Since 2002, when reports of clergy abuse hit the headlines en masse and the U.S. Bishops initiated a strong program of zero tolerance and healing, too often even faithful Catholic priests have been regarded with mistrust. Good priests have too often been painted with the same broad brush that is used to mark the very small percentage of priests who have, in fact, betrayed their sacred trust and taken sexual liberties with members of their flocks.
The net effect of this cautionary attitude is that good priests find it more difficult to gain trust, and thus to extend the offer of Christ’s grace to the people they serve.
The damage wrought by the sins of some members of the clergy comes at a time when priests and the sacraments and spiritual leadership they bring are needed, at a time when the Church is in crisis. Today it sometimes seems that the culture war is over, that the battle has been lost to proponents of “rights” including the “right” to contraception and abortion, to promiscuity, to illicit sexual relationships.
Father Robert Barron, Rector of Mundelein Seminary and creator of the acclaimed CATHOLICISM film series, acknowledges this crisis. He said:
“We’re currently experiencing the darkest period in the history of American Catholicism. People are drifting away from religion at massive rates. They’re disenchanted with God and disappointed with the Church. The fastest growing group is the so-called ‘nones,’ those who express no religious affiliation.”
Today, Father Barron announces the release of a new twelve-minute film intended to take on the problem, showcasing the priesthood in a positive light. From the press release for the unveiling of “Heroic Priesthood“:
It was in response to these trends that Father Barron created CATHOLICISM, an epic ten-part documentary on the Catholic faith, which aired nationally on PBS and was seen by millions around the world.
“The CATHOLICISM series remains one of the most exciting and fruitful projects of my life,” said Father Barron. “Our team traveled the globe to capture the beauty, truth, and texture of Catholicism, and the result was a fresh presentation of the faith for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.”
What the CATHOLICISM did for the Catholic faith in general, his newest project, “Heroic Priesthood” (http://HeroicPriesthood.com), aims to do for the priesthood in particular.
“As a long-time theology professor and now Rector of Mundelein Seminary, I’ve seen firsthand the challenges facing today’s priests. The priesthood is looked upon with suspicion and confusion by most of the culture—especially by young people. We need to change that.”
The twelve-minute film, produced by Father Barron’s Word on Fire Catholic Ministries in partnership with Spirit Juice Studios, a premier Catholic design studio based in Chicago, aims to alter those misperceptions.
“My goal with this film is to reach as many people as possible—certainly priests and seminarians, but especially young Catholic men. I want them to see that holiness is heroic and that Jesus Christ’s invitation to the priesthood is an invitation to an extraordinary life.”
Shot on location at Mundelein Seminary, the film centers on three seminarians and an annual basketball tournament, which brings together future priests from across the country. Through world-class cinematography and a stirring musical core, the film illuminates the high idealism and adventure of the Catholic priesthood like never before.
Viewers can watch the entire film free online, along with extra video resources from Father Barron, at http://HeroicPriesthood.com.
Word on Fire is also making the film available on DVD for bulk ordering. The ministry hopes to equip bishops, dioceses, parishes, and priests with thousands of copies in order to reach every Catholic young man in the country.
“I want young men to understand that the Catholic priesthood seeks the integration of mind, body, and soul and that the priesthood is a flourishing way of life. If young men glimpse the radical, resplendent, and ultimately heroic call of the priesthood, this film will have been a success.”