Giotto di Bondone, ‘The Arrest of Christ (Kiss of Judas)’, ca. 1305
The lay faithful need priests and priests need the lay faithful, and Satan does everything he can to drive them apart.
Coming upon the remnants of black masses while he was a Fundamentalist Protestant missionary to Third World countries, had perplexed David Currie. Why did satanic cults always imitate the Catholic Mass? After his conversion to the Catholic Church, as told in Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic, he understood why. The devil knows which is the true Church.
Yet, this Church — the rock upon which Jesus began with St. Peter and the promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against it — has had hellish skirmishes from within throughout history. Of late, we have become painfully aware of them through clergy sex scandals. They are not worse by the numbers — in this Psychology Today article, it was reported that the U.S. Department of Education found that the rate of sexual abuse from teachers is higher than priests — but worse in gravity. For a priest is In Persona Christi — in the person of Christ. When one falls, his victims include Jesus and his Church and all those that leave in the aftermath. But getting people to turn against the Church as a result of scandal was the devil’s goal all along.
In previous interviews with two former abuse victims — one away from the Church for three years, the other for 30 years — both returned once they could separate the evil committed from the actual Church itself. Paul Peloquin, a Catholic clinical psychologist in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who was abused as an 11-year-old, now treats abuse victims, helping them to heal emotionally and spiritually.
“We need good priests who want to live as servants,” Peloquin said. “We don't have the sacraments without them. Most priests are good, but some are not. When a man of the cloth abuses, he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing doing the devil’s work. The Church has a lot of problems because it’s full of human beings,” he said, “The perpetrators are narcissists, manipulators and sociopaths.”
Peloquin’s message to victims is: “Don’t let the evil one imprison you. There’s one who came to set you free, Jesus, who can heal us from our wounds. He is your hope and he never stopped loving you. He is there with open arms and thirsts for you to come back.”
In an interview with Msgr. James Shea, President of University of Mary about his seven-part online retreat, From Shadows into the Light: Gaining the Eyes of Faith, he explained that the Catholic faith was made especially for difficult times. Scandal in the Church is one of those times. However, he pointed out, “The fight for humanity takes place inside of the Church so we should not be surprised.” He elaborated on that notion during his fifth talk, Seeing the Church with the Eyes of Faith, by looking at the Church in an eternal context.
Msgr. Shea explained that the vision of the Church as seen by the angels is “a vast company beyond the reach of death, pulsating with divine brightness, basking in the beauty and light of God, powerful and spiritual weaponry, centered on the figure of their divine and beloved King, drenched in joy and eager for the continued gathering in of the renewed human race…”
“The Church,” he said, “is already beyond the ravages of time, free from the corruption of sin and the tyranny of the devil and its future is gloriously secure. The only question facing those still living on earth is whether they will be joined in some manner to that bright race of divinized humans or insist on clinging to a dying and enslaved remnant of humanity that has no future but the shadows. … The Church will survive; it is the world that will not. The world as we know it is passing away.”
But the Church on Earth, Msgr. Shea explained, contracts the diseases of the world, struggles with them, and by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, develops the antibodies that are then offered from its bloodstream to the greater society to draw more and more into the experience of divine life — healed, healthy and free.
“Let faith keep before us the divine and invisible aspect of the Church,” he said, “lest we get overwhelmed only by the human side and make the mistake of thinking that it can be reduced to what can be seen.”
Leaving the eternal Church over attacks from within, is leaving Jesus because of Judas to take cover in a culture riddled with the virus minus the cure. The antidote is to go deeper into the true Church, to seek good priests, and to pray for them.
When Jesus appeared to St. Faustina with messages about Divine Mercy, he also asked her to pray for priests. In the Divine Mercy novena he told her: “Today bring to me the souls of priests and religious, and immerse them in my unfathomable mercy. It was they who gave me strength to endure my bitter Passion. Through them, as through channels, my mercy flows out upon mankind.”
As scandals in the priesthood emerged, Kevin Wells, responded through his book, The Priest We Need to Save the Church. “In the process of writing,” he explained in an email interview, “I discovered that what I thirsted for was for them to accept the burden of their identity: to become the slaughtered lamb. If I saw a willingness in them to die for their flock in proclaiming the fullness of the Gospel in word and deed — the full measure of sacrificial fatherhood — then I too might better understand what it is to die for my wife and children. So I shared my thoughts on what holy priests have done down through the ages, and what priests with light in their eyes are doing today to become saints and true shepherds for their flock.”
Since its release in August, bishops, priests, seminary rectors, and seminarians throughout the world have shared that the book has encouraged them to become saints; some claim it has even reengineered their entire priesthood. The book is clearly making a mark. It is on its fourth printing and being translated into German and Spanish.
There is also an effort to Uplift Your Priests especially as they seek to minister during these trying times. It was organized through VocationMinistry.com to inspire the laity to support and encourage their priests who are now being called into great heroic action by offering the sacraments to the sick and dying, finding creative ways to serve parishioners, and maintaining empty parishes with limited staff support.
Always, regardless of the times we are in, we need our Church and priests and they need our prayers, so let us remember to pray for them daily.