March 31, 2008


This past weekend one of the retired priests was going to his "help out" (That's what you call it when religious priests without a parochial assignment assist at a parish with weekend Masses) and was curious to hear the promised "guest preacher." Unfortunately the guest preacher turned out to be a diocesan official who announced that the pastor--who had already disappeared--was under investigation for using the parish funds to support his gambling habit.

So we have in our area another depressing story of the clergy getting caught while up to no good. How does this happen? How do we priests--who (presumably) teach and preach high ideals day after day--fall into these double lives and get caught in such sinful crimes?

Do we need a reform of the clergy, as has happened at our moments in our Church's history? What's wrong with the Catholic priesthood, with all of its spiritual malaise and reports of low morale?

If, in my very personal and arrogant opinion, I were to hazard a diagnosis of what's wrong with the clergy, I would point to three things right away:

1. We don't say our prayers. Each of us, when we were ordained deacon (or subdeacon if it was before August 1972) promised to observe the Liturgy of the Hours faithfully on behalf of the Church and the world. It has not been my general impression that we take this promise very seriously.

2. We have allowed ourselves to absorb the bourgeois values of the North American upper middle class.

3. We have permitted the culture of the clergy to absorb the values and attitudes of certain decadent subcultures from the surrounding society.

But, as I say, these are only IMAO, "In my arrogant opinion."


ben in denver said...

I recenly read an excellent book by Paul Hallett, a fellow Denverite who went to the Lord in 2002, called "Witness to Permanance: Reflections of a Catholic Journalist". Hallett worked for the National Catholic Register begining in the 30's and saw it through its transition from being an organ of the Archdiocese of Denver to being an independent publication. He was one of the leading Catholic journaists in America throughout the years of the Council and through all of the changes that happened in the 70's, including the massive defections from priestly and religious life that occurred in that decade.

It is very interesting that he agrees with you that priests and religious begin to have difficulty when the daily office is neglected. He said that he saw this in the 50's, well before any changes wrought by Vatican II; that priests who were disobiedient, and priests who ended up leaving the priestly state, were the ones who neglected their duties to pray.

lake said...

Could you say a little more about neglecting the Liturgy of the Hours leading to demise of the priesthood?

I agree w/ your analysis, but why do you specifically mention this prayer? Obviously you can pray the Liturgy of the Hours and totally ignore it (as in any prayer). How is devotion to this prayer more transformative than other prayer forms and how do you resist the temptation of treating this prayer as an ritual obligation or recitation of a formula? In other words, how does this prayer break the hold of malaise & low morale?

Ben's comment is interesting about the correlation between those leaving the priesthood with those neglecting their responsibilities to pray.

tara said...

very well said, fr. charles! all of what has been happening with priests in the recent past years has effected me in a very personal way. i mentioned either in an e-mail to you or maybe in one of my comments to one of your posts that i don't go to a certain parish in croton anymore partly because of not one (but two) priests being removed from that parish. one of those priests became a good friend during his time as pastor there and i know deep in my heart that he has been wrongly accused and it hurt me very deeply that he was removed so abruptly from the parish. the first week that he was gone from the parish was like experiencing the death of someone very dear, except it was a lot worse than that. there was no explanation for why he was suddenly gone for that entire week and then it was in the newspapers that following weekend. no one from the archdiocese even had the compassion to at least come to the parish first and explain anything. there was also never any support offered for those of us who were effected by this and that's also part of the reason i'm not comfortable ever returning to that parish.
you're right about prayer. the liturgy of the hours is very important. it's so nice that you (Capuchin Friars) pray morning prayer with those of us parishioners who come early enough before Mass to do so. i really feel a deep connection to you as priests of the Lord and to the other parishioners who are there and to the church as a whole when we pray together like that. even on Holy Thursday when we prayed night prayers together was a very nice experience and something that i hope can happen more than once a year.
thanks for this important post that you title "Diagnosis"
see you this thursday and saturday!

Evelyn said...

Lane, I wonder if part of this is the nature of the Liturgy of the Hours as *community* prayer. As a busy mom, I find it easy to slam through daytime and nighttime some days, because something else is pressing. But I do know that when I am at a pre-Mass LotH, I have no choice but to slow down and really pray, not just read. And we know who usually comes and who doesn't and we ask after folks if we don't see them. So I wonder if the community aspect doesn't also provide some accountability and good old fashioned LOVE.