Fulton Sheen On The Laity… But What Can The Laity DO To “See That Priests Act Like Priests”?editor
On a previous thread, Marinaio concludes a comment as follows:
Yesterday’s Gospel warned us of what we are seeing: the hierarchy — the pope and the vast majority of bishops — are ravening wolves in sheep’s clothing. Let us stand together and defend the flock against those rapacious predators.
Your last paragraph made me think. Personally, I agree with you about standing together and “defending the flock against those rapacious predators” but not a lot of Catholics agree with us. I am still hearing Catholics saying things like it’s not right to criticise priests, never mind bishops and popes! When you say, what about priests who are teaching errors, wanting women’s ordination and gay weddings etc, they reply that it is up to God to deal with them, it’s not up to us lay people to take it upon ourselves to correct priests. So, while I agree with you, it can’t happen until the majority of Catholics wake up and smell the coffee.
Since 1999, when the Catholic Truth apostolate was launched, with scientist and local historian Charles J. Smith (RIP) at the helm, I have been called every name under the sun, for daring, as Editor, to report the truth about the state of the Church in Scotland. To report a scandal is worse, I soon discovered, than the scandal itself. I took to quoting Pope St. Gregory the Great, in his Homilies on Ezekiel: “It is better that scandals should arise than that truth should be suppressed.” It made no difference to the indifferent. They didn’t want to know. Yet, when we asked individuals if they would want to know if their priest were living a double-life, visiting unsavoury social venues etc., the answer was always “Yes” – usually adding that they would want to know if their collection money was being used to fund such double-living.
The Catholic Truth team then instituted a process whereby when we were given the names of double-living clergy (in every case, by serving diocesan priests), we would contact the priest concerned to ask him to end his infidelity and if we were thus assured, we would not publish. Our sources then were more than a little displeased, telling me that we’d been fooled. My reply, at that time, was that I felt obliged to take any individual at his word, at that stage. In the event, we published only those who refused to accept their wrong-doing and in no time at all, each of them (after dragging my name through the secular press mud) left the priesthood to live with “gay” boyfriends or, in one case, take up employment as an Anglican vicar. You truly couldn’t make it up.
Such double-living scandals are only one aspect of the crisis in the Church facing the laity today. And not every one of those can be publicised, since lies and cover-up – sometimes in the form of a legal threat – are second nature to those who think nothing of living a double-life. It’s worth pointing out, too, that none of us at Catholic Truth enjoy this part of our apostolate – jings, we hate criticising priests in any way and in normal circumstances we would not dream of doing so. However, we’re in a major crisis, a Church crisis which is – in the very nature of things – a crisis in the priesthood. Satan is waging war against the Faith, and so the rules, as in any war, do not always apply in the same way. That’s why Archbishop Fulton Sheen, even back in 1972, speaks of the role of the laity as being to “save the Church”, telling us that it is our duty to “see that our priests act like priests”.
Other scandals suffered by lay people today include ongoing liturgical scandals: the new Mass itself is a scandal, as is the sacrilegious mistreatment of the Blessed Sacrament through Communion in the hand. Lay people playing at being priests in the sanctuary, conducting Eucharistic Services, is a huge scandal. The attack on the Traditional Latin Mass, the Mass which nourished the saints and the martyrs, is under open and very severe attack from the Pope himself. We are living through a crisis in the Church which is unique. Scandals of every kind abound, and while the scandals of impurity are shocking in the extreme, they are not the only scandals which affect the faithful.
Sadly, there are also priests who are far from behaving as pastoral, spiritual fathers, caring for souls. This, too, in its various manifestations, is a scandal, an obstacle to our Faith. I’ve experienced this myself in that I’ve been accused of causing scandal through the Catholic Truth newsletter and this blog; it seems I’m considered a danger to souls – not that any priest has taken me aside to express such concerns (which I would have appreciated), but on one occasion a kindly layman passed on the message to me – obviously speaking on behalf of the clergy. It’s certainly true that I’m far from perfect, sinful and full of faults, but if I could be convinced that I am a danger to souls, I’d tear up my application for that Editor of the Year Award and settle down with a good courtroom thriller, coffee and cream cake.
Finally, then, it’s all very well for Archbishop Fulton Sheen to tell us that it’s up to the laity to “see that our priests, bishops and religious act like priests, bishops and religious” but how can we actually do that – this humble group of laity don’t seem to be able to get it right at all, so – bloggers – it would help to have some specifics, please and thank you…