|ChrisOLeary.com > Sacrificed > ANY Good Priests?|
"What are you working on?"
That's what my mom asked me, just the other morning, as we drove to the hospital to see my dad, who was in the hospital with an infection in his leg, a side effect of treatments for skin cancer.
When I replied, "The Catholic stuff," instead of groaning and asking me whether it was time to just move on, as she has on many occasions, she instead asked, "Aren't things getting ANY better?"
And, critically, added, in exasperation, "Aren't there ANY good priests?"
Which got me thinking.
I didn't reply, because the answer is complicated, and more than she can handle, given her Alzheimer's, but her question struck me.
And stuck with me.
I think the answer is important.
Important enough that I've put together this short podcast to give my answer to the twin questions of...
And, more fundamentally...
ANY Good Priests?
Back to school time is never easy for me.
I'm not SURE why, but I assume it's related to something that happened, and that I've discussed previously; when I was serving at the back to school mass in seventh grade when I nearly fainted when my abuser, Fr. LeRoy Valentine, suddenly appeared next to me to distribute communion.
Long story short, on that day in late August 1980, at the sight of Fr. Valentine, all of the blood quickly drained from my face, I turned white, and had to be rescued by Sr. Helen and Mrs. Martignago.
Which, I can only assume, was triggered by something that happened earlier on that Summer.
Something I can't clearly remember or place.
Regardless, it's again back to school time and I'm triggered.
And, this year, like the past few years, I don't have the start of soccer season to distract me. I also can't flee to the lake house at Innsbrook to try to clear my head, as I used to do.
Instead, I'm stuck in St. Louis and have to just wear it.
All of which is amplified by the Back To School posts my friends are putting up on Facebook.
For reasons I laid out, in some detail, in the episode of Sacrficed entitled...
...I can only hope and pray their kids are safe.
But I'm not AT ALL convinced they are safe.
In large part because of how few TRULY good, and courageous — willing to risk it all, and speak the truth — priests there are left in the Catholic Church.
Instead, the Catholic Church is populated, almost completely, by men who have agreed — who have taken an OATH — to keep their mouths shut and do whatever their bishop tells them to do.
CREDIT: Robert Cohen | St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Including shunning a survivor at the Mass of Reparation for the Catholic sex abuse crisis.
What happened — what was DONE to me, by EVERY priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis — at the 2018 Mass of Reparation for the Catholic sex abuse crisis is sympotomatic of...
Well, it's two-fold.
First, there's what's going on in the seminaries. And who is being ordained. And what those now priests have DONE prior to ordination.
Second, there's what people — and especially the fellow seminarians who have ALREADY been ordained, and are now priests — are doing about it.
In sum, and as I've discussed at length, the Catholic Church STILL has a problem with abuse in the seminaries. Catholic seminarians — future PRIESTS — are sexually harassing, pressuring, assaulting, and, in some cases, RAPING, their fellow seminarians.
As well as others, Catholic and not, OUTSIDE of the seminaries.
I know, because the survivors of these abusive, sometimes rapist seminarians keep calling me.
While certain seminaries have zero tolerance policies, and kick out such seminarians, there remain in the Catholic Church enough bishops — starting with Bishop Rick Stika of Knoxville, Tennessee — who are willing to look past ANYTHING, including sexual harassment, abuse, and assault, and will ordain such a person, as long as they haven't done anything in the past couple of years.
At least, not in THEIR diocese.
As for what they do in OTHER dioceses? Who knows...
Which, of course, makes it clear that NOTHING has changed.
From the very WORST of the bad old days; the 1970s and 1980s when I and we were sexually exploited, abused, and raped.
There REMAIN in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, bishops who — STILL — think they are capable of judging a seminarian's character, and actions, based SOLELY on their interactions with him.
They don't NEED to talk to anyone else. Or to investigate what anyone besides the seminarian has to say.
Which is ALL too familiar; the same thing happened when I came forward and my Archdiocese of St. Louis asked my abuser if he did it and he said he didn't.
And that was that.
I was never helped.
And nothing was done against my abuser.
I can only assume, because they simply couldn't believe a priest would lie.
