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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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Vatican Leaks & Obedience

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Just thinking out loud… if the Holy See has a so-called secret letter sent to bishops which it wants to keep internal or confidential… is the leaking of the letter to the press a venial or mortal sin. Might it be a form of gossip or calumny? Further, as with the reception of stolen goods, does the publication of such information constitute a moral transgression, especially for believers and/or Catholic organizations? Sometimes I wonder about the extent of obedience and respect that the Church can demand or expect from her “loyal” subjects. Peace!

New Constitution for Russia, Good or Bad

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I suspect that those of us who grew up during the Cold War will be the ones most concerned about any major political changes (good or bad) in Russia.

The Trials of Fr. Fernando Suarez

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The famous Filipino healing priest gave a service here at Holy Family a number of years ago (with archdiocesan permission).

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Here I am with Fr. Fernando Suarez who offered a healing Mass and service here at Holy Family on August 30, 2013. We figure about 650 people came out.

The Coming Militant Atheism

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It may be if you live long enough, you can see things happen that would have been unimaginable years earlier. As a youth, the matter of atheism was a subject that evoked for me immediate sentiments of revulsion. Atheism was debated in a civil fashion by philosophers, but at the grass roots, atheists were lumped together with pornographers and godless Communists. The equation was simple:  no deity equals no positive values.  This was likely too simplistic.  Many scientists espoused evolution but this was not yet a topic hijacked by non-believers. Catholics and others who espoused intelligent design made the appropriate accommodations. As for the Big Bang, far from disproving creation, it seemed to reaffirm the faith and the appreciation that at the beginning, God said, LET THERE BE LIGHT. Fundamentalists may have insisted upon a biblical chronology, but the Catholic Church maintained a Vatican astronomer and regarded the Bible as our guide as to how to go to heaven, not as to how the heavens go.

Starting in 2008, I was surprised at the vigor of the attacks against believers from atheists. The Communist party in the United States sought to exploit this phenomenon.  Most atheists I had known were tolerant of believers and recognized we lived within a culture where faith of some sort was important for many people and where tolerance should be exhibited. The so-called Blasphemy Challenge seemed fueled, not by a scientific and/or philosophical atheism, but largely by anger and as a knee-jerk reaction to scandals, hypocrisy and fundamentalism from the various denominations of Christianity. Since the Scriptures spoke about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as the unpardonable sin; young people were dared to post videos of such blasphemy.

In truth, many of these efforts involved a confused appreciation of religion, since the only unforgivable sin may be a suicide that expresses a cold hatred of God free from emotional distress and mental anguish. Can people hate what they say they do not believe in? Jesus probably referenced those who discounted the workings of the Holy Spirit in his miracles, healings and the forgiveness of sins. They blasphemed the works of God as having a demonic source. The next stage in the assaults was the so-called Eucharist Challenge where religious terrorists stole the consecrated hosts for desecration. They faulted Catholics for getting upset and for attempts to protect the Eucharist. Indeed, emails and comments sent to me would even deny Catholics the right to believe in the Eucharist. We were mocked as stupid and delusional. While we would claim that everyone has a right to their opinion, these new more militant atheists would shut us down and repress religion. But wait a minute, is that really new? Islamic nations and Communist China still restrict religious liberty.  The Chinese totalitarian regime demonstrates how a militaristic atheism would repress churches, temples and mosques.  There are Catholic clergy and other believers in prison for refusing to submit to such manipulation.

Here is a poster from an anti-Catholic campaign of the Communist Party in the United States:

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Here at home the American Communists are supportive of the new atheists and deliberately seeking converts.

  • They encouraged families to see the film, THE GOLDEN COMPASS which mocks the faith and treats God as the great enemy.
  • They attacked Pope Benedict Emeritus as a NAZI and the Church’s stand against homosexuality as a witch-hunt.
  • They ridiculed the Church’s stand for the sanctity of human life as simply making women into egg incubators.
  • They promoted Evolution and Creationism, not as part of a serious discussion, but because they vehemently hate religion.

