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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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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?

The Spread of ISIS Terror into Asia

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ISIS now has a foothold in the Philippines. Pray for our Catholic brothers and sisters.

Mortal Sin & Masturbation

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I found this on the internet:  “Mortal sin always requires three essential elements: grave matter, full knowledge, and full consent of the world.”

Response

No, not exactly. You made an error in your research or at least made a typo at the end of the list. The three elements for mortal sin are as follows: (1) grave matter (the act itself must be seriously wrong); (2) full or sufficient knowledge (the person must be aware of what he or she is doing and the severity of the act); and (3) deliberate or willful consent (the person must freely will the act or plan to do it).

Beware that there is much on the internet than cannot be trusted.

Question

I am still not clear about the sin of masturbation.  Is it always considered a mortal sin?

Response

When we speak of certain things as mortal sins, we are usually addressing the first part of the definition of a mortal sin, grave matter. Most sexual sins, given the integrity of the human body, constitute grave matter or the “matter” for mortal sin. However, ignorance or a lack of consent can render such a sin as venial or as no sin at all. For instance, you cannot sin while you are sleeping and dreaming. There is a lack of full consent. Your faculties are hampered. Some people are delusional or have a very low intellectual capacity. If they do not know what they are doing then they cannot sin. I have known adults with the minds of infants. They might touch themselves for pleasure but there is no sin because they do not really understand what they are doing. The defect can also come in the consent or will. Coercion or force militates against mortal sin. Juveniles often go through a growth period of hormonal fluctuation. The passions and chemistry become difficult to control. Such teens, who try to be good but fail, are probably committing venial sin even though masturbation is grievous in matter. Other factors like depression, addiction, loneliness, stunted maturation, the erotic saturation of society, etc. can also make modesty and sexual control difficult. One has to discern in conscience if one has committed a mortal or venial sin in masturbation. If one knows that it is seriously wrong, freely does it and does not care what the Church says about it then the person has probably committed mortal sin. The sacraments help us and give actual grace in overcoming sin, especial habitual sin.

President Trump Likened to a Doomed Caesar?

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What were they thinking? Would critics really take delight in seeing the President murdered? On the left and right there is continuing evidence of a sickness of the American spirit and of individual souls. Politics has replaced statesmanship and governance. A patriotic love of country and our highest ideals have been supplanted on one side by a callous nationalism and on the other by inflammatory class, gender, orientation and ethnic warfare. How did we go from “one nation, under God” to the attitude that “I am the real American and you are the enemy”?

Wider Participation in the Prayer of the Church

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

Responding as Catholics to the Trans-gendered

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I do not know what to do or how to think about my sister coming out as trans-gendered. I never suspected her of identifying as a male, given that she was never much of a tomboy.  She always preferred art to sports. My sister will be undergoing hormone treatment.  What will she face now as a Catholic?  Will she still be able to participate in the sacraments?

Since gender within the Catholic Church is considered a gift, I would be most interested in your response. I am very confused, as well as concerned, about any discrimination my sister might face in the future.

Response

First, it is wrong to say as many do that God made a mistake. We live in a broken world wounded by sin. The Church teaches that disharmony, suffering and death entered the world because of the fall. Second, identity should not be utterly defined by disorientation or disabilities. You are much more than your sexual orientation and your physical abilities. Third, it is wrong to equate a disorientation or disability with normalcy or as a value that must be affirmed with the whole person. This third element is often debated because many people with gender confusion and/or same-sex attraction demand affirmation and do not view their status as either a defect or mental illness.

I need to insert that orientation cannot be determined simply by occupations or activities. There are men and women who like art, cooking, sports, music, dancing, camping, science, teaching, etc. I suspect that many activities that we associate with one gender over another are simply the result of social stereotyping. Even playing with dolls finds correlation in both boys and girls, although as a boy my plastic army men were constantly burying my sister’s girlish dolls as the casualties of pretend wars. She would dig them up— zombies!

In all seriousness, what you mention is a dilemma that has only arisen as an issue in recent days. Gender confusion in the past was ether regarded as a perversion or as the subject for comedy. I am unsure as to whether the increased numbers of such disorientations are entirely due to genetic predisposition or whether there are factors in modern culture and society that have precipitated such awareness and the accompanying public revelation.

Frankly, priests and seminarians were never prepared to deal with gender dysphoria. I cannot recall the topic ever coming up in discussions of moral theology. We figured that it was very rare or else just a remote category of the homosexual question. The Church does not accept the transition so a trans-gendered person could worship and pray as a Catholic, but the sacraments become more problematical. I suppose, after the fact, a person might enter the Church and receive Holy Communion and absolution for other sins— however, such a person could not marry in the Church, would have to live a celibate life, and would not be a candidate for the religious life. Despite hormonal treatment and surgery, the Church would regard them as their birth sex. The prohibitions against same-sex intimacy would apply.

The Church values persons but not disorientations. We have a commitment to what we believe is the truth. Just as the Church opposes amputations for those who suffer a disassociation with the body and want legs and arms removed to fit their image of themselves as handicapped; the Church would similarly oppose those who want hormonal treatment and possibly surgery to more closely identify their external physical gender with how they psychologically view themselves.

Answering your question is difficult. We must sometimes make the best of situations that are not ideal. We do not want to needlessly hurt people or make trans-gendered persons feel as if they have been rejected by the Church and orphaned by God. We want them to find Christ in us as well as to witness the Lord in their own lives. The story of Jesus includes sadness, suffering, companionship and joy. Even if disagreement should remain, we should nevertheless listen to the stories of trans-gendered persons. They relate serious struggles with an alternation or lack of correspondence with their natural body gender to their interior sense of sexual identity. Their testimonies are often so powerful that you want to weep with them. When they have pursued hormonal treatment and/or surgery, we might sometimes be too quick to condemn without fully hearing them out. Further, I am told that once synthetic hormones are taken, there is no turning back. Surgical removal of healthy genitalia would traditionally be condemned as mutilation of the body. But I suspect it would be interpreted as final and irreversible. Withholding immediate judgment, believers among trans-gendered persons often speak of this process as a journey of spiritual awakening. They feel that they are embracing a more authentic life for themselves. We might feel just as strongly that it is wrong. We might further believe that they are seeking to flee some measure of the Cross. However, we must grant a certain degree of appreciation or empathy as to how they see themselves within this transition if we desire to make room for them in the Church. Otherwise, we will be showing them to the door. Christ was all about opening doors to conversion, healing and acceptance. He reached out to sinners, the poor, the marginalized, etc. The measure here is love. We might not agree. We might not understand what they are feeling. We might feel hurt and grieving ourselves over the person who was and the person who is emerging. All the same, we have to love them as persons with infinite value— the measure assigned to them by divine love. Life is messy. This is an element to Pope Francis and his notion of accompaniment. There are some matters that cannot be immediately fixed. There are some messes that must even wait for the life-to-come in order to be cleaned up.