Thursday, October 17, 2013


A Cleveland priest is in trouble.  Gads I hate that.  How anybody in their right mind would risk such behavior in this day in age – especially knowing that priests are going to be especially targeted – is beyond my ken.  But as much as I want to slap him upside the head, I feel sorry for the poor soul firstly that he is so desperate that he was willing to risk public embarrassment (not to mention having already contracted HIV) and that as a priest and close to the sacraments as he was did not reach out to someone who would lead him away from such behavior or allow the grace of the sacraments to help him find fulfillment elsewhere.
Say a prayer for him and even more so for his congregation.

The coverage from the news media was interesting.  Within an hour of the arrest, one news station was already pumping out stories on the internet.  The details in the paper were excruciating.  The amount of people arrested for such behavior every day is staggering, but it is for Catholic priests that such painful details are put on display for public scrutiny.  I wasn’t even sure what some of the stuff was about which they were speaking.


But I mention this because I don’t think it an entirely bad thing.  Politicians and priests are given a spot light and everyone else, except the most outrageous offenders, get little or no coverage at all.  Why is this?  Is something more expected especially of Catholic priests?  Are they seen as different?  We are supposed to be different – “in the world not of the world.”  As much as it appears to be an attack and may, in the heart of the reporter, be intended as such, at its root there may be a strong desire that there would be hope in this world beyond the mundane.  That the world wants there to be some great and indisputable power for good and an inerrant answer to our questions.  And when there is someone who comes along who should be a shining example that fails so spectacularly, it is with a mix of sarcasm, anger, disappointment, and a little relief in that “I don’t have to change my life because that faith just leads to the same place,” the gory details are paraded down the center of the street for all to see and learn the age old lesson, “See, it was too good to be true.”
Yet there are 1.2 billion Catholics in the world.  Some of them are bound not to get it and end up exploding like the space shuttle while the world looks on and gasps, unable to turn away. 
But the opposite is also true.  When we go to Church we are surrounded by proof that the faith does work and for those who follows her, holiness is offered.  We see them in wood, plaster, and paint.  The light shining through their images in glass is so bright we can barely look upon them.  They also walk out of the confessional, having confessed their sins, striving to make amends, change their lives, and do penance.  Even hundreds of epic fails cannot dim the great cloud of witnesses that testify that the path to holiness in the Church is a true one for those who are true to it.

In the meantime, be aware of the public scandal that our sins can cause.  May they never be an excuse for someone else to stay away from the faith.  May the people of St. Ignatius persevere in their journey toward the Supper of the Lamb.


Pat said...

"And when there is someone who comes along who should be a shining example that fails so spectacularly . . . ."

Perhaps some people react so strongly to the public failure of a Catholic priest out of fear for their own salvation: "If even you guys--who have a vocation, want to give your lives in service to God, have had much spiritual formation and theological training--if even YOU GUYS can't keep out of such trouble, what hope is there for me, an average, struggling Catholic?"

Anonymous said...

I have to think that deep down, he wanted to be caught. Why else would anyone be so foolish as to behave like that in public, especially a priest. For crying out loud, if you have compulsions, keep it private.

Anonymous said...

*to clarify,I mean "you" as a generic "you".

Anonymous said...

So very sad. I don't know much about him or the situation, but after noticing his age (68), I couldn't help but wonder if he may be showing signs of dementia. Unfortunately, when the brain starts to go, acting out sexually in inappropriate ways can be one of the symptoms. This is something commonly seen in nursing homes. But if he is truly aware of what he is doing and sinning, I pray for him an all of those affected.

MaryofSharon said...

Gosh, that story is depressing. This priest's first assignment was the parish where I grew up. I have to hope that this crisis will end up being the means by which God can finally work for great good in his life. I pray that this very messy and embarrassing situation be precisely what this priest needs to finally be brought to true repentance and deep conversion for his good and for the greater glory of God, not just in his life, but for others.

