Pastor’s Keyboard: Often family and friends ask me “So how are you doing these days?” This use to be taken by me to be a simple inquiry into what was happening in my life. Today I think what they are really asking is “how are you holding up at this time when so many scandals are coming out involving priest, bishops, and even your former Archbishop now Laicized?” Often, I find it hard to answer that. Not because I’m not affected but because I have such a mix of very strong emotions and so little time outside of prayer to really dive deeply into such self-evaluation, even though I should. Like most people but especially for us who love our church and are most dedicated to her as the Body of Christ, one can’t help but feel a profound disappointment with so many of her Shepherds past and a number in the present. If the scandal of 2002 was about the actual priest abusers, this round of scandals is more about the bishops (many dead or retired) who care too much about protecting the reputation of the church, the men who did these crimes, or their own reputations. This round of scandals involves the bishops and Popes under which they either happened or were not brought to justice. Me and many of my brother priests along with so many of you can only feel deep disgust, anger, frustration, rage, and sadness. Along with so many other feelings that one feels when feeling let down by those you trusted to do the right thing.
I don’t have time to go into all that I’m feeling at this time. But I can say that the feelings come upon me like many waves upon the shore in a storm, especially as new revelations of the past behavior hit the headlines on a daily basis. So how do I and so many priests striving to live out the vocation God has called us to with integrity and holiness of life, how do we not despair? We look to Him who said, “I make All Things NEW”! Despite the disappointment, the lack of transparency in the past we have hope because we look not to men but to the God who established His church using imperfect men, the apostles. Who said the “The Gates of Hell shall Not overcome” His church despite the failings of those who lead her? I also look at how far we have come since 2002 the year I was ordained. By God’s Grace the church has done an amazing job in the area of child protection and vetting those who work with them clergy and laity alike. Many of the young bishops who have been taking over in diocese all over the country are men who have lived through the great horrors of the past and are doing all they can to make sure that it cannot and will not be tolerated or allowed to take root ever again. This sadly will not mean that there will never again be a single case where it could happen again in any church, school (public or private), or other organization that serves youth. But what it does mean is that they are doing their best to try to make sure if accusations are made and are credible, they are dealt with immediately and never hidden or discouraged.
Yes, these are very difficult times to be a Catholic and especially a priest walking around in a collar knowing that there are people looking at us and wondering if we might be one of the 4 or 5 percent of priest who have done these crimes. How do I deal with this? I stay focused on the Lord and all the good He is still doing in His church through the service of many many Holy priest and laity. The fact is the far majority of priests have not and would never do such a thing as this, the far majority of bishops today are good men working very hard to do all they can to make sure this can’t happen again, and the church is still the Bride if Christ, still beloved of God and now He is cleaning house to purify her and strengthen her. And all of us are part of this process, by our prayers, advocacy, strong involvement in our parish and archdiocese, and by our own personal call to Holiness. This has been a very tough time, and I fear we are not even near the end of it, but that is fine, let’s pray that this work of purification is made complete. Keep your eyes on Jesus, He is still Emmanuel (God with Us) and that makes all the difference in the world. The “night is far spent and the day draws near” let us awake and go forward with and in the Lord to bear witness to the Gospel and to help the church to heal and shine forth with the truth of the Lord that is meant to cast out the darkness of sin and death! And please pray for me and my brother priests and know that I pray for you every day.
Your Brother and Father in Christ,