Sunday, July 11, 2010


Mary Evelyn De Morgan, née Pickering (c1850-1919)
Hope in the Prison of Despair 1887
Oil on canvas 58x65cm
The De Morgan Centre, London

Father Mark of Vultus Christi provides a thought provoking meditation on "The Despairing Priest"

It started from a discussion of a priest who being accused of embezzling funds from his parish said that he had come to "hate his priesthood"

I took the following passage from the meditation as I think the analysis and remedy goes wider than the secular priest.

Do not a lot of people nowadays live alone away from family ?

For the word "priest" in Father Mark`s piece, substitute "adult".

"Why Does It Happen?

The corruption of a priestly soul happens slowly, almost imperceptibly.
Typically, it happens through one of three avenues: the lust for power, the lust for money and possessions, or the lust for sexual gratification. Although all three lusts are closely interconnected, one generally takes the lead, drawing the two others after it. Where one finds impurity, for example, one will also, in all likelihood, find ambition, greed, self-aggrandizement, and the appetite for power over persons and things.

Pride and Anger

What triggers the initial collusion with vice? Pride, being an unreasonable appreciation of one's own worth and narcissistic perception of one's own place in the world spawns other vices. So too does anger: anger over injustices, anger over lost opportunities, failures, rejections, deeply rooted hurts, betrayals, disappointments, or abuse. Habitual sins of impurity, for example, can often be traced to unresolved anger and the refusal of forgiveness.

Envy and Greed

Envy and greed can also also trigger the collusion with vice. Another has the possessions, qualities, position, power, good looks, intelligence, or popularity that one wants. The more one becomes obsessed with what one does not have and with what another has, or appears to have, the more one suffers from a gnawing emptiness within. Out of that emptiness spirals the rage of envy. Such an enraged envy can beget any number of vices.

Gluttony and Sloth

Gluttony and sloth soften a man and dispose him to melancholy, self-pity, listlessness, and lack of energy. All or any one of these characteristics are spiritual danger signals, especially in the life of a priest. If they are not brought to the light and confessed to a spiritual father with honesty and humility, a capitulation to vice is inevitable.

Spiritual Blindness and Hardheartedness

The capitulation to vices leads to spiritual blindness and hardheartedness.
The priest in this state become indifferent to the sins of sacrilege that defile his ascent to the altar. He no longer feels compunction for his sins. The emptiness and bitterness generated by vicious acts compels him to look for ways to deaden the salutary disgust that a soul in the state of grace feels in the face of sin.

Why Does It Happen?

How can it be that a priest, ... can descend to the point of hating his own priesthood?

First of all, unless certain ascetical safeguards are in place, the current living situation of many diocesan priests is intrinsically dangerous and unhealthy. Alone after an exhausting day, with nought but the computer, the television, the refrigerator, and the liquor cabinet to fill his evenings, he is accountable to no one. Diocesan priests are not called to an eremitical life. "

I`ll leave you to read the entire piece written by Father Mark.