Clergy Tepidity Is Worse Than Scandal

Father Cantalamessa Calls for Vocational Renewal

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 26, 2010 ( Recent priestly scandals have harmed the Church, but clergy can renew their vocations by remembering the love that drew them to Christ, says Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa.

This was the reflection offered today by the preacher of the Pontifical Household in his third Lenten sermon of the year, given in the presence of Benedict XVI and the Roman Curia. The Capuchin is focusing his homilies on the priesthood in this Year for Priests.

In Advent he meditated on the priest as servant of Christ, in the power and the unction of the Holy Spirit. During Lent, he is looking at the priest as steward of the mysteries of God.

“I believe I interpret the concern most often expressed in the past by the Holy Father,” he said, which “motivated, at least in part, the proclamation of this Year for Priests, dedicating this last meditation to the need for purification within the Church, beginning with its clergy.”

The priest underlined the call to conversion, which has as one aspect “a return to the first fervor and love of Christ.”

He stated, “Which of us priests does not remember with emotion the moment in which we realized we were called by God to his service, the moment of the profession for the religious, the enthusiasm of the first years of ministry for the priests?”

“It is true that there also was the factor of age, youth,” the preacher affirmed. “But in this case it is not about nature: It was grace then and it can be grace today.”

Painful experience
“Fidelity!” he urged his brother priests. “The Holy Father has put this word as title and program of the Year for Priests: Fidelity to Christ and Fidelity of the Priest.”

“Opposed to this fidelity is betrayal of the trust of Christ and of the Church,” Father Cantalamessa noted, “the double life, failing in the duties of one’s state, above all in regard to celibacy and chastity.”

He added: “We know from painful experience how much harm can come to the Church and to souls from this type of infidelity.

“It is perhaps the harshest trial that the Church is going through at this moment.”

The priest acknowledged, however, that “the lukewarmness, lack of zeal and apostolic inertia” on the part of the clergy “weakens the Church even more than the occasional scandals of some priests that make more noise and against whom it is easier to hasten to take measures.”

He noted that Catholic priests are currently going through a “moment of grave embarrassment.”

Father Cantalamessa added, however, that “Christ suffers more than us by the humiliation of his priests and the affliction of his Church; if he permits it, it is because he knows the good that can come from it, in view of a greater purity of the Church.”

“The most beautiful fruit of this Year for Priests will be a return to Christ,” he said, “a renewal of our friendship with him.”

“In his love,” the preacher continued, “the priest will find all that of which he deprived himself humanly and ‘a hundredfold more,'” according to God’s promise.

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