This report by Michael Voris from Australia speaks the truth. I feel in my bones that a sweeping reform of the priestly life is needed. I have to deal with my own failings, true, but as Voris points out, for many years now, really going back to the time before I was ordained (1975) there has been a growing dis-ease in the clergy of the Catholic Church. I was reflecting a few days ago how some of the men I knew at seminary (but a significant number in one person's acquaintances) either became alcoholics, left the priesthood to marry OR were accused of some form of sexual abuse. Some of those cases have been tragic (two early deaths through alcohol related diseases) and when I think about these people, some of whom I counted as good friends, I am led to ask myself who is to blame. Of course I blame satan first of all. It is his desire to bring all priests to hell or, at least, to make them ineffective or sick. Some of the blame (of course!) must be attributed to those priests who sinned, lacked discipline, did not pray etc. BUT some of the blame must be placed higher - with bishops and seminary staff.
I was fortunate - and my contemporaries were fortunate - in that most of the staff at my seminary were exemplary priests. Some of them were holy men. The Rector in my time was a man of high standards who was also understanding and wise. The Deputy rector was also an outstanding priest, and there were others, thank God, who gave a great example of priestly life to the students. BUT something was happening in the wider Church and it found its way into the seminary, through books, theological studies, a certain worldliness, a moral and spiritual laxity, a lowering of standards and a complacency which, I think, was related to a certain arrogance and a lack of faith in some areas. Self-indulgence has a part to play, which means a lack of self-discipline.
Before I was ordained a friend of mine who was older than me, and at a different seminary, was ordained. I was in awe of him - or of his "priestly glow" (can't think of another way to describe it), but there were problems right from the start. No sooner had he been ordained than he began discussing what happened to priests who fall by the wayside. They fail to pray is what we agreed, but he was not praying as he should have been - he admitted it in a way. I felt sad for him. The demands of the priesthood, centred on the idea of self-sacrifice - were, in the end, beyond him, and he left before, I think, being a priest for ten years. he married and I understand is now deceased. I could go on, discussing the merits of different seminaries (staff problems with alcoholism, neurosis and homosexuality, or a laid back attitude to that etc).
I have already posted before on sexual abuse so there is no need to address that again, but what has been clear to me for many years (and this includes looking at my own lifestyle) is that a deep and challenging reform of the priestly life is needed. For some years now I have had questions about the lifestyle of some bishops and parish priests. There is need for a greater accountability where money is concerned. There has been too much worldliness, too much complacency, too much television and too much food and drink. Some celebrations of the Liturgy have been slapdash and irreverent. Priests (and some religious) have given bad example in their behaviour in church, chatting away as though the Lord is in no way present in that sacred place. Church plate has been treated badly. Dirty altar linens and unworthy vestments (or none) have been part of the scene. New churches became clinical and cold, showpieces for architects and parish priests but inhospitable to the laity. Church music became sickening banal and all the time there was a subtle denial of some of less popular parts of the faith, especially those connected with sexual morality. The false god of enjoyment or pleasure found a seat somewhere on our sanctuaries and in our presbyteries and in most Catholic homes. Family prayer, never a major feature in most homes despite the books, pamphlets and sermons, became worse than a joke. One of the worst aspects of all of this was the outstanding failure to teach the full Catholic faith in our schools - a failure that has had horrendous repercussions which continue to this day in the shape of young people not attending weekend Mass but receiving Holy Communion as and when they like, young people living together before Marriage (because they know nothing about Catholic morality except being nice to each other and helping the poor - which they don't really do anyway)
This post is too long and all of this has been said before, many times, but NOW, NOW, is the time to address these things. Please God the Pope will lead us and please God we priests, bishops and cardinals will delve into our consciences and repent more deeply of the mistakes and laxity of the past. if we truly want the Church to be renewed we have to start with ourselves, and that means, first of all, making more serious confessions and showing a great reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. It means - for ALL priests, the daily Rosary. It means more fasting and abstaining, self-discipline and an austere manner of life. It means little or no television. it means cleaning up our act as regards language, dirty jokes and smutty remarks. I had hoped that Pope Benedict would have set this reform off, but in a way, he did. Now we must follow Pope Francis who knows what must be done.
Some will look at this and see me as a "kill-joy" or some kind of fanatic. But what are we here for? Mother Angelica who is now 90 says we are all called to be great saints. Not a new thought but one we need to hear, often. Saints find their joy in God and in serving others. They find pleasure in the things of God and are able to see the beauty in creation in spite of the smudges; they share (perhaps unconsciously most of the time) in the joy of Christ who smiled, laughed and wept as he encountered the people and nature itself. Where is our joy, our true joy, in this world? I suggest we start with that question and see where it leads us, as priests.