the early Church:  “And therefore, if anyone eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily, he will be held to account for the Lord’s body and blood. A man must examine himself first, and then eat of that bread and drink of that cup; he is eating and drinking damnation to himself if he eats and drinks unworthily, not recognizing the Lord’s body for what it is” (1 Cor. 11:27-29).  While there are different theologies in the Church, they must speak to the same doctrinal truths.  Disciplines and pastoral practices are not geared to circumvent doctrine but to help express and realize them.

What can we expect from the Synod on the Family in Rome?  Compromise would precipitate acceleration in the breakdown of marriages.  I foresee a reaffirmation of the timeless faith with suggestions to redouble our efforts to welcome and bring healing into the lives of our people.  Let us trust our bishops.  Let us work with our people and not against them.  Let us put aside the silly sensationalism in the news and give the living Church the opportunity to teach and minister as she should.  There will be discussion and debate in Rome.  But we have confidence in the Holy Spirit and the Magisterium.  The process can be messy but so is life.  The truth will prevail.

Synod of the Family: Revisionist Proposals, part 2

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Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna echoes a few points that will no doubt be discussed at the upcoming Synod on the Family.  (No disrespect is intended to this brilliant man who was the secretary that helped assemble the universal catechism.)

A stable gay relationship is “an improvement” over temporary relationships.

This position reminds me of what my old professor taught at CUA many years ago. It was wrongly argued that Fr. Charles Curran supported the promiscuous lifestyle that was lived out by so many homosexuals. In fact, he only argued, (while still wrongly), that the Church should support homosexuals who lived out faithful monogamous relationships. The difficulties I saw were the twofold condemnations from both natural law and divine positive law. There is no Scriptural qualification that same-sex behavior is okay if not promiscuous. Today, no matter what label we might impose upon it, we have no authority to change reality or what actually constitutes marriage. How then is a stable relationship better? Is it better concealed? Does it inhibit the transfer of deadly viruses? Is there a value in how it mimics heterosexual bonds? Spiritually, I am concerned about the forgiveness of sins and saving souls. Given that homosexual acts constitute the matter of mortal sin, is one not damned with either one partner or dozens of partners? Jumping from one ledge to another on a mountainside might make an appropriate analogy. One might miss the ledge by five feet or one inch, but the resulting fall is the same. Where is the improvement?

Sharing a life, “they share their joys and sufferings, they help one another. They took an important step for their own good and the good of others, even though it certainly is an “irregular” situation in the Church’s eyes.

The irregularity is not simply in the eyes of the Church. This makes the situation sound like it can be corrected with the quick change of an ecclesial rule or guideline. The problem is too deep for such a shallow response.

A shared life might precipitate a degree of needed solidarity and intimacy, but is that enough? I remember a college reporting to alumni that they had a very loving and supportive community. However, this did not dispel fears that the school had lost its Catholic identity. The ancient pagans had instances of wonderful comradery and unity; however, this affiliation was not Christian. Are we not facing a similar situation here?

I have known homosexuals who struggled with their sexuality and were discrete about their disorientation. They regularly went to Confession and those with partners tried earnestly to make the walk of faith with their special friend. Sometimes they failed. But they respected the teachings of the Church and loved the Lord. I knew men and women who took care of their beloved friend even as he or she was dying from diseases like AIDs or cancer. They lamented militants spitting the host into the face of churchmen like the late Cardinal O’Connor in New York. They retreated with disgust from vulgar exhibitions in rallies and parades. They were faithful to love while knowing that there was something broken in their attractions and genital life. Many joined Fr. John Harvey’s COURAGE and sought to share love in celibate service to others and in prayer to God. I lament that we seem to pamper those who demand approbation while neglecting these heroic men and women.

While a negative verdict from the Church about homosexual acts remains, “the Church should not look in the bedroom first, but in the dining room! It must accompany people.”

The negative verdict arises from the sources of revelation. How should one surmount a consistent teaching from both the Old and New Testaments that later finds confirmation in two thousand years of Christian tradition? Until recently, homosexual acts were criminalized in many places. This assertion about accompanying people sounds nice, but are we all walking in the same direction? I would not want to go to hell with other sinners just to appease the niceties of toleration and good manners.  Would the good Cardinal make the same argument if we were discussing polygamy and mistresses? What about those who promote promiscuity, prostitution and orgies? What about the practitioners of bestiality, pedophilia and pederasty? No, I suspect then he would want to put his foot down. I am left wondering.  Could it be that some churchmen just do not believe that homosexuality is all that serious a sin? Our Lord’s house or mansion has many rooms; what we do matters in all the rooms of his house!  No one should be excused from the need for contrition and repentance. Do we really want to throw away this vital component to heralding the Gospel and transformation in Christ?

Pastoral accompaniment “cannot transform an irregular situation into a regular one, but there do exist paths for healing, for learning.”

