Yet another Catholic priest has been added to the list of alleged pedophile predators, and this time the sordid tale hits close to home.
The priest who was the principal of the high school I attended in the 1970s has been stripped of his privileges as a member of the clergy.
It’s alleged that in the late 1980s, he raped an altar boy more than a dozen times after being “reassigned” to another parish. The altar boy came forward more than 20 years later with accusations that the local diocese and the Vatican deemed credible.
As awful as that is, here’s what makes it worse:
There were rumors about this priest around the time I graduated from high school, almost 40 years ago.
We were naive Catholic high school kids and didn’t know what to make of it all — but if teenagers were hearing rumors, then some parents and other adults must have been talking about it as they looked the other way.
The sad and evil story of thousands of predatory priests in the Catholic Church has become commonplace in recent years. Our local diocese is considering joining others that have identified priests in the credible-evidence category, and might provide up to nine names.
Whatever the number, it’s too high.
And the church’s response is too little, way too late.
The priests who violated altar boys and other young parishioners, and the superiors who moved these pedophiles around for damage control, are criminals. They should do time, as some have. (The Vatican has ordered my former principal — now in his 80s — to a life of prayer and penance, according to a published report. A statute of limitations prevents criminal prosecution.)
The Catholic Church has lost some of its flock because of the rampant abuse and enabling behavior, and I am in that “lapsed” category.
Despite all the good that individual members of the church continue to do, I cannot get past the sick crimes and willful coverups. Nor do I feel I should even try.
I was an altar boy for two years, and a student for 13 years in schools run by priests and nuns. It’s sheer dumb luck that I wasn’t sexually abused. I also find it sadly ironic that we were terrified of the nuns and thought some priests were “cool.”
To my knowledge, none of my buddies growing up were ever abused. But who knows? In those days, many Catholics didn’t even talk openly about cancer — it was seen as a punishment from God, or some such nonsense.
Given the recent revelations about my former principal, it wouldn’t surprise me if someone from my high school surfaces with additional credible evidence against him or others. Sadly, there is strength in numbers now, and the climate is such that pedophile priests are no longer considered just “sinners.”
So, is it too late for the Catholic Church to save itself?
I want to say I hope so, but I’m not sure I even care. I don’t pay much attention to the church anymore, although I hear the new pope is progressive and popular. If he can keep any more altar boys from being raped, that’s more than just good public relations.
(As a footnote, the Vatican recently discovered hundreds of millions of euros it somehow didn’t know it had. Perhaps some of that loot can pay for counseling — and I don’t mean for the priests.)