Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Church of Sinners

This morning I was thinking about how easily I jump to judge other people, and how I set my expectations higher for some than others, largely because of their positions of authority. It makes sense, to me, my expectations for business leaders to know how to run a business, and for church leaders to know the faith, and to teach it well. Those are business behaviors. It’s funny, though, how high of standards we (sinners) set for the moral behavior of others, especially priests and bishops. Because they are Church business leaders, we expect them to be supermen. The facts are, however we wish they were not, that they are just men.

Only one man in Scripture confessed directly to Jesus that he was a sinner (Lk 5:8); Jesus made that man the head of his Church --- so much for Jesus’ moral expectations of Church leaders! One of the twelve leaders he picked even betrayed Jesus --- and Jesus even knew he would! Jesus knew the moral weaknesses of men, all men.

Way less than one in twelve priests were involved in the recent sexual abuse scandals, a better morality rate than that of the apostles. Perhaps priests are becoming holier since Jesus’ time?? But they still sin, and we should not be surprised, nor expect otherwise. Oh, we can fault the bishops for failing in their leadership roles and teaching roles, for not doing something about those priests, but as I have written elsewhere here, I don’t believe that the whole story has been told on this issue. We may be justified (to some degree) in railing against the bishops, but I think most of us are saddened or angry at the priests. In that I believe, perhaps, we are wrong.

For those of us who are outraged that any priest sinned, we seem to be setting standards higher than Jesus did for His Church leaders. Will we get dizzy in those heights, you think, where we proclaim ourselves a better judge than He?


  1. "...remove the log from your own eye first..." As you say, priests are people, just like us. I'll tell you what I have a hard time with; when they (priests) don't take seriously or for whatever reason their vows, the way they conduct themselves as priests. I don't know, maybe I'm getting old-fashioned but if a priest is spending most of the day fixing up the grounds on the church or other such 'stuff', stuff that should be taking care of by lay people, well, somethings wrong with this picture. I can't imagine what is going through his mind. But even in these cases instead of anger, well, we must offer them the only just thing: prayer. I believe that with most priests who find themselves straying from their path, even in these small matters, it is you-know-who who works through these thoughts, to affect the way a priest lives his life. If at times we feel torment, just imagine how priests must feel. ...Virgin Mother, watch over our loving priests...

  2. You hit a great point too, kam. Priests are just so involved in everything. Aimee Cooper's blog was always great in generating discussions. Once she commented on something similar and a priest responded from India that it is not that way there. Priests in India parishes and dioceses have an arch-deacon responsible for secular matters of the church. They are only responsible for spiritual matters. We could learn from them.