This leaves me befuddled. He says the irregular situation remains but there are “paths for healing, for learning.” What does this mean? How will making them comfortable with error bring them to the truth?  Or is he addressing the Church?  Is the Church supposed to learn that we were mistaken about a basic issue of human sexuality? Is it wrong to expect the homosexual or lesbian to embrace a non-genital way of loving? Are not our ears being bombarded by the same deviant sex advocates who are demanding acceptance and approval, not just toleration? When asked about the issue, Pope Francis responded, “Who am I to judge?” What he meant was that only God can judge the individual soul. However, as the Vicar of Christ, he can affirm (as he did recently) what is viewed as right and wrong by our Lord and his Church. As sinners, we all need to grow in the truth and to experience genuine forgiveness and healing.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx

Time passes and the old defenders of the faith and the dissenters are passing from the world. Today there are new faces about whom we must become familiar. One of these is Cardinal Reinhard Marx. He is now on everyone’s radar. What are we to think?

Why do I feel that high-ranking dissenters are seeking to hijack the Church? The mission of the Church is that of Christ: to preach the truth and to bring people to repentance and faith. We should neither excuse sin nor allow people to be deceived as to their standing before almighty God. We are called to be a sign of contradiction to the world, not to pamper it. This twisted business about “the family” makes me angry. There I have said it.

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German Cardinal Criticizes Roman Catholic Church for Negative Tone Toward LGBT People

German Catholic Church Has A Lot Of Money – As In The Diocese of Cologne Might Be Richer Than The Vatican

Cardinal Marx on Francis, the Synod, Women in the Church and Gay Relationships

Divided bishops water down welcome to gays and the divorced

Faith & Values in the News

Auschwitz guard offers Germans something rare: A Nazi who admits what he did

Interesting story… but where are the applications for the future? We need to really learn from the past. Human dignity and the sanctity of life must be cherished and protected… for the Jews facing the enemies of Israel, for the Palestinians wanting a homeland and justice, for the Christians suffering martyrdom under ISIS, for the forgotten elderly under the specter of euthanasia and for the unborn children in the womb threatened with abortion and infanticide. Not all holocausts happened 70 years ago. May we know the truth and possess contrite hearts.

400 Syrian Churches Destroyed, Christianity Nearing ‘Extinction’ in Mideast — Russian Orthodox Patriarch

Christians around the world should not go about their business as usual while this tragedy is happening. We must wake up to the global assault against Christians.

New York State Assembly Passes Bill Which Would Allow 3rd Trimester Babies to Be Killed With Shot of Poison to Heart

Legalized abortion for all nine months of pregnancy? Are all “pro-choice” advocates okay with this? How can they be? We have clearly gone from the abortion debate to that of infanticide.

Robert Schuller, Crystal Cathedral megachurch founder, dies

Rev. Schuller could have made a lot more money but he decided instead to sell the Crystal Cathedral to the Catholic Church and not to a school or property developer. Facing bankruptcy, he said he wanted to insure that it would always be a place of faith and worship. He even referred to Catholicism as “the Mother Church” and expressed confidence in her future. He was paid a pension by the local diocese, that went to his late wife (died in 2014) and to him. That commitment now comes to an end, but I am sure many Catholics will continue to pray for this Dutch Reformed minister who has made possible a renovated Christ Cathedral. I often watched him on TV and loved his messages of hope. “Tough times never last, tough people do!” I met him back in the 1990’s and he signed a book for me. Rest in Peace.

Nearly 500 priests in Britain urge synod to stand firm on Communion for the remarried

It should be unanimous… where is the U.S. letter from American priests?

Killing babies no different from abortion, experts say

Professor Singer has argued similar things for years. Taking sentiment out of the picture: if you would make a case for abortion than you logically must permit infanticide as well. It is morally heinous because the pro-abortion position is built upon a lie… that the child in the womb has no right to life and is not morally a human person. That is why Planned Parenthood opposes sonogram machines and employs a deceptive nomenclature when addressing the issue. It is harder to kill a child, but not impossible, when the “truth” is visibly seen or apparent.

Amid nuke talks, Ayatollah says ‘death to America’

And still the White House insists that Iran can be trusted to keep potential nuclear agreements? Their chief religious leader applauds the chants of “Death to America!” He must sign-off on any agreements to ease sanctions. I find this worrisome. As for their assistance against ISIS, I suspect it is just one militant religious regime competing with another one for domination of the region. He has also said, “It is a ‘jurisprudential justification’ to kill all the Jews and annihilate Israel, and in that, the Islamic government of Iran must take the helm.” Is it any wonder that Israel is worried? He also wants to export his religious idiology: ““What we understand from all Quranic teachings is that Islam commands Muslims to create a perfect and complete Islamic government. Islam wants the complete implementation of Islam.” This reminds me of the goals of the defunct Soviet Communism.

New Hampshire Priest Continues the Long Road to Clear His Name

The late Cardinal-priest Dulles was very concerned about this case, as were many of us, and the priest has always maintained his innocence. His diocese says that the appeals are civil matters and do not concern them. This attitude sickens me. Yes, we want to protect our children; but we also want a fair and just treatment for priests who may be falsely charged. Where is the father-son relationship of the bishop to his priest? No one has contacted him for years!

Jeb Bush, 20 Years After Conversion, Is Guided by His Catholic Faith

If Jeb Bush were to win he would be the second Catholic to become President of the U.S. He is a conservative, but his views on immigration might be more appealing to Democrats than Republicans. It should be an interesting race. I wonder if he plans for any interviews or ads in Spanish? Cardinal Dolan has spoken favorably of him. He is also a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus.