In a not too distant past, it was customary within Catholic families to invite the priest over to dinner. There are stories of priests being active within their parishioners’ family lives, as they tended to their flock outside of church on Sundays and daily Mass. Priests became an extended family, and I have noticed older parishioners still attempt to have that same relationship with their family priest. However, the tradition of a family meal with your priest has seemed to fall by the wayside for the younger generation of Catholic parents.
Years back, a priest I knew in passing as my Sunday priest was accused of abuse. He immediately denied the allegations, and continued to maintain his innocence throughout the investigation. This priest was very sincere, devoted to his parishioners, and thoroughly engaged with the lives of his parishioners and the school he was helping to run. The allegations stunned everyone who knew him. Ultimately, the lengthy investigation process ended in his exoneration. In the end, it was revealed that the alleged victim had not been a member of the priest’s parish during the time of the supposed allegation; moreover, the victim and the priest had never even met. But by the time it was over, the damage had been done. The diocese where he’d made such a great impression (and where I had known him), moved the priest to allow him to recover from the entire ordeal. When later asked why the accusation was made, the answer given was, the accuser didn’t like the priest’s popularity.
I recently heard of another well-liked, well-known priest being placed on administrative leave due to allegations of misconduct; as in the scenario before, he also maintains his innocence. The alleged misconduct occurred decades ago. I have known this priest in passing for a couple years now. He is charismatic, pious, joyful, kind, and respected by all who mention his name. Everyone seems to love him. So, as a result, people are just as astounded over these allegations as they were with the previous priest I knew. Given what happened in my hometown a few years ago, I was actually not surprised that this man has been accused – he and the priest I knew previously share many of the same qualities.
One, or more, of Our Lady’s apparitions mention the devil will enter our Church. He is being set free to wreak havoc on God’s Church, and I have to hand it to him – he is succeeding. Whether he is bringing down the church by encouraging priests to commit insidious acts against those under their patronage, or whether it is by encouraging the faithful to leave the Church because they are afraid of what may happen if they raise their children in the Church, he is succeeding in his mission to bring down God’s church.
All it takes is one grain of doubt in a parishioner’s mind to destroy the credibility of a good priest. The term, “innocent until proven guilty,” is one that does not apply to these situations – we see this every time an allegation rears its head. Every interaction will be replayed dozens of times, speculations will be rife, gossip will rule the day. Ultimately, Satan will win IF WE LET HIM.
My heart is heavy. I don’t know if there is any truth to this allegation for this friendly, jovial priest. I pray for both the priest and the alleged victim – I actually pray for all people involved, to include the investigators, that their eyes be opened to the truth, wherever that may lead.
Every time I hear of a new allegation, I worry for, and pray for, the Church. I hear of droves of families leaving after each new allegation made. Although the media is very good about making it appear so, this is not only a “Catholic problem.” Sexual abuse finds itself appearing in all other faith denominations, and even secular organizations.
The last person I hear blamed is the one to whom the blame squarely falls – Satan. He laughs and dances every time a faithful parishioner abandons the Catholic Church for another faith, or abandons faith altogether. There is such a richness, fullness, and beauty of the Catholic faith and the Catholic Church. And, he will stop at nothing to try to empty her pews entirely.
If we are to believe in God, we should also believe in Satan. I believe God is stronger, and that God, along with His Angels, will defeat the devil. Yet, how many good people, clergy, religious, and parishioners alike, will be dragged down in this war between Heaven and Hell?
We must continue to guard ourselves.
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, oh Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, cast into Hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
**Please note – I wholly recognize and accept there are victims. If you have been a victim of either physical or sexual abuse by a priest, PLEASE contact your local police department. Please seek counseling to heal from your experience. And, please do not give up on God or your faith.**