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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 Church & Tactics of Deception

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This questioning comment was recently posted:

Dear Fr. Joe,

I am a political activist and I am trying to see what tactics I can use that would still be considered moral under Catholic teaching. What I seek to accomplish may appear quite odd and perhaps even sinister to many who are not acquainted with the nature of politics. Nonetheless, I simply wish to spread views that support Catholic social teaching and to make enemies of the faith look bad through the manipulation of public opinion and perspective. The most effective way to do this is a duel tactic involving evangelizing those who have a chance to convert and to make the enemy look bad through the usage of sock puppet accounts and Astroturfing.

What I wish to ask is if Online Sock Puppetry, Astroturfing, False Flagging, and overall Psychological Operations and Covert Actions are sinful?

Sock Puppetry is when I make an alternative account online that either spreads my views or is a strawman of my ideological opponents without people knowing it is me using this alternative account. Astroturfing is when I pay people to protest or support me in a way to make it appear my belief system is more popular than it actually is without them knowing they are paid protesters. False flagging is if an operation or action is done in which observers blame someone who didn’t do it because the action implied that it came from them, most often an outright verbal lie is never told as people assume who the perpetrator is. (Imagine someone drawing a swastika on a Synagogue and people assume a Nazi drew it instead of another person attempting to get attention and sympathy for Jews there).

For all of these I know they appear bad and deceptive, but why I am asking this is due to the fact that I never see the Church ever condemn these actions, especially if they are done by many corporations and government intelligence agencies. A person told me that though misleading, these actions are not intrinsically the same as the sin of lying as many of them can be pulled off without necessarily telling someone a falsehood but simply through concealment it leads people to incorrect conclusions in matters not critical to the faith.

With all Due Respect,
Romanicus

FATHER JOE:

Wikipedia definitions:

“Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g., political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participants.”

“A sockpuppet is an online identity used for purposes of deception. The term, a reference to the manipulation of a simple hand puppet made from a sock, originally referred to a false identity assumed by a member of an Internet community who spoke to, or about, themselves while pretending to be another person.”

First of all, any who would be political activists should do so under their own names and not under any form of alias.

Second, we do not need pro-faith vigilantes (with secret identities) distorting or manipulating messages within the public forum.

The first might be criticized as a capitulation to fear. The latter lacks transparency and does a disservice to the truth. The manipulation of persons is from the evil one. The Gospel of Christ and our values must be witnessed in the light of day. Yes, that makes one an easy target for the enemies of the Church. But that cannot be helped. It makes a person into a genuine sign of contradiction within a non-Christian culture. Our Lord knew this and commanded us to take up our crosses and follow him.

The faith is a gift freely given and it must be freely received. We transmit our holy religion and its values both through our witness and in our proclamation.

Trinity, Confession & Marriage

downloadQuestion 273

Hello Father, I have a few questions:

1. On the Blessed Trinity: The Nicene Creed states, “I believe in the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son” and yet the Trinity is one. The Blessed Trinity is the beginning and the end. Why is it that in the Nicene Creed it almost seems like the Holy Spirit comes after the Father and the Son? Am I looking at this incorrectly?

2. On Confession: Is it a requirement for the priest to wear a stole?

3. On Marriage: If a Catholic woman/man weds a non-Catholic in a non-Catholic service, does the Church view that as a valid marriage?

Response

About the Trinity

There are three eternal relations or generations or processions in the Trinity. The Father in knowing himself generates the eternal Word or the Son. Between the Father and the Son and the Son and the Father is an infinite goodwill or love in which they generate the Holy Spirit. There is no before or after. God exists outside time in an eternal present. “God is one divine substance in three divine Persons.” None of this is created; rather, it is simply what God is.

About Confession

The priest is directed to wear a stole but in a necessity the priest can absolve sins without one.

