Spy Wednesday Annual Reflection on the Sins and Shortcomings of the Clergy

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 For many on the left we have long been dismissed as an outdated “boys only club” with an out-dated and irrelevant doctrine.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.

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.

44 Replies to “Spy Wednesday Annual Reflection on the Sins and Shortcomings of the Clergy”

  1. I enjoy reading this blog, though I don’t often comment. I often see parallels with the priesthood and the emergency world (those of us in ER’s, EMS, police, etc.), where people expect us to be “superhuman” in many ways. As I tell people, we do our very best, and many of us were called to serve in the emergency setting, but we too are only human.

    Praying for you and other priests Monsignor Pope, as well as everyone in this world, to find peace and try to make every day a positive one.

  2. BTW my daughter was quite pleased last year when she finally was able to stump our parochial vicar by asking him “what is spy wednesday?” 🙂

    For my more serious comment

    When most of us say “I am a (teacher, computer programmer, airline pilot, etc.)” what we’re really saying is “I WORK as a (teacher, computer programmer…)” No matter how much one loves and is committed to one’s particular field, a job is just a job and not one’s entire life.

    When a man says “I am a priest” he isn’t saying that he works as a priest. He really IS a priest, someone who has given up his life in service to Christ and his Church. That commitment is so awesome it’s hard to not put them on a pedastal as if they were on a higher plane of existence. But even though priests stand in persona Christi (sp?), they are fallible human beings like the rest of us, and should be viewed no more harshly than the rest of us when they screw up.

  3. Good article Monsignor Pope. Very relevant to our society today. Our family always remembers the clergy in our prayers. Thanks for all each of you do. Thank you for you blog also.

  4. Thank you again, Father. You are explicitly in my prayers.

    You mention the betrayals and failures of the apostles, particularly those of Peter and Judas, as reflections on the human frailty of the ministerial priesthood. I’ve been thinking lately about how Aaron was the one who formed the Golden Calf for Israel (Exodus 32:1-6) .. That perplexes me. The priest forms the idol at the peoples’ request, and then is not himself condemned for it. There’s a riddle there, for the human mind and heart, isn’t there?

    I confess I have been very, very angry these last ten years or so over what has happened in the Church. I’ve also been very confused and critical ever since reading Unam Sanctam and about the Council of Rimini (etc, etc.) fifteen or so years ago. My heart and faith are simple, while my mind tends to get embroiled in details and judgements. It is only the past year or so that I have been striking down my own judgments in an active way. I am a poor silly fool, really. No one’s judge. But I know who I love, and who I respect.

    Thank you yet again for being our priest, Father. It’s a very tough job going into the holy of holies for such a wretched lot as we all are. I know it, and so I’ve got the chain around your ankle held tight.

    1. Thanks for the image of prayer and support. The Aaron incident is puzzling. The excuse he gave was the lamest I have ever heard, “I put the gold in the fire and out came the calf.” Hmm….

      1. Umm…The calf “story” is not much different than what the captain of the Consta Concordia said when ordered to re-board his sinking ship. His response was, “I tripped and fell into the life boat”. Of course, he let that life boat keep moving away from the ship while he was saying it!

  5. This particular reflection has given me a new zeal to follow Christ without looking sideways knowing that we all carry our treasure in earthen vessels- we are not perfect but trying our best. We all should pray that God gives our priests the strength to overcome their weakness instead of castigating them.

  6. http://opusbono.org/donate.html

    Opus Bono Sacerdotii Prayer for Priests

    O Lord Jesus Christ, Eternal High Priest and exemplar of priestly holiness and dignity, we are grateful to You for having chosen certain men for the ministerial priesthood by which You continue to instruct, admonish, forgive, nourish and strengthen Your Church.

    We are sorely aware of the great need of priests in our time to be confirmed in their sacred calling so that they may continue confidently in their ministry of mediating Your graces to men and of representing them before Your august majesty.

    Relying on the intercession of Holy Mary, Mother of priests, and of Saint Joseph, Her beloved spouse, we beg Your help for the priests who are the most troubled, tempted, discouraged and suffering.

    May the noble and sacred office of the priesthood, which has too often been reviled and scorned, regain its admirable stature in the sight of all men for Your greater honor and glory, and for the sanctification and salvation of Your people.


  7. Thank you Msgr. Pope. Some days it must feel like priests walk around with targets on the vestments. Being under the microscope of everyone else and knowing that you will commit a sin at some point becuase you are each human. Thank you for making this sacrifice for love of us all.

