My friend Fr. Ray Blake, P.P. of St. Mary Magdalen in Brighton, has a interesting, sad, provocative post on his blog today.
Emphases, comments, comments and the insertion of images mine.
Fr. Blake writes…
If I was going to be martyred I think I could be quite heroic standing before a firing squad, especially with a few others. I would want it to be quick, long torture might produce less heroism. A slow death and years of ostracism and humiliation… well, may the Lord have mercy on my poor soul.
Pure and Simple has a rather sad article from the Irish Times which identifies the depression and hopeless of many Irish priests. It is essentially an interview with Fr Hoban, his pain is palpable, as is his sense of frustration. You get the impression from the article that this is the first time someone has shown any interest in him or his feelings. Fr Hoban blames the bishops and blames Rome, he sees the somewhat heterodox Association of Catholic Priests as being the last toss of the dice. There is real pain here, Fr Hoban and his confreres need our prayers and whatever consolation they can be offered.
I fear for my brother priests in Ireland, for their spiritual and emotional health some will opt out others will struggle on but with the joy gone.
But the paranoia has also infected the priests’ day-to-day pastoral work. “A woman comes to the door who may have psychiatric problems . . . What do I do? Take a chance by letting her into my front room? There is no doubt that priests have withdrawn, that they’ve become ultracareful and ultrasensitive on how they might be compromised.This is not good for Christ or his Church.
What is seen in Ireland and highlighted by the “abuse crisis” is I suspect present elsewhere in Europe. Low quality bishops, priests not seeing anyway forward, many seeing the Church is actually going backwards, a conservatism embedded in the seventies, a distrust of Rome, misgivings about young traditionally minded priests, is not just an Irish problem, it is everywhere in Europe. It is I suspect ultimately what the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization is really supposed to address. [Is that what it is supposed to address?]
The problem with Ireland, as so many have identified, is Ireland’s bishops, my wise and balanced friend Fr Sean Fineagans make this perceptive comment:
Now let us look at the bishops. Before the 60s, it was normal that episcopal appointments would be finally approved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (or ‘Holy Office’). Pope Paul VI changed this to final approval by the Secretariate of State. [Indeed.] This is because he wanted to pursue a policy of detente all round; ecumenism and Ostpolitik were the watchwords. So henceforward bishops would be diplomats; nice guys, people who could pour oil on troubled waters, men who would not rock the boat.
These are the men who would not pursue child abusers, for fear that a storm might arise. They are good men, nice men; they are just not what is needed now, if ever.In a post today he says:
That is why I think that what the Church needs is not bishops like Willie Walsh, much-loved and kind man as he is, but men like Charles Chaput who really get it.But as I say this is a problem everywhere, especially in Europe, if only someone would start a campaign to give back to the CDF the appointment of Bishops, we need learned theologians and hard nosed canon lawyers who capable of leadership. [More theologians than lawyers, I think. And men who are truly interested in our liturgical worship, properly understood.]
An interesting proposal.
Before I engage in any rant of my own, I recommend to all seminarians and men thinking about the priesthood that they re-read Benedict XVI’s Letter to Seminarians.
Men become priests for the salvation of souls, namely a) to save their own souls by doing God’s will and b) to keep as many people as possible out of hell and c) to help as many holy souls into heaven as soon as possible after they die. Salvation of souls is the essence of it. Every other activity must be subordinated to those goals. There is no higher calling. That calling brings consequences, spiritual and worldly. Because the priest is conformed to the person of Christ by a sacrament which changes his soul forever, and because Christ is both priest and victim, the priest will always also be victim. If his ministry is in conformity with Christ, it will conform to Christ’s suffering on the Cross as well as to the victory of the Empty Tomb.
I would also suggest a rereading of Pope Benedict’s letter to the Church in Ireland, especially par. 10, in which the Holy Father addresses priests. In par. 14 he recommends a return to traditional practices.
So much rests on our bishops. It has ever been so.
The Devil hates priests with the unrelenting malice and the cunning of a fallen angelic enemy. If that is the case, the Enemy hates bishops even more. Bishops need our prayers and the strength of our fasting and works of mercy. The less adequate they seem to the task, the more they need our prayers and support.
They also need us to have a strong Catholic identity. This will depend on true Catholic liturgical worship. Liturgical worship steers everything in the Church. As we pray as a Church, so we believe and we act. Can anyone doubt that when more Catholics are strongly and certainly and faithfully Catholic, worshiping God and using the sacraments, trying to live in the state of grace, striving to know the Faith and then be able to gives reasons for the hope that is in them, then the mission of bishops and priests becomes that much less burdensome? Burdens will never be lacking, of course, but doesn’t that make sense?
The Enemy has many human agents, within the Church and throughout every sphere of life everywhere. Christ the Just Judge will sort out the wheat from the weeds in His own good time. Meanwhile, we have the help of holy angels, the saints with our Blessed Mother. We have God’s help. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are at work through the ministry of bishops and priests, who are tasked with one overriding mission: the salvation of souls.
We are all in this together. If things are not as they ought to be, examine your own part. If you don’t see vocations in the numbers you think we should have, examine your own part. If you see problems with the priests and bishops you have, examine your own part.
Kudos to Fr. Blake for posting this. I thought it important enough to make it more visible. Perhaps a note to him on his blog would be appropriate.
Thus endeth the rant.