Priesthood not only surviving, it’s thriving

| May 25, 2011 | 0 Comments

Twice in two days this week I’ve stumbled upon published claims that the Catholic Church and the Catholic priesthood as we know it are, if not doomed, on life support.

One analyst offered that, due to the pedophilia scandals and the failure of leadership to be sufficiently accountable (in his estimation and in the estimation of others) in the aftermath, the Catholic laity’s disillusionment with the current church leadership model is “extensive and probably permanent.”

And a news magazine’s self-proclaimed “Novel of the week” feature quoted reviews of a suspenseful work of fiction about a priest charged with molesting an 8-year-old boy. The alleged novel of the week is “at once a heartbreaking family story and a reminder of how a once sanctified calling may now be ‘broken beyond repair.’”

Those are conclusions that ignore two things: history and this coming Saturday.

Errors, even sin overcome

When you look back on the history of the priesthood — the selling of the sacraments that Martin Luther protested, bishops siding with European royalty instead of standing with the poor against their oppressors, the amassing of wealth by monastic communities — even the most faithful of Catholics can realistically wonder how the priesthood survived to be a “sanctified calling.”

Yet, is has.

If our priests weren’t held to a higher standard, the relatively small percentage of priestly transgressors — as horrid as their crimes and misdeeds are — wouldn’t be deemed so newsworthy.

When you learn about the scandalous Borgia popes, the horrors of the Inquisition, the papal approval of slavery in Latin America, it’s almost amazing that Catholic popes command the respect they do.

Yet, they do.

And the priesthood not only survives, it thrives.

No better evidence than the May 28 ordination of five men to serve the people of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Amazing commitment

How those to be ordained came to follow God’s call to serve as priests makes for interesting, inspiring reading year after year. The interviews with our new priests that you see HERE have been a tradition for 30 years.

When I read them now (after having written many myself over the years), I almost always come away with a renewed sense of hope for our church. I’m inspired by these men and their commitment to our faith, to their love of the church and the Mass, and their willingness to take on a unique and challenging lifestyle.

My own “disillusionment,” to use the critic’s word, with how church leadership responded and is responding to the sexual abuse crisis is tempered by the last two episcopal appointments from our archdiocese.

Just this Sunday I heard from a member of the Diocese of Duluth how impressed she was with Bishop Paul Sirba, a former pastor, spiritual director for seminarians and vicar general in St. Paul. Thanks to having seen then-Father Sirba in action in several ministries in our archdiocese and having worked with him when he served on The Catholic Spirit board of directors, my friend from Ely wasn’t saying anything I didn’t already know about her bishop.

And the holiness and humility of Bishop Lee Piché, our auxiliary bishop, are attributes that were evident 27 years ago when I interviewed the then-Rev. Mr. Piché for the Catholic Bulletin’s ordination issue before he received holy orders in 1984.

When our church calls men like these two to leadership, disillusionment tends to dissolve.

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Category: Editorials, Spotlight