Honor Thy Fathers

Cascade Range sunrise, Lisa Bartholomew, Feast of St. Joseph.png

Sunrise over the Cascade Range in Oregon on the Feast of St. Joseph. (Phot by our reader, Lisa Bartholomew)

By Charlie Johnston

The Internet has been rocked by stories that Salesian Priest Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil is being tortured By ISIS and will be crucified on Good Friday. Fr. Tom has, indeed, been kidnapped. But there is no information yet about who kidnapped him or what his plans are. The crucifixion story just appeared as a rumor on Facebook with no attribution or evidentiary basis. The current status of the situation is explained here. Fr. Tom definitely needs our prayers – and very intently. Also pray that whoever started this rumor did not give Fr. Tom’s kidnappers a horrible idea.


We are still dealing with the fallout from the sexual scandal that was revealed around the turn of the millennium. It was a terrible betrayal. Sadly, the fallout also caused a divide to open up between the multitude of wonderful Priests who take their vocation seriously and a suspicious flock. It deprives those good Priests of the honor they are due and it deprives us of much of the leadership we need, just as we need it most. It was one of the satan’s more toxic and successful gambits. It is time to move past it.

There have been betrayers since Judas. But this was a widespread failure. Many clerics traded, for a time, the rock of the Gospel and the Magisterium for the transient shifting sands of trendy cultural and pseudo-cultural enthusiasm. We traded a culture of faith for a culture of therapy – and we are all the worse for it. I remember in the late 70’s watching a daytime TV talk show (Phil Donahue, I think). I was shocked when a psychologist or therapist – a woman – berated a Priest for suppressing people’s “natural sexuality.” That was not the shocking part; the shocking part was that she spoke of the “sexual needs of children” and that the Church was creating neuroses by not recognizing those. The even more shocking part was that the Priest was just awkwardly silent, unable or unwilling to mount any defense of the faith. I was not Catholic then, but thought in my shock what a faithless gimp that Priest was. He had been caught up in the trendy culture of therapy – and was too intimidated to defend what was obvious and unchanging. Many clerics lost themselves and their faith in the cultural upheaval.

I once wrote a blistering letter to a high Church official that “zero-tolerance” policies weren’t going to solve a thing; that the answer was to recover the lost faith – that had we always proclaimed the fundamentals of the faith, the True Presence in the Eucharist, the Culture of Life, boldly and with conviction, there never would have been a crisis in the first place. The worst among us were filled with a passionate resolve for ever-deepening disorder which was partly enabled by a clericalism run amok. Meantime, the best were intimidated, indecisive, afraid to speak boldly for fear of being dismissed as archaic, not enlightened with the times.

You know I don’t quail from offering criticism of religious authorities when I think it warranted, but I confine that criticism to the specific ones who I think have warranted it. The mindless practice of some of never speaking critically of a Priest helped enable the malefactors. The collar is a noble, divinely-inspired vocation; the abuse of it is a great betrayal – and a collar is not a license to do harm to others. But when we let the criticism go beyond the malefactors to a whole class, we do damage to the very noble souls who want to live the faith well and minister to their flocks. We lose on both ends.

We will not solve this by turning our heads away from those who have offended rather than holding them to account. But we will not solve it by putting good clergymen to a star chamber and quenching their commitment to their vocation. I am now in contact with literally hundreds of Priests and Deacons – and there is a great spirit moving across the land. They are ready to step up to the plate, filled with the hope that if they speak boldly and live their vocation truly, people will stand with them, not disdain them. It is one of the reasons why I am so focused on Eucharistic and Marian Processions. If we live that, spark a real movement, it will empower the very best of the spiritual leaders among us, filling them with new confidence and joy in their vocation, while raising us all up. Get that started and that will be where things happen with vigor. It will raise a climate that is unhospitable to those who are mere careerists. The people of the kingdom and the flock will rise together even as the careerists slink away or sulk.

