Summer is the time when many priest are reassigned to new parishes. There is always the sadness of having someone who has served the community well is leaving and the relief when a less competent pastor is being replaced. A good priest is such a blessing, and I think most priest want to do well by those they serve, but a insensitive, proud, toxic priest can cause so much spiritual damage.
I have seen wonderful priest and terrible ones. Bad priests can mean many things. Anything from financial mismanagement or just having a prickly or off-putting personality to the child sexual abuse cases we are all aware of. And in between the two extremes are those toxic men in priestly robes who through their vanity, lack of pastoral care or self absorption poison and wound the very people they are most called to serve. If you so much as dare to point out that they are causing harm they will make sure you pay the price.
A friend recently shared an article with me from The Catholic World Report “Fighting the Church may lead you right out of the Church”. I am in not position to opine on the examples of people who left the Church after finding themselves in conflict with it, but I can say that the deeper you believe in the truths of the Church the harder it is to square dealing with the Church leadership when they ignore the bad behavior of their brother priests. Most people who have lukewarm faith, who are not invested in parish life, who don’t have passion for the sacraments have nothing to hold them in the Church when things are going badly. They hop parishes, or leave all together without a syllable of protest because they aren’t invested. When someone complains, takes their concerns up the chain of command and is then brushed off, or worse told “Yes that was wrong that Fr. did that to you, but there isn’t really anything that we can do so suck it up buttercup” it is understandable that the harm is that much deeper. It is no wonder that passionate people who loved the gospel end up leaving when they find sheep being so poorly treated by the very people called to protect them.
Judas was not Christ’s mistake. I have long held that the betrayal of Christ by Judas was example for us in two ways – a warning against despair and reminder that even those who lived with Christ, ate with him were physically touched by him could be led astray. 1/12 of Christ’s first hand picked leadership failed to live up to their calling – We can not expect priests to be perfect. At the same time, if Judas has repented, had found his way to the foot of the cross, Christ would have forgiven him.
A good shepherd will leave the 99 and go an look for the one lost sheep. When I see how some priest not only are unwilling to reach out to people who have been hurt by the church, but are unwilling to reach out to people they have personally hurt, I fear for them. Austin Ruse end’s his article by saying “Here’s the thing. Dreher is out of the Church. Sciambra is out of the Church. Skojec is out of the faith altogether. I just think it would be better if they were still here with us” I agree. I hope and pray that someone int the leadership of the Church has reached out to say “come home”.