Monday, February 08, 2010

Priests are people too.


Random thoughts on priests, celibacy, and stuff like that.
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I love that expression - I picked it up from my friend Paul who used to say, "Kids are people too," right after telling me, "Your father hated you."  Paul could be outrageous and I kind of think it was because his father really had hated him - not sure though.  I know - this has nothing to do with my post - or does it?
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Back to priests.  Sometimes I think of them as just regular guys and maybe go to far with them - I used to do this all of the time with a famous blogger priest, and then once or twice I noted he posted something about being down about something and needing prayers.  I immediately thought - he was offended by my post!  I felt so bad, took the post(s) down, prayed extra hard for him and would try to be nice afterwards.  It's really hard for me to be nice all of the time.  I'm so like my friend  Paul:  Once, at my going away party from the company we worked together at, he went around to all the executives and drunkenly asked, "Who invited you?"  Much to everyone's delight - although most of the exec's didn't get the joke.  But I digress.
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Locally I know of four priests - count 'em - 4 priests who are or have been on leave because of clinical depression - each guy is fantastic - very solid in their faith, devout, down to earth, regular guys - and as far as I know, straight.  Most definitely straight, and committed to celibacy to be sure.  I don't know what happened.  They had not been ordained that long and suddenly they are out to pasture.  Nope - it is so not funny.  I pray for these guys all of the time... they are very humble, compassionate, and even very holy men.
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Fixing a hole.
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Is it celibacy?  I honestly don't think so.  Is it loneliness?  I don't know.  Fr. Charles ofmcap has an excellent reflection on celibacy and loneliness.  I especially liked his comment on how celibates distract themselves, or attempt to fill the void left by continence... actually, it is just a temptation, but one easily falls for it.   Father writes:  "You have to resist all of the ways that would-be celibates medicate themselves against the loneliness with alcohol, anonymous sex, pornography, mania for control, overwork, eccentric and pointless hobbies, and even the internet."a minor friar   He's right of course - but he neglects to mention the most common vice - over-eating.
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Resisting the vices is one thing, being successful at it is another, and if one is prone to depression, melancholia, what have you - it can be pretty difficult.  Now some celibates claim they do not get lonely - but they must be pretty holy and extremely well balanced and live a more integrated life than your run of the mill solitary.  I lived in a rectory once - what a nightmare - it was like a haunted house - which is why some priests need to spend money to refurbish those places.  Although one local guy spent a fortune adding a hot tub and other luxuries.  He was transferred elsewhere.
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What makes you feel like doin' stuff like that?
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Today an Australian priest is in the news because he is something of a story teller - he should probably get a blog.  While we are on the topic, don't you think spoken Australian is the worst English ever?  I was watching a travel show last night and they do not even pronounce words correctly - it's almost like Cockney: " 'm 'enry ei'th i em."  I think the country was founded by criminals anyway, so it kind of makes sense they can't speak well.  But I digress.
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So anyway - the priest who lies - he faked prostate cancer so he could get donations (tell me!) to send him to Lourdes for a "miracle cure".  (I know - see, he needed a blog with a widget.)  That's not a bad idea - the lies are bad of course - but the trip to Lourdes could have helped him - maybe.  Be that as it may - if he was a really good liar he would have said the cancer disappeared when he got back and he'd now like to go to Rome to testify.  Obviously that did not happen.
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"Father Abourjaily was branded "delusional" by the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, and suspended from his duties at All Hallows parish church at Five Dock when his lies were uncovered, said the Sydney Morning Herald." - CathNews 
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All is not lost however, since the priest has been reassigned: 
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"Father Richard Abourjaily, who lied about having cancer to raise money from his Sydney flock, has been moved to Perth. His spiritual adviser believes the priest was "repentant" and would not lie about anything so serious in future.
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Father John Flader, director of the Catholic Adult Education Centre, said he was "very confident" the priest would not lie about anything serious again. "All he did was to lie and that's not a good thing. He was very, very repentant of that and, being as repentant as he was, he is not going to reoffend again," Father Flader said." - Source 
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All the lonely people.
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It is not easy being a priest - therefore these news stories are excellent reminders to us that they really do need our prayers and support.  Who knows if the lying priest may crack again?  Hopefully they did some close interviews with him to determine where all of that came from - were his parents con artists?  Parents do a lot of damage.  Is he hiding something else?  God bless him for wanting to continue his ministry.
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I've been rather tongue in cheek about all of this, but I'm quite serious about caring for our priests.  Over my lifetime I've met some crazy ones - but you know what - even those guys helped me through the tough times.  You see, I'm celibate too - and the so-called worst of them had the greatest compassion upon me when I failed.  When I failed "to resist all of the ways that would-be celibates medicate themselves against the loneliness with alcohol, anonymous sex, pornography, mania for control, overwork, eccentric and pointless hobbies, and even the internet."a minor friar.  Actually you could take out pornography for me - I never got into it - 'there but for the grace of God' only.    I once loved eccentric and pointless hobbies - collecting religious artifacts and art - I know two other guys who do this.  And I know many over-eaters as well.  Gratefully, these priests were there for me in confession... they understood me. 
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If one lives long enough, and perseveres through many fallings and risings, one is eventually purified of these vices and loneliness is no longer "empty".  It ceases to be a void we are trying to fill. 
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It is all about the "poverty of love" - the fact that God allows us to participate in the loneliness of all mankind: every homeless person, every old man or old lady in a nursing home, every orphan, every victim of evil, every sinner, every failed priest, and most especially, the loneliness of His Son.
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One gets used to it.
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Art:  "All the Lonely People" - crayon on paper.

