Listening to this Sunday’s gospel - the Parable of the Weeds and the Wheat - I could not help but think about and pray for all the good priests who were uprooted from ministry along with the abusive ones. They were men who may have made mistakes in the past, but who had made amends, were living holy lives and were touching souls with the good news of God’s love. Or they were innocent priests who were wrongly accused and suffered greatly because of it. There are also many good priests who continue in ministry with a smoldering fear of how their lives would be ruined if they were falsely accused.
We have been let down during this abuse crisis not only because abusive priests were allowed to have contact with us but because so many good priests were taken from us.
I cannot say that I know what a better alternative might be. I do not know how the bishops can remove abusive priests from ministry while giving good priests assurance that they will have a fair hearing if they are falsely accused. I do not know if there is any way of being able to tell apart those likely to re-offend from those who made mistakes in the past but are unlikely to break their promise of celibacy in the future.
But I do know that we should not stop praying for those priests - both the good and the bad - who have been stripped of their public ministry. I also know that in some hidden way their priestly ministry continues through prayer, sacrifice and penance. The priesthood of Christ is eternal and those who have been ordained continue to live it whether they are assigned to a parish or barred from public ministry. Through their humiliations, they are being conformed to Christ who Himself was accused and condemned. In some mysterious way, Christ is working out His plan of redemption through them. That deepening participation in the Paschal Mystery can only bring more graces to the Church and the world.