We judge one another. Often. Too often. Sometimes we try and justify this judgment by the "I would never do that" excuse. But we are all fallible — and at one time or another, we all fall. Father Damian Ference examines what we must do when one among us errs, and who we must turn to to pick up the pieces.
Recently a Catholic news outlet reported a story that has left me unsettled. A Catholic priest – who from his picture doesn’t look too much older than me – made a call to 911 to ask for assistance. He was stuck in a pair of handcuffs at the rectory. When the police arrived on the scene they found the pastor not only in handcuffs, but dressed in an orange prison outfit and wearing a leather bondage mask. The police officers set the priest free, and the priest wisely met with his bishop and asked to take a leave of absence, which was granted. The incident happened in late November. In early January the story hit the press. It’s a sad story, indeed.
What do we do when a priest falls? What is the right response when a pastor goes astray? How do you wrap your mind and heart around a situation that involves a man who is supposed to be a witness of grace and strength but is publicly and embarrassingly exposed in his sin and weakness? Is there anything we can say? Is there anything we should say?
Obviously, since I’m writing this piece, I do think there is something to say. But let me start with this – since I don’t know anything more than what was stated in the police report, I will not comment or speculate on the situation itself. And even if I did have more information, these things ought to be worked out in confidence between the priest and his bishop, not in the public forum. What I do want to address, however, is how we might best respond to troubling news about a priest that has gone public...