They would persecute and subjugate the faith if they got the chance. Young atheists should not fall prey to their mindset; rather, they should relate to people of faith with a shared sense of human decency and respect of persons. We can disagree but we should not seek to ignite the emotions behind a rhetoric that fuels violence and gives rise to mob violence. Communism is not only about atheism but about aggression to fulfill an ends. It leads to dictatorships and repression. Basic human rights given by nature are stripped away. Communist or socialist atheism makes itself the arbiter of right and wrong, based upon the needs of the many and the state but would sacrifice the individual and the weak.

Communist or socialist atheism and similar forms of militant atheism as we have experienced here in the West represents a real threat to the salvation of souls and the freedoms we hold dear.

Priests Forbidden to Marry

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Many years ago I had a website called the GEHENNA PAGE (1996-97). There really were no blogs back then and the Catholic presence online was pathetic. However, anti-Catholic sites were popping up everywhere and little men were pontificating like popes against the Church. I posted this response below to one critic’s biblical proof texts which were supposed to hurt the Church.

Contending that it was from the devil to prohibit the good of marriage, he made the following citations:

Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the last times some will turn away from the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and demonic instructions, through the hypocrisy of liars with branded consciences. They forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected when received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the invocation of God in prayer (1 Timothy 14:1-4).

I responded that these words refer to a false asceticism and not to the practices of Catholic Christianity. The early Church and well into the Patristic period, had to deal with cults and movements which made all sorts of exaggerated claims and required various austire practices. Some urged a return to Jewish dietary laws. Others wanted to go to dangerous extremes with fasting and abstinence, perpetually destroying joy in the goods of creation. There were even movements which urged strict celibacy upon all members as the only way to enlightenment and salvation.

The Catholic position is quite different. Our use of fasting and abstinence is not perpetual and it is not a rejection of certain foods as unclean or unworthy of man. Rather, their absence, to coin a cliche, is to make the heart grow fonder. It is precisely because something like meat is good that we might temporarily abstain. Jesus himself fasted and prayed in the desert and alluded to it in the future as something his followers would do. As for marriage, Catholics believe that Christ raised it up to a level of a sacrament, a special sacred sign of his relationship as the bridegroom to his bride, the Church. It is a mysterious means of encountering the Lord himself and receiving grace. Obviously, if such is the Catholic view, we would not be seeking to degrade it by our practice of celibacy. Priests and religious vow celibacy freely, not because marriage is bad, but because it is so good. Celibacy becomes a wonderful gift, freely embraced, as a sacrifice for God and his holy people. Jesus was celibate. St. Paul not only practiced it but encouraged it. The celibate priest becomes a sign of contradiction pointing toward the kingdom of Christ while living in a hedonistic world. It is not a rejection of love, but a selfless abandonment to divine love as manifested in service to God’s people, the Church. It is not a calling for everyone, just as not everyone is called to priesthood or consecrated life. The majority of people seek holiness in marriage and family life.

Noting that Peter was married, he asked how could the purported apostolic line come through Peter when Catholic priests and bishops were celibate? The critic followed with more piece-meal verses:

And when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed, sick with a fever (Matthew 8:14).

Now Simon’s mother-in-law was keeping her bed sick with fever, and they immediately told him about her (Mark 1:30).

But he rose from the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a great fever, and they besought him for her (Luke 4:38).

These references to Peter’s mother-in-law do indicate that Peter was married; although her absence from these texts might lend one to think that she experienced some mishap or was away. Be this as it may, the Catholic Church has never hidden the fact that Peter and other religious leaders of the Church were married. Indeed, the Catholic Church had a married clergy all the way up to the 12th century. The Fourth Lateran Council was quite decisive in mandating compulsory celibacy for any who would be priests of the Roman or Western Rite. The Eastern rites of the Catholic Church, to this very day (in Europe and the Far East especially) have an optional married clergy. These priests are in full union with Rome.

