Three emotions pass through me as I read the ongoing coverage of the leadership collapse in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis: sadness, revulsion and hopefulness.
Sadness because my upbringing, education and philosophical underpinnings are all Catholic. Catholic grade school, high school and the University of Notre Dame provided 16 consecutive years of Catholic influence, leaving me with a sense that the priesthood was my calling. The church was steeped in tradition, art, history and had a global infrastructure that I found a neat complement to the United Nations. The daily Latin mass was a mysterious ritual, especially to this curious altar boy. I still have my Mass card and can by rote respond to the priest’s cues.
So I decided to enter the seminary. However, at 18, I fell in love with a young lady and realized I couldn’t combine marriage and priesthood. I marveled at the time how disciplined and special those called to the priesthood must be to stay single and chaste.
Shortly thereafter, this image collapsed.
Revulsion courses through me as I re-read the lawsuits my two younger brothers filed against the Diocese of Camden, NJ,, in 1994 as part of a group of 18 plaintiffs alleging they were sexually abused by priests from 1967 through 1970 and contending the church tolerated such conduct for decades and conspired to cover it up.
Re-reading the painful, graphic testimony and remembering how the parish priests ingratiated themselves with our family, sharing dinners, parties and trips fills me with pain. The priests used their holy positions as leverage to seduce my parents into completely trusting them and simultaneously sexually seducing my brothers. Their lawsuit was dismissed in 2002 because it exceeded the statute of limitations and the Superior Court judge wouldn’t issue an exception.