In an Age of Rejection, We Need Spiritual Fatherhood

We live in an age of rejection. If we do not like someone’s politics, religion, beliefs, who they are as a person, color of their skin, wounds, or any little thing then we can simply reject them and toss them aside. The over-politicization of our culture has furthered this tendency towards rejecting those who do not conform to our own worldview. It is also an aspect of the “throw away” culture. This is an endemic problem, not simply in the culture, but within the Church as well.

An age predicated on rejection leads to a loss of mercy and charity. Instead, we reduce love to some form of sentimentality or something of our own making. As long as this person conforms to this set criteria then they are worthy of love. If they do not, then they are expendable. How many people were cast aside in the last election by family, friends, co-workers, or even complete strangers because their political leanings meant they should be cast off into the darkness?

Within the Church this lack of charity, mercy, and the rejection of others plays out just as much as within secular culture. The worst example in recent years is the clergy sex abuse scandal where the victims were cast off and rejected by a cold, merciless version of the institutional side of the Church. An institution that is necessary for the running of the Church in this world, but one that is always meant to be lived with the Last Supper in mind and with the understanding that the Church is a supernatural reality that exists at a much deeper level than the men serving within her hierarchy. 

Christ calls priests and bishops to serve as Christ serves, which He demonstrates most clearly in the washing of His Apostles’ feet on Holy Thursday, the Institution of the Holy Eucharist, and on the Cross. They are called to be spiritual fathers who seek to bind the wounds of those who are abused and wounded within the Church. Too often, the victims are blamed for their own pain or cast off as collateral damage in order to protect a corrupt system at worst, or a dysfunctional one at best.

This rejection of victims, as well as the justified outcry of the faithful, is still left unheard or misunderstood in many parts of the hierarchy. It’s as if the faithful are simply supposed to get over these deep festering wounds within the Church that have only deepened in a pandemic during which, in some dioceses, the Sacraments and the spiritual life have taken a back seat to safety, security, or social justice issues. The faithful are crying out for true spiritual leadership and authentic spiritual fatherhood that ministers from a place of faith, hope, and charity. The faithful want to trust that their spiritual fathers have their eternal salvation at the very heart and forefront of their priesthood.

Much in the way children know when their parents are failing them, the faithful know when an apology is half-hearted, written by lawyers, or drafted by public relations firms. We know when there is true contrition and an understanding of the profound suffering grief, rejection, and betrayal of victims and faithful. We know when we are being treated as Christlike or not.

This is why those among the faithful who want to grow in holiness and who want to see the renewal of the Church feel like they have been rejected. Their cries have gone unanswered in too many instances. We know deep down these actions are a rejection of the calling to love us as spiritual fathers called by Christ to His priesthood. That rather than spiritual fatherhood being the grounding force in the lives of some bishops and priests who have wounded the faithful, there is a sense that they are just going through the motions to try to appease, rather than to mend and heal.

Any parent who has hurt their child knows what deep damage it causes them. It requires a great deal of humility, sorrow, and charity to apologize for the sins we commit against them. A child knows when their parent is coming to them in an authentic outpouring of contrition and love. The faithful know this too, which is why so many have been left angered and hurt.

The Church is supposed to be where we can encounter Christ in order for our wounds to be mended through the grace of the Sacraments. Her priests are supposed to be spiritual healers, good shepherds, and spiritual fathers. We cannot bring healing to our own culture wounded by rejection, so long as many of the Church’s leaders continue to reject the faithful while failing to embrace the gifts given by God. Bureaucratic responses drive a deeper nail into the wounds of those who feel betrayed and rejected by the hierarchy.

It should be evident by the vitriol in Catholic social media that there are very deep wounds within the faithful. I do not believe this vitriolic anger on the part of the faithful does any good. We must pray to forgive and pray and sacrifice for a holy priesthood. This is the beginning of renewal. Healing ultimately begins when we choose to forgive and to pray for those who have hurt us. Our role is to fight the good fight in the spiritual battles necessary to help bring about saintly priests.

We need spiritual fathers who are willing to fall to their knees and wash the feet of the wounded. Who will seek crucifixion with Christ because love looks like pierced hands and feet. Men who love with the heart of St. Joseph and who protect their spiritual children at all costs. Priests who allow Our Blessed Mother to show them how to become spiritual fathers in an age when masculinity is under attack. Above all else, priests whose entire identity flows from Our Lord’s Real Presence. We as the faithful must pray and sacrifice for priests to become saints despite the deep wounds of rejection.

Ultimately, this is what the faithful is seeking in response to the scandals and corruption within the Church. We want to see Christ in our leaders. We want spiritual fathers who seek our ultimate good, which is eternal life. There are countless priests and bishops who lay down their lives each day united to Christ for the faithful, but there are also too many who are not and who continue to wound the faithful. The institutional structure of the Church is necessary for the running of the Church, but it never supersedes the supernatural calling of the priesthood in Christ. Christ Himself warns that we are never to put manmade rules before God.

The priest is a mystagogue to be sure, but in an age of brokenness, loneliness, abuse, rejection, affliction, and abandonment, the faithful need spiritual fathers who go into the heart of the crosses of this life to bind wounds and who will stand fast with us in our darkest hours.

Men who are truly humble, contrite of heart, and animated by a profound love of God and a desire to bring all people to Christ. These are the priests who will help heal the Church and the culture. Thanks be to God for all of the priests already answering this call.


Constance T. Hull is a wife, mother, homeschooler, and a graduate with an M.A. in Theology with an emphasis in philosophy.  Her desire is to live the wonder so passionately preached in the works of G.K. Chesterton and to share that with her daughter and others. While you can frequently find her head inside of a great work of theology or philosophy, she considers her husband and daughter to be her greatest teachers. She is passionate about beauty, working towards holiness, the Sacraments, and all things Catholic. She is also published at The Federalist, Public Discourse, and blogs frequently at Swimming the Depths (

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