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Was it appropriate to use the image of a pedophile priest in place of the sinful woman in a homily in a Catholic Church?

That is the question I have received in response to my last homily. It came from a parishioner who identified herself as being furious with the comparison, and I can assume by extension, she was also upset with me.

First I want to acknowledge that she had every right to be furious, and I am sure she is not alone. Her feelings are what they are and this comparison hit a nerve with her and her family. I accept that and apologize for having caused this discomfort.

It is, however, a reaction, I had hoped people would have to some extent. The purpose of the example was to try to place us as a modern day congregation into that scene at home of Simon the Pharisees. The parishioner’s use of the word furious is exactly the emotions the men, and yes it would have been all men at the dinner given the societal rules of the day, would have felt at this woman.

The comparison does break down in the fact that the sinful woman in the gospel may have been forced into prostitution, although we are never told she was a prostitute and may have been found in adultery. Whatever the circumstance she most likely had fewer options than the sinful priest in Simcoe county.

The purpose of the comparison, however, was to illustrate the radical forgiveness available to the penitent sinner, regardless of the sin. We do not deserve to be treated by Jesus with such compassion and we can do nothing to earn his love- he offers it freely and completely even to a sinner as terrible as this priest.

One other comment I got after the homily was a request from another parishioner to talk with someone they love who believes he/she has sinned so gravely that they can never be forgiven. They feel predestined to “burn in hell.” They wondered if I might talk to this person about Jesus’ unconditional love for all of us.

I said I would be happy to meet with their loved one and remind us all of  the words of Jesus  from this gospel when he says:

So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven because she has shown great love. However, the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”

Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven …. Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

One Response to “Should I have talked about the Pedophile Priest?”

  1. harry says:

    Very moving Mike – this is what sermons should do: disturb, change and always remind us of God’s amazing, unconventional love. Combined with your reflections about Alan… you captured something beautifully.