Posts Tagged ‘crime and punishment’

I am feeling very conflicted today.  Sometimes life throws something at you that you just cannot overcome.  That happened to me almost 20 years ago and I have not really been able to put it past me.  Oh, I forget about it for a time and then something happens to bring it all back.

My husband and I watched the movie, Spotlight, last night.  It won the Best Picture Award this year (2016).  I can understand why.  It was superbly done and quite riveting.  I’m not sure that everyone would appreciate the theme as I did, but then again when you live in the midst of something like that, it’s hard to let it go.

This movie tells about the Boston Globe’s investigative unit, Spotlight, delving into the clergy sexual abuse scandal in 2002.  As a cradle Catholic, I found this most sickening,  not only because of the horror itself, but because the Catholic Church covered up this parade of pedophile priests.  The sheer number of abusers who had been protected by the church hierarchy was astonishing to me, let alone how many youngsters were involved.  Shame on them!

I worked for my diocese in one capacity or another for over seventeen years.  I started out at a teacher for five years.  Then when my children were older, after working at a couple of part-time jobs, I applied for the position of parish secretary in my home parish.  I had never done secretarial work before, but found that I loved the work and enjoyed the challenge of something new every day.  I also loved the parishioners…well, most of them…and thought that I was doing something for my church.  I really didn’t make much money and I worked very hard.  I was determined to do my very best.

My boss was the pastor.  He was not a very likable person when you got to know him, or even if you didn’t know him very well.  He was caustic, demeaning, demanding, narcissistic, and I could use more descriptions, but I think you get the gist.  I was scared of him.  He expected absolute obedience and was not in the least a patient man.  He was so tight that I had to use a paper clip to get the copier to work, and it’s a wonder I didn’t fry myself in the bargain.  One time, I actually burned up the computer mouse and I was afraid to tell him that I needed to purchase a new one, so the facilities manager snuck out to buy one so that I could continue my work for the day.

I went home for lunch every day and to my husband’s dismay, found myself crying frequently because I couldn’t stand the thought of going back to work.  We didn’t have health insurance except for what I had through the diocese and so I thought that I really couldn’t quit.  We had two kids high school and college age during my time there and we needed all the monetary help we could get.  After three years of working for this man, things got very tense.  All of a sudden, he stopped speaking to me…even to answer any question I might ask about work or anything.  The deacon remarked that he was probably trying to get rid of me and since he prided himself on never having fired anyone, was trying to get me to quit.  Well, I was just stubborn enough that I was not about to do that.  I determined that he would have to suck it up and fire me if he wanted to get rid of me.  This situation went on for quite a while and I must admit the stress was beginning to tell on me.  Just when I thought I couldn’t stand it anymore, something happened to take care of the situation, but not in a way that was comforting to anyone.

One afternooon I answered the parish office door to some gentlemen who insisted on seeing my boss.  Now, he never allowed me to make appointments for him, or put calls directly through to him.  He would always call someone back after I took messages.  I told these gentlemen that I was sorry, but that Father would not see anyone who just walked in without an appointment.  They insisted, I resisted.  This went on for a minute or two and then they flashed badges and literally backed me up into the office hall.  Father came out of his office to see what was going on and the officers and he went back into his office.  They met for over an hour and then went up to his residence which was on the second floor of the parish office.  My curiosity was killing me.  I thought that perhaps one of our students or a parishioner had gotten into some trouble or something.

Unbeknownst to anyone else, I had previously had a meeting with a prospective employer and was scheduled to have a second interview the next day.  I had finally decided that I could take no more of the stress that was so heavy in the office.  That same night, one of the other employees saw Father leaving his residence with his clothing.  It was as though he was sneaking away.  Not only that, but he was accompanied by another member of the clergy.  We had no idea what was going on.  The next week the bishop came to speak with the staff.  He never indicated what the problem was, only that Father would not be back.  He warned us to keep our mouths shut.  I wondered, shut about what??  Shame on them!

It hit the paper the next week.  Father had been arrested for receiving child pornography in the mail.  No one, that I know of, had been aware that the Feds and Postal Inspectors had been watching this man for months in connection with a nation-wide sting.

I decided to stay with my job then because my reason for leaving was finally gone and I thought I would be needed in my parish to help keep things going.  We waited for over six months for the diocese to appoint a new pastor.  In the meantime, our parish of over 1500 families was being kept going by me (the secretary), the deacon, the Director of Religious Education, the facilities manager, and the principal of the school.  It was a horrible time.  The press was calling every day trying to glean any information out of us they could.  The vicar general was calling as the bishop’s representative telling us to keep quiet and not talk to anyone about anything.  The parishioners were calling, trying to find out what we knew and where Father was.  We couldn’t tell them anything because we didn’t know anything.  I was a wreck.

The sad part was that even after it all came out about what his activities were, some parishioners were upset and angry with not only him for engaging in this perverted activity, but also with the press for bringing it to light.  It was as if they WANTED the church to hush this up so that their sainted institution would not be harmed.  It was truly a troubling time for the parish staff and the parish as a whole. No one knew exactly what he had done; some of us feared that he had physically molested young children from the parish.  The sad thing is, as bad as that would have been, it was no less horrific that because of his perversion, he caused children to be abused SOMEWHERE in order to create the pornographic films which he enjoyed.  If he thought that it was a victim-less crime, he was sadly mistaken.  Shame on him!

I was appalled at the number of people who thought that the newspaper was wrong in printing the story, that there was a vendetta against the Catholic Church, and that our church hierarchy was right in covering up such things.  Of course, this happened earlier than when the story appeared in the Boston Globe.  I think the activities of these priests and nuns was just coming to light.  The statistics I gleaned from the movie Spotlight indicated that, using studies by professional counselors, 50% of clergy were not celibate and 6% of priests were pedophiles.  The number of priests found to have abused children in Boston alone was 87 that they KNEW of.  Who knows how many more?  How many children were actually abused, certainly more than 87.

It was surreal, scary, bizarre, unimaginable…how can someone that people look up to, even put on a pedestal, hang on their every word as “gospel”…how can that person take the innocence of young children and scar them for life?  How can God let this happen to His church?

The repercussions of this single episode in my life have been ongoing.  In the next part, I will try to explain why I feel like two different persons and why I have the attitude about faith and the church that I do.




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Amy Drown

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