There are a lot of words I hoped I'd never hear. "Your son is dead." "Your daughter is dead." "You're in labor." "I'm sorry, but there's nothing we can do." You get the idea. But there are 7 words I never thought I'd hear: "Father So-and-So is part of THE scandal." I got to hear those words this morning.
At first, I couldn't believe it. I just couldn't. There's no way. As I looked at the photo hanging on my wall of this priest, holding my children on the day of their baptism, I just couldn't believe it. This man has held my babies. This man has mourned with me as I wept at the funerals of my older children. This man visited me in the hospital and brought me the Eucharist and gave my family prayer and support. While we haven't always seen eye to eye, his heart is in the right place. And when what he's accused of came to light, I found myself bearing down for the long haul.
Because I'm on his side. Did he make a bad choice? Possibly. But what what he did criminal or inappropriate? Not at all.
I'm the first who says string up priests (and anyone else for that matter) who harms a child or someone in their charge. Give me the fire; I'll light the stake. Seriously. As a survivor myself, I cant imagine my children going through that and I'm more than happy to lynch the bastards who take out their perversions on the innocents. And, while I'm on my soapbox, as a Catholic in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, I am beyond being utterly disgusted at the way they have hidden what has been done, lied about being transparent, and ignored the independent third party suggestions to make disgraces like this a thing of the past. I am sick that the Institution of the Church is a broken mess of what it should be. Of course, I suppose we shouldnt be surprised because the Institution is made up of sinners. They may wear collars, but we're all sinners...
But back to my support of this priest... For simply being a priest, for doing things that, if my family were in crisis I would HOPE my priest would do for myself and my children, he is being investigated. Mind you, over a decade ago, when the instance happened, he was investigated by both the police and the Church and the charges were found to be without merit (the charges had nothing to do with a sexual nature). While I understand the Archdiocese's need to play CYA at this stage in the game, I am pretty ticked off that they have decided to reopen a case that has nothing to do with the current sex scandal and lump this priest (and others like him, I'm sure) in with the pedophiles who dont deserve the time of day. At present, he is on "Administrative Leave" while the charges are (once again) investigated. But will he return to parish life afterwards, even if/when he is cleared a third time? Who knows... Once you are publicly tarnished and your reputation is damaged, I imagine it isnt easy to return to life as usual.
I'm angry. I'm betrayed. I'm saddened beyond measure. The bureaucracy... It would be so easy to just throw in the towel, embrace my tree-loving roots, and call it a day. And dont think that isn't tempting!
The Church is more than the priests, more than the parishioners, more than the hierarchy that seems to continue trying to tear Her down by the foundations of Her buildings. The true measure of Her is in a small vessel in a locked Tabernacle. A presence of the Divine. The Actual Light, surrounded by darkness, small and frail. A full moon of Hope. Waiting. For you, for me. That is the Church I believe in. Her rituals are comforting to me and call to me in the depth of my soul. I can sit in a drumming circle and hear Her voice or I can pray a Rosary in my living room and find the same. Or I can be in an empty church building, just that Tabernacle and I, and hear the voices of those who have walked the same paths for thousands of years. And I can find that Peace, that true peace.
For me, the Divine is part of everything and is, therefore, everywhere. I can find That Which Is in the moonlight or a gentle rainstorm just as I find It in the Liturgy. But the Church, that single, unified Body... That is in that wooden Tabernacle, waiting for me to find my way there, to fall on my knees and kneel in humble submission to Something Greater than i am, to the Great I Am. That isn't dependent on a man or the works of men. They may deliver the Good News, but they aren't the Good News themselves. Only the newsboys.
I'm praying that this priest I know is cleared because, in my heart, I believe he is innocent. I'm praying for the victims who, through no fault of their own, have had their faith shattered. I'm praying that the ones who are guilty have the shred of holiness they have disgraced ripped away from them. But, most of all, I'm praying. A lot.
Pray with me, if you will...