More power, more temptations

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

This should be a no-brainer. When one is vested with power, with better endowments than those of others, he must remember that such privilege will always attract temptations of abusing it. It’s like a magnet for temptations. We have to be prepared for this.

That power has to be handled delicately, with great humility. In other words, it always has to be related to God from whom all power and authority on earth comes. It should be exercised always with God in mind and heart. Otherwise, there’s no way for it to go other than to be abused. Remember, the only thing we’re capable of doing without God is to sin.

To know how to exercise whatever power and authority we have according to God’s will and mind, we have to look at Christ, imitate him and unite ourselves to him.

Christ exercises power with great humility, justice, charity, and mercy. His attitude toward his power is expressed in these words of his: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” That is the attitude we ought to have toward any power we have.

The damage that the abuse of power would inflict on us is deep and grave. Remember Lord Acton’s warning: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men…” And there’s that Latin adage, “corruptio optimi pessima,” the corruption of the best is the worst, that reiterates the same point.

These thoughts came to me recently as I received again another piece of bad news that a priest was accused of an anomaly. This kind of news has become more common today, sad to say. And I’m afraid that priests are figuring in these cases much like the way many politicians and privileged people are. Let’s hope that the image of priests doesn’t get the same notoriety.

Obviously, my reaction to all this is to listen to these complaints and reassure those affected and scandalized that justice will be served, without forgetting the more important value of charity and mercy.

But let’s not forget that these disturbing developments are always a call for all of us to make a deeper, more thorough examination of conscience, and have another conversion. Actually, conversion is and should be a continuing affair in this life. We’re always in need of conversion, no matter how good and holy we think we already are.

We cannot deny that we priests hold tremendous power and authority. It’s a power and authority even greater than that of civil and world leaders, since ours links us with Christ as head of the Church, with power to forgive sins, renew Christ’s supreme act of redemption by celebrating the Holy Mass, etc. It is a power that concerns itself to man’s eternal destiny, and not just his temporal welfare.

As such, that power will always be buffeted by temptations. And many of these are so subtle they can assume an appearance of goodness. We really have to be most guarded against this danger.

Priests should be the first to avail of spiritual direction and confession. No matter how mature and tested a priest feels he is, he will always need guidance. Of course, he should see to it that his spiritual life is truly healthy, immersed in constant prayer and sacrifice, recourse to the sacraments, continuing ascetical struggle, etc.