I wish the gawkers could have the presence of mind to realize that the truth and goodness of our Faith cannot be evaluated by looking at those who fail to adhere to its principles, anymore than a effectiveness of a diet plan can be evaluated by observing a person who doesn't stick to it. Like you so beautifully expressed, we need to look at the radiance and beauty of the lives of the saints, those who most fully live the Faith to recognize its great goodness and truth.

Time to ramp up our prayers for our priests!

Anonymous said...

Mmm. Okay.

Can we all hold hands and acknowledge that we are created as sexual beings, and that that is as God intended? Even those he intends to later call to a life of celibacy?

Groovy. Now let me make this analogy:

If you want to lose weight, the temptation is to stop eating... it is absolutely the fastest way to drop a few pounds (ask someone in the hospital). But it isn't healthy, or reasonable, and if you do it you will inevitably find yourself consuming an entire bag of chips at 2am. Eating responsibly, along with exercise, is the ticket to being physically healthy.

I would suggest that most priests approach sexuality in the same way... it's a balancing act of prayer, restraint, and controlled indulgence (choosing my words carefully so as not to offend). It is unreasonable to expect a sexual nature to just evaporate at ordination day. But as a society and as a church, we're not there yet.

I don't know McGonegal. I do wonder if he wasn't riding the roller coaster... the one that says you can't entertain impure thoughts, masturbate, or have sex. The one that imagines every other priest but you has this totally figured out, and leaves you wondering why you are so weak-willed and inferior.

The church told you to stop eating and you did... and in a fog of hormones and recklessness, decades of faithful service and sacrifice has been washed away by scandal.

The presbyterate needs to reconcile the era of condemnation with Pope Francis' artful comments of late. I'll cop to some sympathy for McGonegal, only because I think he might've been trying too hard.

MaryofSharon said...

In response to the most recent Anonymous's comment, Cleveland seminary philosophy professor, Fr. Damian Ference has some great insights in his article, "The Prophetic Nature of the Male Celibate Priesthood" which, by the grace of Providence, perhaps, I was just reading last night before I read this AA post. Fr. Damian even speaks about priests who fall in a manner quite similar to what you said, Fr. V.

Anonymous said...

No disrespect to Fr. Ference, but if example is the end-all-be-all, most parishioners should be taking notes from the deacons, whose work and family experience most closely resembles the congregation. Celibacy is an enormous sacrifice, and most priests who leave the priesthood do so over it. Pretending you are asexual, or at least extremely disciplined, is a much less worthwhile example than demonstrating how to live in faithful and happy commitment, while properly raising children.

The sad reality is priests get paid very poorly, and are moved around without consultation. Some rectories could support a small family, most would not. There are practical considerations that support the status quo, and they aren't all trivial.

Common to the post by Fr. V and the article by Fr. Ference is the idea that the media loves to see Catholics twist in the wind. I disagree... I think they love to expose hypocrisy - which could be anti-gay politicians with gay lovers, or pop culture icons with goody-goody personas smoking joins with their friends.

MaryofSharon said...

There is a spiritual plane on which priestly celibacy can be seen as stunningly beautiful gift of one's total self to the Church.

They are not pretending to be asexual, but rather choosing to invest their maleness in a different way than most. Their choice for the priesthood is not so much a "no" to marriage and children (which our culture has completely forgotten is the only context in which the marital act is appropriate anyhow) as much as it is a "yes" to an undivided spousal relationship with the Church and to dedicating their fatherly character in an undivided way to their flocks.

I cannot adequately put into words my gratitude to the priests whose ministry has blessed me and my family. They simply would not be able to serve in the same way if they were also married to women and had children, and thus had to divide their time and their hearts.

A study of Blessed John Paul II's Theology of the Body, audience # 73-86, offers much worthy of study related to this matter. The Roman rite's continuation of the tradition of priestly celibacy has been deeply, deeply pondered and found worthy of the sacrifice it requires.