Does God ever call the most unholy people to become priests? Does he call the unworthy because he knows the hurdles they have tripped on will lead them to holiness?
If He didn’t call the unworthy, how many priests would we have?
Saint Paul literally murdered the earliest Christians. He took away the lives of those who - because the Church was so small - formed a large and important percentage of the population of Christ’s Body. All he looked for was the absolute destruction of human life for the sake of zealous Old Covenant exclusivity… and look what Christ made of him.
Not only did Paul become a priest of the New Covenant, but an Apostle, which is the very model for all bishops and priests. He became possibly the holiest creature born with original sin who ever lived. Great sorrow over great sins can indeed lead to great repentance and great grace of God, bringing about great fruits in a great life.
Look at David…read today’s first reading from Samuel.
How about St. Augustine-quite a sinner before he became a priest…then on to become one of our greatest teachers…a Saint and doctor of the Church.
That’s exactly who God calls. A friend of mine (who I’d place in the “holy” category) who has no interest in priesthood himself once said to me that he thought God calls those who most need his help. also, as it happens, I heard a wonderful homily on this just last week. the priest was talking about his own experiences in the seminary and how those who he thought were the most holy didn’t end up continuing to ordination, while others (including himself) did. He went on to refer to the following scripture passage (1 Cor 1:26-29) which I think puts it quite well:
*Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. *
In principle yes, God can do this. St. Paul is a prime example of someone who was a great sinner (a persecutor of the Church) who became a great Apostle and saint. On the other hand, in light of recent events there has been a tremendous push to be more selective about the moral quality of the people admitted to the priesthood. There is a concern that this very principle that we are all sinners and unworthy, combined with the priest shortage, have caused seminaries to be too willing to accept candidates with corrupt moral pasts.
One of my high school theology teachers, when we were studying the Book of Judges, she would say, “God doesn’t choose the qualified; He qualifies those He chooses.” (Or something to that effect.) This basically meant: God calls whom He will. Even if they are terrible sinners (as other posters have mentioned, like Saul, a murderer of Christians), He can do great things through them