I knew as soon as Iread the email that I’d have to ask the questions. And so, as soon as my older boys awakened, I took a deep breath and asked them what every Catholic parent hopes she’ll never have to ask:
“Did Fr. B. ever act inappropriately towards you in any way?”
“Did he ever say anything inappropriate?”
“Did any of your friends ever complain he’d done anything inappropriate?”
“No,” with growing irritation this time, “ and this is totally ridiculous. I can’t think of anyone less likely to be inappropriate!”
“Okay, then. I had to ask.”
And I did have to ask, but I asked with full confidence in the answers. These boys have grown up in a parish where a priest has now been accused. The crisis that swirls in the Church has just ripped through our own sanctuary. My sons have been altar servers, in youth groups, in homeschool classes, and on trips with the accused priest.
They love him. He’s
a character; a brilliant, quirky, long-winded character. He’s the guy who will
interrupt a conversation when they are talking to girls just to ask if they’ve
given any more thought to entering the seminary; the prettier the girl, the
more likely he’ll interrupt. He’s the one who took them to New
York City in the wake of 9/11 and takes big groups of young people
to Israel every summer. He’s the one who is always willing to pull up a chair and listen
to a confession, no matter where or when a teenager needs to talk. I could have
asked those questions with my heart in my throat. But I asked knowing full well
what the answer would be.
New York City
in the wake of 9/11 and takes big groups of young people
every summer. He’s the one who is always willing to pull up a chair and listen to a confession, no matter where or when a teenager needs to talk. I could have asked those questions with my heart in my throat. But I asked knowing full well what the answer would be.
Then, I asked one more question, just to prove the answer to myself:
“Can you remember any time in the last seven years when you were ever even alone with Fr. B? Can you think of anytime, anywhere, where something like this even could have happened?”
Again, the answer was a definite no.
Mine is a parish that protects children. The lay community understands that in order for us all to live and pray together in an environment of mutual trust, we need to be totally transparent. Children are never alone with a single adult. Every adult who works with children is aware that not only do we avoid impropriety, we avoid the appearance and the opportunity of impropriety.
There is always grumbling about the requisite VIRTUS classes. There is always irritation that any activity with children requires more adults than really necessary. But there is always the security of knowing that our children are truly, truly safe. I can look back over the last seven years at this parish, and know that it couldn’t have happened to my boys. And for that I’m very grateful.
That security is important right now. Without a doubt in our minds about our own children, we can go forward and look to what will happen in our parish as the investigation goes forward. We’ll remind our children that Fr. B. needs our prayers. The older boys are outraged that such a charge could be leveled against a beloved priest and we are so saddened to think of the pain involved for so many people. They want to help. They want to know how and why this could happen. With time, the truth will be known. For now, all they can do is pray.