Laudetur Jesus Christus! Gelobt sei Jesus Christus!
Sia lodato Gesù Cristo! Praised be Jesus Christ!
In the days of St. Philip Neri, the clergy were depraved. It was not uncommon to find clerics in places of ill repute, in illicit relationships, and failing to perform even the basic tasks for which they were ordained. It was so bad that the Council of Trent had to mandate pastors not to live outside of their parishes and to take part in the life of the parishes that they were assigned. We are not talking about a priest having to pastor more than one church and having to share his time. Priests and bishops, in the day of St. Philip, would simply receive an income and never show up at all.
This all led to many reforms by the Council of Trent, including the establishment of seminaries. The religious orders and congregations also tried their best to reform the priesthood by their own life. The Norbertines, and even the Oratory itself were all founded as a way to promote the ideal of the priestly life. At least in our own way.
It is an unfortunate reality that the clergy have often been in need of reform. Today is no different than previous ages. St. Augustine sought to have his clergy live a common life as a means to promote virtue and dissuade vice. Even though clergy may be celibate, this does not mean one should be wanting in healthy relationships and friendships. For it is in this that we so often find encouragement in the life of virtue and grace. A solitary life was never expected to be the norm that it has now become.
As we continue to try to wrap our minds around the newly unfolding crisis in the clergy, it is essential to keep this history in your minds. The clergy has often been in need of reform. It was often clerics who began the great heresies of the Church. Priests, bishops, and even popes who caused the greatest scandals.
In spite of all that, the Church remains. It is said that Napoleon once told a bishop that he would destroy the Church. The bishop laughed, and Napoleon wondered what he found so amusing about the threat. The bishop responded by informing Napoleon that if the clergy haven’t been successful in destroying the Church yet, at that time in 1700 some years, what made him think he would be? And so here we are several hundred years after Napoleon.
I thank everyone who came out this past Friday for our Vigil of Reparation. We must not lose faith or confidence in the Church, but continue to hold fast to the promise of Christ Himself, that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. Countless men have tried over the centuries, including clerics. They have all failed, and all future attempts will fail because we are part of a Divine institution. We must hold fast to that, and constantly pray for our priests, bishops, and the Holy Father. We each have a difficult task, and the temptations to betray Christ are constant. Sometimes the clergy fails, but sometimes those same clerics who have failed, through our prayers, become the great champions of the faith. May we place our faith and hope in that, and pray our hearts away!