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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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A Single Foster Parent

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I am searching for guidance. I have been praying about becoming a foster parent and possibly an adoptive parent for many years. I feel that God is really calling me to do this. However I am 35 years old and single. Finding a husband just has not happened for me yet. My feeling is that children need to be raised in a home with a man and a woman to guide them. My fear is that if I never get married then I will never have this opportunity. I would still like to keep my heart open for marriage. Would my becoming a single foster parent conflict with Church teaching?

Response

I know a single woman who adopted a child and was a great mother. More than that, I cannot say because I do not know you. The ideal is a father and mother. But sometimes that is not possible. I have a dear friend who lost her husband early in her marriage and had to raise her children on her own. She sacrificed much but did a masterful job. It sounds like you have a lot of love to share.

Drinking & Sexual Sin

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Despite being devout early on, as an adult I became intimate with bad women.  Cherished loved ones died.  I knew a period of shameful poverty.  Priests I trusted disappointed me. I developed an alcohol problem, largely to deal with loneliness and a sense of alienation. Today, I am married but still find myself depressed.  While it is wrong, I often wish I could have affairs with beautiful women— caring only about outer beauty and my own sexual fulfillment. I look at porn on the internet, go to confession, swear off it for a while, and then you can guess what occurs next. It happens again. I am tired of this cycle. I want to feel right about myself and whole again. I know this is terrible. But I am trying to be honest.

Response

You can find help for drinking and for grief management, but your remarks also touch upon the human condition and our fallen nature. The Church well understands concupiscence and the struggle with sin. That is why we have easy recourse to auricular confession. We can come to the sacrament again and again. The penitent must have a contrite heart and a firm purpose of amendment (to earnestly try to avoid sin in the future). Nevertheless, because of habit, loneliness, passion, chemistry, etc. any of us might struggle with certain sins for many years. You should not despair. God knows our hearts.

Question

Given that adultery and masturbation are both judged as mortal sins with the same spiritual consequences, then why not adultery?

Response

The consequences are not the same. In one you damn yourself, in the other you take someone to hell with you.

Catholic Priesthood: Celibate & Male

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Michele Somerville writes the following in her essay, “Thoughts on Religious Vocations: An Open Letter to Pope Francis I” (05/11/2017):

“I celebrate the possibility that we might soon see more and more married priests serving on our altars. While recognizing that some who are called to the priesthood view celibacy a gift, I know that for many priests, celibacy is not a gift. Sexuality when infused with respect, commitment and love, is a gift from God.”

“As a feminist Catholic, however, I feel conflicted. I know that Your Holiness has affirmed Saint John Paul II’s teaching that the door is closed on the discussion of ordaining women, but we are a Church of miracles and I continue to pray for the day girls holding their mothers’ hands at Sunday Mass will no longer have cause to feel somehow unfit to answer the call to ordination. I am no expert on my church but I love to read and I know that almost always the choice to silence opposition in questions of justice is a response driven by fear.”

What are your thoughts about this?

Response

Our Lord works in conjunction with his Church, not in conflict with her. Men called to the priesthood in the West are given the gift of celibacy from Christ. The issue is what they make of it. God would not call men to ministry and then abandon them when grace is most needed. Those who do not have the gift of celibate love are not called to Catholic ministry as priests. The preference for celibacy is not capricious.

The learned authority Father Laurent Touze argues that celibacy has a close link to priesthood which the early Church recognized. When married men were ordained, it was generally expected that they would practice perfect continence. He contends that the Latin or Western rite will never change its practice because there is an integral relationship between the presbyterate, episcopacy and celibacy. When asked about exceptions and the Eastern model, he explains:

“Historically because there has been a manipulation of texts and I believe a bad translation that the Eastern Church, which has separated from Rome and has recognized that what they had declared contrary to tradition, could be accepted.”

The Church came to appreciate that exceptions could be made, for the Eastern churches and for men who come to the priesthood from other traditions (like the Anglicans and maybe the Lutherans) but a married priesthood would never be regarded as normative.

I would concur that sexuality is a gift from God. Further, while the Church deplores pornography and lust; she celebrates in the arts the beauty of human design and urges a holy passion in the various wholesome relationships that make up human existence.