I have little sympathy for malefactors and when they are found, they need to be weeded out, but I have never made them my focus. To do so has very limited value. In all things, I have focused on empowering the noble, inspiring them and filling them with resolve to create a real movement. That builds something – and chokes off the cynical careerists, while filling many of the lukewarm with a joyful new resolve. Change the culture and you change the world…and it starts with little steps that build trust. How have you heartened those Priests that believe, that believe with fervor? Do that and we will have a vibrant culture of life and of faith once more. How I long to leave the culture the 60’s and 70’s bequeathed to us behind, to rise again in faith with our true spiritual leaders. That is what I believe in and am committed to this year. I can’t change what has happened, but I can do my little part to rebuild, for the kingdom to rise. I hope you will make the same commitment even as you grieve over the terrible offenses that have marred us.

If you have had contact with a Pastor or Priest who betrayed his God, his flock and his collar, I know it can be hard to let go. But if you shy away from all Priests, you let the betrayers besmirch the noble, and the satan doubly wins. I call on you to join hands with your Priests and Bishops anew, walking together in proclaiming the faith and hope that is in Christ. If you encounter one that merely wants to proclaim a culture of therapy, move on and find one who proclaims Christ. But by all means, reach out. We need each other if we are to navigate these stormy waters.


About charliej373

Charlie Johnston is a former newspaper editor, radio talk show host and political consultant. From Feb. 11, 2011 to Aug. 21, 2012, he walked 3,200 miles across the country, sleeping in the woods, meeting people and praying as he went. He has received prophetic visitation all his life, which he has vetted through a trio of priests over the last 20 years, and now speaks publicly about on this site. Yet he emphasizes that we find God most surely through the ordinary, doing the little things we should with faith and fidelity. Hence the name, The Next Right Step. The visitations inform his work, but are not the focus of it. He lives in the Archdiocese of Denver in the United States.
This entry was posted in Christian Persecution, Church Governance, Conversion, Family of God, Prayer and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

264 Responses to Honor Thy Fathers

  1. Jennifer D'Aquila says:

    I feel like I’m late in the conversation to comment because the conversation has moved on. But here goes…First I want to say that, being in the Archdioscese of Omaha, I have been so blessed by having known Archbishop Lucas. He is so very down to earth, and a true father to all of us under his care. I’ve seen him handle some very difficult situations, namely the suppression of the Intercessors of the Lamb, and priest and seminarian accused of either abuse or inappropriate behavior. It healed my heart from the scandal and restored my trust. But one issue I have come accross is another affect which I haven’t seen discussed. Priests who are too guarded in their relationships with the laity. There’s a self protection that can really get in the way. I think this is also an effect of the scandal, the fear of false accusation, or an unwillingness to sheaperd those in emotional pain. I ask those here to pray for priests in fear.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Hello on this Maundy Thursday. I arrived at Our Lady of Perpetual Help cathedral and decided today to enter through the Doors of Mercy. Just then, a deep red sun began to rise in the East behind me. The light streamed through the stained glass over my head and illuminated the gold icon of Our Lady with the child Jesus, a magnificent reproduction of the original. It glowed a fiery red-orange as I entered. (To see what the image normally looks like visit: http://www.cathedralolph.org)

    I have a deep devotion to the Mother of Sorrows, and seeing her image illuminated in a brilliant red reminded me of her profound suffering during Christ’s Passion.

    Pray for us, O Virgin Most Sorrowful, that we made be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
    May she bless you all!

    Liked by 11 people

  3. Sandi says:

    This up lifted my heart and soul….I thank you !

    Liked by 3 people

  4. radiclaudio says:

    Amen, amen. a very thought proving post. TY Charles.


  5. Mary Parks says:

    A wee correction. 2001 was the third wave of revelation of clergy sex abuse. There had been one in the mid-80’s and one in the early 90’s.


  6. jlynnbyrd says:

    The Catholic News Agency has released a statement today indicating that Father Tom is alive and well and plans are underway for his release. Praise and thanks be to God!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. jlynnbyrd says:

    The Catholic News Agency has reported that Father Tom Uzhunnalil has been released and is heading to India. Thanks be to God for prayers answered. It also gave me the opportunity to reread and heed Charlie’s insightful Honor They Fathers article. God is good! ❤


    Liked by 2 people

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