Spy Wednesday Reflection: The Sins of the Clergy

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.

In recent years there has been much focus on the sins of Catholic Priests who went terribly wrong and sexually abused the young. The vast majority of priests have never done such things, but those who did so inflicted great harm.

There are other sins of the clergy that have nothing to do with sexuality that may also have caused great harm. Maybe it was an insensitive remark. Perhaps it was the failure of a priest to respond at a critical moment such as a hospital visit. Whatever it might be that has caused you harm or alienation, please don’t give up on God or the on the Church. If a priest or Church leader has caused you grief or to feel alienated please know that there are other priests, deacons, and lay leaders who stand ready to hear your concerns and offer healing. Let the healing begin. Ask among your Catholic family and friends for recommendations about helpful and sensitive priests or Church leaders who can listen to your concerns, address them where possible, and offer another opportunity for the Church to reach out to you with love.

On this “Spy Wednesday” pray especially for priests. We carry the treasure of our priesthood in earthen vessels. As human beings we struggle with our own issues. We have many good days and some less than stellar moments too. The vast majority of Priests are good men, though sinners, who strive to do their very best. But some among us have sinned greatly and caused harm to the Body of Christ, as did Judas. Some of us may have caused harm to you. Please accept an invitation to begin anew.

If you have stayed away through some hurt or harm caused by any leader of the Church, strive on this “Spy Wednesday” to still find Christ where he is found. Among sinners and saints too, in the Church he founded: Perfect in her beauty as the Bride of Christ but consisting of members who are still “on the way” to holiness.

As usual, after all my verbiage, a music video offers this message better than I ever could. Allow this powerful video to move you if you have ever been hurt or know someone who has.

13 Replies to “Spy Wednesday Reflection: The Sins of the Clergy”

  1. O my Jesus, bless America and the whole world!

    Mary, Mother of God of Priests, pray for us!

  2. I’ve never heard of today being called “Spy Wednesday” but that may because I am a wicked heretic Lutheran.

    1. Cynthia, it’s not too late, there’s still time to join us wicked Catholics!!!

  3. I pray for those who have been hurt by the Church and good priests who have had to suffer because of the evil that was done. When I was growing up we were given the idea that all priests were holy saints. Isn’t it better to remember that they are, like Peter and Judas, men? This is a wonderful post Msgr Pope.

  4. Msgr. Pope

    Your statement “We carry the treasure of our priesthood in earthen vessels” moved me to tears. My Uncle is a Jesuit priest who has served the Church in mission lands around the world; he is now in a nursing home for retired priests and suffers with many illnesses. He continues to concelebrate the Mass daily and through his suffering has taught me that when we embrace the cross we find true joy. His earthen vessel is nearly worn out yet his faith is a light in the world that will shine on after he has gone.

    Please pray for those priests who are suffering, sick, and dying.

    I thank God for all the wonderful priests He has put in my life: my “Uncle Pro”-Fr. Francis X. Sarjeant, my Grand-“Uncle Frank”-Fr. Francis B. Sarjeant, Fr. Joseph Muzquiz, Fr. Jim Fahey, Fr. Dick Riemann, Fr. Mike Mann, Fr. Anthony Iwuc and the newest priest to be a special blessing in my life is you Msgr. Charles Pope.

    Those of you contemplating accepting Msgr. Pope’s invitation to healing, I encourage you to begin anew and find a church home with a holy priest. (to be honestit may take you a few tries to find the right one -but it is definately worth the effort) The witness of my life is that these good and holy priests have helped me to come to a closer relationship with God, opened my heart to recieve God’s out poouring of sacramental grace, and encouraged me to develop virtues that have been a blessing to those in my life.

    Thanks for the wonderful blog, I will keep you and all your brother priests in my prayers especially as we approach Easter and throughout the Easter Season.


  5. A corrupt police officer, or indeed a corrupt police unit would not undermine my belief in the rule of law. Similarly, criminal clergy should not undermine our membership of the Church and, ultimately, our faith in Jesus.

    We must pray for our many wonderful priests. They are human, like the rest of us!

  6. I never thought that Judas was a priest. Wasn’t the priesthood instituted at the first Eucharist? By that time Judas was long gone if we look at the parts to the Seder meal, right?

    1. Two Gospel witnesses state that Judas was present at the Lord’s Supper: Luke 14-23, especially v 21 (though note that immediately after Jesus’ statement about “that one by whom (Jesus) is betrayed,” the dispute arose as to which was the greatest” — they *all* betrayed him, and before the arrest!), and John 13:18, 25-27.

      Matthew (26:20-29) and Mark (14:17-25) state that Judas was present, but may have departed prior to the words of institution.

      But I agree with you, for a different reason. While Jesus established the Eucharist at the Supper that night, having previously established *the diaconate* (John 13:2b-8, 14-16), he did not establish the priesthood until after his Resurrection: “‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you…. Receive the Holy Spirit: if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them….'” (John 20:21b-23).

  7. Reminds me of this wonderful quote from St John Eudes:

    “The most evident mark of God’s anger and the most terrible castigation He can inflict upon the world are manifested when He permits His people to fall into the hands of clergy who are priests more in name than in deed, priests who practice the cruelty of ravening wolves rather than the charity and affection of devoted shepherds. Instead of nourishing those committed to their care, they rend and devour them brutally. Instead of leading their people to God, they drag Christian souls into hell in their train. Instead of being the salt of the earth and the light of the world, they are its innocuous poison and its murky darkness….

    “When God permits such things, it is a very positive proof that He is thoroughly angry with His people, and is visiting His most dreadful anger upon them. That is why He cries unceasingly to Christians, ‘Return, O ye revolting children…and I will give you pastors according to my own heart’ (Jer. 3, 14-15) Thus, irregularities in the lives of priests constitute a scourge upon the people in consequence of sin.”

    -St John Eudes

  8. I apparently am not alone in my ignorance of “Spy Wednesday.”

    I asked my husband, a cradle Catholic in his mid-40s. He looked at me as if I had two heads.

    After church yesterday evening we asked Deacon M, in his mid-50s, and he looked at us if we had three heads (each).

    Even Fr A (in his mid-40s) confessed that we had him on that one.

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