I have a serious question to ask to any priests who may happen to read this, but first, I’d like to begin with an example.
Arguably, the worst pope in history was Alexander VI, aka Rodrigo Borgia: we say “Borgia Popes” when there was really only one, but his reputation defined an era; his daughter(!) Lucretia is ranked in history and myth with the likes of Jezebel and Medea; his son(!) is believed to be the model for the behaviors Machiavelli describes in _The Prince_.
During an era when women were forbidden, both in canonical and civil law, from preaching, a woman who claimed to be a locutionary and prophetess was brought before the throne of Alexander VI on charges of witchcraft. She began to recite and denounce the sins of Rodrigo Borgia. The Pope, not known for any particular respect for human life, could have publically or privately ordered her tortured or killed in any way he wanted, but he acknowledge the truth of her words and ordered that she be released.
I have known few local pastors willing to demonstrate such humility when laity have even so much as questioned their decisions on morally neutral matters, much less challenged them for setting a bad example or being outright cruel. 13 years after the so-called “scandals,” which were really for some reason a sudden media outburst about problems long known and rumored, have we learned nothing?
While the Church has addressed child sexual abuse nominally by targeting parents and making up draconian policies based more on legal, insurance and PR concerns than morality–which was the problem to begin with–and while some reports suggest the cases of sexual abuse have gone down, verbal and emotional abuse by pastors goes on unabated.
When a few lay organizations perhaps go overboard in their zeal for prophetic witness, they are dismissed as “causing division,” while the average Catholic who cares about the Church is still ignored or dismissed or even banned.
The Holy Father worries about pastors “obsessing” in homilies about a “few disjointed moral issues,” yet most of us have rarely, if ever, heard those moral issues addressed from the pulpit, except by priests who preach of “tolerance” and “more important issues,” and the ones who do preach about them tend to “disappear,” get passed up for pastoral appointments, or suddenly adopt a softer tone.
You see, if a rich liberal Catholic writes an angry letter to the bishop, that letter gets heard, but if a traditionalist, whether rich or not (but usually we have less disposable income because we actually have kids) writes to the bishop, in that case the letter-writer gets ignored or worse.
Poll after poll shows that most Catholics don’t believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the Source and Summit of Our Faith, and it’s not preached about, even when we have the Bread of Life discourse every three years. Poll after poll shows that only a small percentage, if only a fraction of a percent, of Catholics are using NFP.
We’re told, if we point to the lack of children in the pews as a cause for pastoral concern, that we’re “being judgemental” and that maybe all those people are suffering infertility. If that’s the case, then priests should be preaching about adoption or about how the birth control hormones polluting our water supply are causing rising infertility rates.
Yet, when the saints, and the Popes (including Pope Francis) suggest avoiding preaching against sin, they usually do it with the alternative of preaching prayer. St. Louis de Montfort and St. Teresa of Avila both call on priests to teach prayer and devotion to Our Lady, that sinners want to know how to repent, and God will open the truth to them in prayer.
We’re told about the Pope’s admonitions against using air conditioning, but not his admonitions against priests living in luxury and his calls for pastors to “smell like the sheep” and go out among the poor.
And the question that I always come back to is: Father(s), do you care more about saving souls or about saving money?
Do you care that the majority of your flock are likely to go to Hell? Why don’t you warn them? Do you understand that, when you don’t encourage families to be in the church, when you tear down playgrounds or forbid people from using them, you’re telling people “children aren’t welcome”? Do you care about the souls of people you push away? St. Alphonsus warns that pastors will be held accountable for every soul lost to Hell because of their sins of deed or omission. Even St. John Bosco had a vision, late in life, where St. Dominic Savio admonished him for permitting too many boys to be lost to Hell because he lacked enough faith!
If you find yourself wishing that the most fervent of your followers would die off or get over the alleged “fad” of Tradition, think about it.
If you find yourself suggesting you’d leave the priesthood rather than following Pope Benedict’s call to offer the Extraordinary Form to any group who requests it, or St. John Paul’s call to say part of every Mass in Latin, think about it.
If you find yourself saying things like a hole in one is the greatest moment in your life, think about it.
If you’re more concerned about money issues than whether children or families with children feel welcome in your parish, think about it.
If you find yourself too proud to read something like this and take fraternal correction in humility the way even Rodrigo Borgia was able to do, think about it.
And when you’ve thought about it, I invite you to make or renew a total consecration to Our Lady. Start today. Even if it’s not 33 days from a Marian feast, there’s no time like the present.