Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 6, 2002
Celebrate the faithful fathers
Let us not forget the priests who serve God and us
By MSGR. JIM LISANTE
For several months now, the Catholic Church has been buffeted by focus on priestly scandals involving pedophilia, the abuse of minors. It has to be faced head on, and the way to begin is to try to find a way to make it better.
You can’t get better, of course, until you start to admit a problem, and that’s what the Church must do right now: admit it has a problem – first, in harboring priests who would even do something like that to a child, and second, in failing to act to permanently remove a true pedophile from ministry and children. We can’t get better as a Church until we admit that we’ve done wrong.
Having said that, it’s also vital that this crisis be put in perspective. Even one child abused is too many. There is no excuse at all for a priest taking advantage of his privileged position to hurt or exploit minors. But in condemning those bad actions of some priests, we must never forget what the overwhelming majority of priests are about: true good.
Even severe critics of the Church admit that sexual molesters of children might include three or four per cent of all priests. And that’s awful.
But it also means that at least 96 or 97 per cent of priests have never and would never harm a child. In the midst of all this focus on the few, we need to remember the good of the many.
I know of no priest who is not demoralized by the recent stories of scandal. We choose this vocation with hope and joy. We feel called to ennoble the world by service to God’s people. When you love that vocation as I and most of my brothers do, your heart breaks to see it compromised by the actions of some.
Few priests are as passionate about dedication to the priesthood as is Pope John Paul. He has spoken of the scandals in clear and unmistakable language. Among his insights is the acknowledgement that as priests, we are all afflicted by the sins of some of our brothers.
He talked about the “mystery of evil,” wondering what could possibly make otherwise good people do such awful things. He admitted that now there is a “dark cloud of suspicion” over all priests, because some have so badly violated public trust.
Happily, he voiced a deep concern and compassion for the victims of this sinful behaviour.
The pope begged for divine grace in this great crisis. The Holy Father also used this sad occasion as an encouragement not only to priests, but for all to search for holiness. He wisely reminded us that being a person of true holiness isn’t a once-and-for-always attainment. It needs to be worked on each day.
Just as a wedding ceremony doesn’t automatically guarantee that a married person will remain eternally faithful to his or her vows, so no priest is automatically holy because he is ordained. For all, it takes an ongoing recommitment to seeking the good, the spiritual, and the holy.
Finally, John Paul II suggested that from this painful reality, the Church must experience a “re-awakening.” I’d like to continue this discussion in a forthcoming Light One Candle. At that time, I’ll get down to some practical ideas about how we might accomplish that “re-awakening.” How do we take the darkness of these sins and turn it into a candle of shining brightness?
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, Being a Good Neighbour, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017; or e-mail: email@example.com.)
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