Magazine article The Christian Century

Gone Astray

Magazine article The Christian Century

Gone Astray

Article excerpt

WHEN POPE JOHN PAUL II spoke at World Youth Day in Toronto a month ago, he touched on the current crisis in the Catholic Church, admonishing his young audience to not be discouraged by the sins and failings of some." Instead, "think of the vast majority of dedicated and generous priests and religious whose only wish is to serve and do good." That most priests and religious are worthy servants of the church and models of Christ is a given, but by acknowledging that there are a few rotten apples in the barrel, the pope conveyed the seriousness of the current situation.

The Catholic crisis is no time for Protestants to engage in what the Germans call Schadenfreude, a smug delight in the misfortunes of others. Although we are structurally separate, Protestants are still part of one spiritual body that includes Catholics and the Orthodox. When one part of the body suffers, the apostle Paul said, all parts suffer. But we might do more than just feel their pain: it's a good opportunity to reexamine our own attitudes toward leadership.

Episcopal priest Margaret Guenther says that "it is a great burden to live among others who think that you have arrived." Indeed, this is one of the perils of religious leadership. Too often we expect perfection of our leaders, and they end up living two lives as a result--one to fit our public image of them, and a private one in which they can be themselves. Sometimes leaders are so elevated above the rest of us that they remain unaccountable and cut off from meaningful intimacy and community. …

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