Sex and Priestly Integrity
The whole Church has
been scandalized and saddened by the reported sexual acts of pedophilia by several priests in the United States. Without mentioning any particular sexual behavior, the Holy Father declared
with great sorrow;
"... as priests we are personally and profoundly afflicted by the sins of some of our brothers who have betrayed the grace of Ordination in succumbing even to the most grievous forms of
the mysterium iniquitatis
at work in the world. Grave scandal is caused, with the result that a dark shadow of suspicion is cast over all the toher fine priests who perform their ministry with honesty and integrity often with heroic self-sacrifice. As the Church shows her concern for the victims and strives to respond in truth and justice to each of these painful situations, all of us--conscious of human weakness, but trusting in the healing power of divine grace--are called to
embrace the 'mysterium Crucis'
and to commit ourselves more fully to the search for holiness. We must beg God in His Providence to prompt a whole hearted reawakening of those ideals of total self-giving to Christ which are the very foundation of the priestly ministry (
Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday 2002, no. 11. The letter is 22 pages long and is devoted to the vocation of the priest as the minister of reconciliation and of divine
mercy. The press reported on one paragraph of the letter.)
What is to be said except to reiterate the strong sentiments and convictions of the Holy Father, namely:
- Some priests have grievously betrayed their Ordination.
- They have scandalized the whole Church.
- They have cast a shadow of suspicion over the many faithful priests in the world who are truly men of honesty and integrity.
- The Church is truly concerned with the victims.
- The Church strives to respond in truth and justice to each painful situation.
- Priests must commit themselves more fully to become holy and re-awaken in themselves the Christ-like ideal of self-giving, the very foundation of the Priesthood.
Despite all the human efforts and supernatural means to prepare good holy priests for the ministry, there are still Judases today in the Priesthood as in the time of Christ.
Yes, consider the standard screening of vocations to the priesthood:
- Rigid psychological tests that delve into the personality, vocation, motivation and intelligence of the candidate;
- Investigation of the family background of the candidate;
- Once accepted on the basis of a battery of tests, inquiries, interviews and vocational search-ins, the candidate goes through at least nine years of seminary formation (four years of
college and five years of theology).
- These years of formation are saturated with spiritual and pastoral formation, both academic and practical, in a matrix of inter-human relationships. A yearly evaluation takes place.
- There does not seem to be any dimension in the candidate's life that is not evaluated.
More than any vocation in life, the priestly vocation is tested, scrutinized and finally stamped as approved by the Church at the candidate's ordination. Even then, before he is ordained
a deacon, the candidate vows life-long celibacy to which his formation has prepared him. And finally, at his priestly ordination, the sacred words of ordination are pronounced over hum by
Almighty Father, grant to this servant of Yours the dignity of the priesthood. Renew within him the Spirit of holiness. As a co-worker with the order of Bishops, may he
be faithful to the ministry that he receives from You, Lord God, and be to others a model of right conduct.
If words could faithfully translate into deeds, there would be no problem.