Gerald T. Slevin, Update–Criminal Charges of Vatican Child Abuse Cover-Up
Monday, April 16, 2012
Cross-posted on Open Tabernacle, 16 April 2012.
Griffin: An amazing journey of forgiveness
Michael Mack is a man of many credits as a writer and theatrical performer. Now age 55, he has also accomplished two things in the spiritual realm that rank as unique in my experience.
First, despite suffering sexual abuse as a boy at the hands of a Catholic priest, he is now an active member of the church and values its spirituality. All the other victims of clergy abuse I have known have distanced themselves from this faith community, most with continuing and understandable anger.
Michael’s second achievement strikes me as even more remarkable. He has forgiven the priest who violated him.
In a long interview with Michael, I found his account of both events fascinating. The violation took place when he was 11 years old, the forgiveness when he had reached middle age.
Incidentally, the reason for our being in touch was a scheduled performance of Michael’s one-person play “Conversations with My Molester – a Journey of Faith.” It was to be staged at the playwright’s parish, St.Paul’s in Cambridge.
Just before sending this column off, I actually saw the play along with an unexpectedly large audience. We found it spellbinding. Adding to the meaning of the occasion, an official of the Archdiocese of Boston responsible for overseeing child protection, Barbara Thorp, was present and took part in the discussion at the end.
The sexual violation of the boy Michael took place in Brevard, North Carolina, a small town in the western part of the state. Because their mother was ill, he and his siblings spent a year living with their aunt and her family there, rather than back home in Washington D.C.
The boy loved his parish church in North Carolina and envisioned himself becoming a priest someday. He soon became close to the pastor, the person who took Michael to his first basketball game, and acted toward him like a “surrogate dad.”
One day, the boy wandered into the church basement and sat down to play the piano. Then the priest appeared and invited Michael to come to the rectory. Once in this house, the priest brought the boy into a room, closed the door, and took advantage of the child’s innocence.
Days later, the priest left the parish and Michael, too, moved from Brevard soon afterward. “I left that day confused,” he recalls. “I felt that something big had just happened — something not right.”
Later, as a teenager, he was to experience something much worse, what he calls “self-loathing.”
As to the priest who assaulted him sexually, Michael lost complete contact with him for decades. But when he moved to Boston some 10 years ago, Michael made an astounding discovery.
The priest was also living in Massachusetts, not too far away in the orbit of Worcester. Though not defrocked, he was no long performing priestly ministry.
Michael’s repeated efforts to reach the priest were ultimately connected with a spiritual change in Michael’s heart. He had been moved to forgive the priest for what he had done.
As I listened to Michael’s story, I felt moved by his sincerity and his spiritual courage. He had managed to offer forgiveness to someone who, behind the full force of priestly status, had done him terrible harm.
Michael tells of going to the priest’s funeral. It was his first time in many years back in a Catholic church. There the man who had violated him and others was extolled as a good priest. Despite his forgiveness, Michael found it bizarre to hear his molester praised.
Parishioners supporting St. John Valley priest in wake of unspecified allegations
FORT KENT, Maine — Parish and community members rallied Wednesday behind the Rev. James L. Nadeau whose sudden leave of absence from his post as pastor of St. John Vianney Parish took his flock by surprise.
The voluntary leave was announced late Tuesday by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland and the Maine attorney general’s office, which is conducting an investigation of unspecified allegations against the 51-year-old priest.
“I am very saddened by this whole thing,” Norma Landry, past chairwoman of the St. John Vianney Parish Council, said Wednesday morning. “Nobody really knows what is going on [and] in times like this I always turn to prayer.”
The allegations and subsequent leave taking by Nadeau could not have come at a worse time for the parish’s practicing Catholics.
This past Sunday marked the start of Holy Week, the most important span of days in the Catholic calendar, culminating with Easter this Sunday.
“Holy Week is what we wait for all year long,” Landry said. “This is the start of our faith and for this to happen this week is really sad.”
Neither Bishop Richard Malone nor the officials with the attorney general’s office have commented on specifics of the allegations.
“In order for the investigation to proceed unimpeded Father Nadeau has taken a voluntary leave of absence,” Malone said in a press release issued Tuesday. “The Diocese is cooperating fully with the Attorney General’s Office.”
“As in any investigation, it’s important to respect the presumption of innocence,” Brenda Kielty, spokeswoman for the Maine attorney general’s office, said in the same release. “It is also important not to jump to conclusions about the nature of the allegations.
When reached Wednesday, Kielty said her office does not comment on investigations.
Malone already was scheduled to celebrate the Mass of the Oils on Wednesday night and will keep to that schedule.
In the absence of Nadeau, the diocese plans to assign a priest temporarily to the parish to meet the spiritual needs of its members.
St. John Vianney Parish comprises St. Louis Catholic Church in Fort Kent, St. Mary Catholic Church in Eagle Lake, St. Charles Catholic Church in St. Francis and St. Joseph Catholic Church in Soldier Pond.
“The temporary priest will serve all those churches,” Sue Bernard, spokeswoman for the diocese, said on Wednesday. She did not know exactly when a temporary priest would be selected or how long he would be needed.
“We have no idea how long that will be, but he will be on assignment for as long as needed,” Bernard said.
Parish staff and members of the St. John Vianney Parish Council would not comment on the allegations Wednesday, and office workers at the rectory were unsure where Nadeau was on Wednesday.
“We all love him,” Doris Daigle, longtime parish community member, said Wednesday afternoon at a local restaurant. “He has done so much for this parish.”
Daigle worked for Nadeau in 1987 when he was a vicar assigned to Fort Kent.
“He was wonderful to work for and was very good to me,” Daigle said. “With these allegations it is important as Christians we not judge.”
Her friend Joan Dow, who works at Mercy Home, an Eagle Lake care facility, said the entire town of Eagle Lake is behind their priest.
“I was blown away by all this when I heard about it,” said Helen Nadeau of Fort Kent. “It has got to be a mistake.”
All three women agreed Nadeau’s main concern was for his parishioners, a feeling echoed by Landry.
“I was chair of the [parish] council during the big flood of 2008,” Landry said. “All he wanted during that time was to make sure his flock was OK.”
A newly renovated St. Louis Church received major damage in May 2008 when the St. John and Fish rivers overran their banks in one of the worst floods in Fort Kent’s history.
“He was more about ‘what can I do’ than ‘what can be done for the church building,’” Landry said. “He is simply a wonderful human being for all ages — he reaches to the young, to the old and to the medium.”
As a show of support, parishioners scheduled a special saying of the rosary Wednesday afternoon at the St. Louis Catholic Church in Fort Kent.
The impromptu rosary was just one indication of the community’s faith in their priest, Daigle said.
“My grandchildren came up from downstate to get baptized by Father [Nadeau],” she said. “That should really tell you something.”
Bangor Daily News