The Archbishop of Lima, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, said this week priests are called to be "experts in charity" and clarified that when they fail in their mission, they deserve understanding but should not be taken as examples.
Speaking on his radio program "Dialogue of Faith," the cardinal noted that having success, sex, fame, love or power is not love. "These ‘loves’ decay sooner or later because they are not love. They are possession, domination, egoism, power, abuse, both in man and woman no matter what age or condition. I say the same thing about priests," he said.
Nevertheless, he clarified, "There is something that is very united to love and that is faithfulness. Faithfulness of the married, of the single person, of the priest, of the religious, of the elderly, of the young. Faithfulness, loyalty to commitment; to the mission one has been given in this world. We cannot teach people that love is simply sexual pleasure, success in the world, prestige and money. To sell it like this, as a product surrounded by marketing, harms our young people gravely. In reality love consists more of surrender, donation, renunciation, sacrifice and patience."
"The priest who has not discovered love is a failure; he should have never become a priest because if the priest is anything, he is a specialist in love. Why? Because he has united himself with God, who is Love," the cardinal continued.
At the same time, Cardinal Cipriani emphasized that priests who have been unfaithful in their vocation should be offered "words of encouragement," but that their actions cannot be condoned or characterized as a search for love. "In the Church, we prefer to address these matters discreetly and in private, but when people make such trivial comments about ‘priests who have discovered love,’ we must be very clear."
"I make a big distinction between a weakness in someone who can fail, who can have his difficult moments, who perhaps because of complicated family circumstances may grow weak and fall. They have our care, our love, our commitment. But I distinguish him from the traitor; the traitor is someone else. The traitor is someone who affirms his own error and tries to impose it on everyone else as if it were a value," the cardinal said.
"It’s the difference between Peter and Judas. Peter falls, Peter denies, but he weeps, he recognizes his fault. He betrays but later recovers and becomes the first Pope. Judas does the same-he betrays, he sells Christ, but he is overcome by pride and discouragement, and he thinks there is no hope, his life is lost and he kills himself. Let us not take the road of Judas, but rather that of Peter!" the cardinal exclaimed.
"We are not a club of perfect men, but neither should we let people change the meaning of life. We may have weakness and failures, but if one vows to love his wife, or her husband, it’s for life. If one vows to love God in the priestly commitment, it is for life as well."