John Allen reports at CRUX today on the Holy Father’s brisk and realistic discussion with the Italian bishops about the crisis in the Italian church.
There are money problems, clergy living high off the hog, bishops being sly with the loot and a general falling away from the faith. As I have written elsewhere, the situation in the church right now is not so different from the church at the threshold of the Protestant Revolution. Go here for my analysis.
Allen points to one of the outstanding character in the present corruption:
Francis made a brief mention to “scandals in some dioceses,” without going into detail.
He might have cited, among other cases, the situation in Terni, where a special administrator had to be appointed in 2013 to cope with more than $23 million in debt left behind by the former bishop, Vincenzo Paglia, who today heads the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life, and who at one point was the target of an embezzlement probe.
This bishop Vincenzo Paglia is also the one who had the walls of his cathedral covered with a homo erotic mural by a gay artist. Go here to read more. Then there’s this:
In August of last year, Pope Francis moved Paglia from the Pontifical Council for the Family to the presidency of the Pontifical Academy for Life, as well as of the Pontifical Pope John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, two organizations founded by Pope St. John Paul II to defend the sanctity of human life and family values.
The corruption in the Italian church is widespread and the Pope’s lament at the hemorrhage of priests and religious is a call for a new radicalism.
What we need is the return of the warrior priest.
Now Google is a wonderful tool, so I did a search on “Warrior Priest” and found that there is such a category in a video online game called WarHammer. That’s where the image comes from, and while fantasy role play games are not the usual stuff of my blog posts, the phenomenon is part of the whole fantasy sub culture, and like Lord of the Rings, good fantasy teaches good lessons. There in an online fantasy game is an image of a priest who is also a warrior and that’s where I got the image for the post, and check it out–does that guy have on the “full armor of God” or what?
The fantasy figure is an image, a mythic image of what is required.
When I use such language I can hear all the liberals chuttering and flapping in alarm, “Why all this militant talk? The way of the warrior is not the way of Christ! We need to be more like St Francis, preaching to the birds and kissing the lepers. Warrior priest? What, shall we start singing “Fight the Good Fight” and “Onward Christian Soldiers” again? But they’ve been removed from our hymnals. We sing songs about gathering in now. Whew. That’s a good thing.”
But of course, when I speak of the “warrior priest” I am not suggesting that Catholic priests become Roman Jihadis. I’m not suggesting we grab our missiles and our missals and set out on a new crusade against the Albigensians of today. I’m not suggesting that we become pugnacious, but prayerful.
What I am getting at is the need for priests and priests in training to have a new awareness of the spiritual battle at hand. When you read the New Testament and the lives of the saints, this militant attitude runs through like a thread of lead–lead that lines the armor and lead for the bullets of prayer. This militant thread is everywhere present in the history of the church, the lives of the saints and the literature of Christianity.
I’m talking about spiritual warfare.
We are not pacifists, and I would go so far as to say that whenever you find a Christianity that is completely lacking in an awareness of the conflict and a willingness to do battle, you have a Christianity that is false. It is a sentimental soft sell…candy on a poisoned apple.
This is one of the reasons why Cardinal Robert Sarah is such a star in the church. He has lived through terrible trials and difficulties and is fully aware that the disciple of Jesus Christ is called to battle and not to a sweet lie and a soft life. Pope Francis pushes this too, in his appeal for us to live simply. He sees priestly poverty as a kind of weapon in the battle and defense against worldliness.
At the heart of the power of prayer, of course, is the greatest prayer of the church The Holy Eucharist. It is through the celebration of this mystery as well as the ministry of reconciliation that the Warrior Priest accomplishes wields his unique and most powerful weapon against Satan. This will actually be the heart of the new book I am working on The Return of the Warrior Priest.
When this understanding of the priest’s role and the function of the Mass is forgotten or neglected (replaced perhaps by priest as social worker and Mass as community fellowship) the warrior priest disappears and the priest himself becomes irrelevant.
The problem of the dearth of vocations, therefore, is a crisis at the very root of the church. It is a crisis of identity. Too many in the Catholic Church have forgotten that the church is first and foremost supposed to do on earth what Jesus did when he was here: to preach the truth, to take dominion over Satan, to heal the sick and forgive sins. Helping people, being nice, getting involved politically, feeding the hungry–all that is important, but it is the result of the primary mission, not the primary mission itself.
If being a priest is no more than being a gentle man who is kind to people and tries to make the world a better place, then why go through all that philosophy, theology, psychology and all the other “ologies”? Most of all, why live in poverty and celibacy? You can be kind and help people and work in the soup kitchen and be a peace and justice activist without all that religious stuff.
On the other hand, if being a priest is about being a supernatural warrior, battling Satan for the salvation of souls, then being a priest is the best way you can do that.
What does this mean in practical terms? Firstly, to be trained spiritually in the discipline of self control, concentration in prayer and personal asceticism. Secondly, to be aware of the battle at hand, but not to wade in guns a-blazin’ at every opportunity. Keep your powder dry. Keep an eye on the enemy and choose your battles. Thirdly, remember the Christian knight always fights valiantly with a joyful spirit and a noble heart. Bitterness, sarcasm, despair and rage are wasted energy. Fourthly, to usually fight a strong defense, not a strong offense. There is enough to do with the battles that come to you without seeking further conflict.
Why do I call for the warrior priest? Because the priest is the leader of the battalion. If the leaders are not warriors what will the foot soldiers do?
In my opinion, this militant attitude is restored the vocations crisis will take care of itself.
Speaking of Warriors, I have a couple of beautiful, rugged, para cord Warrior’s rosaries that I am giving to new Donor Subscribers to my blog. If you would like to support my blog and podcasts, go here to learn about the benefits and commitment.