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A Leaven In The World… Careerism Enabled Cover-Ups

September 17, 2018 Frontpage No Comments

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK

The Lord protects some of us from falling into the careerist tendency in the priesthood, though not sometimes without a little cooperation from our own incompetence. There are others, however, who are not so lucky. Formation at the North American College in Rome, the “West Point” of seminaries, selection for further education, and then perhaps work at a congregation in Rome or the diplomatic track, and you’re in: Chances for becoming a bishop are thereby exponentially increased. But also increased is the temptation to live in constant concern for the next big opportunity: careerism.
The Theodore McCarrick scandal, which has touched even Pope Francis, with questions now about whether he knew McCarrick had selected, groomed, ordained, and corrupted generations of seminarians and priests, then allowed him to roam unleashed, is like a dirty bomb in the Church. No one wants to be associated with McCarrick.
A monsignor in my archdiocese was vocally angry in the presence of the cardinal and hundreds of priests, blaming me although not by name, for inappropriate comments made by my Twitter followers, after I stated the fact that he had served as McCarrick’s vicar for clergy. The monsignor was adamant that it also be known that he filled the same role for Cardinal Wuerl. Although his incoherence led to the possible impression among those present that I may have personally written the unfortunate ad hominem remarks, I have not yet received an apology for the possible effect on my reputation from his verbal imprecision.
I subsequently tweeted out an apology, regretting he suffered from the comments of strangers he will never meet on Twitter, which I do not approve of or encourage and therefore for which I am not responsible.
It’s only an older and wiser priest who learns the truth that the role of bishop is bearing the cross. Those who seek it purely for the trappings are obviously unqualified. Those who are deeply pastoral first and foremost should be sought. The irony is that so few men who rise to cardinal actually have deep pastoral experience. Many are snatched from obscurity early in their priesthood for the sake of gaining administrative experience.
Bishops are necessary for the Church, as an office created by Christ beginning with the first apostles. Some men need to step up and answer the call. Finding the ones who are qualified by holiness and authentic pastoral solicitude is difficult. Various minds are involved in the discernment process. For example, a priest is never considered for the episcopacy if his name is not on his own bishop’s “terna,” or list of three names to be placed under consideration.
Scriptural authority can be invoked when it comes to avoiding the poison of careerism in choosing shepherds. St. Paul says the following about the office:
“. . . A bishop must be irreproachable, married only once, temperate, self-controlled, decent, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not aggressive, but gentle, not contentious, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children under control with perfect dignity” (1 Tim. 3:2-4).
This makes clear that bishops were also at one time selected from among widowers, the reference to children indicating that it was not unknown that very early in the Church’s history bishops were celibate, as they are today, but could also have been previously married.
This holds with the longstanding practice that bishops are chosen only from among celibate priests as we see in churches, such as the Orthodox, where celibacy is not mandatory for priests. The most important facts that we take away here are that the bishop must be a man of sober, virtuous, and well-practiced probity and self-control. He must be an example to other men and priests, especially those younger than himself who may be struggling with the demands of chastity, sobriety, or simplicity. In other words, the bishop must be holy.
The purpose of the priesthood should not be to become a bishop. And the purpose of being a bishop is not to become a cardinal. The sickness of careerism is one of the roots of the deep and horrifying malaise that now afflicts the Church.
And it is a scandal. I have been blessed with an opportunity to experience more deeply the most essential aspects of Ordination, with the gift of eight years as a pastor in a parish that is small enough to allow me the luxury of getting to know many of my parishioners. I share in their problems as well as in their hopes and dreams.
The climbers we will always have with us, and you can tell who they are: They don’t bother spending time, or pursuing friendships, with other priests who are unable to do anything to further their “career.”
I was a social junkie when I was younger, always trying to meet new friends and to run or cycle with potential competitors who could help me with my own physical training. Some met the test, others declined. On the whole the effort was worth it. I made many new friends and stayed in shape. I kept my interest in life honed through my interest in others.
In these times of crisis, priestly fraternity is crucially important. Priests are uniquely situated to care for other priests. They can call and visit each other at any time of day to check on each other and accompany one another through the crises that come to men who are shepherds that only they understand.
But there are casual and relaxing opportunities for building up and strengthening the priesthood as well. Every year there are two archdiocese-wide opportunities for priestly fraternity. The annual K of C July priest crab feast my parish hosts is one of them.
The other is more “official” and longstanding. A parish in well-heeled Bethesda hosts a barbecue for priests on Labor Day. It’s considered so important that the nuncio usually attends with priest members of his staff. Not this year. It was at this event this year that hundreds of priests met with Cardinal Wuerl in the parish church there and shared their thoughts and advice. A majority urged him to resign.
In the Church, it’s just a fact that we have to deal with that elitism is also often at work in the priesthood, with some young men jockeying for the inevitable fact that one of them will have to be chosen as the bishop’s priest secretary, with possible follow-on assignments in Church administration and better positioning as a candidate for the episcopacy.
Now, don’t forget that the Lord writes straight with crooked lines, and Charles Borromeo stands as a perennial reminder that some men, perhaps promoted because of who they know or their family connections, turn out to be authentic reformers and saints. That’s why today he’s better known as St. Charles.
Cardinal Wuerl announced, in a letter to priests dated September 11, that he will return to Rome again soon to discuss his letter of resignation with the Pope, submitted nearly three years ago. Technically he already resigned by sending that letter, as required, upon attaining his 75th birthday. It is now up to Pope Francis to accept it. One assumes their conversation will center on that. Cardinal Wuerl remains in office at the pleasure of Pope Francis.
Unlike McCarrick, whose resignation was promptly accepted by Pope Benedict upon his 75th birthday, in what was likely an effort to limit damage from his homosexual predation of priests and seminarians, Cardinal Wuerl has been described as the “Pope’s man in Washington.”
As I shared with Cardinal Wuerl at the Labor Day dinner with priests, he has been good to me. That is an entirely different matter from whether or not it is time for him to step down. But, as I shared in one of three listening sessions with brother priests and diocesan officials, I am comfortable with Cardinal Wuerl. He is perhaps one of the first archbishops in the United States to have given permission for a pastor to confer the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Traditional Rite, as he did for me and my traditional Catholic parishioners last spring.
This is a significant concession to the growing number seeking the integral Catholic tradition. As I said then, His successor may not be as easy to work with. I can only imagine that he may struggle with issues of trust and may be constantly looking over his shoulder, after what has happened to his predecessor.
Let us pray that the lord will bless us with many good shepherds, for there are surely many good priests who could fill the role.
Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.
@MCITLFrAphorism

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