A Memorial Day I Will Never Forget
On this Memorial Day, I find myself thinking about the last conversation I had with my mother. I had sent her a picture of my youngest son months before, and it was on this day she responded and acknowledged his existence. Her message was followed by the usual incoherent words (either from the pills, alcohol, or poor mental health), along with the the usual comments about how lonely and depressed she was that nobody wished to see her. Without going into all of the details, I, and other family members, had attempted to have a relationship with her for years, but her destructive, hateful, and frankly evil behavior always impeded such attempts. I’m sad to say, her destruction led her to spend the last moments of her conscience life, on Christmas Eve, alone. In fact, she had so alienated herself from family and friends that nobody knew about her accident for weeks.
When I learned about what happened I hesitated if I should go to the hospital. I found myself wondering if this was yet another one of those times she was faking her death, or worse, was this another one of those elaborate plots she was known for scheming, being driven by some ulterior and sinister motive. I was assured by the doctors that she was truly brain-dead, but even this didn’t completely convince me, after all, she had done things even more elaborate than hiring someone to pose as a doctor. However, something told me this was real, so I decided to go. When I arrived at the hospital, in early January, she was brain-dead and on life support. There was nothing the doctors could do for her, so I signed an order to have her removed from life support. I watched her breath her last breath and prayed for her soul, hoping she didn’t die impenitent, though all objective signs indicated she had. In fact, she stubbornly went to her grave having never asked my sister and I for forgiveness for the things she had done to us, and many others. I had forgiven her, but I’ll spend the rest of my life having never heard a sincere apology for countless acts that made my watching of the film Mommie Dearest feel like an uncomfortable autobiography.
I often wonder if things would have played out differently if she had died in the embrace of the church. In fact, she had once asked to be received into the Catholic faith. I immediately called her local parish and had a priest sent to her home. At this time, she was unable to drive, and I lived four hours away, so she was unable attend her local RCIA. She was also on hospice, so I expected the priest, who had been made known of her situation, to unhesitatingly give her the sacraments of initiation. However, he simply decided to give her last rites, prayed for her, and was never heard from again. I contacted her local bishop and asked if he would allow her to be given the sacraments of initiation, in light of her circumstances, but he personally insisted she must attend RCIA. I sincerely wonder if these acts of clerical incompetency robbed her of graces that would have aided her in repentance before death. I will never know, at least not in this life.
Invalid Masses and Clerical Scandals
Reflecting further on this event, and having recently read a little of Steve Skojec’s article describing his encounters with clerical incompetency, I am reminded of other acts, which have made me lose some confidence in clerics. For instance, I recall the years of numerous masses said at one parish I attended, that were deemed invalid, due to the priest having used invalid matter. I inquired if the priest, at the very least, went back and said all of those masses over again, for the sake of the many souls he was obligated to offer them for, after all, he collected quite a few mass stipends for this very thing. Predictably, I was immediately assured he had not done so, and had no intentions of doing so. It was no wonder because my confirmation sponsor later discovered irregularities in the financial reports of the parish. It was then discovered, after an intense investigation, that the priest spent nearly half a million dollars of the church’s funds on gambling and prostitutes. Predictably, local priests, and even the bishop, covered the matter up, so the case was sent to Rome. In yet another classic case of clerical incompetency, Rome sent the case back to the parish and explained that the matter should be referred back to the local bishop.
Having to Question the Validity of My Son’s Baptism
I am also reminded of the time I presented my oldest son for baptism in the Catholic Church. The priest read the proper words but poured the water nearly half a foot away from my son’s head during the words “in the name of the Father and of the Son…” and possibly got a drop of water on his head during the words “and of the Holy Spirit.” It was a very questionable baptism, but the priest refused to do a conditional baptism afterwards. In fact, he took me to the confessional, had me sit down and then stood in authority over me, shouting about how scrupulous I was for even asking. I spoke to another priest about the matter, who also happened to be a canon lawyer, and he suggested that I conditionally baptize my own son, though I was advised not to do so by a different canon lawyer. Later, when I left the Catholic Church for a few years, having been scandalized by numerous events, I conditionally baptized my own son. Reflecting on this event, I first wonder how incompetent a person must be that they can’t even read a few words and pour water directly on an infant’s head. I sincerely think a drone at a local drive-through could do better, and I can say this with confidence because I used to be one. I also wonder why the state of clerical incompetency is so prevalent that layman actually have to question the validity of the sacraments of their own children.
Reporting the Spilling of the Precious Blood
Yet another event that comes to mind, when reflecting on this topic, was the time I noticed the precious blood being spilled at my parish. The priest of the parish, at that time, was a cantankerous soul, who had no sympathy for anything reverent or traditional, so I, in keeping with Redemptionis Sacramentum, asked the local ordinary to restrict the use of the administration of the chalice at this parish. In a predictable act of clerical incompetency, not only was the administration of the precious blood not restricted, but I was screamed at by the priest after mass, in front of everyone who had just attended mass, for writing to the bishop. I was then told that I could not receive Holy Communion for six months from the hands of this priest. I wondered why I had been denied communion for the last two weeks when I had presented myself for communion and now I had my answer.
Two Vocations You Can Fail at and Still Get Paid
Many other stories have crossed my mind today, as I reflect further on this topic, and each of them vary in time, place, and event. Yet, one thing remains common among them, a failure on part of the clergy to do the simplest things in their job description. It is for this reason I sincerely believe there are two jobs one can consistently and utterly fail at, day in and day out, and still collect a paycheck; namely, a meteorologist and the priesthood.
What is the solution? Sadly, I believe laity must be respectful to their clergy, but also verify, when necessary, that the sacraments are done properly, at least on the level of validity. This will require each and every head of the family to become more familiar with their faith. It is sad things have come to the point where a layman can no longer simply trust their priest to do the bare minimum of their vocation, but it is the reality in which we live, because, clerical incompetency…it’s a thing.