Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Tragedy May Unlock Brakes on Reform. (Viewpoint)

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Tragedy May Unlock Brakes on Reform. (Viewpoint)

Article excerpt

Doc Scullen, the pastor of Holy Name Church, was bigger than life. Knowing each parishioner by name, he exuded all the charisma and charm of movie priests Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald. Although I was just a boy when the great man died, it was clear from my parents and others that no one was more respected and trusted in the old Newburg section of Cleveland than this wise priest.

I discovered after my own ordination to the priesthood that I stood on the shoulders of men like Doc Scullen. They were the pastors that earned the respect and trust that we young priests were humbled to see extended to us before we had earned it in the least.

I wonder these days about the legacy we priests are leaving to those who come after us. We have our own Doc Scullens in our midst, but I fear there are far too few of them--and far too many priests who have done more harm than good.

We priests have such a great opportunity to do good. And clearly, most of us do. But a relatively small though significant percentage of us have succeeded in undermining the trust and respect we inherited from the priests that went before us. And it pains us terribly. We see now that while we have opportunities to do good, we also have unprecedented opportunities to do harm, even grave harm. As one young priest put it, "Now I am a priest, with a boundless capacity for thwarting good and for turning wine into water."

We priests are now watching in silence and sadness the watering down of the priesthood, at least the watering down of the trust and respect we once enjoyed. And we wonder how in God's name we will ever regain it, how we will ever earn it.

I suspect many of us, lay folks and priests alike, believe that good will eventually surface from the present clergy abuse scandal that is rocking our church from coast to coast. …

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