Marriage does indeed bring certain important insights. Nevertheless, celibate love also brings with it a single-hearted love for the Lord and a profound sense of being a sentinel for the People of God. The Church presumes that this way of loving best fits the vocation of priesthood. It is for this reason that I would oppose a move toward optional celibacy. Indeed, the rule should be truly absolute.

Christian feminism must have a healthy regard both for the human condition and for the truth— both from nature and revelation. The usurpation of the priesthood would not be a genuine feminism. It would make no more sense than attempting to make the roles of mothers and fathers interchangeable. Equality here is not an equal sign. Rather, it is a profound complementarity. We have different roles to play. Men become priests to minister as servants of God and his community. We have priests for the sacramental forgiveness of sins and for the unbloody re-presentation of the sacrifice of Calvary. The altar-table is a nuptial banquet table. The priest is an icon that signifies Christ the groom. The assembled Church is his bride. A priestess at the altar would signify a bizarre sacramental lesbianism.

In any case, too much has been made of the Pope’s recent few words about married priests. The Church has long held the possibility of ordaining a few upright but elderly and stable married men if necessity dictated. This is not new. There will not be any wholesale welcome for married men to enter the ranks of the priesthood. Given Pope John Paul II’s infallible declaration, there will be no women called to priesthood either. A vocation or calling must be confirmed by the Church. Not all men are so called and many discover that they are mistaken when they think they hear such a calling. All women who imagine they are called to priesthood are in error or have been deceived. The Church has spoken and the Church has every right to regulate her own sacraments.

Many critics wrongly urge a movement away from objective truth and toward a convenient subjectivity that would give the edge to modernity. We cannot do this. The sources for Christian doctrine would be brutally compromised. The edifice of the Church, her claims, her ministries, etc. would tumble down like a flimsy house of cards. The Pope is not God. He can interpret but he cannot fashion wholly new doctrines or reverse those of the past. Space is permitted for a certain organic growth, but our hermeneutics must always embrace continuity and development, not rupture and demolition. The Episcopalians have women playing priests and along with this concession has relinquished much of the traditional Christian kerygma regarding faith and morals. We want the Church that goes to heaven, not the church of anything goes.

I am often amazed that some of the loudest critics have little in the way of theological learning and yet they claim a special divine enlightenment that has been denied Pope John Paul II and 2,000 years of sacred tradition guided by the Holy Spirit. While critics of Church teaching and practices often feign humility, what we really witness in their demands is a frightful hubris that moves most if not all dissenters. Instead of faith seeking understanding, we discover human fancy making demands upon faith. The voices labeled as “conservative” are demonized and yet they are the ones who are truly orthodox. They realize that we cannot force the hand of Christ. If it is not the will of Christ that women be ordained, then to do so would forfeit both the priesthood and the Eucharist. The more liberal voices do not care. They claim fidelity to the Catholic faith while in truth they have made themselves the enemies of this holy religion. Reformers of the past would make a break and start new denominations. Today they remain under the Catholic tent, working quietly behind the scenes as agents for the enemy. If there should be schism, it will not be because of men like Cardinal Burke. No, it will be forced upon us by those who have betrayed the faith and seek to covertly dismantle the Church. These so-called women who claim to be Catholic priests are a case in point. They are no longer Catholic at all. They are Protestants using the Catholic designation to which they no longer have any right to employ.

Critics of a celibate priesthood and those demanding the ordination of women are frequently dissenters on other matters.  There is also the tendency to name-call and to abandon a reasoned discourse.  If you oppose homosexual or lesbian marriages and sexuality then you are mean-spirited and homophobic. If you oppose abortion then you hate women and would rob them of their rights. If you oppose women’s ordination then you are a bigot who would violate justice. If you favor obligatory celibacy for priests then you oppose healthy romantic love and probably have something to hide.  It is all nonsense.

Regarding the priesthood, it is purely a gift. No one can demand it as a matter on any social justice agenda. It is given to a few celibate men and to no women. We all benefit from the priesthood by participation in the liturgy and the life of the Church. Most women involved with work in the Church have no desire to be priests. They can make a positive difference without ordination. They run our rectories, teach in our schools, form our children in the faith and do so much more. The priesthood is a special call to service but it is baptism that is our call to holiness.

