Looking for a Few Good Shepherds

Looking for a Few Good Shepherds

The bad news about the least exemplary members of the clergy is not new. I’ve become so used to the horror stories that I found myself laughing out loud at a Saturday Night Live bit about a priest who’d had an affair with a married woman. The punch line was roughly, “It’s guys like this who give the Catholic Church a slightly better name.”

Because “the news” is almost always “the bad news,” entire groups of people are represented by a few examples—usually the worst examples. We have to take that extra step mentally to remind ourselves that not all Muslims are terrorist extremists, not all Southern pastors are irresponsible book-burners, and not all priests are a disgrace to their vows. But should we be doing even more?

This issue hit home for me as a result of a casual remark made by one of the priests I work with at St. Anthony Messenger Press. He was dressed in his clerical shirt and collar, heading out the door to some ministry or another. (Most of these wonderful men put in a full work week here and still manage a full schedule of pastoral duties. As a working mother of four who knows something about busy schedules, I am impressed.) Since the Roman collar was not a daily look for this particular man, I thought to ask him why he didn’t wear his priestly garb all the time. I thought I’d get some glib answer about scratchy fabric, but instead I heard a quiet, heartfelt:

“I don’t want people to think I am one of those priests.”

Since I doubt I’ll meet a holier man this side of heaven, I was stunned.

I knew that each news story was hurting me and I knew it was hurting the Church. But until that moment, I never imagined what it must be like for the great majority of priests to feel that—no matter their years of work and sincere devotion—many people look at a brown robe or white collar and think: criminal.

Is there some way to stem this tide? Could we all find a way to share the stories of the good priests we know? Can we let them know that their faithfulness is all the more important, and all the more appreciated, at just such a time?

To all those faithful men: We do not know all you do each day—the ministry, the prayer, the casual words of encouragement or correction you offer. But we do depend on it. And our Church depends on it. Please know that at least this Catholic doesn’t see a Roman collar and think of one of those priests. I think of that priest—the one who worried that anyone could think badly of him when his every word and action are an inspiration. You have my confidence, my gratitude, and my prayers.

Photo by Evgeni Dinev.


About the Author

Kathleen M. Carroll is the managing editor for the book department at Franciscan Media. She loves reading, gardening, animals, babies, baby animals, and extreme recycling. She is the stay-away-from-home mother to four really good-looking children. And no, she will not read your manuscript.
  • Sharon Lape

    Very good blog, Katie!  I wholeheartedly agree with you!

  • Anonymous

    The percentage of priests whom I have encountered and are exceptional, seeking to follow Christ and represent Him in all they do, far outnumber those who have fallen and on whom the media shines it’s spotlight.  Bravo Katie on your small attempt to bring this to our awareness and perhaps begin to turn the tide towards a time that we once again see the collar or habit as a sign of something better.

  • Anonymous

    It’s sad that priests would want to hide the very core of who they are and what they are dedicating their lives to instead of being proud of the amazing ministry they are called to. Isn’t that what the devil would want? (Yes, I just mentioned the devil.) To hinder the beautiful witness that could (and in my opinion—should) be made? First, the Church is being pulled apart from within due to the abuse. Now, some priests and religious are embarrassed to wear habits? Priests: We NEED your witness. We NEED your presence.

    I love seeing priests/religious in clerical collars, habits, etc. It’s an outward sign of the beautiful inward consecration they’ve make and it serves as a much-needed witness to the faith. It’s the same as a married person wearing a wedding ring. If you’re married, don’t you WANT to wear your ring? I’m not ashamed to be Catholic because of the scandals in the Church. I’ve met too many wonderful Catholics who have profoundly and positively impacted me. The heart of Christ’s Church is good, true, and beautiful. Let the good (priests, religious, lay people, etc.) serve as an example instead of hiding in shame.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Monna-Younger/100000470635567 Monna Younger

    Katie: I also absolutely agree with this blog about our Catholic priests. We must remember that without them we would not be able to celebrate the Mass. Christ gave them the power to change bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ so that He (Christ) may remain in and with us until the end of time. Without our Cathollic priests this would be impossible. Dear priests please keep your robe, garb, or priestly collar on so that we can feel much safer in this world in which we live in today. Thanks Katie!

  • William

    I feel the age stipulation has stopped many men who have been given the call as with myself to lead his flock..many live in the world and savor the frits not of god but of the world before the grace of the Holy spirit has shaken them into the great Love we receive thru his eucharist and our Blessed Lady..we must honor Mother Church as it is she we serve..GOD will make his way if it is meant to be..altho it is our holy father who and only him on earth that can overide anythibng as in St Frances of assissi.. thanks

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