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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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Propriety with Co-workers & the Danger of Adultery

QUESTION:

I had a question regarding female co-workers. I have a friend that will be unfortunately soon going through a divorce. She is a nice woman and attractive. We tend to talk a few times per week and the content is usually about work, her kids, etc. She does share some of the frustrations with her spouse who is an alcoholic and abusive. I try to be supportive but I try not to offer any more advice or complements. I am afraid she may be a little attached as she initiates the conversation.

Another friend at work recently confided to me that she was unhappy in her marriage. I will usually exchange pleasantries for a few minutes with her but not real lengthy conversations. Since I like to stay in shape, on the spur of the moment, I tried to get her attention later felt badly about it. My confessor made a comment that adultery is not just sexual contact but he did not elaborate. I confess I find both women attractive but would never do anything to enter into a relationship with them as they are not free to marry. Would this be in the area of adultery since an attachment that might develop with one of the women? I have struggled off and on with scruples over the years. Thank you.

RESPONSE:

You cannot entirely help how you might feel for others.  The chemistry of friendships is a mystery over which we do not have total control.  The workplace can be particularly problematical because we do not have jurisdiction over such associations and the time spent together.  Workplace adultery is a real and pressing problem in American society and should not be taken lightly.  Part of the problem is that contemporary adults have separated sexual intimacy from marriage prior to contractual and/or sacramental unions.  Fornication often leads to adultery.  Men and women, particularly if they are attracted to each other, struggle with how to relate to one another as friends and co-workers.  An eroticized society is not a healthy environment for men and women who want to pursue chase and platonic friendships.  Mature men and women know this and they must be careful of how they act and the signs they give.  Further, those in bad marriages might seek intimacy and compassion outside their unions.  A good friend might want to be there so as to help but should not get in the way or inhibit the healing of a couple’s relationship.  This means knowing when to back away, when to remain silent and when not to take sides.  Beyond an act of infidelity, one can commit adultery in thought and desire.  You cannot totally master your heart, but true love acknowledges that a beloved belongs to another.  You do not want to become part of the problem.  Avoid flirtation and wrongful fantasies.  Treat all persons with respect and preserve propriety.

The Vice of Vainglory

QUESTIONS:

Hi, I’m not a Christian but I have interest in the vice of vainglory. I would like to know if vainglory is something seen as bad and what type of persona would be defined as vainglory? What would it take to be seen as someone who represents vainglory? In other words, I’d like to know the persona of someone with strong vainglory. What type of persona are they? Are they bad and what is vainglory? I’ve researched it a lot and all the explanations are quite complex and I can only understand them to a small extent.

RESPONSE:

The term “vainglory” is just an old term for excessive vanity.  It is an obsessive concern about how others perceive you.  It signifies a person who prizes himself too much and others too little.  Pride can be good and bad.  One should have a pride that represents the truth about oneself and achievements.  Vainglory would signify a swelling of pride that damages the truth where one overestimates one’s worth.  The result is usually a snobbish attitude toward others.  Just as vainglory compels one to exaggerate personal value and achievements; it also forces one to belittle the meaning and contribution of others.  The smaller they become, the bigger we can imagine ourselves.  The focus is very narcissistic.  The world revolves around you.  Instead of giving praise to others or even glory to God, such a person imagines that he is the source of all the benefits he enjoys.  Such boasting always leads to contention and opposition to others.  Such a person wants things done his way and is dismissive of the contributions and even the support of others.  As with so many vices, it readily leads to disobedience.   

Keeping a List of Sins

QUESTION:

Hi Father, is it a sin to not obey your confessor when he tells you to do something? For example, my priest told me not to write down my sins because I am scrupulous. Is it a mortal sin if I disobey this?

RESPONSE:

I would not question such a directive from a confessor.  Indeed, asking if not complying is a mortal sin is likely a symptom of scrupulosity.  Writing sins can be perilous, not only because we can quickly compound unworthiness and sin but because there is a danger of exposure to others.  You should listen to your confessor.  Refusal to do so may be a sign that you really do not want to be forgiven.  Do you distrust the power of absolution given the priest?  Do you believe that you are unforgivable?  Trust the grace and power of God.   

