Why I Could Never Be a Priest

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Father William Van Horne



I could never have been a priest.  I never had a call from God to be one, but looking at the priesthood I know I would have made a bad one.  Not because of celibacy or rotten pay.  Those are sacrifices of course, but if the job is worth doing it is worth such sacrifices, just as someone signing up for the military knows that it could mean an early death, or having a crippling injury.  No, the main reason I would have made a bad priest is contrasting myself to Father Gregory Shaffer, as detailed by The Motley Monk in this first rate post here.  Father Gregory Shaffer showed infinite patience in dealing with Damian Legacy, and what a treat that name is, who had the odd belief that he could study to be a Catholic priest while having sex with men:

During his freshman and sophomore years, Legacy spent nearly all his time outside of classes at the Newman Center, and regularly served the altar during mass. When Legacy called Shaffer in the middle of the night, he knew his spiritual adviser would answer.

But when Shaffer found out that Legacy was in a relationship with another male student, and he and Bergen were both running for leadership positions in Allied in Pride, they were shoved out. Legacy, then a sophomore, said he remembers Shaffer calling him wicked and faithless for being gay, and said it destroyed his “sense of self.”

“To have my faith leader view me that way, just because of one piece of the way that God made me, and to think that one part is responsible for the destruction of my human dignity, it just didn’t, I can’t even begin to describe the mental conflict that it creates,” Legacy said.

Legacy, who was on the path to Catholic priesthood, said Shaffer’s counseling and teachings, in which he indicated that Legacy was “intrinsically disordered” because he was gay, set him on an emotional rollercoaster for months.

One day, he would practice celibacy, and the next day, he denounced faith. He remembers at one point ripping the Vatican Flag down from over his bed and throwing his cross across his room.

“At the time, I thought it was a battle for my soul,” Legacy said, stuttering, losing words to continue.

And while Legacy said he is now more comfortable with both his sexuality and his religion, and has since become an ordained priest in the Old Catholic Church in October, he said he doesn’t want anyone else seeking Shaffer’s counseling to feel that same torment.

And there would be the reason why I could never be a good priest.  Father Shaffer had superhuman patience with Legacy, who is obviously a nut case.  My impulse would have been to say, “Scram you doofus!”  Unlike me, Father Shaeffer showed love and compassion for a badly twisted and confused individual.  Of course that is the whole point about being a good priest.  They, through the grace of God, become the Alter Christus for us, reflecting the love that Christ has for each of us, no matter how much of a doofus we might be.  I think with iron discipline I might be able to do that for a while, but like Father William Van Horne, ably portrayed by Robert Mitchum in the 1972 movie The Wrath of God, I fear that I would end by picking up a tommy gun and blasting away!  Ah well, the world needs lawyers (?) also, I guess.

Priest with Tommy Gun


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  1. “…because Father Greg Shaffer’s strong anti-gay and anti-abortion views are too polarizing.”

    You know what doesn’t exist? A priest who’s too anti-gay and anti-abortion. I’ve seen priests fall into despair on one of those issues and lose their sense of balance. But if someone complains that their priest is too anti-gay and anti-abortion, it’s a shoo-in that the priest is doing a perfect job. And has anyone ever heard a complaint that a priest is too anti-war and anti-abortion? or too anti-gay and anti-poverty?

  2. Thanks a whole bunch Mr. McClarey.
    I can’t get the image of Robert Mitchum out of my mind. 🙂

    It is a sad and pitiful stance young Damion and friend Blake are making. As you revealed, the pearl in this mess is the higher road taken by Fr. Shaffer.

    The forces behind the attitudes and blatant disrespect for truth are strong in young sky-walker. The dark side is oh so easy to embrace and once engulfed oh so difficult to distinguish right from wrong.
    As always in cases like this, prayer.

  3. When I first read that story yesterday, I had to roll my eyes at the student. How can you possibly ever reconcile justifying homosexual behavior and Catholicism? You can’t. What did this guy expect? That Pope Francis will take his phone call and immediately rewrite the Catechism of the Catholic Church and edit the Latin Vulgate to be “inclusive”? It’s one thing to fall into sin, repent, and try to live a better life. It’s another thing entirely to deny that it’s sin and expect the entire Church to change to accommodate your disordered appetites. It’s indicative of an extreme narcissism that seems to be present in a lot of homosexuals.

    I didn’t consider the patience of the priest in this, however. Donald, you bring up an excellent point. I could certainly stand to be more patient with such things. It’s natural to give in to exasperation over such things. It can take real effort to respond instead in a loving manner, and it’s what we are called to do, even as we are getting spit upon.

  4. Amen! I aso give into my exasperation far too easily to have been a priest. As St Paul would have said, “It’s the thorn in my side”.

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