Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Look to the Positive not the Negative

Father Thomas G. Morrow in The Danger of Criticizing Bishops and Priests in The Homeletic and Pastoral Review discusses the dangers of criticism

"I remember well the quip of my pre-ordination retreat director: “Isn’t it interesting that in this age when we have so few vocations to the priesthood, we have so many vocations to the episcopacy.” And, we might add, to the papacy!

When people publicly criticize a bishop, or any man, for that matter, the one criticized will often dig in his heels for his position even he may not care that much about it.

He does that to show that he won’t be manipulated by those who try to strong-arm him, even if the criticism is well-intended or well-placed.

On the other hand, people such as St. Catherine of Siena and St. Bernard of Clairvaux had tremendous influence over bishops by their letters. It is not hard to see why: their letters were humble and respectful, and full of love. “But they were saints,” one might argue.

They became saints, but if you examine their lives you will find that many did not recognize their sanctity when they were alive.

Furthermore, it was their sanctity that inspired them to urge reform with love, and so it will be with our sanctity, if we strive for it.

The priests and bishops are probably no worse than they were in the time of St. Catherine of Siena, or St. Francis of Assisi. In fact, they are much better, in general, despite the shameful scandals of a few, in recent years.

We have a choice to make: to give in to our sadness and become a “priest-basher” or “bishop-basher,” always ready to lament with great energy the faults of our clergy; or, while acknowledging the errors of the clergy, we can become morale-builders in the Church, always emphasizing the positive, always ready to build up, not tear down.

And, if we look closely, we’ll see a lot of positives in the Church today, and in every age.

St. Paul said it well: “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. But we beseech you, brethren, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thess. 5:11-13).

This is the way to true holiness, and the joy which always accompanies it. And, this Christian joy, unlike sullenness, is infectious."