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Priest Says . . . Early Church Showed How Saints Can Arise From Scandalous Lives

May 23, 2019 Frontpage No Comments

By DEXTER DUGGAN

PHOENIX — Social media have opened up so much information today that the lives of leaders are laid bare, the director of the All Saints Catholic Newman Center at Arizona State University, in suburban Tempe, said at a presentation of the Institute of Catholic Theology (ictphx.org), which offers continuing education for adult Catholics.
And usually the leaders have failed regarding sex or power, Fr. Rob Clements told the May 4 program of the ICT, which is based at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish here. “This never seems to end,” he said.
“. . . Does anyone believe in forgiveness anymore? Is there any coming back from scandal?…The calendar of saints is dotted with individuals who have been steeped in scandal,” but have been raised to the glories of Heaven, Clements said.
Lest anyone think moral problems were simpler in the distant past, or that constant virtue guided saints’ lives, the priest traced the life of St. Callistus, whom he described as going from being a slave to a thief to a sainted Pope.
Most details of St. Callistus’ life “come from his bitterest enemies,” Clements said, describing Callistus as the slave of Carpophorus, a successful man who set up a bank to help the needy including widows.
Carpophorus entrusted the bank to Callistus, a Christian, who made “disastrous” investment decisions and helped himself to the funds, Clements said, some of which he used to buy ship fare to try to escape from his misdeeds.
However, Carpophorus caught up with his slave, took him back to Rome and put him into hard labor, Clements said, while those who had been defrauded told Carpophorus that perhaps Callistus could recoup the money. But the slave disrupted a synagogue service when trying to obtain money from Jewish financiers, resulting in Callistus being sentenced to work the mines in Sardinia.
Carpophorus and the destitute gloated that Callistus was getting what he deserved, Clements said.
However, Callistus managed to be released and gained a financial allowance from Pope Victor but was sent outside the city and showed signs of repentance.
The next Pope, Zephyrinus, ordained Callistus and put him in charge of a cemetery that even today, Clements said, is known by his name, the Cemetery or Catacombs of Callistus.
As it happened, Callistus succeeded Zephyrinus as Bishop of Rome and overturned some of the earliest disciplines of the Church, which had forbidden reconciliation to serious sinners such as adulterers, Clements said.
Another important figure of the time, the theologian Hippolytus, was part of a group that considered Callistus’ action too liberal, constituting heresy, Clements said, adding that Hippolytus wouldn’t recognize Callistus’ election as Pope, accused him of heresy, and was elected as an antipope in opposition.
Callistus died a martyr for the faith.
Hippolytus insisted he was the Pope and “epitomizes” a desire for power and control, Clements said. But “there’s a secret smile on the face of God,” and Hippolytus was reconciled with Him.
“Things have a way of working out,” even though some conflicts seem irresolvable, the priest said, citing St. Paul that “all things work for good to those who love God. . . .
“You had an embezzler, a thief, and he gets elected Pope,” Clements said about St. Callistus, adding that this example shows there’s hope for everyone.
Asked by The Wanderer why he thought Callistus was lenient as he overturned Church disciplines about forgiving serious sinners, Clements replied, “Fornication, adultery pretty common” even then. “That’s my guess.”

Discerning A Call

The Institute of Catholic Theology’s biographical background on Clements says that after working at a local bank following his graduation from Arizona State University, “he discerned a call to the priesthood and entered St. John’s Seminary, Los Angeles, in 1985” for the Diocese of Phoenix.
“Following sacred Ordination in 1990, Fr. Clements has served the diocese in a number of pastoral and educational settings prior to his current assignment as the director of the All Saints Catholic Newman Center at Arizona State University,” the description says.
“He has served on the Priest Placement Board, the board of directors for Phoenix Natural Family Planning, and the Catholic Community Foundation.”

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