September 15, 2011

Among Catholics there seems to be a trend I’ve noticed lately.  We tend to feel the stab when the media or a non-Catholic attacks the priesthood or a priest, but we ourselves feel free to bad mouth and judge our parish priests, as well as those priests we hear about in the news, those accused of sinning and then those that are “doing nothing” about certain circumstances in their parishes or dioceses. 

I recall a book I read detailing the life of Padre Pio (I’m a huge fan of the Padre) and in it the author recounts a story about a time when the good Padre hears of a terrible sin committed by a priest.  For a full week, Padre Pio wrung his hands, weeping and praying to the Mother of God for this man.  He could be heard saying “a priest” and “committed such a sin”. His heart was broken. 

Would that we felt the same way when we hear about the terrible things that priests have done.  Would that we wept and prayed for the men God has ordained to be his representatives on earth, instead of ascending the throne of judgment and ruling on their lives, their actions and the actions of those around them (usually other priests).  No wonder we have a shortage of priests.  Who could take that constant abuse and ridicule?

Now, I am not saying that priests are gods.  I’m not saying they do not make bad choices, like any other human being, and are above the law or should not accept the consequences of their actions.  I’m not saying that no matter what, they are always right and sinless. 

What I am saying is that they deserve our respect – and absolutely require our prayer.  We fail to recognize that the priesthood exists outside of the individual.  By the grace of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, which (however improperly) was conferred on them, they are IN PERSONA CHRISTI…meaning, they are in the person of Jesus Christ.  God himself has delegated this man to be present to us in his stead.  We have as much right to judge a priest, as we do to judge the Lord God himself – and that’s one step I wouldn’t recommend anyone taking.  

We women are prayer warriors - we have the ability to take these issues to heart, pondering them and in doing so the Lord can change our hearts and our homes to orient them towards the good and beautiful.  So when you hear of a priest making a bad decision, it is up to you to head the fasting-and-prayer-team, to petition God to have mercy on his soul and guide him in the true, good and proper way.  And when you hear others, Catholics or no, talking badly about those whom God has ordained, it is up to you to clamp your mouth shut – and perhaps help others to see that you want nothing to do with gossip and judgment.  

2 comments:

  1. We walk a fine line when we begin to criticize a priest. There is a hierarchy in our Church and a protocol that is to be considered. Priests should be left to the bishops to reprimand if a reprimand is called for. Archbishops or fellow bishops should reprimand each other and the Pope as the last resort. So does that mean that the faithful in the pews are just the dregs of the Church and have no say? Of course not, but there is a way to tell a priest about his actions or words if they are considered less than right...or outright sinful.

    I think you are correct that in the current trend we expect the non-catholic to shut up and respect our priests, and let US disrespect our own priests. Consider this when we have the inclination to slam a priest for something that he's done wrong. What if the priest was your father? If my father had done something so sinful as to hurt his family, how would I approach him? Would I? Or would I bring it to my mom's attention and let her handle it? He deserves my respect if for nothing else than having had a part in giving me my life. A priest is our father of sorts. He also brings us life, through our baptism, the confessional and the Eucharist. Both are human, both have a defined role given to them by God sacramentaly through marriage and ordination. I think, in my opinion, the right course would be to let those in charge take care of things(bishops,popes)while we pray for his soul.

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  2. Exactly Bobby!! I like how you said it "if my father had done something wrong, how would I approach him?" What I was really noticing was the fact that EVERYONE was judging our priests - they were pretty much drawn and quartered by Catholics and non-catholics alike. Who stands up for them then? Who do they have? At least with your own father you have that familial bond, but with our priests, they're attacked from all sides. This is a very fine line yes - and not too many people are called to cross it, but we are all called to pray for them.

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