14 March, 2010


The Parable of the Prodigal Son was the Gospel reading at Mass this weekend 3/13-14. For those who have not read it see; Luke 15:11-31.

After the younger son has traversed the world beyond his home and spent all of his inheritance, he decides to return home and seek the forgiveness of his father.
While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him , and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. (Verse 20b).
In recent posts I have spoken, with some degree of sadness and anger about what I perceive to be a lack of compassionate pastoral response from many Church leaders.

There was the case of incompassionate response to the plight of a nine year old girl who had been raped and whose mother had her twins aborted.

There was the case of the Mexican Cardinal, who spoke out so publicly and harshly about LGBT people.

There was the case where a pastor, with the support of the bishop's later public statement, removed an elementary school child from a Catholic school because his caregivers were partnered lesbians.

Why is there no indication that the little girl, gay people, and the little boy were shown compassion? It would seem that these victims who have been the first to be protected from public attention. It seems that the innocent victims would have been shown pastoral care, love and support.

But we've been there not too long ago when the victims of pedophilia were paid little attention as traumatized human beings. Money was spent to "defend" the Church's reputation. A bunch of money was transferred to some victims for counseling and psychotherapy. But why were so many hierarchs unable or unwilling to meet one-on-one with victims and feel their hurt, fragility and justifiable anger at the Church with the compassion of God as proclaimed in this parable? It seems that the bishops (and many others) are more like the elder son who was "faithful" in following the Law, but jealous and incompassionate toward his younger  brother.

 I have deep faith in and hope for the Christian-Catholic community. However, particularly these days the  institutional bureaucracy of the Church is called to a continued repentance and to heed the Gospel call in the way it operates. There are those in the Church (both clergy and laity) who believe that the essence of the Church and Christian Life are to "follow the Law" as laid out in legal fashion as the means to spiritual growth and salvation. It is sufficient to know the rules and obey them. They have been called "Proclaimers of Certainty" because they believe they already know God's plan and can administer it. In many cases, those who believe this way are more comfortable with the words and images expressed in Deut: 21:18-21.

There are others in the Church, who by no means reject the value of Law and rules. However they see these as ideals to be striven for, but maybe never reached, in the attempt to be true to the Gospel, to Jesus; to be compassionate. Take for example,  Archbishop Quinn when he was in San Francisco. He was able to work out arrangements for the availability of heath benefits for gays who worked for Catholic agencies and to honor and keep to the Church's teachings about homosexuality. Those who believe this way are more comfortable with Psalm 103, especially verses 4, 8, and 12-13

What appears in some of my posts as anger, is really frustration and a call to take seriously the Gospel message and the teachings of Vatican II, rather than a view in which Law trumps compassion and Love.


  1. sebastian, thanks I agree with you. I am also troubled by some decisions or lack of decisions of some priest, bishops. But I think everything has few bad apples. I think overwhelmingly the church leaders are compassionate and caring good and decent men. davide

  2. Davide,

    I want to agree with you wholeheartedly. I do think most priests are pastoral and compassionate. These men are supported, loved, and defended by the People of God.

    But I'm afraid as one rises up "the chain of command" (bishop, Cardinal, Vatican official) they are more and more insulated from the real life of people. Very many (not all) have been Canon Lawyers and treat mostly "problems"as legal issues; too often they feel the need to "defend and protect" the Institutional Church at all costs more than to feel the pain and suffering of real people.

    I think you and I both understand the pain we, too, suffer and too often are just told to "suck it up" period.

    I just returned from a Lenten talk on priestly celibacy. There were 75-100 people there. Fr.'s talk and the discussion / questions showed a real deep sense of pastoral sensitivity toward ALL who are expected to live a celibate life.


Comments most welcome.