Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
This is the Throat Punch Thursday that I prayed I would never have to write but here we are. A couple of weeks ago, the unexpected hit me over the head with a shovel and knocked me right on my ass. There are things that sometimes happen that cause you to question everything around you; everything you’ve ever known or believed. Things that can create a crisis of faith within ourselves and make it impossible to trust others, especially when you’re a teenager.
It’s been a rough summer (a rough couple of years if I’m being honest) so bizarre and beyond reality. In fact, I’ve actually come to expect the unexpected and not much shocks me anymore, including death. Nothing like diving headfirst into the shallow end of an empty pool of midlife crises to shake you to your core.
I at least expected my birthday post to be rainbows and unicorns, just 24 drama-free hours. A day of reflection and gratefully counting my blessings. But nope, instead, I’m posting this a week after my actual birthday because it was more like a shit sandwich served with a side of communion wine. Apparently, my birthday coincided with a Satan yes day.
As parents, a couple of things we really dread getting from school are the lice letter and the “your child has been directly exposed to CoVid and must quarantine for 10-14 days”. I know, I’ve gotten the latter almost every week this year. My girls have been in the school building a grand total of 7 of the 33 days of school so far due to quarantining but now, I am glad of that. Because we got the letter that no Catholic school parent ever wants to get…the “our school’s priest will no longer be our priest effective immediately. He resigned after the diocese was notified of allegations about him engaging in sexual and other misconduct, including that with a minor.”
What. The. Actual. Fuck????? I know for you non-Catholic people that’s a running joke but for us, it is the actual worst-case scenario.
Let that set in for a minute. If your children go to Catholic school, you know that all the kids love the young, fun priest who is always at all the games, says hi to all the parents, cheers for your children and is fondly embraced by students, teachers and parents alike. We are actually grateful when our kids can connect, on a human level, with a spiritual leader for guidance and comfort but not one of us ever wants our child to connect with them on a “physical” level. For a couple of obvious reasons, that should never happen 1) he took a vow of celibacy 2) he is literally married to God 3) he has been entrusted with the souls and lives of our children who we send to that school. We have all been betrayed. I’m the most skeptical, suspicious person there is when it comes to my children, I trust no one. And still, I am speechless.
I’m not going to lie. I’m writing this to process my feelings because, honestly, I was shocked. Not shocked that a priest crossed the line ( because I live in the real world) but that OUR priest crossed the line. I, myself, just chit-chatted with him at the soccer game and the football game last week. He was known to everyone as a kind, caring, friendly, funny man of faith. He attended the same high school he is pastor at. He grew up here and has known many of the kids growing up.
He was trusted by everyone because he was one of us. We trusted him with our children, with their souls. He said the prayers before the games and gave the game day mass. He was beloved and now, all of these fragile teens who tend to have a hard time trusting adults anyways were told last Monday that he betrayed not only his collar but each and every one of those students who loved him and every parent who trusted him. Because that’s how Catholic school kids and parents work, they run on faith that they are safe with their priest.
I am angry, disappointed and sad. We still don’t know the whole story. I’m sure we never will. He was reported to the authorities by the diocese and it will surely be a big deal when the priest of an elite Catholic school is arrested for sexual misconduct with a minor, in a town built on Catholic schools and churches. We don’t know if the kid was a boy or a girl, not that it makes any difference. We don’t know if it was a 13-year-old freshman or a 17-year-old Senior. We don’t know what evidence they have. In honesty, we don’t know if it’s truth or rumor. But, I have to believe, if there is enough evidence for the diocese to force him to resign and send a letter out to all of the parents, there has to be at least some truth to the allegations.
I do know that all of our children have had their trust broken and their faith tested. Can they recover from that? I don’t think they can. You can’t trust someone without them earning that trust back and you can’t just force faith down kids’ throats when they’ve been betrayed by everything they believed to be true. Faith is given without facts or proof but when the curtain’s been pulled back and the truth is revealed to be ugly and unlike any version of the truth you’ve ever believed existed, maybe you can’t get that back. Not only has a child been assaulted, but they’ve all been betrayed and lied to as they shared their lives with a predator; a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
I grew up a devout Catholic but I learned at a young age that a priest is just a man. Mistakes can be made and rules are broken. But what about the parents of the kids who were sexually assaulted, what are they supposed to say to their children? How are any of us supposed to trust again? How can we make our children feel safe?
The victims were 2 girls, ages 17 and 19 at the time of the first incident. It happened once in June and again in September. June 30, the two girls were invited to the priest’s house to celebrate his birthday and eat cake. They were the only two people at his home that night, according to the girls. He offered them alcohol, they both accepted but said they were not drunk. However, the girls said he was “seriously intoxicated” and had slurred speech, was stumbling, and was pale, sweaty, and vomiting.
One of the victims said he touched her inappropriately repeatedly, despite her efforts to slap his hands away. He also asked her to perform sexual acts on him.
The girls said he then passed out and they put him to bed when he pulled one of them into the bed with him and groped her, according to court documents. The teen says she told him to stop and he did.
Between June 20th and September 17th, the girls said they had several “normal” interactions with the priest and he apologized.
“Both indicated that while they were very concerned the night of the incident, both considered Father a friend and spiritual advisor. They wanted to believe his conduct would not happen again and [Victim 2] indicated that she was capable of forgiving but “would not forget,'” the court document reads.
Then on Sept. 17, he invited the two girls over to his home again. The girls said given his apologies and the fact that they consider him a central figure in their faith, they went.
When they arrived, again he offered them alcohol.
Again he became intoxicated and assaulted the girls.
At this time, he is charged with child seduction, sexual battery, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, furnishing alcohol to a minor, and two counts of battery.