Friday, October 25, 2013

There Is A Reason That The Pope Is Called the Holy Father.

And that relationship is particularly dear to priests. That relationship is also supposed to exist between priests and their bishop. However, like so many parents, all too often bishops are friends or brothers to their priests. Worse they are business managers who play favorites and are only heard from when there are problems. But during my priesthood I have always had the feeling that the Pope was there covering our backs. That we were his priest sons even when we needed to be challenged and corrected. Now, not so much.

There is this commentary over at the register about anxiety over Pope Francis. Here is the relevant section on priests.

Pope Francis is capable of speaking with great tenderness about those far from the Church.
When discussing his brother Jesuits, even those who sent him into exile and were active obstacles to the mission of Jesus Christ and the Ignatian charism, the Holy Father speaks with nuance and delicacy. Yet when he speaks of the parish clergy, his remarks are almost always critical, inveighing against the lazy priest in his rectory, unmoved by the suffering of the afflicted in need of mercy, reduced to a functionary who has become an obstacle rather than a conduit of God’s grace.
Priests need to hear that to be challenged and corrected, but fallen men that we are, it is not easy.
The Holy Father intends his criticisms — as he made clear recently in Assisi — for the whole Church, not just the priests and bishops. Yet, often, the clergy feel singled out for criticism or feel underappreciated. Perhaps they ought to stop feeling sorry for themselves and “man up,” but the phenomenon is real and explains part of the uneasiness.

The feeling I can't seem to shake is that Pope Francis really doesn't like priests. Now we priests are not perfect. And yes some of his criticism is justified. It may not go far enough. But perhaps some of the 'great tenderness' could be shared with the clergy, who received poor formation and poor leadership from his brother bishops. In the face of the poor leadership, and lets face it dissent, at the diocesan level, many of us can be tempted to despair. The various scandals haven't helped. Priests are guilty until proven innocent and subject to the whims of their ordinaries who seem more concerned with liability and PR than justice. But at least we felt that if ignored, opposed, or even persecuted, the Holy Father still had our backs. Now not so much.

 A father can be tough and expect a lot if he has and shows love for his children. If not, all he usually does is provoke resentment and rebellion. With all respect to Fr. De Souza, the admonition to "man up" doesn't help one bit. Perhaps the Holy Father needs to listen to his own words concerning caring and compassion and realize that the clergy are part of his flock too.
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