    1. Yes, the image I sometimes have is that I live in a fishbowl. Even if I am just in the kitchen cooking up a little something, people frequently walk through and comment on what I should or should not be eating 🙂 Alas, I know they speak in love. But we priests do live out in the open.

      1. Msgr. If it is any consolation in my vocation the wife frequently checks up on what I doing in the kitchen and what I am eating also out of love I tell myself.

        1. When it came to food, my mother always said, ” A little of what you fancy does you good.”

  8. One would not expect our bishops to do everything perfectly, but “first, do no harm” applies here as well as in medicine does it not? This otherwise excellent post gives no guidance, apart from prayer, in the face of episcopal malfeasance. Do we really have _nothing_ to say when our shepherds drop the ball? Would we be in the mess we’re in if our teachers hadn’t focused on questions of prudential judgment to the neglect of the essentials, counseled outright disobedience to _Humanae Vitae_, and failed to act forthrightly in the face of credible allegations of abuse? One can bring these issues to the fore in a spirit of humility and charity, one can spit venom like a cobra, or one can say nothing.

    No doubt some today, had they lived in the 14th Century, would have counseled Catherine of SIena to deep-six the sour grapes.

    1. But the point is that St Catherine took her concerns to the pope and the bishops directly, she didn’t go about publishing all the negativity and inciting lay people to anger against the Bishops. Catherine loved the Pope and clergy and spoke in that manner, with candor but with love. Again the point is that bishops are our fathers and shepherds and we should approach them as we would our father, with respect. Candor is good, anger has its place but not all over the internet with all sorts of generalizations and in attack mode. Lay people are free to approach the bishops even in groups if necessary. I often had challenging conversations with my dad, but he was always my father and I remembered that in how I chose to spoke. With Cardinal Wuerl I have always had a good rapport and find him very open to listen. I am on numerous consultative bodies and know first hand that he takes consultation seriously. He also has a lay board who advises him, called the Pastoral Council and also the Finance Council. There are ways to raise concerns other than to get on facebook and blogs

      1. Ah, that we could all approach our bishops and get an audience, or even the satisfaction of knowing our letters have been read. Sadly, this is not the case for many of us, and it is vexing, especially when it involves abuse of the sacraments or liturgy in a parish. I, and others, have written charitable, one-page letters to our local ordinary, and the letters have never been acknowledged. And, the local auxiliary bishop refused to meet with a delegation. Contrast this with my letter of congratulations and a suggestion for evangelization sent to Cardinal Timothy Dolan – a bishop 500 miles away from me – and his personal reply in my mailbox a week later! Yes, we need to pray, pray, pray for our bishops.

        1. I wonder why it would seem that you are so isolated from your Church leaders or from others who do have connections? Relationships aren’t as simple as picking up the phone when you are mad. There’s more too it. First there is being well connected at the parish level with clergy and lay leaders. There’s also being active in groups that are active and have strong relationships with the wider diocesan and national level. Here in DC I am encouraging a number of Catholic leaders to develop relationships inside the bishop’s conference that is located here in DC. There are actually some good people there, it’s not “the belly of beast” as some more conservative Catholics claim. Relationships are about more than standing outside and denouncing. The vast majority of letters that go into this Archdiocese are about complaints and often bitter ones at that. The point is that building relationships is more than addressing grievances, it is about offering praise, engaging in work and action together and in the context of a relationship of trust, airing concerns and difficulties. This is the Body of Christ, it is not an adversarial political process with demands and attempts to tilt the balance of power, vanquish foes and win the argument.

          1. I, like others, have not been isolated, but well involved in leadership roles. Not all dioceses are equal. I am sure others will attest they, too, have been leaders, tried to use connections, and prayed and fasted their hearts out, but the sad reality is that some pastors and bishops of some dioceses are instransigent and/or liberal bullies. Hoping to spare one’s brethern from severe sacramental and liturgical abuse is not about winning an argument – it is a worthy battle for the laity.

          2. Well, it’s pretty obvious no matter what I say you’re going to declare yourself and exception. But once again I’ll say it anyway, the Church is the Body of Christ, not a political entity. Families work through relationships and like any relationship they must be cultivated as well as sought out broadly. I just don’t buy the fact that a whole diocese is bad, I just don’t buy it. Elijah complained as you are doing and God told him to get moving and that there are at least 7000 men who have never bent the knee to baal. And if God can save from Baal he can save from far lesser things like liturgical abuses. Don’t tell me you’re the only left and the only thing you can do is attack the bishop. Find others and start a reform if that is necessary. Befriend your Bishop, he is your father, and if he’s really as awful as you say, show forth the fruits of reform that he or his staff can’t fail to miss and “kill” him with kindness. But bitter roots yield bitter fruits. Holy joy is unstoppable.

