Priests in the news for bad reasons
One, Father Gerald Robinson, was just convicted of murdering a nun over two decades ago.
The other, Father Marcial Maciel, the founder of a large religious order that does great work for Christ, has just been asked by the Holy See to withdraw personally from public ministry, after accusations of abuse.
The crimes of which these men have been accused are terrible indeed – much more so because they are priests: entrusted with the care of souls, the truth of the Gospel, and the holiness of holy things.
Even though both continue to protest their innocence, neither will publicly function as priests again.
Some people will complain about the imperfections of legal processes (criminal, civil and canonical) in these matters. Certainly there is always room for improvement in any human process and we should diligently seek improvement (although complete justice will always be out of human reach and in the hands of God).
Some people will say that these monstrous accusations cast into darkness any good that these men may have said or done in their lives.
To be sure, as a practical matter, the effectiveness of their lives as witnesses to Christ has been diminished if not destroyed.
But what we proclaim as Christians and as members of God's Holy Church is not our own wisdom, but God's wisdom - just as the Church's holiness comes not from its members or leaders but from God.
What we teach is not something church members or leaders have made up; what we teach are truths of God revealed through Christ by the Holy Spirit.
Insofar as what these men said and taught is in accordance with these truths, they remain true: truth relies not on personal morality, but on conformity with reality.
Likewise, any objective good done by these men remains good.
Moreover, the communities served by these men were ultimately centered on Christ, not on these leaders – no matter how charismatic, popular or beloved these men may have been.
This seems most apparent in the case of the religious order founded by the one accused priest: its very name is the Legionaries of Christ.
Their founder may have fallen, but Christ remains forever.
We are all imperfect (some of us more so than others) and we must deal with the imperfect as best we can (taking special care to protect the innocent), yet we must never take our focus off the perfection which is Christ and the graced perfection to which Christ calls us.
Of course, bad news about a relative handful should not be allowed to overwhelm the good news of what is being done by the overwhelming majority of priests, teachers, and ministers, yet we also must not let the good news or bad news about men and women get in the way of the infinitely more important good news of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.