(File photo: Jason Cohn/Reuters)
So, about this repulsive story out of New Orleans about the priest and the women and the altar. I want to say it doesn’t get much worse, but I know better than that. A priest friend of mine said to me earlier that his problem with the death penalty is that while it is wrong, it really should be reserved for certain things. Child rape, obviously. And this. If you’re a priest, the altar, the Confessional, and the tabernacle . . . are as sacred as it gets. And everything you do as a priest — which is who you are once you are ordained, it’s not a mere job you turn off at 5:00 or when the Zoom Mass is done — is meant to reflect the love of God. We’re human, we’re sinners, so we know that isn’t going to be the case. But you make choices that get you down a path of this kind of diabolical depravity.
There is so much evil.
I had another priest friend who loves tremendously say to me recently: Assume everyone is a serial killer until proven otherwise. I gave him a hard time — because I probably do something in the realm of the opposite typically. I see wounded children everywhere I look — and yet I get it. Don’t treat them like one, but assume it’s possible. Because it is. There but by the grace of God go I and all. We know so many of the problems that plague us, and we know how much spiritual warfare on top of the weakness of the flesh there is in the world. We need to be vigilant about virtue. We need to watch out for one another and be accountable to others. And priests cannot be allowed to lapse into this kind of desecration of not just the altar where the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered, but the human person! This doesn’t happen overnight. And it would appear the women knew exactly what they were doing (certainly the older one).
We need a healthier society, we need a healthier priesthood. As with politics, we each need to realize our power here. I fully expect there to be more of these stories, not less. They have to come to light for truth and justice and healing. At the same time, believers who believe — really, truly believe — do penance. Do reparation. And yes, even if you didn’t desecrate an altar. We Christians are all part of the Body of Christ. Beg God for His mercy for all our sins. It’s His Church, and problems which seem insurmountable can only be helped by His grace and our faithfulness to what He asks of us.
In politics, we need to look around and do our part — meet needs. The same is the case with the Church. Raise your family right. Love one another. And support and encourage your parish priest. That doesn’t mean give him some exalted status or treat him like an idol who if you keep in close proximity might get you points for heaven, but give thanks for his fiat to God’s call and help him live the life of self-sacrificial service and heroic virtue in which you need a community’s prayers and love to persevere.
And if he’s doing blatantly sinful things, chancery, we have a problem. This just doesn’t happen overnight. There ought to be people with power or communications access to power who are in the position to see the warning signs and not ignore them.
Because we’re such a sick society, we seem to have no idea that that community Amy Coney Barrett has around her is the way you do the Christian life. Surround yourself with goodness and accountability, wisdom and love. Mentorship. Friendship. Have people in your life who will help you to get to heaven and whom you want to see there, too. That’s how we’re going to get to a healthier place in politics, in the Church, and in the world.
I have no doubt we are going to continue to learn of some hellish stuff in the Church. Hold fast to Christ. And do so in community of light and truth and rock-solid trust in God alone.
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