Why I’m Not Doing Victory Laps About the News Out Of Newark

The Bad Shepherd…

It’s pretty simple. Because everyone lost.

That’s the really sad news. Parents lost, in that their trust in the Church to safeguard their children, whom they vouchsafed to the Her for catechical reasons, has been gravely harmed.

Fr. Fugee lost, in that his vocation to the priesthood has been terminated because his superiors mishandled him, probably out of a mistaken sense of reconciliation and charity. The kind of which St. John Vianney, Patron Saint of Priests, mentions here? Maybe.

Love for our neighbor consists of three things: to desire the greater good of everyone; to do what good we can when we can; to bear, excuse, and hide other’s faults.

If you ask me, that last part applies in the confessional, for sure. But when there is a court order requiring certain behaviors be avoided by an individual under your authority, then the buck stops with the authority. Anything less is a failure of leadership, and that is what appears to me to be the case in Newark.

Looking back at the quote from the Curé d’Ars, it’s apparent that  “the greater good of everyone” was not the main concern in how Fr. Fugee was shepherded here. If it was, one would hope that he would have been handled in a more loving way. A way that didn’t endanger both his vocation, and the children of the flock in the Archdiocese of Newark. Discipline, lovingly applied, may have prevented the resignation he tendered a few days ago.

The good Curé’s  second example of loving our neighbor, “to do what good we can when we can,” seems to have been disregarded as well. Because by avoiding the short term pain of making sure a priest was assigned in a manner that the civilian authorities demanded, and one which common sense would indicate as prudent, was handled as a white-wash job instead. Were there follow-ups, and close counseling to ensure Fr. Fugee’s rehabilitation was proceeding in a satisfactory manner? We may never know.

But the Church, the Body of Christ, the least little sheep among the flock, deserves to know. For how many of the flock have wandered away due to the willful neglect of the duties to love them with the heart of an owner, and not be treated with the callous disregard of a hired hand? Where have I heard this analogy before? From a little leadership seminar conducted a long time ago, in a land far, far, away.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.

Leadership by example, by the Ultimate Example, the Incarnation of the Word of God. Timeless advice to leaders from every walk of life, and in every profession.

But in no vocation is this example more important than in the vocation of a priest with Holy Orders. Orders of magnitude higher still is the example of the shepherd who has been entrusted with the task of shepherding priests. Especially when one considers what St. John Vianney, that keen student of human nature, reminds us of here.

God is like a mother who carries her child in her arms by the edge of a precipice. While she is seeking all the time to keep him from danger, he is doing his best to get into it.

When hiding faults is made paramount, see, it’s like putting a gate in front of the precipice, throwing it wide open, and directing your flock to move toward the chasm.

No, there is not much to be happy about in the news out of Newark. Because in this case, the Church as a whole lost. That is never an occasion for celebration.

St. John Vianney, wise Curé d’Ars, pray for us.

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