I knew that the responses to the first post would be strong. They reveal some interesting perspectives on the Ministerial (Ordained) Priesthood in relation to the Priesthood of the Laity.
I understand and agree with commenters who point out the unequal relationship between a priest and a woman under his pastoral care. It is unequal, and as my friend Erin Manning rightly points out, is analagous to a psychologist having relations with a client. It’s bad. Really bad. And really sinful.
I do take issue with those who say that because the priest is the head of the community, because he stands in for Christ, he is to be held to a higher standard.
To do so is to absolve the laity of their EQUAL obligations that derive from the Priesthood of the Laity, of which they are all members. I would further posit that much of what leads to a 50% divorce rate has everything to do with the laity not living up to the same level of responsibility that ministerial priests have.
Yes, priests are responsible for shepherding souls. So am I as the priest of my home. I am responsible for being a role model of holiness for my wife and children, every bit as much of a role model as the guy in the rectory is supposed to be. My wife is called to that same level of responsibility. We are responsible for the formation of our children’s minds, bodies, and souls.
Regina and I bear responsibility for the care and nurture of one another’s souls.
It is a daunting responsibility in Holy Matrimony, and I question how many fully grasp it and work at it.
As the blessing of the father says in the Baptism ceremony: “He with his wife will be the first teachers of their child in the ways of faith. May they also be the best of teachers, bearing witness to the faith in what they say and do.”
How many of us in the laity take those words to heart in our homes? The truth is that our homes, our marriages, our families, in the aggregate, are a mess. Some 80% of Catholics openly defy the Church in the use of contraception, and teach their children to do the same. At Mass on Sunday, virtually everyone receives communion, yet there is seldom a line of more than 3 people for confession on Saturday. Pornography is a tens-of-billions of dollars a year business.
Who are we kidding?
In the pro-life movement, the greatest heroes, those who are applauded the loudest are the repentant mothers who killed their own children, repentant abortionists who have each killed scores of thousands of babies, and the Abby Johnsons.
Think about that for a moment in relation to the allegations against Father Euteneuer and the response he has received.
I’m not discounting the gravity of his failings here. I’m excoriating the self-righteous who apply a different standard to our priests, and in so doing implicitly hold the priesthood of the laity, of the home, to a lower standard of holiness. It’s as convenient as it is uncharitable.
From what has been released, Fr. Euteneuer has confessed his sin and is working toward healing this rupture however he can. He is one of our own, a fellow Catholic, one of our priests, and a pro-life warrior who has stumbled.
But certainly no worse than the many whose sins he has absolved in nearly a quarter of a century. That counts for something with me. If we are to treat his priesthood, his life as worthless and irredeemable because of his failings, then we have seriously lost our way.
“Blessed are those who show mercy, for mercy shall be theirs.”
The converse of that statement should be unthinkable for those who point the finger of condemnation at Father Euteneuer.
Update: We’re having a Novena for Fr. E and all those affected by his actions. See the details here.