Have we not been through enough angst over child molestation by priests for every spiritual leader henceforth to walk far from the edge?
But it does not appear to be "real think" in Jeffrey, New Hampshire. Roman Catholic Bishop John McCormack, not new to controversy, assigned to a church under his jurisdiction a priest who had a sexual alliance with an adolescent boy.
What is wrong with this picture?
Parishioners picketed in front of the church at October 6 mass. Signs read "Rectify, Redeem, Resign." Also, "No $$ to diocese until McCormack resigns."
But the bishop retorted to shouts inside the sanctuary with the dictum that he will not resign for he is there to "serve."
Whom? Once again to serve the establishment, its image, its collection plate, its power structure? Or is the bishop called by God to serve Christ, the gospel, the church, and all principles of decency in spiritual leadership?
Why should a Protestant minister enter such a ruckus?
Because these ethical/moral matters are not "Catholic." They are humanitarian, so that atheists with ethical sensitivities are invited to join in the demand for the cleansing of an organization that is obviously still more concerned about its power plays than universal truth.
The bishop, when asked by parishioners as to why he had not informed them about the priest's history, replied that it was a private matter that did no harm to either law or church policy.
Haven't persons of dignity and propriety already been through that hoop? Law and church policy. Add to that the Biblical call to ministry, God's expectations of His shepherds, parishioners' trust, laity's bottom line expectations of their clergy, and the larger community's hope that what has already happened in the murky past is fair warning for bishops to say "enough is enough."
No wonder St. Patrick Church worshipers were emotional when attempting to say their prayers. No wonder reporters, not admitted to the sanctuary, but hearing the shouting from the church lawn, were stunned in their note taking.
Had not we thinking creatures concluded that with the bishops' conference and pope's warnings concerning child abuse from clergy that the world was turning into a safer place for boys and girls? Had not we — Protestants and Catholics and all other morally sensitive humans — figured that we were moving fast beyond the secretive scenarios of recent past?
Bishop McCormack, one tough skinned fellow in collar, obviously is still trying to hark back to old establishment ways of winking at evident wrong, stonewalling laity's legitimate questions, and balancing ecclesiastical power thrusts with priests very much in charge.
"You have no business being in this church!" one lady informed the bishop. Numerous others responded in like kind. But the bishop held firm — the typical old boy position for those who have been mired in the might of their own ego castles.
The priest had been accused of sexual misconduct with a teen boy during the l980s. The priest admitted to the relationship. And yet he was assigned to a cozy parish in autumn-grazed New Hampshire.
Not fair. God help us. When will it truly end?
- J. Grant Swank, Jr.