Dear Readers,
The years since the Vatican council have been, for priests, a time of searching for their identity in a rapidly changing world. The final end of the Constantinian arrangement, under which the Church enjoyed a “special status” in the world, means that priests have to redefine their place in the legal and social order. This is what we want to discuss in this issue.
1. After centuries of being exempted from the jurisdiction of the state (Rev. G. Rys), it seems that nobody has any more doubts that priests are citizens like all other citizens and thus, like them, are subordinated to the law. It happens, however, that a priest can find himself in conflict with the law. What does this mean both for the ecclesiastical community and for society in general? First of all, we need to recognise that apart from crimes that evidently belong to mysterium iniquitatis, there are also offences against the law that seem to be a dramatic necessity and which, in the end, bring not a curse but a blessing. The present issue presents us with a study of three people who in their lives had to deal with a conflict of loyalty and could not avoid breaking the law. The first case is fictional. It is the hero of the novel The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene, a priest desperately struggling in the world ruled by opposing directives from two different legal orders (Rev. D. Jastrzab). The two other cases are heroic figures from the recent history of the Church in Poland: St. Zygmunt Szczesny Felinski (T. Pulcyn) and Card. Stefan Wyszynski (J. Zaryn). In their life journeys, they both encountered situations which demanded from them a loud non possumus addressed to secular authorities whose claims went against God’s law. Both paid for their opposition to the unjust law with the martyrdom of exile.
2. How are we to distinguish between the necessary opposition to human law and the putting oneself unjustifiably above it? How is one to be a perfect law-abiding citizen in a country ruled by very imperfect law? The problem is thoroughly explored in the panel discussion published in the current issue of “Pastores”. Protest against narrow legalism should not aim at finding an easier, more convenient way out (R. Szmydki, O.M.I.). This kind of search for an easy freedom often leads to one becoming a slave – of one’s flesh and the world – which then reveals itself in cases of sinful offences committed by priests; these are extremely painful and destructive for the Church. In theory, the ways of dealing with them are well known. The Church, drawing on its own legal and canonical experience, has introduced many procedures which have both a healing and a purifying character (W. Barszcz, T.O.R.). However, canonical sanctions alone will not solve the problem. The experience of those who have introduced adequate procedures for dealing with offences committed by priests and adopted effective prevention methods is worth considering (Most Rev. D. Rey, Rev. R. Oliver). The most effective prevention is to be found in good preparation for priesthood, taking full advantage of the benefits of modern psychology (Rev. W. Rzeszowski).
3. Conscience is the last resort in difficult cases of the conflicts of loyalty which occur in daily life – but it must be a conscience which is mature but not rigid, formed and not deformed (A. Cencini Fd.C.C.). Only this kind of conscience allows for an ongoing dialogue with the Holy Spirit, who delivers us from the bondage to the law and becomes himself “the living law” of the believer (R. Wrobel, O.F.M.Conv.). Only those who have learned this kind of freedom have no reason to fear being confused by the world which is always ahead of legislators’ imagination
– secular and ecclesiastical alike.

Rev. Wojciech Bartkowicz

Mira Majdan

Pastores poleca