One of the things that have disturbed me most as a priest is the clerical abuse scandal. Catholic priests should have a special, inviolable relationship with their people; a trust built up over generations by years of devoted service from good priests who have gone before us. This trust has been diminished and victims have been left doubly abused by the Church which has failed to take their suffering seriously. It leaves all priests ashamed. Thank God, we still benefit from the continuing love and respect of our parishioners. It is a miracle in itself. And Pope Francis has done a great deal to restore the trust of ordinary people in the Church.
My hope is that if I ever get to heaven it will be on the backs of the faith of the people I have been called to serve. The priest is in a privileged position to witness that faith at close quarters in the personal lives of parishioners and to be inspired by it. All priests rely on the prayers of their parishioners to help them do justice to the trust that the people place in them.
I always find the Gospel for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, 5 November, a tough read. The Scribes and Pharisees get a hammering for their hypocrisy. 'You must therefore do what they tell you and listen to what they say; but do not be guided by what they do: since they do not practise what they preach. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them? Not they!' The Gospel goes on: 'The greatest among you must be your servant. Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled.' As priests we have all been humbled in recent years.