Writing today’s post was very emotional because there are things that should not be heard among priests, religious, and seminarians. As strange as the title is, this is the reality.
Yes, there are instances of family members publicly accusing priests, seminarians, and religious of killing their brother or sister. Priests criticise their colleagues on the pulpit. Sometimes, one asks: Is it still Jesus that we all are working for? There are two categories of reasons for this trend.
The first is our ignorance of the obligations and rights of the office we occupy and the crisis of competence. Maybe one party in the conflict is ignorant or both parties are ignorant. When the informed party seeks to obtain his rights or carry out obligations for which he is competent, the ignorant party feels threatened, and self-defence is activated.
Self-defence here is often a vicious cycle because the ignorant party’s attempt to assert one’s stand further infringes on the rights of the informed, thereby escalating the conflict. When both parties are ignorant, it creates a series of actions and reactions based on prejudices and caprices. When two blind men lead themselves, we know the outcome.
The second category is the sad reality that we can simply be malicious, irrespective of our religiosity. Here, I distinguish between being religious and spiritual. Religiosity is about the institution, structures, and practices within a religion, while spirituality is about our personal relationship with the supernatural. No doubt, both are related because, by going to mass (religiosity) for instance, I improve my relationship with God (spirituality).
Nevertheless, I can say the mass, conduct a spirit-filled adoration, perform other activities as a priest (religiosity), yet my relationship with God (spirituality) is very poor or even non-existent. St Paul rightly says:
“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
The level of spirituality of a priest is largely influenced by how often he confesses. Going to confession requires an examination of conscience, and when one finally goes, there is a commitment to avoid sin in the future. Yes, that one needs to ask God for forgiveness for wrong thoughts, words, deeds, and omissions indicates a personal relationship with him. Doing these influences the life and choices of a priest. Hence, the Church makes it easier for us to examine our consciences daily at compline and confess at monthly recollections.
Ignorance of one’s obligations and rights, the crisis of competence, and a poor relationship with God create the perfect mix for an unfriendly working environment, intractable conflicts, and the threat or decision to “deal with the other”. Because of the role of the family in our culture, and our struggle to create a fraternal Presbyterium, we recur to our families when we feel threatened. The family takes the conflict to another level to save their own and considers any misfortune on their brother/son as the machination of a priest or seminarian.
Knowing and keeping to our obligations and rights, avoiding the crisis of competence, promoting fraternity in the Presbyterium, and improving our relationship with God will help stem this trend.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10).
May God continue to help us.🙏🏾