If there’s a single cardinal virtue uniting the ten priests profiled in Michael Rose’s excellent new book, Priest: Portraits Of Ten Good Men Serving The Church Today ( Sophia Institute Press , $14.95, 187 pages), it’s “fortitude” (or “guts,” if you’d prefer).
Let's Hear it for Heroes!
Given the training, rigor, and sacrifices made by today’s Catholic clergy, such a heroic description is quite fitting.
One of the worst consequences of the Catholic Church’s recent sexual abuse scandals is the suspicion cast upon innocent priests. However irrational and horribly unfair that mistrust is, the Church’s enemies are handed another large stick with which to beat Her. It is incumbent on all Catholics to fight such mistaken notions with all the fervor they can muster.
Rose, author of the New York Times bestseller Goodbye, Good Men, Ugly as Sin, and The Renovation Manipulation, helps us do just that. While Priest is unlikely to be a top selling book like Goodbye, Good Men, Catholics should no less enthusiastically embrace it. For just as we are obligated to condemn what is bad, we must also honor what is noble and virtuous. As St. Paul said in Romans 12:9, “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”
Real Dangers Faced by Real Men
Priest provides ammunition aplenty to counter the current clerical calumny. Rose deftly celebrates ten good, brave, and holy men who are courageously serving in God’s army. For example, Father Albert Lauer’s parish was in one of the Cincinnati’s most crime-infested areas. Nevertheless, according to Rose, “Lauer treaded throughout the neighborhood fearlessly evangelizing.” Lauer even once “calmly held Easter services while rioters surrounded his church.”
Father John McCloskey began his priestly career in Princeton University’s heathen atmosphere, where he was excoriated for bringing the light of Catholic truth into the academic darkness. In the student newspaper, for example, McCloskey was advised “to take to drinking nothing but the semen of AIDS patients.” Nice crowd.
But the undaunted Fr. McCloskey took the vitriol in stride, bringing to college students “a coherent plan for evangelization and catechesis from a lively, orthodox perspective.” McCloskey is now director of the Catholic Information Center in Washington, DC and has converted hundreds to the faith, including Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, journalist Robert Novak, former abortionist Bernard Nathanson, and recently Judge Robert Bork.
Other priests profiled are no less courageous. Fr. Myron Effing is “a missionary to Russia who battled the ghosts of Communism to establish and serve parishes in a 1000-mile radius.” Fr. Patrick Rohen is “a military chaplain who ministers to American soldiers abroad,” attending troops in Desert Storm. Fr. James Gould greatly expanded vocations in his diocese by emphasizing prayer, hard work, generosity, and sacrifice among seminarians. Directly confronting the culture of death, Fr. Paul Berchied’s frequent sermons on Humane Vitae led to a baby boom in his Ohio parish.
We Need More Like These
In short, the priests profiled here are a good, hearty, valiant, red-blooded bunch. They are proof, if any was needed, that the priesthood is a manly vocation, patterned after Our Lord Himself, humanity’s greatest hero. Just as Christ, in history’s most courageous act, underwent unimaginable sacrifice on behalf of others, so do our priests. They have taken up Christ’s Cross and followed Him. This is, as Fr. Eduard Perrone says in his profile, “a time for fighters…if you’re a wimp, you’re not going to cut it.”
Catholics could do no better for the Church than to encourage young men to consider joining this “band of brothers” willing to take on the difficult and dangerous duty of the priesthood. As Rose says, “The future of the priesthood is as much about attracting the ‘right men’ courageous and heroic men as it is about weeding out those who do not belong.”
Now is the time for Catholics to rise to their priests’ defense. Michael Rose’s fine book makes an excellent starting point for the counter-offensive against those who would tear down the good name of the Catholic priesthood. For if we don’t honor those who are sacrificing for us today, we’ll find none coming forward to do so tomorrow.
Priest can be ordered from Sophia Institute Press by calling (800) 888-9344 or from their website at www.sophiainstitute.com .
James Bemis is an editorial board member and columnist for California Political Review.
(This article originally appeared in The Wanderer and is reprinted with permission. To subscribe call 651-224-5733.)