Priests are men, prone to all temptations. Greed is surely a temptation, as is unholy ambition. So is the desire for approval. I am tempted to laziness, to seeking too many comforts, to gluttony, to pride and wrath and arrogance, and to lust. The story goes around of a man in confession asking the priest, “Father, do you ever get old enough that you don’t experience lustful thoughts?” “Yes,” the priest assured him – “about 30 seconds before you die!”
Maybe I am naïve, but I do believe most priests try to be faithful. But I am sure some are living in situations that are gravely immoral, either with wealth gotten through theft or deception, or with a girl- or boyfriend on the side, or with other perversions. I can imagine the rationalizations. And I have no doubt that some number of clergy have looked the other way regarding others’ misdeeds, either because of fear, which is somewhat understandable, or because of cynicism or laziness, which is far less so. Many more priests are wrestling with sin, just as you are, and trying their best with prayer and spiritual direction and the sacraments to overcome them.
Inevitably, someone will say, “This is why I left the Catholic Church!” or, “This is why you should!” That makes no sense to me. I was raised Catholic, I left at 19 and came back at 29. I came back not because I thought the Church had especially holy bishops and priests; no, not even because I thought the ordinary person in the pew was especially holy. No, I chose to re-embrace my Catholic Faith for one very simple reason: I became convinced that Jesus Christ founded the Catholic Church, and I wanted to be in the Church that is his mystical Body.
It is not “okay” that the Church has so many wounds; but it is not a new problem. Rather, it is a very ancient problem. Jesus himself dealt with it from the very beginning. Throughout the history of the Faith, we always have individuals who cry out against the sins of Christians, clergy, religious and laity. It is almost a constant. And yes, many movements that broke away from Rome did so precisely because of immorality and corruption. Tell me: has any that made its own way conquered these problems? Show me.
While I was writing this, I heard the church bells ring three o’clock, telling me I needed to get over to lead the Divine Mercy chaplet and then hear confessions. To my surprise, there was a long line waiting for me. In between penitents, I found myself wondering why there was so many, unusual for a summer afternoon. Then a thought occurred to me: is God telling me something? I want to marinate in my anger, but perhaps caring for others is a better route.
My best response to all this is to strive all the more for my own holiness. I am a sinful man, but I am trying to be faithful. Other priests too, many heroically. Pray for us and let us help each other in holiness. It may not seem fair, but while corruption taints other parts of the Body, the one thing no one can stop you and me from doing is to contribute that much more our own prayer and penance.
Read the whole thing. And then pray for your parish priest.