Humiliation of Priesthood

(Holy Thursday Homily)

Each year Archbishop Brunett writes a Holy Thursday letter to the priests of the Archdiocese. As you might imagine, this year’s letter addressed the impact of the child abuse scandal. I would like to begin tonight by reading two paragraphs from the Archbishop’s letter:

“During the past few weeks, the Church in America and beyond has faced the tragedy of child abuse by clergy, leaving our priests and people feeling embarrassed, humiliated and demoralized. Each new accusation of child abuse and failed leadership that comes to light leaves many of us with deep-seated feelings of self-doubt, sadness and anger. As a result of these events, bishops and priests throughout the nations have found themselves under clouds of suspicion as media produces each new allegation.

“Together we find ourselves asking the question, ‘Who could ever have imagined that in such a short time the priesthood would be the subject of such derision, ridicule and doubt?’ Today more than ever the weight of the cross presses upon our shoulders as priests and bishops. The words of the psalmist take on new and poignant meaning: ‘We have become the scorn of our neighbors and the laughingstock of those around us.’ (Psalm 79)”

I will post the entire letter on the bulletin board during the next couple of days. The Archbishop has some important reflections, not just for priests, but all of us.

On Monday of Holy Week I met with my priests’ support group (Jesus Caritas). The six priests in the group felt the embarrassment, sadness and humiliation the Archbishop referred to. We also expressed anger and even disbelief that the Archdiocese of Boston had allowed a child abuser to return to active ministry. Back in the 1980’s Archbishop Hunthausen ordered “the systematic examination of all personnel files and asked the State Attorney General’s Office to review them with an eye toward the safety of our children.” We had assumed this happened in all dioceses. It was discouraging to find out that as late as the early 90’s, a priest with pedophilia tendencies and others who had been involved sexually with teenagers were allowed to continue in the ministry.

At the same time my priest group reflected on this tragedy, we also acknowledged that each of us has our own personal demons, struggles and failures – like every human being. For that reason I am going to make a personal request of you this Holy Thursday. The people who attend this Mass are the core of Holy Family Parish. I know you love the Church and desire the best for her. I ask you to pray for priests.

A friend of mine, inspired by St. Therese of Lisieux, has taken on the commitment to fast one day a week and to pray one hour each day for priests. He said that he knows priests can do great harm, but can also do enormous good. Prayer – not human cleverness – will tip the balance.

I remember attending a conference at Steubenville University. A college girl there told me she was a “Little Flower.” I asked her what that is. She said it was an organization that imitates St. Therese (the “Little Flower”) in praying for priests. I know there are a few “Little Flowers’ here at Holy Family – and they make our parish beautiful.

Many of you have mentioned you pray for priests and specifically for me as your pastor. I deeply appreciate that. The author of Hebrews reminds us that priests do not fall from heaven, but are “taken from among men and made their representatives before God.” (5:1) The priest, he says, “is able to deal patiently with erring sinners, for he himself is beset by weakness.” (v.2)

It is wonderful to offer this Mass of the Last Supper tonight with Fr. Tim McKenna. You have experienced his beautiful ministry these past weeks, during Fr. Ramon’s absence. I am proud to have such brother priests. In a few moments, together with Deacon Ted, we will be washing the feet of twelve representatives. It is a sign of our desire to continue forward in our service. Please pray for us – and all priests and deacons – as we do that.


From Archives:

2010 Homily: Foot Washing & Celibacy
2009: Join the Nearest Household
2008: Grandma, Can I Wash Your Feet?
2007: The Passover Lamb Must Be Eaten
2006: A New Friend at the Banquet
2005: Our True Companion
2004: A Girl's Heroic Holy Hour
2003: Do This!
2002: Humiliation of Priesthood
2001: Super-Abundance of Mercy
2000: Washing of Feet & Eucharist
1999: Family Struggles & Strengths
1998: In Remembrance of Me

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C


Announcements >

Pray for Persecuted Priests and Those in Crisis, Asks Pope

See also: An Eternally Unbridgeable Chasm

The Fiery Furnace

Jesus Teaching Concerning Heaven

Other Homilies


Some Good News on Teen Pregnancy and Abortion

Hitler's Pope: Comic Book Approach to Church History

He Approached the Victim: "It's much more likely one of your relatives will lose his life by surgical abortion than by heart attack."

Germaine Greer on Birth Control

Human Cloning: A Catholic Perspective (How the Unthinkable Became Inevitable)

Boston Globe's Misleading Article on Catholic Church

Deflating Darwin's Dangerous Idea

Stephen Jay Gould: Gorbachev of Darwinism?

Test Tube Offspring Want to Know Father

Erickson vs. Bartell Drugs

Call No Man Father

What is Original Sin of Sex?

Bicentennial Man (Hidden Assumptions)

Bogus Knights of Columbus Oath

Ossuary of James, Son of Joseph, Brother of Jesus

St. Mary of the Valley Album

Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish