The Star had a Sunday feature on the lawsuits nearing trial against the diocese and two of our priests. It was the talk of the lunch table today at the parish; one of the accused served at my present parish for many years after his treatment and return to active ministry as a hospital chaplain. The allegations are pretty gruesome. Probably most damaging to the diocese are the stories told by those who reported to the diocese but were ignored or worse:
“It was absolutely common knowledge that this stuff was going on,” said Mike Park, whose family lived in St. Elizabeth’s parish in Kansas City and who with his brothers contend they witnessed inappropriate behavior. “We tried, people tried, to bring it to the church’s attention years and years ago, and nobody would do anything about it.”
Park said his mother complained to George Fitzsimons, the auxiliary bishop, in the 1970s.
“She told him about the get-togethers down at the lake and that they’d have alcohol and there were things going on that weren’t real pretty,” Park said. “And he basically said, ‘Look, we can’t just go after a guy because some kids said he did such-and-such.’ ”
There’s more on the link, and when these suits get to trial, more is likely to come out. Most lay people I know are pretty numbed about the clergy misconduct. But alleged misconduct by diocesan officials in the late 70’s and 80’s is a target for anger that’s not going to be easily resolved. Many of those bishops and clergy are now retired. The current diocesan people are about two or three appointments removed from those with questions hanging over them. Naturally, they will feel the anger as it heads down.
Our parish is about 40% short of the goal for the annual diocesan appeal, and I know that bitterness remains because some perceive that Msgr. O’Brien continued to serve our parish liturgically up until five years ago.
The vigilance watching out for children is a good thing. Keeping predator priests out of ministry is necessary. I don’t get the sense that healing on the possible diocesan mismanagement back in the 70’s will come easy.