In A Shepherd Without Sheep (Bruce Publishing, 1956), E. Boyd Barrett, who left the priesthood in stormy circumstances and, after twenty years, was reconciled, and so finished out his life in repentance and peace, writes:
I have no chapel; no altar at which to offer the holiest sacrifice; no pulpit from which to preach. There is no confessional where penitents await counsel and absolution from my lips; no baptismal font where, by the sacrament of regeneration, I may give to the Eternal Father another child. I am a priest, Christ’s shepherd, but I have no sheep.
But though I have no sheep, the Prince of Shepherds is my Friend. He needs me; He is my Divine Companion. It is His will that I should be as I am. “Christ is in me,” and for me that is enough.
There are others like me, in every country throughout the world, “silenced priests” living hidden lives; hidden from the world; hidden, as far as may be, in Christ. Some are my good friends. . . .
Prayers going up to heaven, in every increasing volume for faithless priests are wondrously fruitful. Many “stray shepherds” heed the call of Christ, who searches for them in the mist. When they see Him again their hearts are moved and they come back. Then there occurs what Luke (2:20) mystically foretold: “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God.”
The Appropriate Response
What is the appropriate response to the media’s sensationalization and amplification of the weaknesses of certain priests? In our response there should be nothing harsh, nothing that condemns, nothing swollen with the self-righteousness indignation that was “the leaven of the Pharisees” (Mt 16:6). “Let him who is without sin,” says the Lord Jesus, “be the first to cast a stone at him” (Jn 8:7). Read all of John 8: 1-11, and in place of the woman caught in adultery, put the priest caught in sin.
If every time one heard of the moral failing of a priest, one resolved on the spot to pray and fast for him, what miracles of grace might occur? “And when He entered the house, His disciples asked Him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it [the unclean spirit] out?’ And He said to them, ‘This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting'” (Mk 9:28-29).
If every time one heard of the moral failing of a priest, one offered a Rosary for him, or spent an hour before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, or fasted, or gave alms, or even “adopted” him spiritually by offering for him one’s weaknesses, sufferings, and losses,
what graces might touch his heart?
Lord, Thou Knowest All Things
The Heart of Jesus is full of tender compassion for sinners; for His priests, His chosen and privileged friends, there is nothing He will not do to lift them when they fall, to bind up their wounds, and to restore them to wholeness. He waits for them to say but one thing, the very thing that Peter said, making reparation for his triple denial: “Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee.”
Where the world sees scandal, the friend of the Lamb sees an opportunity for reparation, a call to love, a summons to intercession through the Most Pure Heart of Mary. The Heart of Jesus will do the rest.