Sir Alec Guinness is recognized as one of the greatest actors of the 20th c century. Known for many classics such as Bridge on the River Kwai to his iconic role of Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars, Guiness took on a far larger role when he became Catholic in the 1950’s.
The instigating moment for this is so telling and sad when one looks back that I thought I’d share.
He was in France working on the film Father Brown, based on G. K. Chesterton’s well known fictional crime-solving priest. He was playing the title role and so was dressed up as a Catholic priest. While walking down the street in priestly attire, a local child spotted him and mistook him to be a genuine Catholic priest. The child ran up, grabbed his hand trustingly, and walked with him down the road.
The trust and affection the child had for Catholic priests had a deep impact on him and made him start to seriously consider Catholicism. He later explained:
“Continuing my walk, I reflected that a Church that could inspire such confidence in a child, making priests, even when unknown, so easily approachable, could not be as scheming or as creepy as so often made out. I began to shake off my long-taught, long-absorbed prejudices.”
Sadly, that confidence was abused by many clergy and then tragically covered up for decades. I don’t bring this up to be a downer. We are all painfully aware of what happened.
It’s just when we try to figure out the state of the world, we must realize that this played and plays a massive role. When we see that young people have rejected the Church, we must realize that this abuse and conspiracy of silence by the clergy is all they’ve known of the Church. It’s all they’ve seen in the media. Priests are a punchline for every comedian. They are seen as sources of suspicion and malevolence.
Every priest carries that baggage with them, regardless of their innocence. It is a weight upon the Church. The horror of that damnable conspiracy will not just lead the souls of those immediately impacted astray, but entire generations who grow up without trust of the clergy will be impacted too as they look elsewhere for spiritual fulfillment.
Pray for the clergy. Pray for the Church. Pray for the souls of the lost.