The Police and the Priesthood


In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, protesters and government leaders want to reform the police. Legitimate and thoughtful reform of any organization may be necessary, given the possibility of human fallibility. There is a distinction, however, between reform and destruction. The cry to “defund or abolish the police” is not a pathway to reform, but destruction. Law enforcement is an essential part of society. If we defund or abolish the police, then we remove the very means to protect ourselves, our families, our businesses, and our society from crime and corruption. Indispensable for the rule of law is an organization of officers who enforce it.
Following the sexual abuse crisis in the Church in the early 2000s similar cries were heard for the abolishment of the celibate male priesthood. The institution of the priesthood, however, is essential to the worship of God and the sanctification of God’s people. The priest restores God’s people to grace through the Confessional and offers spiritual nourishment through the Mass.
We must distinguish between the failure of an institution and the failure of its members. G.K. Chesterton reminds us: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” The problem is not the priesthood or the police, rather it is the fallible and imperfect members of those essential institutions who did not live up to their institutions’ ideals. Rather than abolish the priesthood, since the Dallas Charter in 2002, the Church has implemented comprehensive reforms. Reform, rather than destruction, can be done for our law enforcement institutions as well.