In a recent talk to the priests of his diocese, Bishop John D'Arcy spoke on the importance of priests remaining faithful to the Church's teachings on sexual morality and urged them to be courageous in their efforts.
Bishop D'Arcy of the Fort Wayne – South Bend diocese, centered his talk around the sub-theme of the Year for Priests given by Pope Benedict XVI, which is, “Fidelity of Christ, Fidelity of the Priest.” Drawing out the theme, the bishop spoke about areas that priests are called to fidelity, giving particular attention to what he called “fidelity to the truth.”
To illustrate the importance of priests remaining faithful to the truth, Bishop D'Arcy recounted two stories that he had recently heard in his diocese.
The bishop first told the story of Dr. Patrick Holly, a doctor in Fort Wayne who had always prescribed contraceptives to Catholic women and to women of all faiths. This eventually began to trouble the doctor and one day when he took his family to a Japanese restaurant, the owner greeted him by saying, “Oh, big family, good Catholic family, good Catholic man.” At that moment, “a grace came,” Bishop D'Arcy said. Dr. Holly thought to himself that he was not a good Catholic, nor a good Catholic doctor.
Despite the severe financial drawbacks, Dr. Holly went to his office Monday morning and told his staff that he would never again prescribe contraceptives. “He had heard the call of God to be faithful to the truth,” remarked Bishop D'Arcy, who explained to the priests of his diocese that, “Christ gives similar graces of courage to his pastors if we are open to them, and the courage to be faithful to the church – to truth.”
The bishop then told of a South Bend woman, a covert to the faith, who was unable to conceive a child.
She told the bishop of how encouraged she had been by her local parish for her fidelity to the Church's teachings, but also how hurt and scandalized she had been by a recent confessor at the University of Notre Dame's Basilica of the Sacred Heart. The woman said that after she shared her sorrows about not being able to have children in the confessional, the priest told her to try in vitro fertilization.
Bishop D'Arcy concluded these stories with the statement, “two people who were faithful to the truth, and one priest who was not.”
“The Church calls us, the Church ordains us, the Church gives the mission, the Church gives us the truth,” he told the priests in attendance. “We can never, in the confessional or the pulpit, give anything but the teaching of the church of Christ or ever imply that we support going against it.”
“Delicacy is called for,” Bishop D'Arcy continued, “and also restraint and understanding and compassion. But today, more than this, courage is called for on the part of priests. Courage to proclaim the truth, in season and out season.”
Harking back to his days as a student in Rome during the Second Vatican Council, Bishop D'Arcy recalled an encounter with Dorothy Day. She was asked what she thought the role of the priest was and what it meant to her, and she replied simply, “my priest is the one who gives me the hard saying.”
“Fidelity to the truth for the priest means that he is willing to give the hard saying,” emphasized the bishop. “Hard for himself, perhaps because he does not believe it strongly enough; because he thinks it it is too hard for the people and they might reject it. Or, a greater temptation, he may worry that they might reject him.”
Keeping the saying of Dorothy Day in mind, the almost retired Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend challenged his priests, saying,“I ask this question to you and to myself: have we been faithful to the truth and willing to give people the hard saying? My dear priests, I ask this question to myself in prayer and repentance and in truth, seeking only to know His will and to do it.”