Bad Apples

October 23 2023 | by

Dear Mr. Pfister, on my way home from work I heard on the radio the news of a prominent Jesuit accused of sexual abuse of nuns. I was very saddened by this further case of misconduct by a priest, but at the same time I thought with much nostalgia of my parish priest, who died in 2010. He told us that when he was a child, his Sunday school teacher had come to his house and advised his parents to send him to the seminary. He had run away to hide in the barn. But then he had gone to the seminary and become the good priest I had the grace of God to know. He was always full of good advice when I went to confession, and his sermons on Sundays were inspiring. I learned from my parents after his death that he helped them financially when we were struggling.

I am very sorry that a few bad apples spoil the reputation of so many priests and religious who in their lives have helped so many people along the path that leads to the Lord. What can we faithful do to stem the tide of all this bad press the Church is getting?


There is a proverbial expression of which you may be familiar: “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” The expression points to the necessity of not getting rid of everything, including what is good, when what is bad is found and needs to be removed. We don’t throw everything out, just what is not good. This expression is poignant in relation to the scandal you heard about on the radio.

Unfortunately, in moments such as this there is lots of talk about doing just that, and it can be easy to want to join in ourselves because of the confusion, hurt or frustration we are feeling. However, this would be a sad mistake because we would indeed be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

But how should the faithful stem the tide of all this bad press?

We must focus on the unending good of Holy Mother Church rather than the evils of certain people within the Church. We should fill our minds with good and holy things by reading about the glorious triumphs of Our Lord in Scripture and the heroic lives of the saints. This purposeful focus will help us to avoid scandal and actually serve to foster good psychology.

Modern brain studies show that one of the strongest indicators of how our brains are ‘wired’, which includes how we think about things, is dependent upon what we focus our attention on. Whether we focus on the good or evil within the Church will help determine not only our outlook on the Church, but on life in general. It has the capability of shaping whether or not we interpret the events in our lives from a positive or negative perspective.

Further, our response should be similar to that of the Apostles in the Upper Room. While before Pentecost they were likely stressed, fearful, and maybe even contemplating the ominous words of Our Lord about being sent out as sheep among wolves (see Matthew 10:16), they knew there was no more perfect place for them to be. They wouldn’t have left the Upper Room for the whole world. We must be the same way in the Church today: although it can be a difficult place to be at times, there’s no more perfect place for us to be. It must be our Upper Room. We shouldn’t give it up for the whole world.



Updated on October 23 2023