A Priest’s Ministry


Perhaps, my old pastor, Msgr. John Carlin, of my teen years would have been bemused by James Carroll’s well-written desire to “Abolish the Priesthood” (June 2019, The Atlantic). In the Northwest Bronx, Msgr. Carlin slyly used to quote Voltaire to de-construct the well-meaning, but misguided adulation by parishioners for the priesthood.

But, why did Carroll not refer to a leading peritus, Karl Rahner, S.J., an expert theologian of Vatican II, which he, and I, love to invoke? As Father Rahner wrote poetically of the priesthood, “Must not someone say something about the judgment and mercy of God?” That still surely sounds true to me in the South Bronx, and other places, in the 21st century.

I read James Carroll’s articulate and justifiably angry views as I was sending out e-mail invitations to my 40th anniversary prayer and celebration as a priest. I take solace in my ministry—and that of others—in the spirit of an older writer, Paul of Tarsus. I used his writing at my first Mass. He writes to us and to the world’s seekers…

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the all-surpassing power is from God and not us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Father James Sheehan


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