Your priest has been entrusted to you.

Last Sunday, I went down to the Cathedral here in Detroit for a mass celebrating the canonization of Mother Teresa (St. Teresa of Calcutta!). The mass was lovely, and so full that I had to stand in the back. The church was packed with religious, families of all shapes and size and people of all ethnicities. It was a beautiful display of all that Catholicism is-universal, life giving, full of beauty, and joyful. The music was beautiful, there were little kid altar servers, and a group of the Missionaries of Charity, one of which was so little, she barely reached my chin.

The mass ended, I chatted with a couple friends, then left. The main entrance to the Cathedral faces out onto the street, and when I walked out, across the street, stood a fundamentalist preacher. You know, the ones with the generic "You're going to hell" sign and the megaphone. This one lacked a sign, but sure did have a megaphone. When I saw him, I just tuned out whatever he was shouting. Honestly, if someone wants to protest the good work of Mother Teresa, they probably don't have much good to say. (Also, props to the lady who just stood across from them, holding out a Rosary, and praying. You the real MVP).

As I walked over to my car, though, I overhead one phrase he said. Something to the effect of "Catholic priests are sodomites and pedophiles." That's when I got angry.

This is not where I bemoan how unfair everyone is in regards to the sex abuse scandals. Those things should have been brought to light, and people deserve to be held responsible for what they are doing, especially people in power and who are held to a high standard, as priests are. I'm not writing to defend how the Church handled things. Many people have written many things and have done far more research and know far more about it than I do, so I'll leave that to them.

This is where I write about the people inside the Church who are attacking their priests. I know plenty about them. Sometimes, I am one of them. More often then not, I hear them talking in my classroom, at my workplace, at my parish.

I know so many good, good men who are priests. These good, good men get attacked not only by the outside people, like this random guy standing outside this mass, but often more harshly by people inside the Church. By people sitting in their pews.

Let me frame it like this. The priesthood is absolutely essential to the Catholic Church. It is what keeps our faith alive. These men have given up their lives to give us the sacraments. Without the priesthood, there is no Eucharist, or Confession, or Mass. There is no one to baptize our kids, or anoint our grandma, or absolve us.

Think how much the Evil One hates the priesthood. Think about how much he's coming at the priesthood, with guns blazing, going after the priests. Twisting their humanity and picking at their weaknesses so much more than he probably goes after you and me. Because without priests, the Church, in a sense, does not exist.

Without a priest, I do not meet Jesus.

The Evil One does not want the Church to exist. He doesn't want kids like me to meet Jesus. So, he goes after our priests. He heaps on all the things he can to break down this man and destroy him. The people standing on the street corner, yelling at these priests from their megaphone, can use generic sins to try to destroy these men. They can yell the sins of someone else, accuse the priests of things that they would never dream of doing.

But we, we see their specific sins. We see them glaring from the pulpit and in their leadership. And the Evil One goes after them with those specific sins, often using our lips and our thoughts.

The Evil One looks at the priest's humanity and sinfulness and he amplifies it to you and I, the lay people and his fellow priests and the other people in his life. And the Evil One takes a swing at the unity we claim as Catholics and he succeeds every time we talk badly about our priests, are hyper-critical of priests. Every time we gossip about them, every time we judge them for being too liberal, too traditional, too this, too that, too human. Every time they do not fit into the box that we have chosen for them.

I know that I know that I know that priests are human. I know there are bad priests. I know there are priests who have hurt people and done terrible things. I know that there are priests who say and do things against Church teaching. I know. I know. I know. I work in a building full of priests and guys who are studying to be priests. I know how human priests are. I don't think that priests should be put on a pedestal. I'm not making excuses for bad priests. Priests should be held accountable for their actions, just like any other leader.

I do think that priests deserve our reverence (as does every person). Just like the poor, and the unborn, and the children. The priests have been entrusted to us, as our brothers and our leaders, (St. Teresa of Calcutta: "If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.") and we are to have reverence for the sacrifice they've made, for the fact that God has chosen them to be the ministers of the sacraments, if nothing else, but often, so much more than just that. If you really have a huge issue with your priest, maybe take it up with God? He's the one who put him in your parish.

The outside world comes after priests, yelling on street corners at men who are generous, valiant, protectors, wonderful Fathers, that they are pedophiles and sodomites. Telling them that they are any number of terrible things. They need our prayers so much more than they need our criticism and harsh words. They need us to love them, support them. Yes, they need people to hold them to the high standard that is expected of them, but when you love someone, really love them, you can call them onto something greater.

And let's be honest, they probably have plenty of people telling them all the things they are doing wrong.

Let's save our words and say a prayer. And every time we are tempted to lean over to our neighbor and spit out some words about how terrible some priest is, let's pray for him. God knows he needs it.


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