It goes without saying ”” but must never be forgotten ”” that priority must always be given to the victims and survivors of abuse. They have suffered more than anyone. But at the same time, as the stories swirled around in newspapers and on television, it was impossible for many other ordinary Catholics and priests not to feel mired, sucked into the swamp.
One focus of attention became Rome, not simply because of the misconceived efforts to snare the Pope in the scandals, but also out of curiosity: there were people who wanted to know how those of us who live in Rome were coping. In particular they were wondering about the effects of the scandal in a college such as the Beda, where older men from the English-speaking world are preparing for priestly ordination. How was morale? Did we feel tarnished?
But quite soon I began to notice a shift in the line of interest. It became less a matter of how we were coping, and more a question of why people still wanted to be priests at all. The questions were not hostile. They were respectful. Nevertheless, people wanted to know, if our instinct is to shun failure, who would want to be associated with Catholic priesthood?
One part of the answer to such a question comes from remembering that the behaviour of a few priests, even one, however much it shames all those who have been ordained, is not the behaviour of the many. We find it as repellent as anyone.
And another part of the answer lies in the nature of vocation itself. Vocation, a sense of calling, is something compelling, like falling in love.
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