Catholics in and outside China were shocked by the news that a mainland priest was allegedly involved in a murder case. He quarreled and fought with a seemingly drunken man and killed the man by accident on August 26. The priest was arrested for “excessive self-defense” and is awaiting a court hearing.
No matter it was due to provocation or necessary self-defense, a priest should not use violence in the first place. We must denounce violence as it is unacceptable in civil law and in Church canon.
Life is the gift of God. It should be respected. In this sad incident, we express our condolences to the victim’s family.
Time and again in recent years, we have heard about priests quarrelling and even fighting with other people: A priest urged his relative to chop off the ear of another priest; a priest knocked out a lay person’s teeth; a priest beat up his superior …
Though these were individual cases, we have to remember violence not only causes injury but also degrades the identity of clergy, damages the Church's image and hinders pastoral and evangelization work. It is intolerable for whatever reason.
It is said that a small leak will sink a great ship. In the face of conflict, good sense makes for self-control (Proverbs 19:11). Jesus preached peaceful dialogue and forgiveness because force and violence were never the best way to resolve disputes. The spirit of Christ can only be reflected when we overcome evil with goodness.
As the image of Christ on earth, priests should follow His example. Unfortunately, some priests have not fulfilled their duties as a pastor to protect their flocks and even walked away from the path of Christ’s forgiveness, allegedly taking revenge, involved in violence and assaults.
As a Catholic in mainland China, I hope that this latest incident can help us reflect and exercise self-control.
From these mistakes and tragedies, it is not difficult to see the dilemma of the Church in China. Some dioceses are already in an abnormal and unmanageable state. Diocesan structures must be resolved.
In the face of such challenges, Chinese clergy need to constantly improve their integrity, train themselves with good communication skills, psychological qualities as well as the ability to cope with crisis.
This requires the families and the seminary to cooperate to help develop future priests with mature personalities. Certainly, each diocese also needs to pay importance to the ongoing formation of clergy.
Ye Sheng is a commentator of Hebei Faith Press in mainland China
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