Again, to be clear, when I talk about problems in the seminaries, I'm NOT talking about consensual homosexual activity. Yes, it IS a problem, because it helps contribute to the culture of silence that persists in the Catholic Church. But consensual activity between seminarians is NOT what I'm talking or am most concerned about.
What I'm talking about is KNOWN sexual harrassers, abusers, and RAPISTS.
Of other seminarians.
And others OUTSIDE of the seminary.
Who have been kicked out of multiple seminaries. Due to multiple allegations against them.
And who REMAIN on the path to ordination.
And ARE being ordained.
At least by certain bishops.
And, this is going on — is KNOWN by — large numbers of priests who, instead of doing the right thing, and speaking up and out against it, instead have chosen to obey their bishops.
And are keeping their mouths shut.
They have put their bishop, a man, and a mere church, before Jesus Christ.
As for how Catholic and the church could rationalize this?
How they could just blow off sexual abuse and assault?
As I've said, over and over again, I don't know what's going on, for sure, but I suspect at least part of the problem is that an idea persists within the Catholic Church that the act of ordination permanently CHANGES a priest and makes the evil things he may have done in the past IMPOSSIBLE going forward.
An idea, which is known as the Ontological Change, I would think, at least HOPE, the sexual exploitation, abuse, and assault of hundreds of thousands of children, in the 1970s, 1980s, and since, would have dispelled.
But, apparently not.
Or maybe they think men are called BY GOD to the priesthood? And who are they to question that call?
Which ignores the fact that maybe it's Satan who's doing the calling?
Or maybe the Catholic Church is so hard up for priests that they just can't AFFORD to care? About people. Because life is short?
Or maybe they think sexual abuse and assault, even of children, is no big deal?
Because it happened to them and THEY survived it? So what's the big deal?
As I suspect might be the case with Bishop Rick Stika, who told me, when I went to him for help in July 2018, that he himself had been sexually abused by a priest.
The Problem of the Pope
Perhaps the problem is that the bishops of the Catholic Church are just following the example of Pope Francis?
As I discuss in the episode of Sacrficed entitled...
...the case of Fr. Gabriele Martinelli, which was recently broken by the Washington Post, implicates the Pope himself in the case of one of the seminarians — and now priests — who served for him at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
The fact is, the Pope seems to have a HUGE, lingering blind spot when it comes to sexual abuse.
He doesn't seem to believe anyone he knows, personally, could be capable of sexual abuse.
It doesn't matter whether the problem is a (convenient) idealization or romanticization of the priesthood. I can't help but think that bishops like Bishop Rick Stika, when they keep on the path to ordination seminarians who have multiple accusations of sexual harrassment and abuse, if not assault, are simply following the example of the Pope.
REGARDLESS of why it's happening, still — why the Catholic Church keeps ordaining obviously, deeply flawed men — while the church, and its bishops, may have all the faith in the world that a man who sexually harrassed or abused, if not RAPED, a fellow seminarian, won't continue to do that outside of the seminary, I have NO such faith.
It's CRAZY that I have to say this, but I don't have a lot of faith in the ability of a known sexual harrasser or abuser, if not RAPIST, to keep their vow, after ordination, when out in the field, physically and psychologically isolated.
I can't help but see such a person as a ticking time bomb.
Any Good Priests?
Which brings us to the questions of...
For me, the willingness of the Pope to — STILL — instinctively disregard as "calumny," sexual abuse, of ANYONE, is a sign of how LITTLE has changed in the Catholic Church.
And, to be clear, it doesn't MATTER if the person being abused is a seminarian or a child.
It's not BETTER that, now, it's SEMINARIANS who are being abused, and not children.
Abuse is abuse is abuse.
And it's ALL bad.
And who's to say that TODAY'S fellow seminarian isn't TOMORROW'S child?
What if these predators, who are CURRENTLY targeting seminarians, won't just shift their sights when they are out in parishes?
As we know predators are wont to do; to target whatever prey is available.
As for whether there are ANY good priests left in the Catholic Church, the fact that this is happening — starting with what's going on in the seminaries, with sexual harassment, abuse, and rapes, and known abusers STILL being ordained — and so few Catholic priests are willing to discuss it, makes it clear just how FEW truly good priests there are in the Catholic Church.
Sure, today's priests have been ORDERED to stay quiet; to not talk about what they've SEEN and, in some cases, what's HAPPENED to them.