About Marriage

The Catholic party is bound to the Church’s laws of marriage. The Catholic Church has rightful jurisdiction over her seven sacraments, including matrimony. It is best that Catholics marry Catholics. A Catholic marriage must be witnessed before a priest or deacon.  Marriages outside the Church (lacking a dispensation from canonical form) are invalid and illicit.  The only exception is if a marriage takes place in an Orthodox (Eastern) Church.  Such a marriage would be valid but illicit.

Timid About Moral Correction

downloadQuestion 272

I frequently worry about moral correction and if I am supposed to give it or not. I am on a mission trip and we are allowed to wear shorts to Mass.  During the summer camp we have Mass every day.  Sometimes my teammate wears really short shorts. I usually wear longer shorts because I feel modesty compels me to do so. I really do not want to say anything as it might make this girl mad at me.  I have to work with her all summer. Is it a serious sin to remain silent? I guess I will have to say something. Do you think I should?

Response

You could warn her that the moderators of the mission trip might say something. Otherwise, you might leave it to those in charge as they must see what you see. They are the ones with the main responsibility here.

The Use of Missals at Mass

downloadQuestion 271

Are we allowed to use missals at Mass?  Why am I asking? Our previous parish priest would tell people off in church if he found them with a missal at Mass. Usually it was the more senior parish members that used them. Prior to reading the Gospel, he even went so far as to stop and to demand an elderly man to put down his missal; otherwise, he said that the Mass would not continue. I felt bad for the old man. Our priest scolded him in front of everyone in church. Previous priests had never said anything about such a rule.  He was the first. I use a missal sometimes; especially when I find it hard to understand the reader. I have also used one when attending a Mass in another language.  So, is it wrong for us to use the missal?

Response

There is a school of thought that missals should be read prior to Mass and not during. Initially they were books that translated the Latin. However, some have trouble hearing and need the missals to follow the Scriptures. Others can better reflect upon the richness of prayers because of a book with written texts. The priest in question erred grievously in how he treated the elderly man at Mass. Congregants have every right to employ a missal. The priest should apologize to the man and seek his forgiveness. Indeed, if this reflects how he treats the people in the pews then recourse should be made to just authority for his “fraternal correction.”

Subjective of Sin Hard to Measure

downloadQuestion 270

I understand that committing a mortal sin requires full consent, but how much pressure is needed to make your consent not full? Thanks.

Response

What you ask is very subjective and hard to resolve. It is almost like asking someone, how high is up? The issue is intention and freedom. That must be judged in each case.

Impatience or Failure to Trust?

downloadQuestion 269

Can you please expound on the gap between trusting our Savior and impatience? What about asking for reassurance from our Savior? Did Moses show impatience with God in the story of Numbers 20:8?

Response

The sin of Moses and Aaron was not impatience but rather that they feared the people more than the Lord. The “impatience” you ask about is a failure to surrender and to trust in divine providence. God is not our genie that we can command with wishes.

What is the Sin of Envy?

downloadQuestion 268

What is the distinction between envy, which I know to be a sin, and just admiring, acknowledging, or wishing you had something? I go to church alone. When I look around and see couples standing side by side or holding hands during Mass, I am moved to see such beautiful devotion and love. I am happy for them; but it makes me wish that I had someone standing beside me that I could love (and who would love me). There are also wonderful qualities in people that I admire. I often wish I could be more like them and have what they have. There is a cottage I love that is by the ocean where I vacation in the summer. I love that spot and have often fantasized about living there.

I am not sure if these are examples of envy. I do not think it is sinful to admire people’s talents, beauty, gifts, relationships, or possessions.  Am I wrong?  When does admiring become envy or are both sinful? How does one know when he or she has crossed the line into sin?

Response

Envy means feeling injured or getting upset at the good fortune of others. It is not merely wanting what another has but also resenting that they have something we do not. It is a chief source of unhappiness and division in a world obsessed with possessions, privilege and power. It is always a sin because it desires the misfortune of others. Malicious envy corrupts the minds and hearts that by grace should be likened to Christ’s. It is at the root of the second sin committed by mankind, the murder of Abel by his brother Cain.

