success stories

Posted October 9, 2003

Article: Renewal of the Priesthood in the Post-Dallas Era
Author: Stephen Rossetti
Origins, September 18, 2003, Vol. 33: No. 15

A likely grace that will come from the tragedy of the sexual abuse crisis “will be the renewal of the church in general and in specific, a renewal of the clergy,” Father Stephen Rossetti said in a Sept 8 address in Washington to a convocation of priests of the Archdiocese of the Military Services.

“If we are willing, these days offer to us a chance of renewal, to make a good priesthood and a strong church community even better.”

Rossetti discussed the possibilities for clergy renewal in terms of their lives as Christians, as priests and as church leaders. “Priests are first and foremost children of God and followers of Jesus, that is, Christians.”

“Essential to renewal of the priesthood is our renewal as Christians. When we have come personally to know our sinfulness and God’s forgiveness, there can be no room for arrogance or clericalism. The priest or bishop who has truly become a Christian himself is a humble man who sees himself as a brother to his fellow Christians.”

“Speaking of renewal of the priesthood as such, Rossetti said, “I seems to me that our living out of the priesthood tends to vacillate between two poles of the truth: the sacredness of the priesthood and the frailty of our humanity.” Priests are at the same time both bearers of grace and profoundly flawed . . . When [the priest] or the people forget either the grace-filled power of his calling or the bitter truth of his sinful humanity, there will be serious trouble in the church.”

Speaking of renewal for priests in their roles as church leaders, Rossetti focused on qualities of transparency, accountability and communication. “Because priests receive their assignments from ‘above,’ there is a tendency for the system to foster a lack of accountability in priests’ actions and behaviors. There is much evidence to suggest that the grace of a renewal of church leadership will necessarily include such concepts as openness, transparency and accountability.”

Quotes from text:

“For a priest today to remain faithful, enthusiastic, celibate and alive requires a very high level of spiritual depth and psychic maturity. These difficult times demand that priests be more than ‘good.’ The crucible of these times will propel us into a level of sanctity and commitment that we previously would not have imagined.”

“The word that strikes me most forcibly in the wake of this crisis is humility. The people expect their priests and bishops to be humble. If God is working any grace in the wake of this disaster, certainly a part of it must be making the priests and bishops of this country the humble people that God calls them to be. Humble people are able to hear the cries of the poor and suffering.”

“I do not think it is news to suggest that priests are both bearers of an immense grace and also frail human beings. While priests and people both accept this reality on an intellectual level, it is very clear that we have not fully integrated it into our psyche and spirit.”

“There is much evidence to suggest that the grace of a renewal of church leadership will necessarily include such concepts as openness, transparency and accountability. These will be important watchwords for future church leaders. If not, there will be more ‘crises,’ perhaps of a different nature and concerning different subjects, but such crises will naturally arise out of suspicion, distrust and a lack of communication.”