Ever since the days when Jesus' own treasurer, Judas Iscariot, had his hand in the till, the Good Shepherd has always been served by Bad Shepherds. From Eusebius of Nicomedia, who tried to sell the Church to the Roman Empire in the 4th century; to Pope Stephen VII, who so hated his predecessor that he had him dug up, put on trial, and flung into the Tiber; to Benedict XIII who bought (and sold ) the papacy twice; to Pope Alexander VI whose debauched lifestyle resembled that of Caligula, ordinary Catholics have all too often kept the Faith]]for leaders who fiddled while Rome burned.
Now, Church history specialist Rod Bennett, whose Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words has become a modern classic of Catholic apologetics, opens up these dark chapters""for a surprisingly inspiring purpose. "It's my paradoxical conviction that if more of us realized just how bad the shepherds really can get""and have gotten throughout history""we might, for lack of surprise, be better fortified when these new Judases turn up in our own day. Babes in the woods often lose faith after discovering too suddenly that they've actually been wandering in a fool's paradise. In just the same way, many lifelong Catholics, lulled to sleep by the relative infrequency of a John XII or an Archbishop Cranmer in recent times, may be too likely to expect their ministers to be living saints, rather than cherishing the real saints for how precious and few such beings really are."