Clerical Privilege: Back With a Vengeance?

June 2000

In the April 2 Our Sunday Visitor, that paper’s Editor in Chief, Greg Erlandson, whom we know as an exemplary follower of Christ, gets carried away. He decries what he calls the “smears” and “slanders” directed at Catholic priests, and his case-in-point is the now-famous Kansas City Star study of homosexuality and AIDS in the priesthood, the verdict of which was: “it appears that priests are dying of AIDS at a rate at least four times that of the general U.S. population….” (For our commentary on the study, see our April issue, pp. 10-11).

Erlandson allows that some priests are “troubled or troubling,” but he adds, “Is this so unusual?… If sin is no stranger to us, why do we expect it to be a stranger to our priests?” Fine. But we expect our priests to be models of Catholic morality — don’t we? Moreover, just as married couples take a vow of fidelity, priests take a vow of celibacy, and just as adultery is no garden-variety sin, neither is violating the vow of celibacy.

Erlandson tells us about all the “demands” put on a priest, adding that “temptation and stress…seem unparalleled today” for a priest. (Well, yes, but temptation and stress are unparalleled for most Americans today, from Bill Clinton on down.)

Erlandson proceeds to tell us about “a new ritual” he’s worked out: “When I am wont to criticize a priest for something he has done or failed to do, I pray for him instead.” Yes, we all need prayer, including Clinton, whose job is probably the most demanding of all in the good ole


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New Oxford Notes: June 2000

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