Can Catholics Watch Programs about Ghosts?

QUESTION:

Is it wrong for Catholics to watch shows such as Ghost Adventures and A Haunting? They have episodes of recorded demonic events and I wonder if it’s wrong for me to be viewing? Seeing it makes me realize just how important my faith is and that there truly is evil prowling the world.

RESPONSE:

As with everything, we should be mindful that what we watch does not damage our faith and values.  As a lover of science fiction and fairy tales, and as a believer, I sometimes suspend belief for entertainment.  We do this regularly with children’s fantasies like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.  However, we should be mindful that not everything in these ghost hunting programs would fit into our belief system.  Indeed the occult, which can lead to demonic possession, is seriously dangerous.  We should not seek communications from the dead.  Many of the television programs make exaggerations about light and shadow, as well as interpreting creaking old houses and noisy furnaces as instances of the paranormal.  Note that the Syfy Network that ran the Ghost Hunters program also showed professional wrestling.  Both were likely more fiction than truth.  But people found them fun to watch all the same. 

Is Killing a Child Inside the Womb the Same as Outside?

QUESTION:

Dear Fr. Joe, does the official Catholic doctrine on abortion explicitly state or imply that the killing of a child inside the womb is the same as killing a child outside the womb? (My personal belief is that it is the same as I can see no other logical conclusion). I posed this question to the USCCB but they have not answered. In two letters to the Pope I stated that allowing Catholic politicians impunity when they promote abortion is being complicit. Well, he did not send a reply to that one.

RESPONSE:

I suspect that neither the USCCB nor the Holy Father regularly respond to inquiries from individuals.  Given Saint Pope John Paul II’s words on the Gospel of Life and that of the universal catechism, it is safe to say that there is equivalence between the destruction of a child inside or outside the womb.  The catechism states: [2270] “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.”

Mass for Sunday of the 25th Week of the Year

Receiving Holy Communion at Home

QUESTION:

Hello Father, my husband is a Eucharistic Minister and last Sunday he brought me home a consecrated host. I did not receive it immediately because I did not want to do so before “attending” an online Mass. Days have passed and now it has been 6 days with the host in pix on our home altar. What should I do at this point?  Is it okay to receive? I feel terrible. Thank you.

RESPONSE:

Your husband meant well but if I were his priest I would remove him from service as an Extraordinary Minister until such time that he was properly instructed about his service.  The host must be received by the communicant immediately.  It cannot be reserved in a private home.  He should have known this and he is morally culpable.  I cannot say what his pastor will say but it is a serious matter and should probably be brought up.  Tell your husband to give you the sacrament using the proper ritual.  If you will not take the host then it should be returned immediately to the pastor and your church.  Only priests and deacons are technically ministers of the “Eucharist.”  An Extraordinary Minister functions as an extension of the hands of his pastor.  We always tell Extraordinary Ministers that there can be no side trips or general conversations until their charge is dispensed.  They are to keep the sacrament with them until Holy Communion is given.  It cannot be left in the car or in someone’s home.  It must be consumed or returned to the parish.  It is a serious matter and pastors are ultimately accountable.  Any misconduct with the sacrament is regarded as an ecclesial crime.  There is no way to make light of this.   

Questions about God & Providence

QUESTIONS:

Hello Father, I want to ask some questions . . . .

1.  How faithful is God?

2.  Can God be compromised or manipulated by any human being?

3.  Will God keep to his promises?

4.  Can God be made to change his mind when he has finally made a decision?

RESPONSE:

1.  How faithful is God?

Abraham’s covenant with God hinges upon human obedience.  If he and his tribe honor and obey him then they will be his people and he will be their God.  The history of salvation demonstrates that God again and again goes beyond these terms and is faithful even when his people desert him.  It is then that God calls them back to fidelity.  Christ is faithful to his Father unto the Cross.  Such is the measure in love for the fidelity of the Lord.  His faithfulness is everlasting.   

2.  Can God be compromised or manipulated by any human being?

No, God is above human manipulation.  God knows what we want and need before we even ask him.  However, such is the will of God and our disposition as creatures that God would have us call upon him.  Divine providence is a mystery that makes a straight path from our crooked lines.  Sin brings suffering and death into our world.  God is good and in Christ we find redemption. 

