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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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There is Conservative, Liberal & Then There is Sick

milo

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.

Michael Novak Dies

novak

Michael Novak, Catholic Scholar Who Championed Capitalism, Dies at 83

He was one of those great Catholic thinkers whose intellectual honesty and rationalism made possible both a profound movement toward the truth and an appreciation of God’s place in all things. God bless you, Michael, you will be sorely missed, especially today when there is so much confusion in politics and faith. Rest in Peace.

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.

The Pope & Questions About Poverty, Politics & Popularity

SIMON: Hello, Father!  In the beginning I have to mention that I try to be a devout Catholic every day. I believe the Pope is the Father of the Church appointed by Christ. But sometimes I have those thoughts, which keep eating at me inside. I’m very sorry in advance as I know these are not appropriate thoughts for a Catholic to have. I feel guilty for that. I pray that these thoughts would go away and leave me alone; but they keep coming back (sometimes even during the Mass, which is quite frightening for me).

FATHER JOE: It is okay to ask questions.  As believers, we should focus on matters of faith and seek to grow in the Lord.  As for attending to the Mass and better participation at worship, maybe a better understanding of the elements and prayers of the liturgy would help keep your mind from wandering?

SIMON: I sometimes think: 1)  If we are followers of Christ then as the Church teaches, we should try becoming more like Christ every day. Christ lived modestly, as we know, and even in poverty. How is it that so many people today are in hunger and poverty while Pope is an extremely rich man provided with everything that he needs. He even has (or had) a Harley-Davidson. Many people could feed their children from the money of Vatican administration. People in poverty could live for a year from the money you would get by selling a Harley-Davidson bike.

FATHER JOE: First, the Pope is “personally” very poor and most everything he has belongs to the Church. Pope Francis, in particular, has very simple tastes. Second, the motorcycle was given the Holy Father from the Harley-Davidson Company to celebrate their 110th Anniversary. The Pope sold it at auction for the Caritas Roma Charity. It went for $327,000. In addition, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle jacket signed by the pontiff sold for $77,485. Money from the sale of the two items went to benefit a hostel and soup kitchen at the Termini train station in Rome. We must be careful not to make allegations that would misjudge the Holy Father. We would not want to add our voices to those who wrongly condemn. Third, the Church is a worldwide organization and as such she must have income to sustain buildings, pay salaries and operate. While there are isolated cases of hypocrisy, many critics wrong the Church which does more globally for the oppressed, poor and hurting than any other institution.

SIMON: 2) Christ was open to everyone he met. How come it is almost impossible to meet the Pope? It seems sometimes like his time is only reserved for “more important” people. In front of God and Christ, shouldn’t every life be equally worthy?

FATHER JOE: I am perplexed by this assertion.  This is the Pope that takes great personal risks in going out to people. He is only one man and there are a billion Catholics. He could never knock on every door.  Are you upset that you have not met him?  Do you feel that this somehow makes you unimportant?  I can assure you that the Pope and the Church cares about you and everyone else.  Everyone has value.  All life is incommensurate.  This is the Pope that washed the feet of juvenile delinquents for Holy Thursday. This is the Pope that served food at a shelter. Similarly, other Popes reached out to the crowds, kissed babies and showed that they care. The late Saint John Paul II even got shot because he wanted to be visible to his flock. Do you understand how vulnerable this makes them? As for our Lord, he did go out to the marginalized, the poor and the oppressed. But he was also silent when placed before Herod. His words might mean conversion, mercy and life. His silence passed a deadly judgment upon the tetrarch. We will all be judged.  Because of this, we must all be careful in judging others.  Do we have the mind and heart of Christ?  Are we unselfish?  Can we see past our own sins?  Is our own posture that of utter humility?  I would not want to judge the Holy Father either from ignorance or malice. He is Christ’s Vicar on earth.

SIMON: 3) Why is Pope dealing with politics? I understand his intentions for a better and more peaceful world but isn’t it bit unfair— in front of God’s face— to take sides? Jesus never dealt with politics— did he?

