Through the parted curtains leading to the sanctuary, Father Morelli could see Sister Caterina standing there. An hour ago he had done the weekly midday Mass and after the visitors had left, he remained there at the altar, praying and thanking God for helping him to get through the service. All morning he had been distracted because of what had transpired between Genet and him yesterday. He still couldn’t believe that they had kissed. It was his fault. He should have known better than to give into temptation. He had allowed the spirit of jealousy to make him sin. Jesus had said that the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak. Yesterday, his flesh had been weak. It had warred against his spirit and won.
God had provided a way out by sending the rain. Genet and he had broken apart to seek shelter. After the sun shower ended, he took her home. She hadn’t invited him to go upstairs and he was thankful for that. Would he have been strong enough to refuse? At the moment, he was doubtful. What was he going to do? How could he continue seeing Genet after what happened? It was clear that there was more than friendship between them. He couldn’t deny that they were attracted to each other. He couldn’t deny the feelings she aroused in him.
“Father Morelli, may I have a word with you?” Sister Caterina’s voice interrupted his thoughts.
He nodded and stepped through the curtain. He followed her over to the pews. Neither of them sat. Instead, they stood facing each other. His heart was beating fast. He wondered if she could sense the guilt he was feeling inside. “Yes, Sister Caterina?”
“Perhaps, it isn’t any of my business, but in the words of the Lord’s servant, Father Guéranger, ‘Is it possible that we can see a soul in danger of being lost, and remain indifferent? Have we forgotten the divine promise, told us by the apostle: ‘He that causeth a sinner to be converted from the error of his way, shall save his soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of his own sins’? For a while now I have been observing you and I fear that you are heading toward the path of destruction.”
“What do you mean, Sister Caterina?”
“You have been spending a considerable amount of time with the young woman whom I saw you with some time ago. I think that it is dangerous for your to continue to associate with her not only because she’s not of the Catholic faith but because of your vow of celibacy. You’re a priest. You have been called to serve God for the rest of your life. You cannot allow anything or anyone to come between you and your commitment to the Church and to the flock which the Lord has placed in your care.”
“Are you advising me to end my friendship with Genet?”
“Yes. Our fathers have told us that we must have no friendship with Protestants. Unless your friend becomes a Catholic, she is to be treated as a stranger. Pope St. Clement I said that ‘If any man shall be friendly to those with whom the Roman Pontiff is not in communion, he is in complicity with those who want to destroy the Church of God; and, although he may seem to be with us in body, he is against us in mind and spirit, and is a much more dangerous enemy than those who are outside and are our avowed foes’. St. Thomas Aquinas said that the Church forbids the faithful to communicate with those unbelievers who have forsaken the faith by corrupting it, such as heretics, or by renouncing it, such as apostates. This girl is not your friend. What friendship could you have with someone who rejects the teachings of the Catholic Church and is a member of another church which professes false doctrines?”
“What about Pope Francis? He’s pushing for unity among Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims and other faiths.”
Sister Caterina’s expression changed. “I’m sure it’s no secret how I feel about Pope Francis,” she said coldly. “He should be denounced as a heretic because he has not condemned abortion strongly enough and is too lenient with homosexual Catholics. And he’s too accommodating to Protestants and other faiths.”
“I don’t know if they will succeed in their efforts to have him declared a heretic. He’s a very popular and well liked Pontificate.”
“That just proves that he is more of the world and the world loves its own. He’s friends with the world. And those who are friends with the world are at enmity with God.”
“Sister Caterina, I think you should be mindful of what you say about the head of the Catholic Church.”
“Just as St. Paul spoke out against St. Peter who was our first Pope, I think I should be able to speak my mind regarding our current Pope, don’t you?”
Father Morelli didn’t reply to that. Instead, he said, “Thank you, Sister Caterina for your counsel regarding my friendship with Genet. I will pray about it.”
“Very well. And I’ll be praying for you as well.” She excused herself and left.
Father Morelli turned to face the altar, blessed himself and knelt down in one of the pews. He spent the rest of the afternoon in prayer. By the time he left the sanctuary he had made a decision.