One church I regularly attend received a new temporary pastor, replacing another relatively new pastor. It is a bit of a mystery why the previous pastor left, leading to an information void causing speculation about what is going on and what will happen next. This speculation extends to the new priest, who seems to have a past, based on a Google search.
The temporary pastor's first services were this weekend. When it came time for the homily, he said the bishop told him to share his whole story that first weekend so there would be no questions about him.
He shared his unwillingness in the early years of his priesthood to say no to any new assignment. He took on additional parishes, achieved big goals, and over-extended himself. Through whatever factors, he came to abuse alcohol and, as he stated, "compromised his values." When the situation became known several years ago, the bishop pushed him to disclose everything. The bishop then called the media to ensure there was no hint of anything being concealed.
The priest discussed hitting rock bottom that day, and the steps he has taken since to return to his feet. He is in the “recovery community,” he has surrounded himself with people to foster accountability, and he is moderating his previous ambitions.
He tied the entire message together with the theme for the feast of All Saints Day by reminding us "every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future."
His message was not an apology for being caught.
It was an admission of falling and working hard to get back up.
When he concluded, he was greeted by warm applause from the congregation - a very rare occurrence at a Catholic mass.
What Real Transparency Looks Like
Consider what his homily and the emphasis on immediately sharing the entire story with his new flock accomplished. He:
- Let everyone know that he, like all the rest of us, need help to grow and improve
- Fostered a willingness among parishioners to support him as needed in his recovery
- Signaled to parishioners in the recovery community that he was someone to reach out to if they need support
Most importantly, any rumormongers were put out of business day one since we all learned the truth at the same time.
Contrast what real transparency looks like versus what happens with so many public figures. When famous people are caught compromising their values, they typically apologize for GETTING CAUGHT, without ever acknowledging they did anything wrong. That cultivates distrust and skepticism since the whole apologizing for getting caught routine is too scripted and insincere.
The term “transparency” is thrown around a lot even though it is not carried out nearly as often.
I feel fortunate to have been a witness to see what real transparency looks like.
While it is clearly painful, real transparency does so much more for everyone involved. – Mike Brown