Monday, December 06, 2004

Memo To Eric: Father Knows... Best???

Eric Johnson of Catholic Light had a commentary the other day about people who "dump" on priests.

"If you have a problem or a question about something a priest said, you ought to take it up with him privately, either in person or in a letter. When you challenge him on a point of Christian teaching, you ought to make sure that you are supported by the ancient teaching of the Church, not by the secular anything-goes materialism that appeared on the world-historical scene the day before yesterday... Can you not see that by acknowledging apostolic succession with one side of your mouth, and insulting the successors of the apostles out of the other, you give scandal to non-Catholics and gladden the hearts of the Church's enemies?"

Not necessarily, my good man.

Now, I've got a number of friends who are priests. Some I've known since childhood. One or two may have saved my soul -- or my life.

And yet, in my going-on fifty years, I've met my share of them who could have well-afforded a good chewing out. Most of the time, I refrain.

The occasion usually doesn't call for it. Like when I visited a parish once with a friend of mine, and she asked why the church doesn't have kneelers, making people stand during the consecration. So while I'm listening to the Padre give some completely bogus explanation, I don't say a word. I give him what I call "the look." The one that says, "I am SOOOO on to you, buster!"

Occasionally I am less reserved. But what surprises me is that, with whatever chapter and verse I have to back me up, and however nicely I put it, the guy behind the Roman collar is aghast at being challenged for any reason at all.

We ask a lot of our priests. They don't always get a lot in return. And so we're inclined to cut them a little slack. A few take undue advantage of that, and think they can get away with anything.

Including pederasty -- apparently.

Now, maybe you'd like to dump on Catherine of Siena, who referred to the clerics surrounding the pope exiled in Avignon as "wolves and sellers of the divine Grace." Did she hate all priests? The priesthood itself?? Did she think the Pope was in any less than between a rock and a hard place???

Don't think so.

I know one priest who deserved a good punch in the nose. And he got one too.

The priest was a bishop from Alexandria, in Egypt (not Virginia), and his name was Arius. Arius lived early in the fourth century, and he taught that Jesus was not God, but more like a fulfilled sort of human being. By the time of the first Ecumenical Council in Nicea, he had most of the bishops convinced.

But not the bishop who gave him one right in the kisser. You think the old slugger got away with a stunt like that? Oh no, mister. The emperor who convened the Council was incensed, and had that other bishop locked up in the dungeon.

But that night, the Emperor had a dream. He saw a vision of the errant bishop, shining in his brilliant gold priestly vestments, and carrying the Book of the Gospels. The emperor awoke with such a frieght, and called his guards. He ordered them to accompany him to the dungeon, and open the door where the bishop was imprisoned.

Wanna guess what they found??

Who said dreams never come true, Eric? Mine is for more good men to answer the call to the priesthood. Men like many of those I meet in our common diocese of Arlington.

Oh, and about that bishop. There are a ton of good stories about him. This would be a good day to check them out, too, because today is his feast day.

That's right, Eric. Jolly old Saint Nick decked a heretic! Arius had it coming. So do a few others like him. Especially lately. Fortunately, not the one in your example. He's one of the good guys.

We should love our priests. We should help them. Send them a card on Father's Day. Have them over for dinner. But make no mistake about it; a few of them (if only a very few) could use a good "dumping." Especially if the Church is going to insist that they not have wives.

It's all about timing, though. But we'll save that for another day. Stay tuned...

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