FATHER JOE: What do you think got Christ crucified? The charge is even placed over his head on the Cross, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” The crowd disowned him and shouted, “We have no king but Caesar!” Pilate was not the servant of the Jews but the procurator for the empire of Rome. When Jesus told them to love their enemies and to forgive those who hurt them, he was speaking a morality that was immediately translated into politics. After centuries of persecution, the Church would arise as the religion of the state. The Pope is the sovereign leader or head of the smallest country on earth, the Vatican, which rests in the heart of Rome. He even has his own representatives at the UN. More importantly, he is the visible head of the Catholic Church and it is vital for Christianity to make an impact upon world politics. The Church speaks against persecution, slavery, abortion, injustice, unwarranted aggression, poverty and oppressive economic systems, etc. She defends human rights, including religious liberty. Our faith must touch all the elements of human existence. We are not just Christians when within the walls of our churches. Ours is a jealous God. The testing of the coin is often misunderstood. Christ is asked if it is right to pay the tax to Rome or not. Rome was the occupying power and government. Jesus never answers the question but takes a coin and asks, whose face is upon it? The people answer, “Caesar.” He says, “Then give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar but give to God what belongs to God.” Ask yourself, what belongs to God? The answer is everything. It is wrong to expect the Pope and the Church to stay out of politics. There may be a separation of Church and state (in terms of a national religion), but they should still work for the common good. It would make no sense for the Church to remain passive or silent, especially as our religious liberty is being compromised both here in the U.S. and around the globe. The Church must have a voice and a part to play in the public forum.

SIMON: 4) Pope should be a servant like Christ used to be and actually on that one I am quite happy with current Pope Francis who seems to be very humble and willing to serve. But still, the Pope is being praised like a rock star. Is that really something that Jesus or St. Peter would have wanted?

FATHER JOE: Jesus was pursued by vast crowds and they cried Hosanna when he entered Jerusalem. While some would turn against him, he was the celebrity or rock star of his time. Thousands wanted to see and hear him. Vast throngs of people sought him for healing. Have you never read the Gospels? Jesus called Peter or the ROCK of his Church and gave him the keys to the kingdom.  He is made the chief shepherd.  Tradition gives him the title, “Servant of the Servants of God.”  As this unique shepherd, the honor given the Pope reflects upon the dignity and place of our Lord, Jesus. The Pope is Christ’s instrument of universality and order in the world.

SIMON: As I mentioned earlier, I know that those thoughts are condemned.

FATHER JOE: I would not use the word “condemned.” Ours is a faith seeking understanding.  We seek to root out ignorance and bigotry.  Only you can answer the quandary as to whether there is a hidden animus against the Holy Father and the Church? If there is resentment, from where does it originate?

SIMON: But I can’t seem to get rid of them. Maybe if I could get rational answers for these questions, then perhaps with the help of God those would leave me alone.

FATHER JOE: I cannot say what the cause of your issues might be.  But we should never be a people who resent the authority and popularity of the Pope. Critics of this sort often display a poor sense of self-worth and want to feel more important themselves. Maybe they are rash and quick to judge others? In any case, I hope the response here helps.

SIMON: Thank you, Father! And please pray for me! Sincerely yours, Simon

FATHER JOE: You are welcome.  Peace!

ATHEIST COMMANDMENT 10

“Leave the world a better place than you found it.”

big-bag-of-money-6497-largeThis is a nice platitude but that is about all it is. The truth is that we have very little control over the world. We can try to make a positive difference over our small piece of it, but even here things often do not go our way. Indeed, we might be in conflict with one another as to what makes the world better. Is it technology, more parks, electric cars or gas guzzlers, laws that promote “choice” over human life, legalizing sodomy, what? Those who promote justice for some often want it revoked for others. That was a facet of the religious liberty fight between the Church and the current government administration. Often we experience life as a mess and leave the world in a mess. Despite progress can we say that the world is a better place than in the past? There are still acts of terrorism and genocide. This year it was estimated that the one percent of the world population owns over 50% of the world’s wealth and resources. There is an old saying about this— the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

We live and we die. Many people just scrape along, try to find some happiness and deal with dreams realized and/or broken. Relationships give comfort and belonging but there is also betrayal and abandonment. We are a society of givers and takers and critics debate as to which it might be better to be.

