Spy Wednesday and a Reflection on the Sins of the Clergy

033115Wednesday of Holy Week is traditionally called “Spy Wednesday,” since it was on this day that Judas conspired with the Temple leadership to hand Jesus over. He would not accomplish his task until the evening of the next day, but this day he made the arrangements and was paid.

One way to reflect on this terrible sin is to consider 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.

We also see great weaknesses among the other “first priests.” Peter denied Jesus, though he later repented. All the others except John deserted Jesus at the time of His Passion. Yes, I am sad to say, only one priest, one bishop made it to the foot of the Cross. All the rest fled in fear. 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, nor that those who are called to lead are without sin. 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 but that also may have caused great harm. Maybe it was an insensitive remark. Perhaps it was a failure to respond at a critical moment such as a hospital visit. And how many of you have lamented deeply the scandal of silent pulpits, the silence of so many clergy in the face of a moral meltdown? Whatever it might be that has harmed or alienated you, please don’t give up on God or on the Church. If a priest or a Church leader has caused you grief 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, but some less-than-stellar moments, too. The vast majority of priests, though sinners, are good men who strive to do their very best. But some among us have sinned greatly and, like Judas, caused harm to the Body of Christ. Some of us may have caused harm to you. Please accept this invitation to begin anew.

If you have stayed away because of some hurt caused by any leader of the Church, strive on this “Spy Wednesday” to still seek Christ where He is found. He is among sinners and saints, in the Church He founded. The Church is perfect in her beauty as the Bride of Christ, but consists of members who are still “on the way” to holiness.

After all my verbiage, here is a music video that presents this message better than I ever could. If you have ever known someone who has been hurt, or been hurt yourself, allow this powerful video to move you.

22 Replies to “Spy Wednesday and a Reflection on the Sins of the Clergy”

  1. The opposite of love is not hatred, it is indifference and yes, I was wounded by this from a priest who did not even care. But who am I to cast the first stone, have I not been indifferent as well to my love ones whom I did not affirm for the goodness they have done to me? You see as I mature in the faith, GOD let me see the bigger picture of probably the priest was not properly indisposed or simply tired or was encountering a bigger problem or even lacking perspective at that moment, for indeed they too are mortals like me. I just muttered a prayer for my priest who after all, needed my intercession. Anyway, that came from another priest who admonished us to throw prayers around to those who might need one. Thank you, Monsignor, am having a great Holy Week with your articles. GOD Bless you. Who knows, you might need one right now, hehehe. YHWH SHEKINAH!

    1. Edna, I liked your comment very much. Maturity is something that we definitely need as our Priest says the Roman Catholic faith is not an infantile faith. You also called it right on trying to reflect on how we have behaved with others. Thank you again thank you Msgr Pope for choosing to be a Priest by responding to the call.

  2. This is true, and all priests and seminarians need to consider this very seriously…their ability to do harm is immediate. But, this is also true for any person given great responsibilities over the lives of people. The bottom line is that the choice one makes (good or bad) belongs to the one who makes that choice and to the one who sees a bad choice but then looks the other way.

    The good news is that all can become strong in virtue and wise with persistence and continual renewal in the Sacraments of the Church.

  3. Beautiful text! Very lovely video, I hope many people will whatch it and even send it to someone they love.
    Thank you Monsignor.

  4. What a formidable task, keeping the flock from scattering. Teachers, pastors priests have to be held to a higher standard, which means that there should be discernment even judgement over their teachings, when there is no discernment, when bad teachers prosper judgement will come. But this implies that parishioners should be able to judge whether a teacher speaks of God or of himself, that they should be able to see hypocrisy, how would they learn this without a good teacher? And most parishioners just want to hear smooth things anyway, and once they find a teacher that preaches smooth things they ain’t going to care about his personal life, ain’t that one of the messages of the Bible? Forgiveness? Until humans start taking their own salvation seriously, until each and every one works out their own salvation and starts seeing it for the precious gift it truly is, well He will spew us from His mouth, be a sinner or be a saint but at least choose one, you shouldn’t mock God, He will not be mocked any more, mock yourselves, human

  5. Thank-you, God Bless, and have a good and blessed happy Easter.

    This article is a reminder that we have to pray for each other, be one a priest or a lay person always.

  6. Excellent reflection.

    The deepest challenge, for the priesthood, is to put an end to the code of silence and cover-up that continues in too many quarters to this day. It is subtle (and I guess one might even say masterful) but very damaging, even evil.

    While the laity can raise the issue on a case-by-case basis, it will take a very public campaign on the part of priests to say to their brothers, “No more. No more shielding those who are sick. No more shielding those who are clever and manipulative. No more shielding those who present potential harm to the Church. No more shielding those who are in the priesthood for other reasons. No more shielding out of pity or sympathy. No more shielding because of fear of blackmail.”

    If that sentiment is voiced loud and clear to one’s brothers in the priesthood, much good will come, much healing will begin to take place.

