On the Catholic Priesthood
Infallibility of the Pope
Some seem to think that the claim of infallibility for the Pope means that the Pope is never wrong and can never err as other people do. Every Pope is a free man, personally responsible for his own salvation, personally capable of obeying or transgressing the law of God. Christ has endowed the Popes with infallibility only in the teaching of Christ's doctrine, not in their personal lives.
So You May Know the Truth
Protection from error is received by the successors of Saint Peter, not for their own personal advantage but for the advantage of the Church. They are protected from error in teaching so that the followers of Christ will be protected from error in believing.
It is given for the sake of the whole Church, in order that members of the Church throughout the world may always be preserved in the truth. It has nothing to do with the Pope's opinions or habits as an individual.
It does not mean that the Pope is incapable of human weaknesses or shortcomings. Nor does it have anything to do with science, the state of the nation or the best way to build a house.
The Pope has no authority to invent new doctrine. He has no more authority to break a divine law or to distort a single word of Scripture than anyone else. His function is to hand down unchanged the divine truth revealed by God to all generations of men. In this alone is he infallible, as promised by Christ.
The Unworthy Priest
You will find indeed many an unworthy priest who will assure you that he gives no scandal; but he is greatly mistaken. “Murder will out,” and the sins of the priest cannot long remain hidden.
Does the unworthy priest love solitude? Does he love study? Do you find him often in church praying before the Blessed Sacrament? Do you find him often in the confessional? Why is he so often absent when the messenger comes for a sick call? Why does he come home so late at night? Why does he visit that house so often? Why does that light burn so late in his room? Is he praying, or perhaps card-playing? Why does he sleep so long in the morning instead of being in the confessional? Why does he omit Mass so often on week days? Why is he so often nervous and ill humored? Is he not a little too free and confidential towards certain persons?
Look at the church, look at the altar, look at the vestments, look at the sacred vessels – the chalice and ciborium – is everything clean, decent and orderly? Why does he not begin Mass punctually on Sundays and holy days of obligation? Why does he so often fail to keep his promises and thereby disappoint the people? See how he hurries through Mass.
How does he observe
the rubrics? Is he attentive and devout? Why is he so eager for
money, and so indifferent when there is question of saving a soul? (...)
Why does he speak against the Pope, the bishop, and religious? Why does he jest about holy things? Why does he not show more reverence in church, and when he carries the Blessed Sacrament to the sick?
Why does he not show more self respect, more priestly dignity and decorum in society, at fairs, excursions, picnics, and so on? Why does he make use of words of double meaning, unbecoming hints and jests? Why does he allow young persons to read dangerous story papers, magazines, and novels? (…)
These are some of the questions that the people ask; these are some of the thoughts that flit through their minds. The unworthy priest may try his best to hid his crimes; but the cloak of hypocrisy cannot hide them forever. The inner corruption of his heart betrays itself at least at times. But how terrible is the scandal when the sins of the priest are no longer a matter of doubt or uncertainty, but a sad and shameful reality. Who can sum up all the harm that is done by even one bad priest? (…)
How often must a good priest suffer for the misdeeds of his predecessors! He may be as generous and disinterested as St. Paul; still some will accuse him of avarice, of doing everything for money. (…) He may be reserved and dignified and pure as an angel, yet wicked tongues will not be wanting to whisper unjust suspicions. (…)
The higher the source of the torrent is, the more rapidly does it rush into the valley, and the more wide spread is the destruction which it causes. O God! Who can calculate all the harm that is done, all the sins that are committed, all the souls that are ruined on account of the scandalous life of one unworthy priest! Like a mountain torrent, the scandal rushes on, spreading death and desolation on every side. It rushes on like a poison flood, bearing death to generations yet unborn; aye, it goes on in its work of destruction even till the day of doom; its evil consequences go even beyond the tomb; they live on forever in hell.
O God! How many yet unborn will rise up on the judgment day against the bad priest and curse him! If a petty shrub is uprooted and falls, it harms only itself; but if a might cedar falls, it drags down in its deadly embrace whatever stands within its reach!
Woe to the world, when the “Salt of the earth” becomes the corrupter of innocence.
Woe to the world when the “Light of the world” becomes an "ignis fatuus",
a wandering light that leads unwary souls into the foul, noisome marsh of sin.
Woe to the world when the shepherd of the flock has become a ravenous wolf!
The unworthy priest loses the friendship of God; he loses the beauty of his soul; he loses the merit of all his good works. As long as he remains in sin, his arm is withered; he can merit nothing for heaven. The unworthy priest is the slave of sin, the slave of the devil; he heaps sin upon sin, sacrilege upon sacrilege. By his wicked life he gives scandal and ruins innocent souls.
All this is sad and terrible enough; but the most terrible of all the consequences of sin is that the unworthy priest becomes hardened; he is at last struck with spiritual blindness; his conversion becomes almost an impossibility; and finally he gives way to despair, like another Judas.
Source: Rev. Fr. Michael Muller, C.SS.R. The Catholic Priesthood, 1885.