Reflecting on the news that yet another “famous” priest has been called home, I began to think about the importance of accountability.
A few months ago, a friend of mine and I had an interesting discussion over dinner. We were concerned about the various priests we knew who weren’t working in a diocese under a bishop or in a religious order under a superior. We were on the heels of the Father Corapi scandal, and my friend mentioned that priests working on their own seemed more at risk for falling into scandal. When we named a few that came to mind, Father Pavone was one of them. It wasn’t a judgment on these priests’ moral character or anything– the opposite, actually. We highly regarded the priests we discussed, and we lamented the fact that they were in a risky situation.
Every one needs to be accountable to someone.
Unfortunately, our conversation proved prophetic in the case of Father Pavone. I’m not taking sides, but the fact is that he was called home by his bishop. Whether you side with Father Pavone or his bishop, the fact of the matter is that he needed to be reminded of his accountability to someone else. I hope that the other priests we discussed do not find themselves in similar situations.
We all need accountability. That’s why the majority of the world is called to marriage or the religious life under a superior. Not many people are called to live eremitical lives, responsible to no one but God. Most of us need to hear the voice of God through legitimate superiors and toil towards salvation with others. For many, that means being accountable to a husband or wife. To others, it means taking vows of obedience to a religious superior or bishop.
Even superiors are accountable. They have whole orders that they’re responsible for, and if they mess up, it eventually comes to light. Very few people can achieve sanctity in a box. We need to answer for our decisions and actions.
When priests are functioning as heads of corporations and seemingly answering to no one, I get a little nervous. And the tragic events of this past year seem to justify that nervousness. Thankfully, Father Pavone was called home for reasons unlike the others.
Acknowledging the importance of accountability acknowledges that there’s a dangerous hole in my current vocation as a single person. Quite frankly, I’m accountable to almost no one* at the moment. This manifests itself daily in minor ways (thankfully minor). That cute black trench coat at Target? What’s to prevent me from buying it the minute I see it? I’m pretty sure I’ve needed a trench coat since she wore one in July. (Or maybe it was in March?)
Or staying up late wandering aimlessly on the internet?
Or pushing the snooze button three times (because I stayed up too late on the internet)?
Or not exercising? Even after eating that third cookie?
No accountability. Which is why I’m announcing a new resolution to my blog readers- no internet after 9:15 unless it’s an emergency.
We’ll see how long that lasts.
Since it’s 9:19 right now… see you tomorrow!
*I say “almost no one,” because we’re all accountable to God, I’m obviously accountable to my bosses at work, etc. And I am accountable to a certain man and woman (let’s call them “Dad” and “Mom”) for both tangible things (like things they generously allow me to “borrow” while I toil in poverty working for the Church) and more importantly, the non-tangible gifts they’ve given me: my faith, education, etc.