Also, in our own nation many Protestant clergy, Lutheran and Episcopal, have entered into the Roman Catholic priesthood, even though they are married and have families. Those who are raised in the Western rite realize that celibacy is a special gift and a particular charism of our priestly experience. It is a sign of a wondrous single-hearted love. One of the fruits of this sacrifice is the availability that a priest can give to his prayers, study, and service.

Any indication that Peter’s married state would affect apostolic succession is a low blow. Those who followed Peter had a spiritual and not a physical affinity to the great apostle. While the Church has known nepotism, such is the exception and not the rule.

No one forces a young man to become a priest or brother. There is no coercion for a woman to become a nun. They know that vows of poverty, obedience, and celibacy are part of the package. If God gives a person a vocation in the Catholic Church, we believe that he will give each of them the graces and gifts to follow this life.

I have heard it said that a majority of men who leave the priesthood to get married ultimately have failed marriages. I pray this is not the case.  Promises are made to be kept. The problem is not the Church or God; the dilemma is people who are unwilling to surrender their lives fully to Christ. Marriage is also a sacrifice, amidst the joys. However, if we trust God and walk with him, he will guide our path.

Acknowledging that St. Paul was single, he claimed that the apostle thought we should have the freedom to marry. The debate continued and the anti-Catholic critic quoted more poorly applied Scripture:

Do we not have the right to take along a Christian wife, as do the rest of the apostles, and brothers of the Lord, and Kephas? (1 Corinthians 9:5).

The Catholic Church also recognizes the right of people to get married. However, the Church has a right of her own to regulate her ministries. Permanent deacons, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, Catechists, Readers, Acolytes, and Lay Evangelists and Ministers all serve the Church and may be married. Would the anti-Catholic demand compulsory matrimony? I hope not. Those who opt for priesthood in the Roman Rite also freely embrace celibacy. This is no less than what St. Paul did. After listing all the various rights that a follower in Jesus possesses, he acknowledges that he has chosen not to use these rights for himself.

Here are some Scripture citations of my own:

[After listing the right to marry among many other freedoms, St. Paul says] Yet we have not used this right. On the contrary, we endure everything, so as not to place an obstacle to the Gospel of Christ. … I have not used any of these rights, … (1 Corinthians 9:12,15).

[After speaking about marriage] This I say by way of concession, however, not as a command. Indeed, I wish everyone to be as I am, but each has a particular gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. Now to the unmarried and to widows, I say: It is a good thing for them to remain as they are, as I do, … (1 Corinthians 7:6-8).

[Advice to Virgins and Widows] Now in regard to virgins, I have no commandment from the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. So this is what I think best because of the present distress: that it is a good thing for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek a separation. Are you free of a wife? Then do not look for a wife. If you marry, however, you do not sin, nor does an unmarried woman sin if she marries; but such people will experience affliction in their earthly life, and I would like to spare you that. I tell you, brothers, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully. For the world in its present form is passing away (1 Corinthians 7:25-31).

[More on virginity] So then, the one who marries his virgin does well; the one who does not marry her will do better (1 Corinthians 7:38).

[About a widow] She is more blessed, though, in my opinion, if she remains as she is, and I think that I too have the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 7:40).

[Celibacy is a sign of the kingdom!] His disciples said to him, “If the case of a man with his wife is so, it is not expedient to marry.” And he said, “Not all can accept this teaching; but those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born so from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made so by men; and there are eunuchs who have made themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let him accept it who can” (Matthew 19:10-12).).

