I suppose I am one of those people that are difficult to categorise. When I was one of two curates in a busy parish some years ago, my fellow curate gave me the present of an icon of St. John the Baptist because I was, he said, "a voice crying in the wilderness". I have sometimes been criticised because I am too soft on people, and on other occassions I have been severely criticised because I am "too strict". I admit that after 30 years of priesthood I sometimes wonder if I will ever strike the right balance. I have been advised by someone I deeply respect that I should exercise "tough love", and advised by one or two others not to speak about sin, and especially to stay off the subject of abortion.
I know you cannot please everyone, and so many judgements are subjective. I have been complemented on my singing voice (by my former bishop amongst others) but received a letter recently saying that listening to me sing the Mass is "painful". Will the real me please stand up!
I recently had to write (or thought I had to write) a letter to Catholic parents of the local school, reminding them of their duty as Catholic parents to bring their children to church. It was also addressed to the parents of the new First Communion candidates. Some people who do their best and some who do attend regularly were offended or a bit upset. I have had to explain that, of course, my letter was not intended for them. It was sent out through the school, so I have had to rely on their address list. Two families have opted out of the First Communion programme because they "cannot" (in one case will not) bring their children to Mass. I was prepared for a bitter response from some people, but not for the personal abuse contained in one reply. Thankfully most of the children have returned to Mass which shows that the letter had a positive effect as well.
Where do we stand today on preaching the faith? I must say that I will not stop speaking about sin until I am dead. There, I said it! Secondly, I only preach about sin because I want to help people get rid of it. Is that bad? I don't think so. Thirdly I want (although I make mistakes) to do God's Will and to preach what He wants me to preach which means that I try not to present my own opinions (with any authority, at least) but I try, as far as possible, to speak the truth. For me, this is the only way. Jesus said, "The Truth will set you free", and I have always believed this, therefore I must live by it. Please God I will always preach the truth in love, because without love it can sound like ranting (which I have been accused of). It is difficult to be a priest today, but as long as I am active in the ministry I hope to go on trying to speak the truth in love. I know at least some people are listening even if I can't see them.