13 comments:

  1. Thank you Terry and nicely said.
    If the confessional has taught me anything is that everyone is lonely at times; cleric,religious, married, or single. And there is no quick fix for anyone. The times that are the most problematic for me are when it seem that all I am getting is criticism, but this too passes.

    (But keep your paws off of my eccentric hobbies.)

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  2. Your last paragraph says it all.
    No one, absolutely no one can escape the "existential" loneliness that is a part of being a broken human being in this broken world.
    That's why spiritual realities have to become more and more the center of one's life; and a good healthy sense of humor.
    I agree with Fr.E. Hearing confessions of many married people, some single, (a lot of children, but that's another story!)you hear things that not even spouses will hear; and the deep loneliness of the married must be much more painful than that of celibates. Wanting communion and intimacy in a marriage that is just difficult, for various reasons.
    And being a spiritual director to many married people, I find that when you are called to 'caritas', Christ's Love, it's going to be lonely, like He was in the Garden of Gethsemane.
    That's why we have to be compassionate with one another and ready to give people a break.
    We have NO idea what cross they may be carrying.
    Great post!

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  3. Padres: I have often thought that listening to confessions must be very difficult. Does it ever lead you to despair? How do you cope? Secondly, what is the best way to suport priests, apart from prayer--I pray daily for you all.

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  4. michael r.1:49 PM

    Thought-provoking post. And great comments! I like Nazareth Priests' common sense approach to ministry!!

    "That's why we have to be compassionate with one another and ready to give people a break.
    We have NO idea what cross they may be carrying."

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  5. "It is all about the "poverty of love" - the fact that God allows us to participate in the loneliness of all mankind: every homeless person, every old man or old lady in a nursing home, every orphan, every victim of evil, every sinner, every failed priest, and most especially, the loneliness of His Son."

    *Nodding head very enthusiastically.* Terry. God love you. You say stuff sometimes even better than you paint.

    Fr Nazareth, so right on! "Sense of Humor" should be one of the Theological Virtues.

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  6. Amen, Terry. Great post.

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  7. Terry: I do not know anyone else who could successfully interweave the subjects of priests/celibacy/the poverty of love and Quincy Jones. See, Terry, those folks who don't like you? They are dim creetans. They aren't smart enough and cannot keep up.

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  8. Terry wrote...I think the country was founded by criminals anyway, so it kind of makes sense they can't speak well. But I digress.

    hahahahaha

    I often think about California as being a state founded from dreamers and people outta touch with reality. People who are still trying to strike it rich and trying to BECOME somebody.


    ( I learned some interesting stuff from this post. I never thought "I" would go nuts from too much alone time.)

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  9. I think we tend to conflate all the problems in the Catholic priesthood into celibacy, but that's not the case at all. One hears of similar difficulties among our Orthodox married priests as well. I am Orthodox and think married priests is a good idea, but not a panacea.

    Come to think of it, there used to be the perception - I don't know if it's still that way - that psychologists and psychiatrists tend to be a troubled lot.

    Listening to people's problems and feeling responsible for people can be tough, I suppose.

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  10. Thanks for the thoughtful post, and for the nod. Peace.

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  11. Saul, I once had an acquaintance who put the psycho in psychotherapist.

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  12. From the perspective of a life-long single..I'd much rather be happy single than in a miserable relationship because I'm afraid of being alone..

    Key to success is not being a recluse--cultivating a good mix of friends and acquaintances....having a variety of thing you are interested in and like to do other than work, and VOLUNTEER!! It is easy to fall into the trap of selfishness when all you have to worry about is yourself. Take a class andexpand your horizons. And be very very careful about eating too much and drinking too much.

    I'm sure for priests it is very difficult to socialize..but please don't treat us women like you're going to get splashed with acid if we get within 3 feet of you..we're not all trolling for priests to scandalize...

    And for you married folks--I don't see very many examples of GOOD marriages, even in church. So please don't pity me because I live alone, don't have a current boyfriend, or be jealous of me because I have all this supposed "freedom." Wives--take a few minutes of your day to look pretty for your husband--do your face and comb your hair. Husbands--don't make passes at me (especially in the Communion line) and compliment your wife and help out a bit around the house. And get a baby sitter and go out on a date once in awhile..just because you're married with a family doesn't mean that you're supposed to be secluded in your own family "cloister." There's TONS of cool activities in the local community...

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  13. Wow! Miss 3pdys,

    I'd be a slappi'n those married boys or at the very least giving them the evil eye. Married women get "hit on" too ,or so I hear. hahahahaha

    Some marriages are pretty great though. The problem with marriage is that you have to die to self and you have to be nice about it. Most people find that to difficult to do and 50% + of married couples never learn to do it. (I haven't learned this but my husband has as he dies to self 90% of the time thereby picking up my slack)
    I'm cracking myself up.

    Anyway, about your comment--"comb your hair and put on your makeup" remark, I have found this little song over on youtube. Terry Nelson sings it at the abbey... check it out!!
    Mr. Nelson sure is talented!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUW3eYgNac4

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