But who FOLLOWS such an order?
Who CAN follow such an order?
Who is so DESPERATE to be ordained, or to STAY in the priesthood, that they'd follow an order that is plainly immoral if not illegal.
As I mentioned in the talks I gave, in support of Fr. Mark White, and to his followers, yes, soldiers have to follow orders.
But they only have to do so as long as those orders are NOT immoral or illegal.
In fact, the OBLIGATION of a soldier is to DISOBEY an immoral and/or illegal order.
So how is the same not true for a Catholic priest?
Just Following Orders
When I consider the FACT that Catholic seminarians and priests won't talking about what's going on in the seminaries, who's being ordained, and what those men have done, and the resulting risks lay Catholics, including children, face, STILL, I can't help but think of the Nazis and THEIR common defense.
"I was just following orders."
Which of course, and as was established at the Nuremberg Trials in the years following World War Two, is no defense, at all.
Yet here we are, with the vast majority of Catholic priests all too willing to follow orders that are at least immoral.
If not illegal.
As was demonstrated at the Archdiocese of St. Louis' Mass of Reparation for the Catholic sex abuse crisis, coming up on three years ago.
An event at which EVERY SINGLE priest in attendance ignored me, a survivor, standing mere feet from them.
Exactly as the cover art for this podcast shows.
CREDIT: Robert Cohen | St. Louis Post-Dispatch
If those priests were willing to do that, out in the open, for all to see, including the press, what ELSE are they willing to do?
Especially when nobody's around to see what they do?
Or to hold them accountable?
Fr. Mark White
As a result I'm tempted to pull my punches and tell you what you want to hear when it comes to the question of whether there are ANY good priests left in the Catholic Church.
I want you to keep listening to this episode and my podcast.
And not just tune me out.
But, because the lives of lay Catholics and children are at risk — STILL — I need to tell the truth.
How many good priests remain in the Catholic Church?
Truly GOOD priest.
In the ENTIRE Catholic Church.
That single, good priest being Fr. Mark White, who I've talked about at length.
And who I went to Virginia to support.
And to whose supporters I gave a series of talks discussing my experiences and the very present, and UNPLEASANT, reality of the Catholic Church.
And its priests.
Near as I can tell, Fr. Mark White is the ONLY Catholic priest who has the balls to defy the immoral if not illegal order he's been given.
Who refuses to stay quiet.
Who, instead, is speaking up and out against the threat facing lay Catholics.
Not to mention the treatment of survivors.
The Abuse of the Abused.
Don't Just Leave
It's a funny coincidence...
As I was finishing up this piece, yesterday, I had a conversation with a fellow survivor. One whose story is EXTREMELY relevant to this topic and the underlying problem.
He mentioned that he's been hearing that, in Knoxville in particular, and Tennessee in general, some priests may indeed become sickened with what's going on, and are contemplating leaving. Getting out of the priesthood.
So maybe things are indeed changing.
The problem is that, if those priests just bail, and don't instead stand up to their bishop, very little will be accomplished.
What's so extraordinary about what Fr. Mark White is doing is the risk he's taking.
He DIDN'T just leave. Instead, he's stayed and is fighting.
He's ORGANIZING people.
Connecting Catholics and survivors.
I'd suggest that what the world needs is MORE Fr. Mark's and I'd hope that any priests who are considering leaving the priesthood would at least consider doing what Fr. Mark is doing; publicly standing up to their bishop.
And the Pope.
And DARE them to return you to the lay state.
Much less excommunicate you.
What better way to point out the hypocrisy, and worse, of the Catholic Church than following the example of Saint Mary MacKillop, the Australian nun who was excommunicated for speaking up and out against sexual abuse.
And, while I'm sure that may sound intimidating, remember that it's also what Jesus Christ did.
I've found it's STRENGTHENED my faith to take things into my own hands; to realize that, if Jesus Christ can do what HE did, entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to a certain and known fate, then I can do this.
Before you just bail, I hope you will consider following Christ's example.
I suspect you'll be the better for it.
If you'd like to listen to the talks I gave to Fr. Mark White's supporters, or to an interview I recorded with Fr. Mark, links to the relevant podcasts are below...