TUESDAY IN HOLY WEEK
March 26, 2002
volume 13, no. 57

A Simple Plea to Pray for Priests

By Father Richard Perozich

    All the negative publicity and perversion coming to light today is just more evidence of the fallout of the "bad fruits" over the past 40 years whereby "grave scandal is caused", as the Holy Father affirmed in his Letter to the Priests for Holy Thursday, "with the result that a dark shadow of suspicion is cast over all the other fine priests who perform their ministry with honesty and integrity and often with heroic self-sacrifice." One of those "fine priests" is Father Richard Perozich, pastor of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church in San Diego and leader of the Diocese's "Courage" & "Encourage" groups. He wrote the following essay on the Clergy and Sexuality for his parish bulletin and we share it here as balance against all the priest-bashing going on both in the Church and in the secular sector today.

    "Please pray for bishops and priests that we have the courage to be chaste and to preach chastity to you in the fullness of the gospel. Live your own lives chastely. Hold us priests accountable to the promises we expressed when God made us priests. If wešre not hearing it from our bishops who were ordained to shepherd us, we need to hear it from you that you will not tolerate sexual misconduct from us, and that with Christ, priests can live properly to bring His grace to you as we were ordained to do."

    The recent revelations of clergy sexual activity are very disturbing to me as a priest, and I believe also to you who put your trust in us. Priests are ordained to believe what they read (in the Scriptures and Tradition of the Church), to teach what they believe, and to practice what they teach. Priests are ordained to mediate God's presence, love, and grace to you in the sacraments and in personal relationships; a priest must sacrifice his own interests, ideas, will, and passions to do this, spending himself for God's faithful in imitation of Jesus to Whom he is conformed.

    A priest is like other men in his human creation and tendency toward sin. He is like other Christians in his gift of baptismal grace oriented toward everlasting life. He is, however, very different from other men in his conformation to Jesus by sacred orders. A higher standard of behavior and holiness is to be expected of the priest, surrendering his humanity to allow the divinity of Christ to flow through to God's people.

    A priest is to teach God's people the whole truth and to embrace it himself. He is to sanctify them with the sacraments. He is to guide them in his conduct and with pastoral compassion, pointing out sin for what it is and the way of truth, whether it be well received or not.

    Sexuality is a way of relating to others. Males need to learn to relate to both males and females in a proper way in proper settings and vice versa. Genital expression is only appropriate in a marriage between a man and a woman. If one has an urge to express oneself genitally outside marriage, it is an offense against chastity and an infidelity to God as well as the Church. The Catechism lists these as adultery (involving a married person), fornication (two unmarried persons), masturbation, rape, pornography, prostitution, and homosexual actions.

    When a person desires sex with a child, adolescent, or a member of one's own sex, it is often traced psychologically to a delayed psychosexual development. It is a tendency toward a moral evil. Such a characteristic is not to be expressed by anyone, but in particular never by priests. It can be dominated or even healed with Christ.

    Clergy live in a world corrupted by lust. Unless our bishops and priests clearly cling to Christ and teach others to do the same, forming for ourselves a real refuge from the lustful world, the problems will continue. Our bishops need to articulate clearly the truth of human sexuality for themselves, for their priests and for all of us, without pandering to practicing homosexuals, pedophiles, adulterers and those living together in fornication. If not, that which corrupts the rest of society will continue to corrupt God's chosen shepherds.

    At all levels of our Catholic clergy these sexual corruptions are coming to light. Several bishops have resigned because of homosexual activity with adults and others with adolescent males, those between the ages of 13 and 19, and with children even younger. More than an expected number priests have been disciplined or lost their faculties to celebrate sacraments because of sexual activity with male adults, adolescents, and children, usually male children. The majority of us priests, however, embrace our celibacy as a gift, and continue to walk chastely with the help of Jesus. The majority of us accept our sexual identity as males and all that is appropriate to a man, our conformation to Christ, our roles as "fathers" of the spiritual family, shepherding spiritually those in our care rather than "fleecing the flock" by misleading them or by using them for sex.

    Priests who die of AIDS contracted in sexual activity leave us fellow priests with mixed emotions. We feel sorry for their suffering. We feel a loss at the passing of a brother. We feel shame at their betrayal of all of us by acting homosexually. We feel outrage when someone tries to memorialize their homosexual liasons as good by creating a panel on an AIDS quilt when they were unfaithful to God, to Church, to us and to you.

    When the Kansas City Star newspaper exposed the number of priests who contracted AIDS through homosexual contact, the Catholic bishops expressed outrage and denied the numbers were that high. When pedophilia is exposed, some bishops are quick to try to separate this from homosexuality, even in the case of adolescents. Fr. Donald Cozzens, psychologist and seminary professor in Cleveland, Ohio, estimates 50% of the priests and seminarians have homosexual inclination, and a great number of these act out and teach others that this is all right. 100% of bishops come from the ranks of the priests.

    It seems clear now why little seems to be said against sexual acting out with minors and against homosexual activity either in the clergy or in society from the shepherds of the Church. The only sexual teaching that has come from our bishops in the past decade came out of a committee. This bishops' committee presented homosexuality in a neutral light. It's work was so flawed that the Vatican not only intervened by insisting on changes in this document, it told bishops that no committee ever again could issue such documents without the support of the entire body of bishops.

    Please pray for bishops and priests that we have the courage to be chaste and to preach chastity to you in the fullness of the gospel. Live your own lives chastely. Hold us priests accountable to the promises we expressed when God made us priests. If we're not hearing it from our bishops who were ordained to shepherd us, we need to hear it from you that you will not tolerate sexual misconduct from us, and that with Christ, priests can live properly to bring His grace to you as we were ordained to do.

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March 26, 2002
volume 13, no. 57
THE SANITY OF SANCTITY

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