Monday, June 25, 2007

"To Judge or Not to Judge... Not," Part 2

I remember being at the Archdiocesan Ministry Day in Spring 2002 and watching Archbishop Flynn celebrate Mass. It was the big middle of the Aweful Lent that was the entire year of 2002. Daily the headlines were blaring about priestly sexual abuse.... here, there and everywhere in America. Archbishop Flynn was thrown into the middle of it all, not because of what was occuring here in our diocese, but because he is chair of the USCCB's Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse.

Archbishop Flynn appeared very tired that particular day, seemingly bone-weary from what was no doubt a constant diet of information and meetings on this important topic.

I remember thinking to myself at the time "well, the world is only holding the Church to the standard the Church itself set up. If a priest truly acts in persona Christi then the world has not only the right but the obligation to call the entire Church to account on the basis of that high standard."

Now its five years later. A lot has happened both "out there" in the Church and in my own life. And I am working in the Church full time. Many times over the past few years I have had the opportunity to observe clergy close-up ... to see their foibles and their sometimes tragic mistakes and sins, as well as the heroic and everyday sacrifices they make for the People of God.

Sometimes one is tempted to get critical and then cynical about clergy. They give us plenty of reasons to do so. It helps then to read again the words of God the Father to St. Catherine of Siena about his "ministers," the priests. She recorded it in her dialogue (cited in the article "The Danger of Criticizing Bishops and Priests" by Thomas G. Morrow, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, February 2007, p. 18).

[It] is my intention that they be held in due reverence, not for what they are in themselves, but for my sake, because of the authority I have given them. .... Indeed I have appointed them and given them to you to be angels on earth and suns, as I have told you.
When they are less than that you ought to pray for them. But you are not to judge them. Leave the judging to me, and I, because of your prayers and my own desire, will be merciful to them.

In this time of transition to a new Archbishop, in this time when many on all sides are tempted to be critical of bishops and priests, I'd ask everyone (myself included) before we say a word, positive or negative, about our clergy, to first say a prayer for them.

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