Catholic Charities is the largest social service organization in the world just behind the U.S. government. Believers are often very generous to those in need. I heard one atheist share his deep regrets that they were frequently shamed by believers in how they respond to the needy and human suffering. Why is that? What is it about the so-called “pie-in-the-sky religion” that also focuses on earthly struggles and pain? Why is it that by comparison non-theistic forms of humanism often become oppressive and part of the problem?

ATHEIST COMMANDMENT 9

“There is no one right way to live.”

Eye-3372-largeAnd what is this supposed to mean? Would the atheist tolerate a radical Islam that covered a woman’s face and body, reducing her to property, denying her an education and life outside the home? Would they turn a blind eye to a pre-civil war south where slavery allowed a genteel life for some and one of brutal servitude for others? This so-called commandment is actually nonsense. The truth is that while there are many different states of life and a certain cultural diversity; nevertheless, there are ways of living that countermand human decency and the laws of God. Keeping harems or same-sex partners would also fall within prohibited acts; however, I suspect the atheist critic wants to make room for deviancy. Once more there is a problem with specificity. Who decides what an appropriate lifestyle is and is not? Failure to make any judgment will lend legitimacy to anything and everything.

The Christian would argue that there is a right way to live and that is to live in right relationship with God and man. Sex outside of heterosexual marriage is a sin. A lifestyle that depends upon the oppression of others is a sin. A life that is addicted to booze and drugs is one that faces imminent destruction. Commercialism and materialism will ultimately fail to satisfy the longing of the soul. We live in such a way, in accordance with our nature, so that we can draw out the best that makes us human. We are social creatures which need to interact with each other in a manner that both preserves human freedom and insures the healthy functioning of society. Putting it bluntly, there are right “ways” of living and there are wrong ways, too.

I am somewhat surprised that that a man who promotes science would suggest this dictum. The Mythbusters devote each episode at dispelling myths and trying to ascertain the truth. There is little truth in this so-called new commandment. As with the proper fuel for a car a protocol before a dangerous experiment or explosion— there is a right way and a wrong or dangerous way to proceed.

This new law is really just an excuse for liberality and unhampered toleration. Not that I think he really means it because I suspect there are elements to the Christian life that he would find personally objectionable. In other words, the rule here is biased with unspoken exceptions. He would stretch the definition of marriage and family. Marriage, itself, might be viewed as an unnecessary human construct. Obviously, the atheist critic would not interpret it as a sacrament configured to give grace.

Man is not the final arbiter of right and wrong. The rejection of this truth is at the heart of many contemporary problems. Everything is politicized, even human behavior. If the law says something is right, many presume that it must be okay. The war against drugs goes badly, so advocates argue for their legalization and taxation. When the prostitution situation resists resolution, there is a lobby that suggests making it legal with defined health or safety standards. Assault against children, even in the womb was reckoned as manslaughter and a war crime but now it is regarded as a right of women to choose. Within living memory homosexuality goes from being criminalized to being protected and promoted as a basic civil right. No matter what the issue or behavior, people no longer turn to ministers or philosophers but to lawyers and politicians.

This process promotes a lie… about human nature, about God and his commandments… and about our sphere of influence. The subjective eclipses the objective. The relative dominates over point of permanence. The end result is that we damage ourselves and all our associations. Not only is there a loss of a sense of sin but also of any concrete definition.

Letter to the Editor: Why No Catholic Chaplain?

Letter to the Editor
January 24, 1995

Is the United States Congress moving partly toward the establishment of religion? Another Presbyterian has been appointed Chaplain of the Senate “in the long line of Presbyterians” (New York Times, 1/23/95).

Congress has existed for 218 years, give or take a year or so. There has been a Chaplain in the House and another in the Senate for 205 years (New York Times, Ibid.) In that time there has been only one Catholic as Chaplain and that in the mid-1800’s for nine months.

Catholics are the largest single religious body in the United States. There are more Catholics elected to Congress than members from any other religious body.

What’s wrong with our Faith, pray tell? One of the Houses of Congress was called the House of Representatives. Is this an anomaly? Could one of the Congress persons tell me please why Catholics are not acceptable?

William J. Awalt
Pastor, St. Ann’s Parish

Former Pastor of St. Joseph’s (Senate side)
Former Pastor St. Peter’s (House side of Capitol Hill)