I first heard the term ‘priests of integrity’ from a friend who was a member of the catholic action group, Voice of the Faithful in the USA. The group was formed in the aftermath of the clerical sex abuse scandal in the USA. In a time of intense clerical negativity, VOF attempts to take the positive step towards healing and reconciliation in our church by supporting priests of integrity. We probably all agree that these are especially difficult times to be a priest. We probably disagree on what constitutes a priest of integrity. As with many things catholic, it might depend on where we stand on the trad-lib scale and our own experiences.
Being a priest of integrity goes beyond keeping your nose clean of scandals. My husband and I have known many priests over the years. Some were winners, and some were losers. Here are some personal suggestions for priests today, based on the qualities that we have admired in our friends.
1. Be proud of your priesthood, without being pride-full.
2. Know where and when to wear the clerical duds, and when to leave them at home.
3. Have the heart of a family man. Be open to being welcomed into our homes, not just a formal visitor. (Sitting on the floor to build Lego houses with the wee ones gives you bonus points!)
4. Show true joy and generosity in celebrating the sacramental moments of our lives.
5. We know that you can’t be available 24/7, but try to be present in our times of crises and sorrow.
6. Be inclusive in your friendships.
7. Be honest and open with your own struggles, so we can support each other.
8. Be a man of the community, not just the parish. The world needs to see who you are and see your faith in action.
9. Be firm in your faith but charitable in teaching. Be patient and understanding with our questioning and our doubts.
10. Be a true servant-leader and community builder, acknowledging and empowering the gifts of others.
This is a very personal list and certainly an incomplete one. What qualities do you think constitute a priest of integrity?
(Next: the dunderhead list!)