Tonight as I write this my heart is heavy.
This morning I received word of the suicide of another priest.
Out of respect for his family, parishioners, friends, brother priests, I will not give any specifics here. Details are already in the local media where this tragedy occurred.
Priests committing suicide in recent years has become more and more common.
Some do so because of clinical depression, of scandal about to break, or because they are crushed by the weight of actually being abusers of the innocent.
Others, though innocent of the accusation, in the current climate drown in fear.
To my knowledge no conference of Catholic Bishops, nor the Vatican, nor expert in the field of sociology or psychiatry has looked into this.
In yet another debt we owe to the great and holy Pope John Paul the Catechism of the Catholic Church forcefully reminds us in our shock and grief in face of suicide that: We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways know to Him alone God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives. [CCC # 2283]
When I first became aware of suicide among the ranks of the priestly brotherhood it seemed rare. However by the time I heard about the 9th priest I stopped counting.
My prayer is that if not called, especially here in North America, a serious, intelligent, prayerful conference of bishops and priests to openly discuss the heartache among priests, then perhaps the Vatican will do so.
Bishops, priests, laity – we should be aching in the core of our beings that one of our brothers, one who celebrated Holy Mass each day, one who dispensed Divine Mercy in the confessional, one who was so ardently a defender of the unborn was in such unrelenting pain, so without hope – whatever the root cause – came to believe there was no other way than suicide.
That this manner of death is no longer a rarity among priests must, please God, urge us to boldly, bluntly, compassionately begin to talk openly about every aspect of the ever deepening crisis in the priesthood, including the draconian application of so-called zero tolerance and the abusive application of Canon 223.
In spiritu humilitatis et in animo contrito suscipiamur a te, Domine.....Humbled in spirit and contrite of heart, may we find favour with You O Lord. Such was the prayer before the invocation of the Holy Spirit in the Missale Romanum pre-Vatican II.
I believe our young brother priest in his pain undoubtedly in his own fashion was humbled and contrite and found favour with the Lord.
Will we, bishops and priests, be humble enough to face every aspect of pain in the priesthood today and ask the Lord to help us begin anew, in Him?