“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of the American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel and the anti-Gospel. This confrontation lies within the plans of divine providence. It is a trial which the whole Church… must take up.” Karol Cardinal Wotyla (Sept. 1976)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Should We Ever Publicly Criticize Priests?

Over the past few months, many Catholics in the pro-life movement have felt abandoned by some of our clerical leaders as the issues of Barack Obama’s Notre Dame speech and Ted Kennedy’s funeral forced a spotlight on what should it mean to be a true, pro-life Catholic.

I have been very disappointed by more than a few prelates over the years in regard to the pro-life cause in as I firmly believed these prelates were giving mix signals to both the pro-life, pro-abortion and Catholic communities by their words and actions.

It is very hard for me not to be outwardly critical of these events because of the deep injustice I feel. In addition, it is very hard for me not to say anything because I am an Irishman. Only one of these ailments is curable.

The quote that remains with me, an alters my tongue to a large extent, is what God said to St. Catherine of Siena, as quoted in her Dialogue, in regard to criticizing priest, even those worthy of the criticism:

"…[It] is my intention that they be held in due reverence, not for what they are in themselves, but for my sake, because of the authority I have given them. Therefore the virtuous must not lessen their reverence, even should these ministers fall short in virtue. And, as far as the virtues of my ministers are concerned, I have described them for you by setting them before you as stewards of ... my Son’s body and blood and of the other sacraments. This dignity belongs to all who are appointed as such stewards, to the bad as well as to the good.

…[Because] of their virtue and because of their sacramental dignity you ought to love them. And you ought to hate the sins of those who live evil lives. But you may not for all that set ourselves up as their judges; this is not my will because they are my Christs, and you ought to love and reverence the authority I have given them.

You know well enough that if someone filthy or poorly dressed were to offer you a great treasure that would give you life, you would not disdain the bearer for love of the treasure, and the lord who had sent it, even though the bearer was ragged and filthy... You ought to despise and hate the ministers’ sins and try to dress them in the clothes of charity and holy prayer and wash away their filth with your tears.

Indeed, I have appointed them and given them to you to be angels on earth and suns, as I have told you. When they are less than that you ought to pray for them. But you are not to judge them. Leave the judging to me, and I, because of your prayers and my own desire, will be merciful to them."*

Enough said, you cannot disagree with Divine wisdom that God reveals to a saint as holy as Catherine of Siena. (As a side note on Catherine, one of my favorite stories on her was that she was so holy at an early age that she would levitate up the stairs (her feet not touching the stairs) as a child, causing her parents a great amount of anxiety for her safety - - too funny as all those overprotective parents out there can relate.)

In realizing that God always gives you what you need, yesterday I receive a mailing from the Cardinal Kung Foundation which has close ties to the persecuted, underground Church in China. In the mailing was a beautiful prayer that his Eminence wrote in 1953 in regard to elevating priests:

By His Eminence, the late Ignatius Cardinal Kung
"All powerful and eternal God, through the merits of your Son, Jesus, and through your love for him, I implore you, have pity on the priests of the Holy Church. In spite of their sublime dignity, they are fearful and weak, like all created beings. In your infinite mercy, inflame their hearts with the fire of divine love. For the sake of Jesus, your Son, bestow grace on the priests and uphold them. Do not let them fall into temptation and tarnish their noble vocation.
O Jesus, we implore you. Look with pity on the priests of the Holy Church: those who are serving you faithfully and proclaiming your glory; those who are persecuted for tending your flock; those who are abandoned, weary, and sorrowful; those who are lukewarm, confused and who have denied their faith; those who are sick, dying or in Purgatory. Lord Jesus, we entreat you. Listen to our supplication, have pity and console them.
O Jesus, we entrust to you the priests of the whole world: the priests who baptized me, absolved my sins, offered Holy Mass and consecrated the Eucharist to nourish my soul. We entrust to you the priests that instructed me when I was ignorant, gave me strength in my weakness, showed me the Way and the Truth and comforted me in my sorrow and affliction. For all the blessings they obtained for me, I implore you to support them in your loving kindness.
O Jesus, shelter our priests in your Sacred Heart. Let them take refuge in your mercy and love, in this life and to the hour of death. Amen."
We must realize that for every priest that may disappoint us, there is an equal number that are imprisoned, persecuted and face hostilities because they preach the unfiltered Gospel. As both sides of this priestly spectrum are irreversibly linked to Christ, they all deserve our prayers.
*Catherine of Siena; The Dialogue, translated by Suzanne Noffke, O.P., New York: Paulist Press, 1980, pp. 229-231

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