In some ways its been a tough year for clergy on the blogs. A lot of what I consider to be bishop bashing has been going on, and lots of wrath and venom for the Catholic clergy in general. While I expect this from the secular world, most of it of late has come from certain segments of the Catholic laity.
For many on the right, we clergy don’t take up their agenda with sufficient zeal or follow it to last detail. Hence we are a grave disappointment. For many on the left we have long been dismissed as an outdated “boys only club” with an out-dated and irrelevant doctrine.
In all this we clergy are not merely innocent victims. Though the doctrine of the Church we teach is not flawed, we who preach it are flawed. We have sins and shortcomings. Sins of omission, and of commission. I am not sure we deserve as much venom as we get, and I remain very alarmed at the open hostility to bishops who are, after all, our shepherds and fathers. My own earthly father was not perfect but I had been schooled to appeal to my father with respect and do air my differences with him privately and with deference to the fact that he was my father.
But the fact is we clergy do need your mercy and forgiveness, your prayers and understanding, your patience and encouragement and also your kind but clear rebuke. For we do fall short in many ways and are sometimes unaware or insensitive to the negative impact of our personal shortcomings.
If there ever was a golden age when the clergy were all we want them to be, I am not sure when it was. For even at the beginning the apostles showed forth sin, ineptitude, and the struggle to live perfectly the life they proclaimed. Even after Pentecost any reading of Acts or the pastoral epistles shows some divisions and shortcomings of the clergy. Paul’s advice to Timothy and Titus to be careful before laying hands on men also suggests that there had been troubles.
Wednesday of Holy Week is traditionally called “Spy Wednesday” since it is this day when Judas conspired with the Temple Leadership to hand Jesus over. He would accomplish his task the evening of the next day, but today he makes arrangements to hand Jesus over and is paid.
One way to reflect on this terrible sin is to reflect that Judas was among the first priests called by Jesus. We see in the call of the Apostles the establishment of the ministerial priesthood. Jesus called these men to lead his Church and minister in his name. But one of these priests went wrong, terribly wrong, and turned against the very one he should have proclaimed.
Among the other “first priests” we also see great weaknesses evident. Peter in weakness denied Jesus, though he repented later. All the others except John fled at the time of the passion. And so here we see the “sins of the clergy” made manifest. Christ did not call perfect men. He promised to protect his Church from officially teaching error but this does not mean that there is no sin in the Church and among those who are called to lead. The story of Judas shows that even among those who were called, one went terribly wrong…