            The LORD said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram…Yet there are seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.” So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. (1 Kings 19:15-19)

          3. This is for you and not the post. Dear Monsignor … I feel sad you seem to assume the worst of me, and I am sorry it is difficult for you to understand what happens in some dioceses. Then again, how could you know? You are a busy, active effective priest in your parish. You wouldn’t be able to know specific situations and circumstances in other dioceses. You also don’t know me, my situation, or my efforts, along with others. It is heartening to know things are going well in Washington, and I know things will eventually change in my diocese, for there is prayer and fasting. The concern, as always, has been for the souls of those led astray.

      2. Monsignor,

        I guess it has a lot to do with accessibility. I’m busy all of the time, but I took time out to contact not one, but two bishops, and didn’t hear a peep back. If they can’t take the time to call me back or even tell me to go to heck, why should I take the time to wait? Of course, I and other frustrated people, are going to be angry and start railing against the powers that be. It may not seem reasonable that I did act out- but it’s not like I didn’t try. Moreover, it’s not like it wasn’t a long time coming. The Church, not just local priests and bishops, need to start listening. The more they listen to initially, the less they’ll have to listen to in the long-run. It’s called being proactive.

        I’ll tell you, I even feel better that you would entertain what I say here. It’s a 100% improvement over what I’ve been getting. (You do the math on that one!) 🙂

  9. That’s right, Steve. But some days it’s the faithful who walk around with a target on their backs. I can’t take being patronized anymore. Back to my workday!

    1. Simul ergo cum in unum congregamur:
      Ne nos mente dividamur, caveamus.
      Cessent iurgia maligna, cessent lites.
      Et in medio nostri sit Christus Deus
      Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.

      So therefore when we as one are gathered all together,
      ought we not strive to keep our minds free of division;
      may there be an end to malice, strife and quarrels,
      and let Christ our God be among us.
      (For) where there is charity and love, God is there.

      1. Very nice quote, Msgr. I struggle with finding the charity and love part. I am just about as burnt as I can possibly be. I get that some people, including priests, do care. However, I haven’t figured out who they are. I’m too tired to care at this time.

  10. None of the apostles betrayed Jesus…not one…after they received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. All were martyrs for Jesus. So how does that fit with the flawed priesthood argument that the 12 apostles all deserted Jesus ? Do priests receive the Holy Spirit in a similiar manner at ordination? Were they given a different type of power than priests or bishops today? Just wondering?

    1. You missed my remark about Paul cautioning Timothy to be careful about who to ordain. Its not just about the 12, its about the early Church in general. But even among the apostles, Peter was rebuked by Paul, Paul also struggles with anger in the Epistles, wishing at one point that the Judaizers had castrated themselves. Barnabas and Paul parted company over Mark who had drawn back in the first missionary journey. It’s just human stuff Anne.

      Also I puzzle over your use of the word “betrayal” which was not a word I used in reference to the 12 other than Judas. Perhaps you mean to imply that priests and bishops are betraying Christ? Who are they? Who has handed Christ over? Or what are the charges you levy? Or perhaps is it that they just don’t slam sinners as much as you’d like? …What is it Anne? What is the betrayal you seem to allege? I am puzzled by your harsh remark.

  11. Send a spiritual bouquet or promise to pray for your priest during your next holy hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament. They very much need and appreciate our prayers.

  12. I was using betrayal in a very broad sense as” I betray Christ’s love for me when I deliberately commit a serious action contrary to His will.” I apologize for the harsh sound and I absolutely did not mean to imply priests are handing over Christ…I can only stand in solidarity with all the good priests who endeavor to stand up for Christ in a very hostile culture. What a difficult job to be the “point men” so to speak to bring Jesus to the world! Again, I just wondered if the original priests(the 12…including Matthias ) were given a special charism to all live such amazing lives as martyrs and canonized saints. Not withstanding some temptations to anger or conflicts about how to evangelize as you mentioned, they all seem to have had some special grace to not fall prey to the hostile dangerous world they had to deal with. I heard a sermon once that certain gifts were given to the early Church by God as necessary for the spread of Christianity, such as Peter being heard in every language when he preached on Pentecost.
    Thank You for all you write…your articles constantly challenge us and we need the encouragement!

