Many of the difficulties we face in the Church today can be traced to what one might call a “clerical identity crisis.” Far too many members of the sacred hierarchy - bishops, priests, and deacons alike - don't seem to know who they are.
The presence this crisis is evident in any number of ways, but I am referring specifically to:
Bishops who see themselves more as administrators, consensus builders and peacekeepers than the shepherds of souls whose threefold office is to teach, sanctify, and govern.
Priests who think it is an act of humility to insist on being addressed by their first name; who dress in secular clothing whenever possible; and who generally wish to be looked upon as just another member of the team, i.e. one who totally discounts his unique identity as the bishop's helper.
Deacons who exhibit a similar struggle with false humility by gladly sitting on the sidelines as the laity distribute Communion, and who generally behave more like laymen with special permissions than members of the sacred hierarchy; usually for fear of appearing too “clerical.”
It seems to me that many of the day to day problems we face as Catholics today - be it a lack of reverence in the liturgy, or a lack of vocations in the diocese - can be attributed to this clerical crisis of identity. At its very root is the failure of certain members of the hierarchy to fully embrace their vocation in the light of who they are, as opposed to focusing on what they do. Only until they humbly accept their true identity can our clergymen faithfully serve God’s people according to the authority and worthiness of Christ to whom they are configured.
“Lo, I am with you always, even to the close of the age.” (Mt 28:20) One of the ways in which Christ fulfills this promise to remain present is by raising up men to receive the mark of His identity in their very being through the sacrament of Holy Orders. When those so called by Christ fail to embrace their new identity in Him, a vacuum of sorts remains; a void that no layman can fill.
Let us pray for the members of the sacred hierarchy; bishops, priests, and deacons, that they may fully accept their identity in Christ, for our good and the good of His Bride, the Church.