Did Catholics Change the Commandments & Sabbath?

downloadQuestion 267

I read somewhere that we Catholics changed the Ten Commandments, with regards to keeping the Sabbath Day holy.  It said that we changed it from “keep the Sabbath Day holy” to “keep the Lord’s Day holy.”  I felt insulted by the accusation that we changed the Ten Commandments. But Father, is there even a difference between the two?

Response

The transition can be found in the New Testament where Christians would gather on the Lord’s Day to celebrate their Christian faith (the Mass and the “Agape”). The commandments were modified or re-interpreted in light of Christ and his saving works. The incarnation of our Lord changed the economy of images. Thus, the prohibition against images (which was never absolute) is relaxed. Jesus is the revelation of the Father. God reveals himself with a human face. The early Jewish Christians were expelled from the synagogues where they gathered on the Hebrew Sabbath (Saturday). All they had left then were their gatherings on the Lord’s Day (Sunday morning). Thus, the commandment was now associated with our re-creation in Christ instead of the creation story in Genesis. Most churches, Catholic and Protestant, view this transition as legitimate. Certain cults and the Seventh Day Adventists do not. Read DIES DOMINI by Pope John Paul II. The answer and more details are there.

Marriage & Love after a Mastectomy

downloadQuestion 265

Dear Father, I have an unusual query. Suppose a woman loses both her breasts to cancer through a double mastectomy; as she is no longer able to breastfeed (even though she is still young enough to bear children), is it a sin for her to marry?  Is there anything in Catholic teaching or laws that would prevent her from marrying? Also, she loves her fiancé very much and as act of trust and fidelity, not sexual temptation, she wishes to show him her scars before they marry. She merely wants him to understand her experience, not to entice him sexually. As they are both practicing Catholics, they wish to know if there is anything wrong or sinful in this. What advice do you have?

Response

A mastectomy would not prevent a woman from getting married. A woman wants to be accepted by her spouse and know that he finds her beautiful, even after losses of this sort. Before they get married, she wants to share the truth about herself and her woundedness. It may also help her to take measure of the man. Given that there is no overt sexual enticement, I can understand what she proposes and would not fault her.

Question 266

How would the Lord view the use of breast implants for cancer survivors? Correct me if I am wrong, but I would assert that a merciful God would understand, just as in the case of pressure suits for children who are burns victims.  I do not think that the use of implants would simply count as vanity.  In Australia the costs for this type of surgery is paid by taxpayers.  There is virtually 100% agreement here about this. Addressing myself to one concerned about his beloved’s breast surgery, PLEASE be kind when you see her scars.  Say something like I love you just the way you are.  Tell her that she is still beautiful.  Let her know you are still soulmates.

Response

Yes, there is no prohibition about implants; but neither are they required.

Do Animals Have Souls?

downloadQuestion 264

Do animals have souls? Pope John Paul II said yes in 1990. I think St. Francis of Assisi thought they did or that they go to a different heaven. What perplexes me is that others have told me that animals do not have immortal souls. This topic is not my main area of focus in our faith. However, it does cause illogical bickering between many people, including in my own family. If this question is google-searched one will see all the confusion. Can we get a clear answer?

Response

As to the question of animal souls, I think the most that can be said is that various species share substantial forms. As for the two saints, please give citations as I am unfamiliar with any such statements in favor of animal souls. If you are asking if animals have something akin to a human soul then the Church’s answer is NO. Animals do not have immortal souls. If they did then they would be persons. But we do not regard them as such. Despite sentimentalism about cats and dogs, the fact remains that we EAT animals.

This is an entirely separate question from whether or not certain animals might exist in heaven or upon any new earth.  There is speculation about this but nothing conclusive from the Church.  I would propose that our attention or sight will be upon the Creator more than upon his creatures.