  13. Actually I see priests as a sort of “clay straw” not simply an “earthen vessel.” If you think of Genesis after God finished making the animals etc. he took clay and blew into it. Almost as though He were blowing Life, not just into Man, but into the world itself. So it makes sense that when Man cut off the connection between himself and God, through sin, it was not just man who began to die but creation itself.

    Now in medicine, when bone is too fragmented to be joined, what some folks are experimenting with is using what amounts to a clay bridge to join the fragments together. Osteophytes (bone cells) migrate down the clay bridge and eventually the clay is consumed, and healthy, living bone is in its place.

    But that does require clay that allows itself to be consumed (as Jesus did) and as priests do. Thank you for your ministry.

  14. “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. ”

    Actually I feel terrible about poor Judas (and yes, poor Judas) because it is so clear who or what Judas should have been.

    He should have been Paul.

    Just think of the parallel between Jesus and Joseph (son of Jacob/Israel).

    Joseph is sold for 20 pieces of silver by his brother Judah
    Jesus is sold for 30 pieces of silver by his spiritual “brother” Judas

    Joseph rises to the right hand of the “god-king” Pharoah and judges his brothers.
    Jesus rises to the right hand of God, where he will judge the world.

    The difference is that Judah repented. During the long interval, he changes. It is a different man who offers to take his brother Benjamin’s place in slavery/imprisonment when Benjamin is framed by Joseph. And Judah is not only forgiven, but it is Judah’s line that ends up being the most faithful tribe of Israel, lasting long after the Northern kingdom collapses, so much so that the name of the children of Israel becomes associated with “Jews.”

    I can’t help feeling that if only Judas had gone to Jesus and begged forgiveness, he would have been the apostle to the Gentiles. (Certainly the other disciples would probably not have wanted him around in the local area).

    Judas’ greatest sin was that of despair. I feel terrible for him. I think Jesus did too.

  15. Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” In support group I’ve often heard the sentiment expressed like, if I think I’m better or worse than others I recall something negative that I have never done and then try saying it after adding the word “yet” to the end.

  16. Cardinal Dolan rehearsed the basic problem in his interview, which is that the USCCB has spent too much time worrying about the minimum wage and too little with the effects of the sexual revolution. Something is profoundly wrong when the most powerful women politicians in the United States -Pelosi and Sebelius–openly defy the bishops, throwing into the faces the undeniable truth that they bishops refused to defend the teachings of humanae vitae with any vigor at all, in part because they feared that their priests would not follow them. Ironically, Roe v. Wade saved them, because all the liberal priests et al. who refused to accept the reasonings of the pope were confronted with the reality of abortion on demand. Some like Drinan shrugged their shoulders and continued their support for changes in sexual morality, as if Freud had in fact discovered laws of nature as undeniable as those found by Newton, and that we must changes our conventions to fit the new facts in evidence. Well, it turned out that the pope and others in Rome were better grounded in reality than modernists. But it has taken the social disasters of the past thirty years to show that Rome was right in the first place.

  17. The problem is that of the human condition. The emptiness that Pelosi, Sebelius, and alas many women and all too many men are reacting to is simply the void left when we were cut off from God. The wound is healing (over centuries) but is far from healed. We are mortal.

    It is sort of like when people come to me and say stuff like “I just don’t have any pep” or “I ache in the morning” or I’m not as strong as I was” or “I can’t sleep the way I used to” or “I find myself having to make lists of things when I go shopping, and I didn’t used to have to do this.”

    One sighs, asks questions about sleep apnea, or restless legs, or depression, performs a neurological and mental status examination and looks for thyroid disease and other stuff, but after that, honestly much of this is the price of being mortal. Nobody feels as great at 60 as they did at 30 and that is not because they are ill. Nor will another pill or surgery help, and if one was pushed into doing an MRI and found little white spots on the brain – NO that is NOT multiple sclerosis, almost certainly those are simply the marks of old age. But it is very difficult for people to accept that even though they may be doing “every thing right” they will age and they will die. I’ve lost count of the number of people who are devastated by their first brush with mortality (angina or a ministroke) and tell me tearfully that they have never smoked or used drugs and how carefully they eat so “what happened?” Was it the fender bender I was in 3 months ago? Was it because my husband makes me stressed? No. People are mortal. They will, eventually, all die. Even doctors will all die (doctors will simply die after skipping the last few rounds of chemo, because we know better).

    So with priests. People feel the emptyness and they figure,”if only my priest/bishop/parish valued me, I would be filled. If only they let women/married people be priests I would be filled. If only they had Latin mass, Teen mass, clown mass, priests facing away from the people, priests facing toward the people, more bible studies, better bible studies, a church who said it didn’t matter if I used contraception or engaged in sex outside of marriage or simply didn’t pay my taxes…they would be filled.

