Wednesday, November 9, 2011


A man is released from jail with a felony conviction. He has been out of work for some time, does not have a great support system or savings. He comes to the Church and says that he has had a great conversion. His life is in order and has been for some time. He desperately needs a job and he wants to do something for the Church that has brought him hope and encouragement; that has helped him get his life together. Maybe he is even interested in the priesthood.

I cannot hire him. He has a felony conviction and I have a school. It would be illegal and I would be opening myself and the Church to a lawsuit if someone found out and even worse if something happened even if it would not have mattered as much if a person without a conviction had done it. And the Church is under such a powerful magnifying glass that we would most likely not allow his to enter into our seminary no matter how sincere he is. As much good as he has done, Fr. Carapi has made many in the Church even more nervous about “the great converted” serving in such a fashion. You would be surprised how often this scenario arises.

Most religious orders are not far away from this. Traditionally a convent or abbey could be a place where a person who could not quite make it in the world could go. Now most places want you to be well educated, of sound mind, of clean background, and debt free. Of course they do.

At the opposite end is disappearance from rectories of live-in help. Social Security brought that to an end. The Church is no longer needed to provide shelter and a modest income for a widow who was facing a difficult time. And now we probably would not do it because of the expense and the microscope of scandal.

In some ways, roles in Church life are quite limited. It is often not the bastion for those who need a place to be who can’t find another way to make it in the world. On the one hand this is good. I like to know that nobody working around children, who are among the vulnerable, who handle finances in the Church come from “respectable” backgrounds (all the more scrutinized these days both inside and from without the Church.)

On the other hand – where is the hope for the great conversions – the person with a questionable background (Saint Paul) or of questionable abilities (Saint John Vianney)?

We want both – I want both – I want to know that everyone in the Church is as capable and sound of mind and body as possible – I also want to give people the second chance or the chance to do something that the world does not seem able to give them.

What would you do?


Cracked Pot said...

"The Church" includes the laity.

Are there parishioners with job openings that could take on a special case like the individual you describe?

People down on their luck go to the local church. The church doesn't need to provide the answer, but rather, provide the network of laity who can help.

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of ways to live out the Christian faith besides being involved heavily in the church. It is good that the gentleman is listening to his heart and trying to hear his calling but maybe he is not getting it quite right.

More discernment is required. I don't believe God calls one to serve in a capacity where limitations (either, physical or otherwise) make it impossible for the service to be performed.

lgreen515 said...

This is one of those hard truths: sometimes, the consequences of our previous actions can be permanent--at least in this life. We can pray for him, and encourage him to come to Mass, and introduce him to employers who will hire ex-cons. They are around. I wonder if a Google search might help there. As Anon said above, there are many ways that God can call us, and more discernment is required.

Jennifer Fitz said...

The thrift store we support locally with our in-kind donations exists for this: To provide employment, housing, and Christian support for men with lousy background.

There are a number of good works that could be organized by a church-affiliated ministry in a similar way.

Anonymous said...

What would I do?

I hope that I would give the person a chance and offer them a job. That's easy for me to say because I don't own a company, nor am I responsible for hiring anyone.

I should also add that my response would be influenced by the type of crime the person committed.

Anonymous said...

The sad fact is that many of these people live off the charity of others. They know that we (Catholics) are obligated by our faith to help. It reminds me of a of time I read one of the card board signs that are held by the same three individuals who are constantly on the corners asking for money. It read, "If you really love God, you would give me money." I thought, well at least this guy is being upfront with the reactions he is attempting to elicit. I've asked these people to do some work for me, such as raking leaves, etc. They claim they can't do it. I ask them how it is that they can stand outside for eight hours with holding their signs. They just shrug. Meanwhile, I work and come home and rake my own leaves.

Baron Korf said...

Reminds me of Jean Valjean.