Yesterday during the homily of the Mass to mark the end of the Year of Priests, Pope Benedict called for priests to use their “rod” to defend the faithful and the Faith. Referring to Psalm 23, he said:
“Your rod and your staff – they comfort me”: the shepherd needs the rod as protection against savage beasts ready to pounce on the flock; against robbers looking for prey. Along with the rod there is the staff which gives support and helps to make difficult crossings. Both of these are likewise part of the Church’s ministry, of the priest’s ministry. The Church too must use the shepherd’s rod, the rod with which he protects the faith against those who falsify it, against currents which lead the flock astray. The use of the rod can actually be a service of love. Today we can see that it has nothing to do with love when conduct unworthy of the priestly life is tolerated. Nor does it have to do with love if heresy is allowed to spread and the faith twisted and chipped away, as if it were something that we ourselves had invented. As if it were no longer God’s gift, the precious pearl which we cannot let be taken from us. Even so, the rod must always become once again the shepherd’s staff – a staff which helps men and women to tread difficult paths and to follow the Lord. (Source)
I hope people take notice. Read it again to make sure you got it: we cannot tolerate priests who are derelict in their duties. We cannot tolerate error, dissent and heresy that chips away at our brethren’s faith (notice how Benedict is not afraid to use the “H-word”). John Pacheco, although not a priest, has been wielding his “rod” for years trying to defend the faith from wayward shepherds and from heresies. May God bless him.
So the next time you hear somebody say that it’s “un-Christian” to reproach people who are complicit to horrible crimes, don’t buy it. Listen to the Holy Father instead. Staying silent in the face of evil does not constitute love at all. We need to re-learn that the proper use of the rod can be a great service of love. Benedict said it, not me.
Nobody advocates swinging the rod all the time. That’s not what the Pope is saying. That’s not what I’m saying either. There’s a time and a place for the rod. It applies essentially to the few people who have been formed in the Faith and who should know better, but who deliberately and obstinately choose to reject Church teaching. The Pope’s example of misbehaving priests in an excellent case. In those circumstances, listen to your German Shepherd and don’t be afraid to use the rod in a spirit of love.
Do it for the sake of your brothers and sisters, so that they don’t follow a bad example.
Do it for the sake of the person you are reproaching, that they may see the light.
Do it for your own sake, because God will demand an account of your indifference if you don’t do it.
Do it in the spirit of the staff, “a staff which helps men and women to tread difficult paths and to follow the Lord.” That’s the whole point, to bring people to God by whatever means it takes.