A day after one priest left the priesthood to which he had been called, I witnessed the joyful ordination of another young man who had the courage to accept the dignity and burden of his vocation as priest.

My diocese ordained a young Vietnamese man this morning, and it was beautiful– as always– to witness the transformation of a young man into a priest in the line of Melchizedek.  I couldn’t help but think of the former-Father Alberto Curié, who yesterday left the Catholic Church for the Episcopal Church, shortly after he was publicly caught in an affair with a woman.

The Father Cutié scandal disturbed me greatly– not even so much that he was so publicly and scandalously caught in his affair, but that he has abandoned his vocation as a result.  It’s a tragedy that he was unfaithful to his vows, but to abandon those vows is never the answer.  

The crisis in the priesthood– whether the priests are homosexual or heterosexual– is a result of moral vice, but I believe also results from theological errors.  As I sat at the ordination and listened to Tien promise to live his vocation faithfully, I realized that it is not only sin that lies at the heart of these crises, but bad theology.  That is what Father Cutié has shown us.  You don’t leave the Catholic Church for the Episcopal Church unless you don’t understand theologically what the Catholic Church is.

The crisis in catechesis is like the kudzu problem of the South.  Kudzu was imported with good intentions by the Soil Conservation Service in the 30s and 40s to prevent erosion.  Once it was introduced, kudzu spread like mad, sweeping out-of-control, with devastating environmental consequences.  One feature of kudzu is the difficulty to fully eradicate the plant, as its seeds can sit in the ground for years before germinating and its deep buried roots regenerate into healthy kudzu even after attempted removal.

The wacky catechesis of the 60s and 70s was (to give everyone the benefit of the doubt) introduced with good intentions.  There were problems in the 40s and 50s with the way the Faith was handed on.  But now we’re suffering the consequences– in every aspect of our lives.  And just when we look around and wonder if we’re finally through the dark days, a new scandal, a new problem, a new consequence of ignorance creeps in.

“Do you resolve, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to discharge without fail the office of priesthood in the presbyteral rank, as a worthy fellow worker with the Order of Bishops in caring for the Lord’s flock?”

Do our priests and seminarians understand ecclesiology?  Do they know what it even means to be a fellow worker with the Order of Bishops?

“Do you resolve to exercise the ministry of the Word worthily and wisely, preaching the Gospel and teaching the Catholic faith?”

Are our seminarians being trained in Scripture?  Have they read the Catechism?  How do they pass on what they do not have? How do they preach that which they themselves don’t know… or don’t believe?

“Do you resolve to celebrate faithfully and reverently, in accord with the Church’s tradition, the mysteries of Christ, especially the sacrifice of the Eucharist and the sacrament of Reconciliation, for the glory of God and the sanctification of the Christian people?”

How many priests celebrate Mass according to the rubrics given to us by the Church, not trying to make it “theirs” or reinvent the liturgy, but as humble servants bringing the mysteries to the faithful?  Why aren’t priests hearing Confessions regularly, as they promised they would on the day of their ordination?  Is it perhaps due to bad catechesis on the nature of sin??  (We certainly don’t need Confession if we don’t sin!)  

“Do you resolve to implore with us God’s mercy upon the people entrusted to your care by observing the command to pray without ceasing?”

Do we have an understanding of what prayer is?  And why it’s important?  Or has our catechesis abandoned the fact that I’m nothing without a personal, daily relationship with God?  I’m not going to point fingers at priests for not praying, but it’s hard to see a priest abandon his vows and believe that he prays without ceasing.  I’m a firm believer that the devil prowls on priests more than any0ne, because as we all saw in The Dark Knight, evil is more successful in its quest when a good man falls, thus discouraging and scandalizing the faithful.  Priests are human beings with concupiscence, and they sin just like I do.  But when a priest persists in disordered behavior, it’s a clear sign that he’s not praying.

“Do you resolve to be united more closely every day to Christ the High Priest, who offered Himself for us to the Father as a pure sacrifice, and with Him to consecrate yourself to God for the salvation of all?”

Are we catechizing about sacrifice?  Do we have an understanding of giving your life completely and totally?  Do our priests understand what it means to be united to the Great High Priest, living a life wedded to Holy Mother Church?  

Yes, there is the problem of sin in the Church.  Christ told us it would happen, and it happened the night He ordained the first twelve priests.  One of them remained in his sin and compounded it by suicide.  Another repented of his sin and became the first Pope.  Sin isn’t new to the Church.  But what’s more disturbing to me is the bad theology and moral relativism.  Judas knew what he had done was wrong.  Does Father Cutié?

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