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.