Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina

Today is the feast of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, still affectionately known as "Saint Padre Pio." Blessed with the stigmata, this holy man of God entered religious life (Capuchin Franciscans). EWTN has a magnificent biography on their webstite (click picture above). He entered novitiate at the age of 15 after his father went to America to earn money for his son's education prior to entering the friary. Though he battled disease and attacks of the Devil, his worst suffering occured when he was FALSELY accused. Some of his own brethren and some of the hierarchy were envious of his spiritual goodness and when it was known he had the stigmata, slander and calumny were used to discredit him. It went as far up as the Holy Office. In 1923, the msot vile and reprehensible lie was proliferated and he was forbidden to teach teenage boys in the school attached to the monastery because he was considered "a noxious Socrates, capable of perverting the fragile lives and souls of boys." Nothing was further from the truth but his enemies were persuasive and relentless. Despite his innocence, he obediently complied with his unjust punishment. Guilty of no wrongdoing, he suffered greatly as he was no longer allowed to publicly celebrate Mass, preach or hear confessions. This almost broke his heart. Today, there are other innocent priests who suffer likewise by being suspended of their faculties based on false accusations. The disgusting and repugnant behavior of a few and their subsequent cover-up by some bishops have produced a climate of quasi-paranoia so that some innocent clergy are becoming collateral damage victims.

Padre Pio was allowed to celebrate public Mass in 1933 by order of Pope Pius XI who said "I have not been badly disposed toward Padre Pio, but I have been badly informed." Pope Pius XII encouraged people to visit him. Pope John XXIII remained suspicious but Pope Paul VI dismissed all charges and exonerated the holy man. Pope John Paul the Great beatified (1999) and then canonized (2002) Padre Pio. He endured poverty, disease, hardship, two World Wars, but the most painful was the excruciating suffering of being falsely accused. The vicious lies told about him would have caused the paper they were written upon to burst into flames. Fortunately, he was cleared (sadly, this cannot be said of all falsely accused priests today).Those real culprits who commit the abominable crime of abusing children should have the most severe punishment. They should be defrocked and excommunicated for ruining a child's life and for the scandal they brought upon the Church. Yet, we cannot forget there are always some innocent victims on the other side of the fence insofar as the falsely accused can belong. Just as no one would want to punish a mother for child abuse who was in reality innocent of the accusations, so, too, must we remember the axiom 'innocent until proven guilty.' The gravity of the crime of child abuse demands that ANY and ALL perpetrators be severely punished (be it clergy of any religion, or be it coaches, teachers, scout-masters, neighbors, relatives or even parents) but it also requires diligence to insure that no innocent (falsely accused) are sacrificed in the process. What was vile then is vile now. Child abuse is abhorrent and so is the abuse of power when those in authority cover-up for abusers and/or when they misuse their authority and unjustly censure those priests (or deacons or seminarians) who merely disagree with them or who oppose their prudential judgment. Ironically, some will suspend priests for following the rubrics or for remaining faithful to the Magisterium merely because they criticize their superiors on non-doctrinal matters. Question a policy or prudential judgment and get censured while real violators of canon law and liturgical rubric get promotions and honors. Padre Pio gives us the best remedy: BEAR WRONGS PATIENTLY. I pray to him DAILY for myself and for ALL my brother priests and deacons, especially the most forgotten and most foresaken, the falsely accused and innocent clergy wherever they may be.

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