Some sectors of the Church’s leadership is trying to understand the pastoral care of people by wrestling with how to minister without being connected with lavish and flagrant lifestyles. We are still not finished with the sexual abuse perpetuated by clergy as new cases still surface; there’s been the lack of transparency with regard to finances, the abuse of pastoral and personal authority and now we dealing with bishops and other priests living “high on the hog.” Think of the real or imagine problems of the bishop of Limburg of last year, but now we have the archbishop of Atlanta coming clean about his insensitivities regarding a good use of real estate following the criticisms of the archbishop of Newark spending outrageously on his future retirement home. It remains to be seen what some newly installed bishops will do with their episcopal palaces supported by diocesan monies (Hartford, Bridgeport, Albany, Chicago, et al).
Clearly, Pope Francis’ perceived simpler living arrangements is causing a much needed review of current practices. His insistence on a simpler approach is better received by the laity than the clergy. Is this real issue? Some sneer at the Pope standing in the coffee line, meeting people at the front door, and talking with common person (read: riffraff). But the questioning of lifestyle didn’t start with Pope Francis; the desire for the clergy, high and low, to live in a simple manner, can be pointed to in recent memory to Pope John Paul II and carried on by Pope Benedict XVI, and to many, many saints.
So, it’s no surprise that Catholics in the USA, and in some other places have been questioning the clergy’s use of their pastoral authority, their use of money –the church’s and their own, and the clergy’s ability to be chaste, their use of alcohol, their good relationship with men and women (so many seem to hate women) and the their ability to be true spiritual fathers. Catholics are exhausted by having to rehearse with the higher clergy that over-the-top attitudes on just about everything concerning the Church militant is tiresome and resulting in departures from the parish. It is no exaggeration to say that the faithful have been offended by clericalism, the arrogance of the clergy who preach one thing and do another, clergy who live and act like members of royalty and who lacked the virtue chastity (i.e., not been sexually continent –this problem is in addition to the criminal behavior of sexual abuse of minors).
What we have are zombie priests. Men ordained to the order of priest but have little concern for their own soul, their intellect, the care of souls (especially the people they don’t particularly like), who can’t celebrate rites or preach very well and who prefer to watch soap operas and drink. Is the priesthood promised us by Christ? made know by the saints? taught by the Magisterium? NO. We need a new Saint John Vianney for substantive renewal.