Recently I've heard about some Catholic priests...

Recently I've heard about some Catholic priests going to jail for molesting children or getting girls pregnant. What's going on?

In recent years the media have exposed the crimes of some Catholic priests. For example, a few years ago seven priests in Los Angeles were said to have had sexual relations with one woman. The other night a network newscast told of the indictment of a priest who was charged with over thirty counts of sexual abuse of young boys.

As a priest, I am saddened by these cases and I can under stand the anger of people who feel they have had their esteem for these priests dashed.

I value the Catholic priesthood.I don't like to see my ideal of it tarnished. I have the unrealistic wish that priests will never do wrong. A Catholic priest is a man trying to respond to a very serious call to follow Jesus. He is chosen by God, through the church community, to be a special leader in prayer and the sacraments. A priest is set aside, in the hearts of most of the faithful, to be a person who has a close relationship with God.

The vows of a priest often run prophetically counter to many values that society incorrectly holds to be acceptable. Celibacy speaks of a love that is opposed to the distorted values regarding love and sex advocated in so many movies, magazines, records and TV shows.

Some priests take the vow of poverty, which implies a life-style that seems a far cry from media advertising that promises security and meaning in life to those who amass material possessions. "At death, the one with the most toys wins," as the bumper sticker says.

A priest's obedience to a bishop's difficult order catches our attention when we find ourselves enmeshed in an overly selfish understanding of freedom. The prophetic call of the priesthood speaks of an ideal. It is an attempt to imitate Christ in a radical way. Still, scandals do arise. They have been present throughout the history of the church. But they cause us to feel letdown.
Although I aspire to the ideals of the priesthood, I know that I am human. I am a sinner. Being a religious leader makes me no less vulnerable to the seductions of evil than any other person inside or outside the church.

Jesus' strongest words of anger were directed not to the struggling people but mainly to the religious leaders: the scribes and pharisees: "You Hypocrites!" (Matt.15:7). Jesus spent a great deal of time training and challenging his leaders to be people of service. We who are leaders have a big responsibility to carry on that service.

In His parable about the tax collector and the Pharisee, Jesus tells a story about how easily a religious leader can fail in the service of God.The of Pharisee was a prominent religious leader. In the parable the Pharisee prayed, "I thank you, God, that I am not greedy, dishonest, or immoral, like everybody else. I thank you that I am not like that tax collector." The tax collector stood at a distance and would not even raise his face to heaven, but beat on his breast and said, "God, have pity on me, a sinner!" And Jesus says that the tax collector, not the haughty religious leader, was in the right with God when he went home.

Christ's message in this parable of the repentant sinner, coupled with the scandal caused by some of my fellow priests, calls me to humility and to forgiveness. May I ask you to forgive us priests when we go wrong. Demand redress for the evil we have caused. But above all, when we strive to be the prophets God has called us to be, give us your love.

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