 

The Tragic Story about Alana

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There is the story in the news about a Colorado family angry with the Catholic Church over counseling and conversion therapy that they claim played a role in a young woman’s suicide. Alana Chen was, according to all accounts, a beautiful lady, a talented musician and an avid Catholic. As a teenager she thought about becoming a nun. When she questioned her sexuality, she sought out priests at the parish that ministered to students at Colorado University. The bishop assigned the Sisters for Life to mentor students in the cause of life and chastity. Against her wishes, the young woman’s mother said that the sisters convinced her daughter to take conversion therapy. Her mother interpreted the religious intervention (counseling and therapy) as an extended “emotional and religious abuse.” Alana became increasingly “depressed, distraught, and suicidal.” At 21 she had formerly attempted suicide and three years later apparently succeeded. I cannot imagine the pain that her mother and family experienced and still must face each day without her. While left unsaid, I have to think that the priests and sisters involved deeply grieve her loss as well. Most priests are haunted men, always praying for and unable to forget those whom they feel they have failed.

St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center in Boulder released the following statement regarding the accusations:

“We are devastated over the death of Alana Chen and cannot begin to imagine the pain and grief of her family and friends. Our prayers will continue to be with them during this incredibly difficult time. For those of us who had an opportunity to know Alana, we will remember her as a young woman who was eager to serve God and others and had a tremendous love of the poor. She will be greatly missed. Striving to be a community who welcomes anyone and everyone as Jesus did, we reject any practices that are manipulative, forced, coercive or pseudo-scientific. We believe that every person is a beloved child of God and should be treated with dignity, mercy, and reverence.”

I hope that she has found the peace that alluded her in this world. Rest in Peace.

Upcoming German Synod

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The Germans are entering into a “synodal way” this January and a number of figures involved suggest that they will make decisions that will impact the global Church. Given the inordinate German manipulation of the Amazonians, it is presumed, somewhat jokingly, that they have already had their synod. Maybe this is part 2? Will the notorious Pachamama make a surprise return engagement? If there is a parallel paganism, I am betting it will be the sensational homecoming of the ancient Germanic fertility goddess, Nerthus.

Matthias Koopp, the spokesman for the German bishops stated, “The binding nature of the findings will be the responsibility of all those officially involved. Depending on the issue, the Apostolic See or the local bishop will be responsible for their implementation.” Nevertheless, there will certainly be discussions and feedback about the authority of bishops as a conference and how this impacts particular dioceses and individual bishops. No doubt there will also be interaction on the relationship between the local or national churches respective of papal authority. The scandals that have recently plagued the Church have compromised the trust and the authority that leadership previously possessed. The German consultation will take two years.

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The somewhat notorious Cardinal Marx has pre-planned the areas for discussion and has appointed the leaders to the four working groups. Cardinal Marx advocates giving the Eucharist and sacramental absolution to couples in irregular (adulterous) unions, intercommunion in mixed marriages between Catholics and Protestants and greater openness to LGBT relationships. He has also planted himself on the side of those who question mandatory celibacy for priests.  He openly dissents from the notion that women cannot be granted holy orders (deacons and maybe even priests). Indeed, he seems to interpret the scandals as fortuitous as they have stripped the bishops of any moral standing to speak upon sexual issues like the use of artificial contraception.

The more cynical voices are already crying “foul” and that the “fix is in.” Just look at the selected categories:

(1) Power, Participation, Separation of Powers,
(2) Sexual Morals,
(3) Priestly Existence, and
(4) Women in Services and Offices of the Church.

How can a church of 23 million Catholics in which only one in ten regularly practice (2,300,000) dare to speak to a universal Church of a billion plus people?

Will the laity invited as consultants singularly represent the faithful remnant or will their number also include the vast number of dissenting voices from those who have have fallen away?

Why should those who are no longer Catholic in belief and practice be given a voice for the future direction of the Church?  Given that we invoke the protective agency of the Holy Spirit, would it not be better to restrict the consultation to believers who constitute the genuine sensus fidelium?

A quarter of German parishes have closed since 1990. We are told that 2,000 priests in 2000 dropped to 13,560 in 2017. But the figure is worse given that 2,712 of these priests are from abroad. The numbers of native German priests has dropped to 10,848 (down almost by half in seventeen years). Instead of worrying about the Church in the rest of the world, the Germans should narrow their focus to themselves as they now constitute a dying church that is in desperate need of life-support.