Fr. Joseph Illo is the pastor of Star of the Sea Parish in San Francisco (a write up is here). He recently wrote a piece in The Catholic Herald entitled "Trust in the priesthood has been shattered - but not entirely." As always, I encourage you to read the entire thing. But a few points caught my eye. As always, emphasis is my own:
The priest whom we thought we knew in America has become a stranger, and a dangerous one at that. When even the Pope – our beloved Daddy, the Papa of all peoples – when even he seems to blithely dismiss credible allegations from the people of Chile and from his own nuncio, when even the Pope seems unwilling to protect his children – what have we left of spiritual paternity?
And yet… I’m amazed to see how people still believe in the priesthood...
... As damning as the crimes of the Church have been – and I think the public exposures will have to get worse before we decide to really clean our house – people still believe in the priesthood. Despite what the Supreme Court has said, we still believe in marriage. Despite fifty years of dismissive media, we still believe in the Catholic Church. The world still needs God, and it knows the Church still administers divine sacraments.
According to Pew Research, the Catholic Church has lost more members than any other "religious tradition" (Pew's term) in the United States. New converts do not offset this loss. The main reasons for this exodus, according to Pew, are the Church's teachings on the ever-proliferating panoply of social experimentation topics which receive the blessings, adulations and legal protection of the State and the commentariat. We all know them: oldies but goodies like abortion, contraception, and divorce; trendy newcomers such as homosexual "marriage", the multicolored paint splatter of LTQGB whatever, and the newest kid on the block: boys who want to be girls and girls who want to be boys. This last, in my opinion, is especially vicious insofar as it involves the medical and surgical (id est, permanent) mutilation of children by their parents, with the approval and support of the State, the state-run schools, and, of course, the commentariat. And we wonder why our children are confused and bewildered.
However, a secondary reason, growing in importance, is the slow motion train wreck of sexual scandals involving priests, bishops, cardinals – scandals which primarily (though not exclusively) involve adult men ordained as priests forcing homosexual activity on young men, teenage boys, and peri-or prebubescent boys.
There's a lot to study and to learn regarding how Fr. Illo does business at Star of the Sea. Go look at the website for his parish. But the point of this post is this: people still believe in the priesthood. I do. However, I also am frankly angry and disgusted with the priesthood. I want to see the priesthood stand up, clean itself up (which is going to be nasty, and ugly, and dirty, but needs to be done), then clean up the liturgical mess of the past half century(which I believe has contributed greatly to the current crisis), and then begin standing up to the world. I don't want the laity to do it, I want the priests (and by this I mean all priests: priests, bishops, even, yes even the Pope) to do it. That is the only way that they will ever regain credibility. The laity can support the priests and bishops who want to do these things, but the clergy has got to do the work. And, yes: it's not going to be pretty.