Healing After Abuse & Misfortune

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I really need your advice. My girlfriend has endured hell her entire life. Since birth she has known nothing but pain and torment. Her mother was emotionally and verbally abusive.  Her stepfather, with her mother’s knowledge and consent, repeatedly ambushed and sexually assaulted her for years.  Not long after her biological father won custody and took her from that bad situation, she was raped by a stalker.  As a result of the assault she contracted a life-long case of oral herpes. Her ex-boyfriend verbally threatened and beat her.

She is now twenty-two years old and suffers from a mild schizophrenia and sociopathy, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and instances of self-harm.  Despite all this, she still finds ways to laugh and smile.

She wants to believe but given her difficult past it is no wonder that she has lost her faith.  While it might seem a small matter given what she has gone through, last night was the last straw for her.

Her beloved cat, Samus, for whom she had a very special bond and close connection, was hit by a car and killed. She loved that cat.  She is heart-broken.  She says she feels like she is being punished for a few moments of happiness.  She asked me a question I could not answer.  “Why would God let these things happen to her?”  I do not know what to do. I love her.

She said that she is willing to convert to Catholicism should we decide to marry (she was raised Mormon). How do I show her that God is with her? Is there a way for her to know that God loves her and wants her to be happy?  How do I help her find faith?  What should I do?

Response

Speaking in a general way, we are all born in a broken world where there is both natural and moral evil. The faith tells us that sin brought suffering and death upon us. However, as believers, we believe there is hope in Jesus who comes to heal, to forgive and to restore our unity or friendship with God. The question of pain finds its response in the passion and death of Christ. While we are not protected from this brokenness, we have one in Christ who shares in our woundedness. We need to acknowledge this profound solidarity with Christ who transforms the Cross from a sign of defeat to one of victory. Christ is our sin-offering, the faithful oblation that restores honor to God and atones for the infidelity of our first parents and all the sins of the world. Love conquers death. Christ dies that we might live. He offers us a share in his life.

Referring to your friend in particular, there is a mystery as to why some seem to have more than their share of sorrow and abuse. Terrible things can happen to us and she needs to know that the fault is not hers. No one has the right to abuse and torment others. Even though a few years have passed, I would urge her to notify the authorities about the abuse and her mother’s enabling her step-father to hurt her. Sexual abuse against young people is a crime that cries out for justice. It is also my hope that the stalker who assaulted her was caught and punished as well.

It is common that those who have been wronged earlier in life often gravitate towards men who are also abusive. I do not know why this is. I suspect that victims suffer from a lack of self-worth and tolerate more than they should.

Bad things happen to everyone. It is not just her. But it is past time for her to take control of her life and to demand that others treat her with respect. It may be that God sent you into her life to assist her in finding a new direction and hope. I would urge you to move slowly on the question of marriage and possible conversion. Give her time to heal. She has known way too much pain and intimidation. Now is a time of rebuilding and finding hope. Has she received counseling? This is also something about which you can support her; but do not become a crutch for her. You want to be a friend, a fellow partner, and a beloved. Help her to find herself and her strength. Do nothing to instill dependence. You want to enable her to stand tall— not feeling sorry for herself but appreciating her gifts and ready to live, to fight if need be and to love.

You can invite her to pray and worship with you. But, whatever you do, nurture her freedom and sense of dignity. Peace!

Forgiveness after Fornication

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Does God really forgive fornication? I cannot believe that I went all the way with it.  I have repented and brought it to Confession, but I am still deeply troubled.  I cannot forgive myself.  I have many difficult thoughts about going to hell.

Response

You should not question the efficacy of the sacrament of Penance and the priest’s absolution. If we come to the Lord with contrite hearts then we are disposed to divine mercy. Christ can forgive anything. If almighty God can forgive us our sins, then who are we to doubt his power and not to forgive ourselves?

Wider Participation in the Prayer of the Church

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The Prayer of the Church… not just for priests and religious anymore.

Cardinal Müller Gives Needed Clarification

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This was probably the most important interview that Arroyo ever presented on World Over. CARDINAL MÜLLER says that the “moral” is the “pastoral”… there can be no conflict… no polygamy… no sacramental spouse and another civil law spouse… the Holy Father’s document must be interpreted within the Catholic tradition. Anything else is heresy! He spells out that any accommodation that would permit the restoration of the sacramental life (without an annulment) would be a “brother” to “sister” relationship. He also said that women deacons are impossible. The biblical title was not a reference to Holy Orders. The ongoing commission is being misinterpreted. Nevertheless, he did say that we may find new non-sacramental charges for women.