This past week Sulpician Fr. Phillip J. Brown, rector of the Theological College, the national diocesan seminary of the Catholic University of America, thought it a good idea to grant an interview to the dissident media outlet the National Catholic Reporter. The topic? Is there a “Francis effect” noticeable to Fr. Brown among the current crop of seminarians, and if so, what does it look like?
In the article, Fr. Brown and the NCR present the all too common false narrative of the Catholic Left: namely, that those already ordained to the priesthood in recent years are not really interested in works of mercy and pastoral care, but rather only about traditionalism, and matters such as wearing the cassock and Communion on the tongue.
The following response is courtesy of Father Kyle Doustou, a priest of the Diocese of Portland, Maine. It is presented here with his permission.
A Young Priest Sets the Record Straight for the Catholic Left
The National Catholic Reporter article, written from an interview given by the out-going Rector of my former seminary, is very hurtful. The men who were formed in and ordained from Theological College over the past 10 years are some of the best and most pastoral men and priests that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Inventing a false dichotomy between a love for the Church’s traditions and a love for the people of God is a manipulative, ideological tool used to push forth one’s personal agenda.
I have known Father Brown for many years, and have a great deal of respect and admiration for him personally, but this public interview he gave with an openly dissenting “Catholic” publication warrants an alumnus response.
As one of the many cassock-wearing, Communion-on-the-tongue-receiving, Latin-loving, Extraordinary-Form-Mass-saying young priests that have passed through the halls of Theological College, allow me to say plainly to anyone who would agree with the tone and sentiment of this article that you have deliberately and painfully pigeon-holed men who love the Church and cast us to be pompous little monsters simply because we have a different theological/liturgical outlook than you.
You condescend towards us as if we were not thinking, opining, and sincere men.
You gossip about us, ensuring that we are “put in our places” and “taught a thing or two” by your confreres.
You confuse our strong convictions with arrogance and accuse us of being staunch when we are trying more than anything else to be faithful, helpful, and loving.
But let’s be quite honest…you don’t really know us because you never took the time to get to know us. You saw us when we were in the seminary chapel or over breakfast…but that’s about it.
Have you seen us at 2:00 AM in the hospital?
Have you seen us working late into the night on a funeral homily?
Have you seen us giving up our one day off a week to visit with a lonely elderly parishioner?
Have you seen us on our knees at night before the tabernacle weeping because we just buried a child earlier that day?
Have you seen us celebrate four Masses on a weekend, hear hours of confessions, and still show up to Sunday evening Youth Ministry?
Have you seen us wear the same pair of socks two days in a row because we simply ran out of time to do laundry?
Have you seen us muster a smile even when we’re exhausted, or miss Christmas with our families because we’re assigned 300 miles away, or forget to eat dinner because there’s another meeting to go to?
The answer is no. What you see are the cassocks and birettas and fiddleback chasubles and accuse us of being “out of touch.” Well the reality is, you are guilty of the very thing you accuse us of. You ignore our humanity, our struggle, our sincerity, and you fixate on external things to make your judgments.
As difficult as it is at times, I love being a priest with my whole heart. Not because it offers me an exalted status or any privileges, but because it offers me, and the people I serve, the means by which to attain salvation. I love the people I serve to death, and I would do anything within my means to help them. If you look at my cassock and presume otherwise, I can only feel sorry for you.
Myself and the other men who were indirectly insulted in this interview are the ones on the battlefield. As parish priests, we work hard, sacrifice hard, and try daily to live solely for God in Jesus Christ. Instead of insinuating that Theological College had to somehow put up with a decade or more of rigid, overly-conservative, and ideological seminarians, why not offer us a word of encouragement and perhaps even a prayer or two?
(Photo Credit: CC Watershed)