A Shepherd's Duty (Main Forum)
Dear Catholica and Friends....
From an “oldish” 68-69 y.o (albeit retired) priest to a “youngish´48-49 y,o, priest my thanks and congratulations to Fr Peter Day on his article “A Shepherd’s Duty”. I must say that his thoughts resonate very much with my own.
It seems that Peter and I share some things in common and not only our initials We are both graduates from St Paul’s National Seminary and had a previous working life experience. The only difference in all this is that I also spent five years at both Springwood and Manly seminaries before commencing my life in the real world before eventually joining St Pauls. And of course twenty years difference in our age.
I have to say that my years as a priest were some of the happiest years of my life and, perhaps because of my own naiveté, the child molestation issue was never a realised fact of such magnitude during my own pastoral ministry. Indeed much of my pastoral ministry involved young people seeking advice and help; and I must accept responsibility for not accepting the so-called guide-lines sent to priests in about the year 2001 regarding welcoming minors into the presbytery without adult supervision, or words to that effect. I remember vividly throwing that document into the waste bin. It was easier and more meaningful and more fruitful to speak to some kid in trouble around a fire rather than talking outside on a cold wintery night. In this regard Peter’s comment comes to mind:
Since my ordination to the priesthood twelve years ago, the millstone of sexual abuse revelations has weighed heavily. Indeed, such is the extent of the crisis, that in some circles priest and paedophile have become interchangeable words. It is as if we have moved from an unhealthy, "A priest would never do that", to a just as unhealthy, "He's a priest, so he probably did do that".
I really don’t know the figures for priestly abuse of minors except to say that the matter has tarnished the entire Catholic priesthood and has to be addressed for the majority of priests attempting their pastoral ministry in a meaningful and effective and caring manner.
Peter goes on to say:
A "hired men" culture...
We are served by some extraordinary leaders who are courageously addressing this crisis head-on; but too many of our shepherds have acted, and continue to act, like "hired men who abandon the sheep as soon as they see a wolf coming, running away, leaving the wolves to attack and scatter the sheep." [Jn 10:12]
Underpinning this 'hired men' culture is an all too pervasive clericalism in which men feel set-apart, vainly pursuing the trappings of power and prestige:
"Everything they do is done for people to see: they make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honour at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called 'Rabbi' by others." [Mt 23: 5-7]
Within this context, what can emerge is a culture of careerist clerics and prince bishops who place personal gain, reputation, and their own survival ahead of everything else, even the lives — and survival — of the young. Consequently, they find themselves living within a kind of ecclesial-gated-community walled by self-interest and a protective silence. Although they are a small minority, they are a very powerful and damaging one.
The people of God: in the pews, in the villages, in the schools; people everywhere, are longing for us to simply face facts, to face the truth with humility: that's what good shepherds do.
Unfortunately Clericalism and Careerist Clerics and Prince Bishops are on the rise. What the church and priests really need is to heed the call from Vatican Two...to be with people in all their joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties.
As Peter concludes....
Surely, at the end of the day, it is better for a man, for a church, to roam the streets destitute, foraging for the Bread of Life, for truth; than to roam the corridors of power, feasting on privileges and on food that does not last. For ours is a profound responsibility: to humbly and gently walk along side others, especially the most vulnerable.
Just a couple of thoughts.