I took a few days off from writing. My wife is out of town and I’ve had double-duty with the kids. And then there’s the fact that I didn’t want to write this. But I need to. Keep in mind that everything I have written thus far has been a recollection of my memories and based on what I have heard first-hand. Again, I am not using names (except McCarrick’s) because it’s not about the individual actors so much as the culture that thrived under McCarrick. Let’s jump right into it then…
In April of 1996 I had already been accepted into the college seminary. I was excited to be taking this big step and I knew I had the full support of my very large family. My dad was about to turn 60 that year so we threw a little get-together at an Irish pub we sometimes frequented. Given the relative small size of the Archdiocese of Newark and the proximity between where we lived, the seminary, and this restaurant; many who were associated with the seminary will know immediately where it is.
Christ Crucified, Christ in the Tomb St. Mary’s Catholic Church Schulenburg, TX
One of the first things I was told by the vocations director was that I would need to select a spiritual director. Never having had one before I wasn’t quite sure who to look for. I chose a priest who had been ordained and assigned to my parish the previous year. Our family had sort of adopted him in the way that many Catholic families used to do. He came to our house frequently for dinner. We chatted him up outside of mass. We all liked the guy.
He had gone through that mission seminary I wrote about a few posts ago. If you will recall, that seminary, as others have written, appears to have been part of a “pipeline” used by McCarrick to funnel questionable men into the United States. No one was ever quite sure what their deal was. A few years later when I was in the major seminary I witnessed firsthand that the guys from that seminary (who took their classes with us) really didn’t seem interested in becoming priests, certainly not for the archdiocese. Many of them left the diocese and even the priesthood within a few years of ordination. We used to joke that they were only in it for the green card. As others have suggested it now appears that passage to the States was what McCarrick promised them in exchange for favors. Most came from Columbia, though a few came from other locations around the world. The priest of whom I speak was from El Paso, TX so I can’t imagine that citizenship was his goal. Still, if the other reports are true, that seminary was a hotbed of homosexual activity.
My family comes from a Celtic background. I mention this because two of my brothers have suffered from “the curse of the Irish”. My oldest brother died almost three years ago at the age of 54 from pancreatic cancer complicated, I am sure, by years of alcohol abuse. Another brother who is now in his early 50’s has lived a life, shall we say, less exemplary than any of us would have liked. I state this now firmly. My brother has been a drunk, a thief, and a notorious liar. There is no excuse for his behavior over the years.
On the night of the big party we all gathered, including the priest who, at that time, would have been somewhere in his 30’s. My brother was 29 years-old. At the end of the night the only people still present were me, two of my sisters, my brother, and the priest. My brother got up to use the bathroom. Noticing him stumbling away, my sister picked up her purse and keys and said to me and our other sister “Let’s go.” If that seems cruel – that we were seemingly abandoning our brother at that moment – keep in mind that years of exposure to AlAnon and experience living with an alcoholic served as our guide. He got himself into that mess and we didn’t need to be a part of cleaning it up. After a while, enough is enough.
The priest also got up and excused himself to use the bathroom and that he would drive my brother home. We left.
The next morning the priest came to pick me up. We were headed out together to something we had both been invited to and he offered to drive. He spent the first 15 minutes profusely apologizing to me for his behavior the previous evening. “Father,” I finally said, “What are you talking about?” He explained that he had had too much to drink and ‘given bad example’.” I hadn’t noticed that and assured him that everything was OK.
A few short months later that priest was transferred to another parish and I found a different spiritual director.
Let’s jump forward to a year ago. A different sister who had had some recent contact with this brother of ours called me on a Saturday morning. She had spoken with him the night before and was disturbed by some things he had told her. “He says that Fr. X raped him that night.” According to him, the priest did indeed drive him home. My brother had passed out from drinking and woken up to find himself in some way being sodomized by this priest.
If I hadn’t already long since taken the attitude that nothing would shock me I might have dropped the phone. I flashed back to that night and provided her with all the details I just mentioned above. Sometimes you just have to make a judgment and determine for yourself, absent hard evidence, that someone is likely telling the truth. How bad is it, then, when that judgment, that gut feeling, leads you to quickly surmise that a drunk, a thief, and a notorious liar is the one telling the truth?
There were many questions that remained. My brother said that he told my parents about this shortly after it happened. So we asked my mom. And… she confirmed that he had told her. Unfortunately his past had given her no reason to believe him. He did not go to the police (as he should have) and never brought it up again. I also question how a grown man like my brother didn’t take justice into his own hands and beat the shit out of this priest. But I don’t know what it’s like to be in that position. I can’t imagine any man wanting to confront that happening to him and when one knows that his drinking would automatically cause people to doubt him…
The sister whom he told this to came to visit a few weeks ago. We talked about it again, especially in light of the revelations of this past summer. She spoke to my brother and reconfirmed everything he had said. Then, she tracked down that priest and called him. Unsurprisingly he was “unavailable” for almost a week. Finally she left him a message threatening to show up at the parish. He called back pretty quickly. His only response was to say “I never raped your brother” but he did not deny that something untoward took place that night.
Will we ever know the truth of this story? Who can say. I can tell you this. I believe my brother. He has been a lot of terrible things over the years but something about this one has me in his corner.
Here’s where we left it. I asked my sister to suggest that he call the State of New Jersey Attorney General’s Office. Like many states of late, New Jersey has opened an investigation into the Church’s handling of abusive priests (including bishops). If this man did this to my brother then he did it to others. Hopefully the AG gets to review his records before they are shredded as I have no doubt a whole lot of shredding is taking place these days.
My advice to anyone reading this: REPORT CRIMES IMMEDIATELY. If you live in the Garden State call toll-free at (855) 363-6548. Get rid of the rot.
Pray for the Church.