In a letter marking Seminary Day in Spain, which was celebrated on March 19, Archbishop Francisco Martinez Fernandez of Granada said the challenge of secularism in today’s society demands that priests be particularly holy.

In noting the close relationship between the Christian people and priestly vocations, the archbishop underscored that the need for “priests, holy priests, is greater in ‘difficult times,’ when the Church, because of our weakness of faith or the difficulties of the persecution promised by the Lord, or for both reasons, travels through history in the midst of storms.”

“In these circumstances, the Lord calls us to return to the center of the faith, to purify ourselves, to bear witness to the essential:  the love of the Father, the grace of Christ and the communion of the Holy Spirit, lived in the Church.  Those storms should not scandalize us; rather, they are part of the normal life of the Church.  Thus the Lord warned us in a thousand ways,” the archbishop noted in his letter.

“Times are difficult,” he continued, “because a dogmatic, despotic, fundamentalist and intolerant secularism, at the same time the fruit of relativism and the worship of a freedom that has no sense or purpose, has the Church, in her people and her works, as its only point of resistance against its complete dominance over consciences and customs, that is, over the entire life of mankind.”

This kind of secularism, the archbishop warned, borders on the tyrannical because “it finds itself before a Church that is almost without a body and is profoundly debilitated in her faith, her communion and discipline.”

Today’s priests carry out their ministries “in a nihilist world,” Archbishop Martinez continued.  As a consequence, the Church must live her life from a cultural and human perspective that goes beyond the criticism that modernity makes of religion in general, and Christianity and the Church in particular.  

In the archbishop’s mind, to “go beyond” this criticism means to “absolutely take seriously all of the aspects of truth that might be present in it.”  It means rejecting, for example, a Christianity that is “bourgeois, fragmentary and hypocritical” or “the profound deformation of the priestly ministry represented by clericalism.”

“It means acknowledging the pain that, all too often, the life of the Church has been used as an instrument for sustaining someone in power or an unjust social order, or simply to cover up purely material and worldly interests,” the archbishop said.