The Irish Times has an article about the situation of discomfort experienced by many priests in Ireland. The chief whiner seems to be a Father Hoban, whose world fell on his head when he received a couple of rather vulgar phone calls and who nowadays feels, how should I put it, not very popular.
The interview deals with other issues, but what striked me most is this: that a priest should complain because he experiences social isolation or hostility.
Without going in detail about the personal situation of this particular priest (from what one reads around rather a professional whiner, and one of the trendy ones), I would like to expand a bit about this situation of uneasiness experienced – in a more or less whining way – by many Irish priests.
1) A priest is not supposed to be popular. He is supposed to be a scandal. If a priest thinks that he must be popular, I know that he will be a bad priest; a priest more interested in his own acceptance than in the health of his sheep’s souls is a priest who will start twisting and turning the Catholic message in various ways in order not to compromise his main aim: to be popular, accepted, “part of the group”. This is Father Pansy, the typical appearance on the parishes of the Western world. Irish priests seem to have been particularly adept at this, as they have managed to almost destroy an extremely strong Catholic tradition in just a few decades. Whining and whingeing seems to me, therefore, not warranted.
2) In my experience, a strong priest is never despised. He will be the object of hostility, perhaps rancor, perhaps even hatred, but he will be respected at all times, and he will have a healthy following of sensible people, intelligent besides being religious. He will save souls, but saving souls always comes at a price. It was never supposed to be an easy job, or a popular one; if the priest believes in his mission, that is, and does his job accordingly. The strong priests will experience hostility and isolation, but he will always experience esteem with it. The pansy, on the other hand, will be despised, because he will be perceived – and rightly so – as a little cowardly weakling, who would do everything to avoid being unpopular. Father Pansy is, nowadays, very easy to find. I would venture to say that in my experience the majority of priests belong to this category. You know what, Father Pansy? If you are despised, you have no right to whine.
3) I can’t avoid smiling at reading about a priest moaning because of a couple of insulting messages, or perceived hostility and isolation. Really, what a pussycat. These people should have a couple of balls put under the tree at Christmas, with a pressing request that they may please start wearing them. In the vast majority of the planet, Catholic priests live in daily, physical danger; they don’t have the luxury of whining, because even to show fear would be dangerous; they couldn’t afford a voice message service where people leave ther insults, but are daily at risk that such insults be delivered by way of a stock, or a knife, or a pistol; they wouldn’t get the attention of an important newspaper, their very real danger being utterly ignored by the local press; and they would consider Father Hoban’s life a life of luxury, comfort and security, with or without voice messages and social isolation.
4) It must be unknown to Father Hoban that every day, countless members of the laity are insulted, or openly mocked, because of the decade-long inaction of pansy priests. Still, these laymen and laywomen continue to get the flak for their love of Christ, and don’t go around saying how oh so very cold their social environment has become. Many others choose to lose their jobs rather than having to perform abortions, or being forced to behave against the tenets of their faith. Your humble correspondent had the privilege of knowing a Christian layman from a Middle Eastern country, savagely beaten by Muslims fanatics to the point of getting asylum in Italy; with an eye almost blinded, and several skull fractures, and a walking impairment from the savage beatings (several of those) received. And if you really want to cry tears of rage and tenderness, I’ll tell you how it worked: that the man was *always* asked beforehand, by people armed with sticks, whether he was a Christian or a Muslim; and he *always* answered “I am a Christian”, knowing that a savage, life-threatening beating would be the result. He was left unconscious and half dead on the street on several occasions.
A layman, mind.
Father Hoban should just shut up, and hang his head in shame.
In all this discussion, the mistakes of the bishops are, in my eyes, a bit of a sideshow, at least as far as the likes of Father Hoban are concerned. Had he been a good, respected priest, no failing of his bishops would have been able to dent his personal prestige and the respect friends and enemies have for him. Instead, we read the pathetic moaning of an old man who very evidently hasn’t experienced social isolation until the ripe age of 63; which, if you ask me, is a clear sign that he hasn’t been much of a priest all of his life.
It is very strange, this shock at social hostility, when many laymen (including your humble correspondent) have experienced this very same social hostility (and not without physical threats at times; and not without hate at times; but never with contempt) from a good number of their peers since adolescence, because they opened their mouth to defend their values. Never with contempt, I said, because you’ll see that those who have the gut to believe in what they do are, generally, much respected by their enemies, and never have a problem in finding true friends. It’s the pansies who are despised by everyone, and rightly so.
Molti nemici, molto onore (“Many enemies, much honour”) was a Fascist slogan vastly – and predictably – criticised after the war, but whose profound meaning evidently always escaped our Fathers Pansy. Their honour is to be the darling of everyone, to the point that experiencing social isolation and hostility can tear their world apart. Poor little pussycats.
This is what Vatican II has given us: a generation of pansies whining because they aren’t the darling of the neighbourhood anymore; and this, after it was exactly their desire to be the darlings that has almost destroyed Catholicism under their wake.
Can you imagine a strong priest of the years before Vatican II whining in this way about the icy atmosphere around him? Thought not. They had to do with violent commies, murderous at times, as in Spain.
Not with voice mails.