The 2000 year old news that priests sin
The big story is that a priest solicited a prostitute. This is actually no big news because, after all, St. Augustine did write, “Nothing is so powerful in drawing the spirit of a man downwards as the caresses of a woman”. Most guys find women somewhat irresistible and this priest is, after all, a guy.
St. Augustine knew that people had a hard time resisting sin. His most famous prayer is perhaps, “Give me chastity and continence, but not yet”! This great saint saw the danger in thinking some people could go through life without sinning in major ways. He verbally fought against the Donatists, who argued that only a priest who is without sin could validly work a sacrament.
The argument St. Augustine made is that the Sacraments are an act of the Church, not of the man. Further, the Church is holy because it was founded by Christ and serves a holy end. It is not the priest who consecrates the Eucharist or Baptises, but rather it is Christ.
This was a good insight, because when your first Pope denies Christ three times (John 18) in your holy book, it’s kind of hard to think that your religious leaders are without sin. 2000 years ago we learned our clergy will (through human weakness) occasionally deny Christ in word and deed. Even Pope John Paul II went to confession weekly, because we all fall down, even the best of us.
The controversy with the Donatists was ended in 405, when the government helped the Catholic Church outlaw Donatism.
The Church some 1600 years ago explicitly acknowledging our clergy are not elite, but sinners like the rest of us. This is wonderful news, because it keeps the clergy from becoming first class perfect Christians while the rest of us have to muck around as second class sinner Christians. The division the Donatists would have created was stopped, and the trembling equality of inferiority we all have when the perfect and almighty God gazes upon us is recognized.
Hopefully this history puts the article into perspective. While it’s a scandal for a priest to fail so hard, it’s not unexpected. It’s not even good that we rarely hear these stories because it is important to remember priests are people too. They are not set apart from us to be better than us or more sinless than us, but to serve us. While a Donatist might read this article and think, “This proves the Church is evil”, a Catholic reads this and thinks, “Lord have mercy on him, but praised be to God that priests are not superior to us and instead face the same troubles with sin that we do. Thank you God for treating all people equally and fairly.”