The words of Pope Francis: “Inconsistency on the part of pastors and the faithful between what they say and what they do, between word and manner of life, is undermining the church’s credibility,” find echo in Eugene’s writings.
We have seen in many past entries how high an idea Eugene had of the vocation and ministry of the priest. In the face of much corruption in the priesthood in pre- and post-Revolutionary France, he wanted those of his Oblates who were priests to be shining examples of coherence and of everything that a good priest of Jesus Christ was supposed to be. (For this reason the Oblates were later to take on as a ministry the running of seminaries so as to train good priests for the Church.)
From this letter it appears that the young Hippolyte Courtès in Aix had suffered for his principles at the hands of certain priests in Aix who found his example uncomfortable. Eugene encouraged him, and strongly condemned the priests who were not living up to the demands of their God-given vocation.
I rejoice with you, my very dear friend, in that you have been judged worthy to be despised for the love of God and be hated for all the good that you and yours accomplish in the Church of God.
The shameless, the usurers, the men who have entered the ecclesiastical state only to assist their families plunged in debt or lured by some fat benefice, the men who have introduced themselves into the sanctuary without a vocation from on high, who have never offered the Lord anything but soiled gifts, who have always ignored even the name of the fine zeal which should inspire all priests for the salvation of souls, the men who by an deplorable profanation of their sacred character have ravaged the heritage of the Father of the family, have scandalized and lost those they were bound to sanctify and save, such are the ones who are welcomed; they will praise them, admire their works, be considerate of their susceptibilities, they will recompense them. A monstrosity blatant enough to make stones cry out, but the observant angels will not forget on the day of recompense and chastisement.
It was an occasion for Courtès to unite himself with the cross of Jesus Christ – the image of which he wore all the time as a sign of his consecration to God and to the most abandoned.
My only cause for anxiety is lest the violence that you had to do to yourself may adversely affect your health, apart from that I would only see reason for consolation and joy in this horrible abuse of power.
Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 22 May 1824, EO VI n 137
“We all find ways of extracting the teeth of the Gospel so as to live in comfort with it. We are even capable of transforming it entirely into a source of comfort. The jibe about “pie in the sky when you die” doesn’t really touch the nerve; many of us want pie here on earth. We catch ourselves using the imagery of the faith as an assurance that nothing changes.” Donagh O’Shea