Saturday, November 01, 2008

Priestly Support

The following appeared on ZENIT but I was unable after several tries to make a comment.

Here is the original post:

Support for Priests

A response to: Vatican: Future Priests Need More Than Prayer Life

As a priest, I more than anyone agree that many times, it is not until after ordination that a priest's difficulties in the psycho-social aspect come forth.

However, many times, there is a fear to be honest with struggles in the seminary for a fear of being dismissed. Unfortunately, many times, when a priest afterward finds himself in difficulty, he experiences very little support at times in his time of need.

I believe the bishops must examine not only the psychology of the priest, but also how they must support priests.

Fr. Francis Majors

Here is my response:

As a Priest and as president of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy (a national association of priests & deacons) I thoroughly agree that we desperately need the support of our bishops. Not only do they ordain and assign us, but we function in their name. Priestly ministry is dependent on episcopal ministry in that we assist the bishop in his three-fold task of sanctifying, teaching and governing. While lacking the fullness of the priesthood, priests and deacons, nevertheless are ordained ministers like bishops. Our job helps enable the bishop's job of caring for his flock throughout the diocese. As ordained helpers, priests and deacons are 'in the field' so to speak. We are 'on the front line' in the parish, the school, the hospital, etc. Vatican II and the Code of Canon Law make it clear that bishops need to support their clergy throughout their ordained ministry.

Weeding out bad candidates for the priesthood is the awesome task of vocation directors and seminary faculty but the ultimate responsibility lies with the Bishop who ordains the men to the diaconate or to the priesthood.

As the writer mentioned, however, some psychological or mental problems do not manifest themselves or do not exist before ordination. Like physcial ailments, some diseases appear suddenly and sporadically while others are congenital from birth.

Once ordained, however, every deacon, priest and bishop deserves support across the board: spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, financial, psychological. If he misbehaves, his is to be reprimanded and justly punished. Yet, does not the Gospel also command all the baptized to forgive and to seek forgiveness; to repent and accept the repentance of others?

Abandoning our own to the wolves has never been Christian practice. Justice demands that the innocent be protected and the guilty be punished. Christian charity also demands we forgive and be forgiven ourselves.

Today's climate of looming and pending lawsuits around every corner have made some ordained clergy very nervous. The past and previous practice of IGNORING problems and worst yet COVERING UP problems are not viable solutions. At the same time, hyper-reacting to problems and paranoia, skepticism and feeding franzies every time a Catholic clergyman is ACCUSED (note, I did not say CONVICTED) of any type of misbehavior, he is often left to defend himself and fend for himself. Although civil and canon law presume innocence until proven guilty, the court of public opinion is quite different. Ask any priest called into the Chancery Office after a parishioner complains that he or she was not treated properly. 99% of the time, the issue is not Father's alleged rude conduct but in reality it is his defense of orthodox doctrine or his refusal to violate canon law when someone asks for a 'favor' (usually means breaking the liturgical rules to accommodate someone who rarely goes to church)

We need the support of our bishops. We need the support of our laity. We need the support of our brother priests and deacons. Associations like the CCC help at one level among ourselves. We also need moral and spiritual support from our parishioners and from our shepherds themselves, the bishops. Pope Benedict XVI told the American bishops at his US visit to SUPPORT YOUR PRIESTS.

Yes, we are imperfect and peccable. We are weak and we are sinners. The same is true of each and every one of our lay brothers and sisters and the same is true of every bishop. Did Jesus cease His support for His Apostles and Disciples after the Resurrection? Did not many abandon Him on Good Friday? Yet, our Divine Savior forgave His followers and supported them in their repentance.

We live in world that thrives on hypersensitivity. People take too much out of context and react before all the facts are made known. If your parish priest was not part of the recent scandal and your bishop was not part of the cover-up, then both need and deserve your support. Deacons, priests and bishops exist to provide for the spiritual needs of God's people, not vice versa. Yet, the clergy need support and love to be effective and to resist DISCOURAGEMENT. Disenchanted and disillusioned clergy are on the verge of despair. Discouragement can sour a marriage and can tarnish a priestly vocation. Help us so we can help you. Support us so we can support you.

Whenever a phone call or letter comes into the Diocese complaining about a priest or deacon, the post-clergy-scandal reaction is to call the accused cleric in ASAP. If a matter of the Fifth or Sixth Commandment, that would be proper response. When it involves a petty complaint or a disgruntled mediocre Catholic not getting special favors, then a different response is in order.

I annually challenge my parishioners to overtly thank the receptionist at their doctor's or dentist's office; the school secretary where their kids attend; the salesperson at the store; the waitress at the dinor. We easily and readily complain when these people treat us less than we expect but do we acknowlege them when they are doing what they are supposed to do?

We write letters when we want to identify a problem person but do we write as often and as enthusiastically to thank the local bishop for the priest and deacon he sent us? Bishops get all kinds of letters, faxes, phone calls, etc. about their priests and deacons. Most will tell you that they so rarely get positive affirmation that when it does happen it almost seems unreal.

Those of you who have been blessed with wonderful, courageous, orthodox and very pro-life bishops, I ask you to write to the Nuncio (Archbishop Sambi) and thank him and write Pope Benedict XVI and thank him for sending you a good shepherd. If you have a good pastor, parochial vicar and/or deacon, write your local bishop and thank him. If enough good clergy are encouraged, then we might see more of them in terms of who is sent as well as who is ordained. Easy enough to complain when the one sent is not doing his job and he deserves to be corrected by his superiors. Likewise, though, the ones who do a good or even exemplary job deserve recognition, not for their ego but to show what people want and deserve in their clergy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I preached a retreat this past weekend at Casa Maria retreat house, run by the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word.  They are located a mile from EWTN studios in Irondale, AL.  It is a marvelous place and the sisters are wonderful, orthodox, prayerful and joyful.  It is no accident that you find a thriving community of women religious, with young, vibrant and increasing vocations, wearing a complete habit, and exuding joyful smiles every time you meet them.  Other communities are dying off, their numbers decreasing, no new or younger vocations, no religious garb and no joyful faces. 

If any layperson is looking for an excellent place to make their annual retreat, I HIGHLY recommend Casa Maria.

If you are a priest, there are two superb alternatives.  One is the new clergy retreat house in Hanceville, AL.  Adjacent to the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, the Knights of the Holy Eucharist run the place and it is FREE OF CHARGE.  A brother will pick you up at the Birmingham airport and drive you to Hanceville.  Meals are provided as well at no cost.

Another spectacular choice is Arnold Hall, run by the Personal Prelature of Opus Dei.

   It is located in Pembroke, MA, just south of Boston.  There are other Opus Dei retreat houses located at Schulenburg, TX (Feathercock Conference Ctr.);  Valparaiso, IN (Shellbourne Conference Center); and in Novato, CA (Trumball Manor)

Canon Law requires priests to make one five day reteat each year but the lay faithful are highly encouraged to Pray DAILY, attend Mass WEEKLY, go to Confession REGULARLY (optimally, once a month) and try to make an ANNUAL retreat (one weekend or one week)

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