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Last July, I joined a new parish. I held immense respect for the pastor. Every homily was awesome, and he inspired a strong sense of community. He had big plans for our parish, and it was clear he was really passionate about serving our community. Though I had been there shorter than many others in the congregation, I was devastated when he took a leave of absence in December.
On Sunday, nine months later, we heard the announcement that this man requested and was granted a dispensation from the priesthood with a laicization process. To be honest, I don’t know a lot about what this means, so here are a few resources.
- Our Sunday Visitor: Short explanation of priests leaving the priesthood
- Catholic Answers: Does laicization remove a priest’s power?
- EWTN: Quick answer
What I do know is how I feel. It’s really disheartening. I’m sad and confused. My heart goes out to him and those in our congregation. I think this is a typical response when you see someone you look up to do something that doesn’t align with your perception of them, but I think this is amplified when it is a representative of the Church.
However, rather than dwelling on the details of this particular situation, I want to talk about what happens when a member of the Catholic Church doesn’t live up to the standards of our beautiful faith.
I think we’ve all been let down by another Catholic. It may be something small: a friend gossiping about us, betrayal in a relationship, or hypocritical actions. Or it might be something big like hearing about the sex abuse scandals. The reality is that the members of this body are imperfect; we are all sinners.The reality is that the members of this body are imperfect; we are all sinners. Click To Tweet
Rather than falling into despair, however, we need to remember that God very intentionally built His Church with imperfect people. The gospel for that same Sunday was actually quite providential because we hear that Christ established His Church on Peter.
Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Then he strictly ordered his disciples
to tell no one that he was the Christ.
We know Peter wasn’t a perfect person. We see him lose faith as he runs across the water to Jesus; Peter questioned Jesus’s plan right after acknowledging Jesus is the Messiah; Peter denies Christ. Yes despite these imperfections, we also see faith and trust. This imperfect man helped build Christ’s Church.
And despite the flawed people in this Church, the gospel also tells us that the Church will survive. We have 2,000 years of history showing how many people have failed to overturn the Catholic Church. Despite war, apostasy, heretical sects, scandal, controversy, communism, secularism, and more, the Catholic Church still stands strong. And we stand strong because we are Christ’s Church. Christ established this Church with Peter and promised us that evil cannot prevail against us.
Rather than feeling disheartened by the imperfections of our brothers and sisters, we must hold on to hope, hope that stems from the knowledge that we can overcome any challenge that comes our way because Christ is with us.We must hold on to hope that we can overcome because Christ is with us. Click To Tweet
But this incredible blessing also comes with a responsibility. Christ compels us to be missionary disciples. We must heal the wounds within our own body but also seek to serve the world. We must take on our internal doubts. We must address our fears of imperfection. We must proudly proclaim the truth. We must reach out to our neighbors who hunger for a truth that can be found in the Catholic Church alone. We must stand strong against the attacks on the Church. As we face these challenges, we can stand strong with assurance we will succeed. As individuals, we will likely fall short, but our amazing Catholic Church, this wonderful blessing from God, will prevail.Our amazing Catholic Church, this wonderful blessing from God, will prevail. Click To Tweet