Sunday, October 24, 2010

Good Stewardship? How about priests setting an example?

Several years ago this article by Matt O'Brien appeared in the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise:

BRIDGEWATER -- Convicted sex offender William Lamontagne says he had a romantic relationship with a Fitchburg priest who allegedly funneled stolen money to him.

"He came before everybody in my life," Lamontagne told the Sentinel & Enterprise during an interview inside the Massachusetts Treatment Center for the Sexually Dangerous. "I told my family if they were going to accept me, they'd have to accept him, too. And then he did this."

Investigators have charged the Rev. Donald Ouellette, pastor of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Fitchburg, with stealing more than $250,000 from the church.

He faces 18 counts of larceny over $250 and is free on bail while awaiting trial.

Ouellette, 49, grew up in Leominster and has served in the Worcester Diocese since his 1990 ordination.

"I just hope that people in the Immaculate Conception parish know I know that they're hurting," Lamontagne said. "I really feel sorry for those people. I felt in some way that I was sharing their pain. But on the other side, I was sharing what he did to them."

After years of hearing about sexual abuse scandals and crimes of larceny by Catholic priests such as Fr. Donald Ouellette or this Connecticut priest, many lay people remain concerned about where their money is really going.  Can one blame them? 

Now the Catholic Free Press, a publication which has often strayed from Catholic truth while publishing dissent from Catholic teaching in its pages, is reporting that 230 area Catholics attended a stewardship conference at Our Lady of Mount Carmel-St. Ann Parish Center.  Those in attendance heard a priest ask, "What percent of their income should people give to God?"  To which the speaker replied, "Traditionally it's been 10 percent..but some should give 20 percent, some 50 percent...The Old Testament spoke of 10 percent.  But Jesus said, 'Give it all.'" (Giving it all to God means...", Catholic Free Press, October 22, 2010).

Actually, Jesus never told everyone to "give it all."  In the 19th chapter of Matthew, we are told that when a rich young man who had kept the commandments approached our Lord to ask Him what he must do to be perfect, "Jesus said to him, 'If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.'" (Mt. 19: 21). 

The laity who live and work in the real world cannot give all of their monies away and still support themselves and their families.  And the Lord Jesus does not expect this from them.  His words are addressed to those who "wish to be perfect," who after giving all away will follow Jesus more closely in the priesthood or religious life.

So the real question is: Will our priests provide us with such an example of good stewardship?  Will those who have responded to the call of Christ to follow Him more perfectly now renounce all of their possessions and lead by example?  Most priests are paid a stipend of more than $1,500 a month.  What an opportunity for our priests to actually walk the walk and not just talk the talk. 

Or is good stewardship only for the laity?

1 comment:

  1. Wendy2:07 PM

    "Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, 'The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.

    Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.

    They tie up heavy burdens (hard to carry) and lay them on people's shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.'"(Mt 23: 1-4).