“Look at Me!” or “Look at Christ!”?

In my last blog post, there was a quote from Fr. Gregory Greiten that has just been gnawing at me. There’s the obvious, but there was a little extra annoyance I couldn’t quite put my finger on until now.

There is no question there are and always have been celibate, gay priests and chaste members of religious communities. … By choosing to enforce silence, the institutional church pretends that gay priests and religious do not really exist. Because of this, there are no authentic role models of healthy, well-balanced, gay, celibate priests to be an example for those, young and old, who are struggling to come to terms with their sexual orientation. This only perpetuates the toxic shaming and systemic secrecy. – Fr. Gregory Greiten

Now, I can get on board with priests being role models, but I don’t think that depends on who they are or what their sexual inclinations are in the least. Instead, it should happen despite these things. It’s how they preach the Gospel of Christ by word and by deed. The mentality that Fr. Greiten displays shows a lot of what’s wrong in the Church today. We feel like the Church needs to look like us, act like us, and have all of our inclinations, rather than the other way around. It’s a bit silly.

Let’s think about this.  For a priest to be a “role model” (I don’t think it’s the proper thought but it’s the one Fr. Greiten used.) he must be like me?!  Seriously, how narcissistic is that? I’m a woman with a bunch of kids who’s been married for a lovely while now.  No priest is ever going to be like me. Does that mean he can’t lead me to heaven?  What a crock.

The other thing Fr. Greiten shows us is that a bunch of priests want you to look to them for salvation.  Sorry, that’s never going to work.  The priest is supposed to be pointing to Christ with his words, with his actions, with his life and, of course, with the Sacraments. The “I must be a role model so you can live correctly” is, again, narcissistic. None of us struggles to follow our inclinations, we struggle with following Christ. Saying “Look at me!” isn’t going to help us follow Him.

The apostles were flawed men who directed their lives and those they evangelized toward Christ. They didn’t say “Hey!  Look at me, I’m a well-adjusted tax collector. Look at me and you’ll conquer all of your struggles.” I believe it went something more like this:

How I thank our Lord Christ Jesus, the source of all my strength, for shewing confidence in me by appointing me his minister,  me, a blasphemer till then, a persecutor, a man of violence, author of outrage, and yet he had mercy on me, because I was acting in the ignorance of unbelief. The grace of the Lord came upon me in a full tide of faith and love, the love that is in Christ Jesus. How true is that saying, and what a welcome it deserves, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I was the worst of all, and yet I was pardoned, so that in me first of all Christ Jesus might give the extreme example of his patience; I was to be the pattern of all those who will ever believe in him, to win eternal life. Honour and glory through endless ages to the king of all the ages, the immortal, the invisible, who alone is God, Amen. 1 Timothy 1: 12-17″

The apostles did not look or act like us to point us to Christ. Our commonality is not in us looking like them. It’s in our sin and our need for Christ as Our Savior.  Heck, the apostles don’t even look like Christ!  Can you imagine if they had used this ridiculous line of thought?  “Sorry, Christ. You’re not a fisherman. Can’t possibly follow you.”

This notion is all over the Church today. Just look at the synod. For some reason, some in the Church think we have to look like every people which we evangelize, when we really just need to reflect Christ.

I have friends who suffer with SSA and they’ve consistently told me that their heterosexual friends are the ones who give them the most help living chaste lives. It’s probably not even because their friends are trying to be examples.  They’re just trying to struggle with their own stuff. Misery, to the contrary, doesn’t love company but those struggling to live as Christ calls us to live do.

John the Baptist spells it out right here:

He must increase; I must decrease.

The One from Heaven.

The one who comes from above is above all. The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things. But the one who comes from heaven [is above all]. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy. For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God. He does not ration his gift* of the Spirit. The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him. John 3:30-36

So, an authentic “role model” (should just be “priest”) is one who constantly preaches Christ, not himself. We don’t need our priests to look like us. We just need them to be striving to be holy in an effort to mirror Christ.

Lastly, for good measure, I leave you with this quote from Presbyterorum Ordinis 

Priests, therefore, must take the lead in seeking the things of Jesus Christ, not the things that are their own.(53) They must work together with the lay faithful, and conduct themselves in their midst after the example of their Master, who among men “came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life as redemption for many” (Mt 20:28).

 BOOM! Mic drop!