3.  Will God keep to his promises?

Yes, indeed, the primary promise has already been kept.  A messiah has come to bring healing and forgiveness to a broken world.  Jesus Christ is the divine promise fulfilled.

4.  Can God be made to change his mind when he has finally made a decision?

We may speak of God relenting upon punishment but this is how we experience such as creatures locked in time.  God stands outside time in eternity or in an eternal now.  The will of God is incontrovertible.  Philosophers speak of the creator-God as the Unmoved Mover.  God knows all things, seeing and sustaining all creation in time and into eternity.    

Are the Teachings of the Catholic Faith Secure?

QUESTION & COMMENT:

Sorry Father Joe, this does not really answer the situation on what the Pope is quoted as saying. The catechism has been changed before and can be again. What assurance is there that our Catholic Faith is secure like it once was?  Thank you for your answer, Marcel.

RESPONSE:

The universal catechism came out under Pope John Paul II.  The only changes or tweaks have been in regard to capital punishment.  There are a number of factors at work.  First, notice that this is not a creedal matter but one of social teaching.  Certain social teachings are fluid because the Church must respond to changing societal and cultural traditions.  For instance, kings and queens have largely disappeared.  We have seen the emergence of democracies, communist dictatorships and Islamic theocracies.  At least in the more developed world, it is argued that correctional procedures no longer require the death sentence.  The American bishops also worry that justice may not be fairly administered, given that money and ethnicity have an undue influence.  I suspect the late Pope John Paul frowned on the death penalty because it fostered a culture of death where the innocent and the unborn were also more likely to suffer.  He also endured the persecution of Communism in Poland where even the political dissenter’s life was endangered by authorities.  The movement we have seen is this:  that the state has the right to take human life in certain circumstances to the less nuanced view of Pope Francis that capital punishment is universally wrong.  Second, I would prefer words like “evolution” or “maturation” or “development” over change. This movement is not capricious. As with the question of slavery, tolerated in biblical times and in much of Church history, the popes came to discern that modern slavery reflected deep-seated prejudices where human life and dignity were maligned.  The seed for this evolution was in the New Testament appreciation that in Christ there is neither free nor slave, male nor female, Jew nor Gentile— we are created with unalienable natural rights and our humanity is raised even higher by grace.  No man or woman can be reduced to property just as no unborn child should be reduced to a disposable commodity.  Pope Francis is highlighting the perpetual truth that all life belongs to God.  A people that allow the murder of their innocent children have no moral ground to take the lives of those deemed guilty of crimes.  While the latter is currently the cause of much discussion; the abolition of slavery finds no debate and is widely acknowledged as a case where we perceive the organic development of dogma.  Revelation is a done deal.  The faith grows with reflection upon the sources of revelation— our understanding intensifies.  We may also apply old and trusted principles to new questions, like the morality of having or using nuclear weapons or cloning or IVF or whatever. 

The focus of your previous question was quite narrow and targeted the last things.  You wrote:  “Sorry Fr. Joe, I sent you unfinished comment on His Holiness Pope Francis. I have Parkinsons and it makes it difficult to type. I am concerned with recent reports that the Pope stated that there is no heaven, hell, or purgatory.  Even Limbo after 800 years does not exist! Is there any truth to these reports or are they misquotes and misunderstandings. As a devout Catholic I am deeply concerned that the gates of hell may prevail against Holy Mother Church. Our Lady of Fatima is proof that there is a heaven and a hell and this been an approved apparition for over 100 years. Thank you!”

My response remains the same:  “There has been no change to the catechism so there must be a misunderstanding.”  As it turns out, such was the case.  Indeed, the Pope speaks a great deal about the devil and hell.  As for limbo, it is only omitted from the universal catechism because it was taught as a credible theological opinion from the scholastic period.  We are hopeful about the little children but I cannot say for sure whether there is a limbo of the innocents or not.  Pope Francis has been quite stern to priests who would deny the baptism of babies, even when the parents have been unfaithful and are unmarried.  This seems reflective of the older tradition that we should not delay baptism so as to insure the place of our children in the kingdom.

Mass for Sunday of the 24th Week of the Year