Over at Vultus Christi, which I check every day, dom Mark posted a disturbing quote from St. John Chrysostom’s On the priesthood:
All men are ready to pass judgment on the priest as if he was not a being clothed with flesh, or one who inherited a human nature, but like an angel, and emancipated from every species of infirmity. And just as all men fear and flatter a tyrant as long as he is strong, because they cannot put him down, but when they see his affairs going adversely, those who were his friends a short time before abandon their hypocritical respect, and suddenly become his enemies and antagonists, and having discovered all his weak points, make an attack upon him, and depose him from the government; so is it also in the case of priests. Those who honored him and paid court to him a short time before, while he was strong, as soon as they have found some little handle eagerly prepare to depose him, not as a tyrant only, but something far more dreadful than that. And as the tyrant fears his body guards, so also does the priest dread most of all his neighbours and fellow-ministers. For no others covet his dignity so much, or know his affairs so well as these; and if anything occurs, being near at hand, they perceive it before others, and even if they slander him, can easily command belief, and, by magnifying trifles, take their victim captive.
How the Devil works to undermine and reduce the priest and priesthood!
This has always been the case, because the priest stands in persona Christi. He stands in the place of the Sacrifice, with which he is inextricably intertwined. He is the liminal, numinous figure though still clearly – sometimes all too clearly – in our midst. Priesthood, like Mass, is a mystery both tremendum et fascinans.
It must, therefore, be savaged.
People are all too willing to do the Devil’s work when it comes to this sine qua non of our salvation and God’s plan.
This has always been the case, but it is even more so now, I think. And it will be even more so than now in the near future.
I am reminded of what Card. George said back in 2010. It is grim, but it ends on a high note:
“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”