    But they are wrong. We are broken earthen vessels and we leak. Clown masses might fill us for a day or two but then we would run dry again. (actually I really find clowns creepy…)

    Priests understand that none of that will fill the emptyness, any more than the proverbial red sports car or the new trophy wife will fill the emptiness. That is because priests, like physicians feel that empty place also, and already know that changing the position of the alter will do nothing except drive it away for a day or two..After all, many of the great saints including Mother Theresa felt this, and for years.

    What would help would be more opportunities for service to others. Prison ministry or ministry to nursing homes or something. Call it “physical and occupational therapy for the soul.” Because I really do think that the reason God gave us work and chlldrearing when we got thrown out of Garden of Eden is because He knew it would (partly) fill in the void. Nothing will remove it entirely in this world, but work and family are wonderful, soul stretching distractions. The church should encourage people to engage in more of it. God knows that I do.


  18. My own sense of things is that many who are critical of the clergy do not fully recognize how wretched they themselves are. ( That is; how wretched I am.) Also, if you consider the awesome responsibility they (priests) have assumed it seems safe to say that they will be in the cross-hairs of the evil one. An additional burden. I have been disappointed in my priest’s actions or in-actions many times, and throughout time many have been huge disappointments, to say the least. How do you reconcile the idea that we owe reverence and obedience to the bishops, etc. with the fact that many have not served Jesus or his church well?

  19. Priests should be held in the highest esteem, for they are what they are. The angry or uncivilized among us who demean priests and the priesthood should not have their bad behaviour applauded.

    Priests should be held to a higher standard, just as anyone who calls himself christian should be held to a higher standard.

    It is frustrating when priests play loose with the Mass. It is not unreasonable to expect priests to pray the Mass without embellishment or manipulating the Liturgy to conform to some misguided agenda. The actions of priests who, on their own authority, corrupt the Liturgy by truncating the text or omitting entire rites (when the rubrics do not permit such an action), are simply despicable. For that reason, priests who persist in habitually abusing the Liturgy deserve every condemnation. Likewise, laity who routinely present themselves for Holy Communion while living in sin should likewise be condemned for their misbehaviour.

    It occurs to me that there isn’t nearly enough correction these days. It is only through correction that we attain to heaven. Why should we deprive others of a real assessment of their behaviour, especially when their behaviour is putting their soul at risk? Are we so afraid of offending others or being seen as self righteous that we can dismiss our responsibility for each other by hiding behind being “nice” or “pastoral”?

  20. “For that reason, priests who persist in habitually abusing the Liturgy deserve every condemnation. Likewise, laity who routinely present themselves for Holy Communion while living in sin should likewise be condemned for their misbehaviour”

    Good Friday is not the best day to be talking about condemnation. I used to be very rigid in my thinking about sin. Probably too rigid. I used to feel that a conscience should be a “plumb line” poiting unflinchingly at the error, and that only cowards would fail to speak up. Perhaps I am too lenient now. I don’t know. I do know that plumb lines (even the real ones, including the modern super tech ones) don’t always work.

    One interesting concept is the idea of “isostasy.” A plumb line (a string with a lead weight made to point straight down with the help of gravity, to see if the buiding you are constructing is staight) really points to the center of the Earth (“straight down”) because the core is the most massive thing in the world, and gravity is greater, the more mass you have. But plumb lines veer (very slightly) off course near mountains, because of course mountains are very massive too. So your plumb line will be off a degree or two. Of course you can take that into account, just as our priests (and we when in judgement) take a persons situation into account when judging us, and we them. Only…You can’t… Because the greatest part of the mountain is it’s roots, which are far larger than the mountain itself. You can’t see how deep under the crust that mountain goes but it will definately be much MUCH deeper than the peak. High mountains have deep roots. Just like brokeness. The stuff we see is the tip of the iceberg.

    I admire priests for their work in reconcilliation. It is amazingly difficult, and it does put them in the cross hairs of the enemy, which you and I can (at least try to) hide from. They can be irritating, and I do bite my tongue a lot (and sometimes my tongue biting is ineffective). By I think we need to cut our priests and bishops a break. Perhaps they got a bit too much blind obedience 40 years ago, but the pendulum has swung way too far in the opposite direction.

    1. Thanks for this Shari. Most priests I know are good men and those who follow the rubrics of mass quite well. The younger priests are also much better at following the norms. Pray for us in our weaknesses.

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