I see in the news that my former colleague is facing a half-century in federal prison. This is a very long fall from the adulation of people for a freshly-minted priest. Some disconnected thoughts on this:

It’s hard to tell if the bitterness/ambivalence I detect in the young miss is due in part to her ex-favorite priest’s fall from grace. Or just adolescence. As a parent the not-knowing is difficult. She won’t talk and I don’t push. But I simply don’t know, and the not-knowing rather prevents any diagnosis.

It’s a case that brought down a bishop, whether or not he ever resigns. Or is eventually fired. A bishop who wrote his first pastoral letter on pornography is shown up for being naïve about the topic. Or maybe he’s just an old-school bishop living in the wrong century who thinks of himself as untouchable. And who might be throwing others under the bus to avoid consequences. There have to be priests in northwest Missouri who are doubly guarded, and I’m sure there are upright and moral right-wing clergy who have no stomach for their bishop, despite being ideological brothers-in-arms.

Speaking of which, this whole episode opens up the moral spectrum to be found among the so-called “orthodox” Catholics. My former colleague insisted the pastor and I look at Redemptionis Sacramentum and comply with items neither of us felt were particularly important. He also insisted on being given altar servers to coordinate during his time with us. A near occasion of sin for him? Who knows? A newly ordained priest needs a wide variety of experiences to understand the full range of ministry in a parish. In hindsight, overseeing Communion ministry would have been a better choice, but how were we to know? He didn’t give evidence through any prominent symptoms we noticed.

As I read the piece in a faith section rather than one dedicated to, say, crime and punishment, I found myself definitely sad today. I started this essay early this morning. It seems to have colored my day a few shades of dark gray.

High profile abusers seem not to have a long life in prison. That Boston guy was murdered. That recently convicted kidnapper hung himself. I can imagine the shame of my former colleague’s family–a church business after all.

I can ask two questions. What on earth? What in the hell?

Or a final one: what does this all mean?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Parish Life, sex abuse. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Thoughts

  1. FrMichael says:

    “He also insisted on being given altar servers to coordinate during his time with us.” That’s a red flag for me: the insisting. When I was an associate it never occurred to me that I should “insist” to the pastor that I be put in charge of a ministry. I asked and gave my reasons why I should be assigned to certain parochial ministries. Or be given permission to start one. Usually, but not always, the pastor agreed. As a pastor, I once had an associate insist on being chaplain to certain parish groups. I found that he did it more to pad his “resume” so that he could look good to the personnel board and become a pastor himself rather than becoming an effective spiritual leader to those groups. Needless to say, his “portfolio” was greatly reduced.

  2. Todd, I find it so edifying that you knew him – not that that is good, but it somehow makes it clearer for me, a reminder of the banality of evil. And we all struggle with evils; his were profound. The thoughts of the young miss… I just feel such tremendous sadness, for which I have no words.

    And I agree with Fr. Michael – the insisting. But then again, when you are in it, who knows?

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