  7. Perhaps, Monsignor, to inculcate into yourself even greater sensitivity you could start writing poetry. You could write a poem about your rose bushes for instance, and then when you someone came in who wanted to be Catholic or if a couple came in who wanted to be married in the Church, you could say to them, “Before we begin this noble task please allow me to recite this poem that I have written about my rose bushes,” and then you could stand up and declaim it to them

    From there you could move on to poems about your birreta and your cassock. For example, something could be begin like this:

    “Noble the cassock, noble and black,
    Many-buttoned and cotton-twined. . .”

    1. ?/*()&%/?????….seriously, we all need prayers because we all sin constantly and let’s ask for the gift of humility.

      1. No offense intended and my apologies if any given. What I meant by my comment is that someone can only be so sensitive in one lifetime and that, in my opinion, Monsignor Pope is already doing plenty in that department.

  8. As a Catholic I found the priest sexual abuse scandals to be unconscionable. Admittedly, due to it I stayed away from the Church for a good while. Unfortunately, the stain from it will have lasting effects beyond my life on earth. Granted, we are all sinners but the Church hierarchy, namely the Bishops, let this problem get way out of control. Also, from what I gather there are still religious who engage in homosexual intimate relations to this day. Hopefully, those like me who left the Church due to the scandals will come back like I did. After all, it’s the place to be.

  9. The best thing we can do is support holy, orthodox priests and religious orders with our prayers, voices, and money. This is especially true when a priest is under attack from his own bishop or his own flock simply because he defended the Church’s teaching. Standing up against the gay mob and their political/corporate backers, for example, will take more courage every day. Even more so when almost all the people in the pews side with the devil against the priest.

  10. For all the MANY, MANY, MANY holy Catholic priests, My prayers tonight are for you! Thank you for all you do!

  11. The single greatest sin in the priesthood today is the same sin in two forms, and it is wide spread.

    First, inndifference to sacred nature of the Mass as a Last Supper prayer and holy sacrifice offered under Christ’s crucifixion.

    Second, while preaching community unity the priests practice disunity in the offering of the Mass.

    Both these sins are not merely symbolized by the orientation of the priest in the Novus Ordo, the are intrinsically tied to this “me” act of indifference.

  12. Monsignor Pope, as someone who was PHYSICALLY,not SEXUALLY abused by a priest i want to thank you for this post. The physical bruises and welts that were inflicted on me by a teacher/priest in minor seminary took about a week or so to go away,but the mental scars remained with me until at age 39, I went into a long term therapy that lasted for 5 years. I endured more than just that beating(which was far worse than any I had endured by my dad and that’s saying something) from him,but I survived and graduated and went on to a secular college. I never him again. I later learned that he left the priesthood after 20 years after becoming “unhappy with it”. A priest friend ran into years after we graduated and said that the former priest was still the same guy just now secular and married. The clergy abuse scandal reopened those old wound again. However, I am great full for the kindness was shown by other priests and religious who helped me through this. Both my parents went to their graves without knowing this because I was too ashamed to tell them.
    You’re only only a very small numbers of priests were abusive and I met a good number of them. Indeed, two of my closest friends are priests that I was in school with. Likewise, there are many in my diocese that I am friendly with.
    As a matter of fact, once they learned of this, THEY were MORE supportive than some laity who simply either patronized me or poohed-poohed it.
    So thank you Monsignor Pope for acknowledging this great evil.

  13. “In recent years there has been much focus on the sins of Catholic priests who went terribly wrong and sexually abused the young.” This is an understatement. The “young” ? I had a priest expose himself to a group of us on a vocations weekend at 17 and sexually assault me at 21. A fat gay ideologue who used the Church to push his agenda. (Still a priest) I had priest “hug” me in a face to face Confessional (there was no other choice) in 1983. ( He later left the priesthood and went to India) He wanted to show me God loved me but was aroused. The thoughts and ideology that lies behind this behaviour is the problem. Modernised Priests sexually abuse children, teens, young adults, house wives, adults, anyone male and female. They are like Judas… at some point they decided they wanted to serve another master… themselves, lust , gay ideology and the devil.
    History is littered with sinful clergy. The sins of the clergy discourage the people. The sins of the people discourage the clergy.
    How was it that within our liturgy, our doctrine or praxis a repudiation of continuity and truth has been imposed on us?
    How is it Judas lives? Even authority in the Church serves Judas when it imposes falsity on us like Kaspar and his cohort is trying to do at present. Yes even Popes can be part of this. A Cardinal Mueller truthfully reminded us the Pope is bound by what has been handed down. The same goes for all of us. Yet Vatican II has been the cause of the disconnect. It allowed and was a pretext in which the discipline of discipleship was toppled and abuses embraced in the name of updating for “modern man”. The same perverse modern man that foisted Bolshevism, Nazism and the pot head hippie generation. The Church must be suspicious of the times not conflicted and ambiguous.

  14. The totality of this message was so strong and it opened my mind to the fact that we are all sinner at one time or another, but some more so others. Here then, is where victims face a difficult challenge to forgive but because our God is Perfect he provides them with the gift of healing, but it comes only when forgiveness is granted just as Jesus forgave all mankind on this day.

  15. Where there is good evil swirls around, and all the works of mercy are forgotten…the people’s “favourite archbishop’ besmirched by Judas, His memory discounted and we are silent.

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