Pastors Should Feed the Sheep–Not Themselves

For a while now, reading about the heterodox opinions expressed by high ranking prelates in the German Church has rankled me.  Though, the state of Catholicism in Germany has often been problematic throughout history: St. Boniface needed to constantly reconvert Germans who had lapsed back into paganism; of all the particular churches prior to the Protestant Reformation, Germany offered more examples of corruption amidst the clergy; concerning Humanes Vitae (an encyclical stating orthodox teaching concerning married love, responsible parenting, and contraceptives), German bishops stated–before the ink was dry on that document–that people should just follow their consciences irrespective of Catholic teaching; and now, they have espoused new heretical teachings!  Well, what should we expect of priests who are so lax that the grand majority only goes to confession once a year–the bare minimum for a practicing Catholic?

St. Augustine

At least, I hope they still pray their Divine Office, which is an official program of prayer and spiritual reading priests have vowed to pray each day.  After I left seminary, I gave my volumes of the Divine Office to my brother, since I still had to psychologically divorce myself from the seminary.  (Besides, he seemed to enjoy praying it with me on occasion.)  Recently, my parents returned the volumes to me after visiting my brother, and I could not resist praying at least Morning Prayer and the Office of Readings.  Conspicuous in the Office of Readings is that selections from St. Augustine’s “Sermon on Pastors” makes up the second reading from last Sunday until next Friday–probably covering the whole sermon.  May the German priests take to heart St. Augustine’s admonition to feed the sheep rather than themselves!  What do I mean?  The German priests make themselves more popular to their fellow citizens through espousing secular ideas over doctrine.  The following have come from various high ranking German prelates: homosexuality should not be taught as a sin (I believe they wish to go much farther than saying only the acts, not the disposition, are sins), sex outside of marriage is fine, and divorced and remarried Catholics may receive the Eucharist.

St. Nicolaus of Smyrna was famous for punching the heretic Arius when Arius denied the divinity of Christ.

St. Nicolas of Smyrna was famous for punching the heretic Arius when Arius denied the divinity of Christ.

They justify the above notions by claiming that the Church’s laws are hard for modern man to follow.  Is not the modern Church like the scribes who “…tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger” (Matthew 23:4)?  Perhaps.  But, in response to the German bishops complaints, the Pope has streamlined and simplified the process for an annulment.  After all, if a marriage is really invalid, it should not take ten years to prove it, right?  But, the majority of German bishops seem to want to go further than that in appeasing secular opinions.  They want to declare that sins are not sins, an attitude which incurs the following curse in the Bible: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20).  It is the highest pride and clear insanity to call what is evil good and good evil, which is sadly prevalent in modern times.  People go so far as to deny the objective reality of good and evil and eventually lose their moral compass.

Nietzsche, the founder of the modern idea that people need to create their own morality. When Nietzsche died, Tolstoy said of him: "Nietzsche was stupid and abnormal."

Nietzsche, the founder of the modern idea that people need to create their own morality. When Nietzsche died, Tolstoy said of him: “Nietzsche was stupid and abnormal.”

By feeding the sheep what the sheep want to hear, German priests can stay popular–unlike here in the United States where bishops have done things like declaring certain politicians excommunicated for supporting abortion and even telling their congregations that they cooperate materially with evil when they elect such persons to office.  When the German bishops sow heretical opinions among their flock, they feed themselves.  They do so because they fear the following scenario, which I pull from the pages of Gene Wolfe’s Pirate Freedom (the novel is much better than its title 🙂 ):

Fr. Houdek is well liked here, but we get fewer at mass every Sunday.  That is how it seems to me.  The people like him, but do not come.  This morning, I said the ten o’clock mass.  Until today, I have been careful to speak out as little as possible, keeping my homilies brief and talking only about the gospel for the day (or the bazaar).  Today I was brief, too, but talked about marriage, the sacred character of it and the need for repentance.  Without it there can be no forgiveness.

Where there is no repentance, forgiveness is only permission by another name.  I hope I said that.

…Poets say we must follow our hearts.  Anyone who reads their lives will soon see where that leads and where it ends.

The people were not smiling when mass was over.  I shook their hands as I always do….Usually someone says how hard my hand is.  No one did that today.

Maybe it would have been better if they had smiled. (145-146)

St Paul

Priests should not fear to be hated by their parish.  As St. Paul says, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for you. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?” (2 Cor 12:15) and “Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves before you? We are speaking in Christ before God. Everything we do, beloved, is for the sake of building you up” (2 Cor 12:19).  St. Augustine ends his homily by saying that pastors should all speak with one voice.  One voice, because it is Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, whom they represent and to whom they should conform their entire lives.  I hope that one voice rings out at the Synod of the Family in October of 2015.

2 comments on “Pastors Should Feed the Sheep–Not Themselves

  1. There are laws–and I’m talking about the absolute objective laws of the universe, not the “social constructs” that we think we can control anytime and anywhere–and when we try to break them, the laws are not the ones that break. We are the ones that break when we try to break the law. One thing that keeps me on the side of the Church when it comes to issues regarding sexuality is this thought:

    “If sex is mainly for pleasure, while making children is secondary, then I don’t think humanity would be progressing, let alone existing right now. We’d all be making humanity’s progress stagnant, all ’cause we’re not letting the next generation and the rest of humanity grow, all ’cause we’re so absorbed in pleasing our own selves while ignoring the mechanics, importance, and potential of other people, all ’cause we think that children are useless.”

    As for those who think that children are useless, they probably forgot that they were children as well. Oh, and I still have a long way to go in trying to help people understand God’s laws regarding sexuality, so I’d like to ask you to pray for me, MediOta!

    Ah, and looking for true happiness is tough, indeed. We must step out of our comfort zones. Stepping out of our comfort zones does not necessarily mean doing evil things, for trouble also waits in the path of the good. And we may be imperfect, but we can improve. So, I will still pray and work for the sake of humanity’s improvement. Again, praise the Lord, and God Almighty help us all!


    • Yep, I will pray for you. Just keep in mind that the secular world has framed the debate over marriage and sexuality very successfully. They have made most people see the Bible as an arbitrary document only applying to a particular set of people. So, the left says, “Why should other people need to be bound by Christian rules?” People need to be made to see again that the teachings of God are set in objective standards. Indeed, they must see that objective standards and nature exist and that people ignore them to their own peril.

      One ancient Platonist, after having read the Bible, told St. Ambrose that he believed in everything St. Ambrose believed. Ambrose responded by saying that he would not believe the Platonist until he had seen him in Church. Then, the Platonist responded, “Do walls make Christians?” Eventually, the Platonist did allow himself to be baptized. By this anecdote, I wish to recall that most people have been educated very badly: they believe personal feelings are more important than the truth. On the other hand, the men of earlier ages wished to know the truth more than gratify their personal feelings, which is why men like C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton converted from atheism. People must first see the rationality and sanity of Christianity before they can treat it seriously enough for them to be converted. It is a long, hard battle, but it can be won through the grace of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

      God bless!

      Liked by 1 person

Legens, scribe sententias tuas.

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