Vocation simply means a call from God. Although marriage is a vocation, we often associate vocation with the call to the priesthood and religious life. This is even more important when we consider the high-level scrutiny done in the selection of those to be ordained and those to profess the evangelical vows. Indeed, “many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt 22:14).
Church history is dotted with so many errors and evils perpetrated by the clergy and religious. The horrid and heinous nature of these crimes questions the whole idea that God calls one to the priesthood and religious life. Do these evils mean that the guilty clergy and religious were no longer called? Two points help us.
First, freewill is at the heart of creation. God has given each person the will to make choices. If it had not been so, then we would have been like robots, automated according to the design of God. If we were robots, then the whole discourse on morality would have been excluded because a malfunction in a machine is always relative to the manufacturer or user. The idea of freedom is evident in the Incarnation of Jesus. It was after Mary freely accepted to be the mother of God that Jesus was incarnated into her womb (Luke 1:26-38).
Second, ordination and profession do not take away human nature, a nature full of imperfections. As St Thomas Aquinas says, gratia non tollit naturam, sed perficit, that is, «grace does not remove nature but fulfils it».
Therefore, ordination or profession does not take away our humanity nor our freewill to choose our actions. The apostles are clear examples of this. Jesus called them irrespective of their imperfections, yet the call to apostleship did not wipe away the impetuosity and hypocrisy of Peter (John 13: 6-9; Galatians 2:11-13), the violent tendency of James and John (Luke 9:54), the treachery and dishonesty of Judas (Luke 22:1-6; John 12:6), the scepticism of Thomas (John 20:24-29) etc. They chose their actions.
In the same way, priests and religious who commit offences choose their actions and if they choose the wrong one, it does not mean that God did not call them. They were called to follow the right path but chose to go astray. Although Peter denied Jesus thrice, Jesus did not strip him of the pre-eminence over other apostles nor of the leadership of the Church rather, he reaffirmed it after his resurrection (John 21:15-19).
My dear friends, instead of wondering how God called Fr A or Sister B—we should pray for each other as Jesus encouraged us to do (Luke 22:31-32; Heb 3:13). God does not call the qualified, but he qualifies those he called.
Moreover, irrespective of the evil character of a priest or a religious, he or she is still valuable in the salvific mission of the Church because God has endowed each person with a unique talent. However, we need to find where they fit in, and what role they can perform. Search, and you shall find them.
May God continue to help us.🙏🏾