It was only the third time it had happened to me in my nearly thirty-five happy years as a priest, all three times over the last nine-and-a-half years.
Other priests tell me it has happened to them a lot more.
Three is enough. Each time has left me so shaken I was near nausea.
It happened last Friday . . .
I had just arrived at the Denver Airport, there to speak at their popular annual “Living Our Catholic Faith” conference.
As I was waiting with the others for the electronic train to take me to the terminal, a man, maybe in his mid-forties, waiting as well, came closer to me.
“Are you a Catholic priest?” he kindly asked.
“Sure am. Nice to meet you,” says I, as I offered my hand.
He ignored it. “I was raised a Catholic,” he replied, almost always a hint of a cut to come, but I was not prepared for the razor sharpness of the stiletto, as he went on, “and now, as a father of two boys, I can’t look at you or any other priest without thinking of a sexual abuser.”
What to respond? Yell at him? Cuss him out? Apologize? Deck him? Express understanding? I must admit all such reactions came to mind as I staggered with shame and anger from the damage of the wound he had inflicted with those stinging words.
“Well,” I recovered enough to remark, “I’m sure sorry you feel that way. But, let me ask you, do you automatically presume a sexual abuser when you see a Rabbi or Protestant minister?”
“Not at all,” he came back through gritted teeth as we both boarded the train.
“How about when you see a coach, or a boy scout leader, or a foster parent, or a counsellor, or physician?” I continued.
“Of course not!” he came back. “What’s all that got to do with it?”
Monday, March 28, 2011
"I Can’t Look at You or Any Other Priest Without Thinking of a Sexual Abuser.”
This is what a man told Archbishop Dolan, Archbishop of New York, in an airport recently. You should read his article on what happened. It is enlightening.