From the Pastor’s Mother: A Mother's Point of View
Today I let my mother tell a story about priests, a bishop and a Cardinal the family encountered when my brother, sisters and I were young and new to Florida.
Our family consisted of Mom, Dad, and 4 children. In 1974 we moved to Florida to follow our dream of getting out of the cold Michigan weather. We rented a home, enrolled the kids in school, and found the nearest Catholic Church. I volunteered for CCD and was asked to teach the Confirmation class. Within 3 weeks after starting the pastor asked me to lie to the parents and students about how and why the requirements and costs of the program suddenly changed. I was shocked. A priest had never asked me to lie. I told him that he could have his books back and find someone who was willing to lie for him. We continued going to Mass there and were encouraged to attend the parish New Year’s dance. At the party, the pastor came with his girlfriend. It was very obvious there was more going on than friendship. I was very upset and ready to cry so we left the party completely devastated. We soon purchased a home in a neighboring county about 60 miles away. I felt relieved that I would not have to tell my kids that I quit being a CCD teacher and changed parishes because the priest was immoral. How do you explain that to young children? My oldest at the time was 12.
Our new home in the country was in Baptist country. We had to pass through 3 small towns to get to the closest Catholic Church. This pastor had a strange personality but at that time we did not think much of it. A couple of years later, however, an alcoholic priest was sent to us. He would get so drunk that he could hardly walk and the high school boys who he was supposed to teach had to carry him home during or after class. Our pastor would not listen when the boys and their parents complained. No one could get through. I had knots in my stomach much of the time worrying about my children seeing this behavior. However, that was the least of my worries.
Soon we were sent a known pedophile priest, Fr. English, from the northeast. He was not supposed to have contact with children. However, he was given the children's Mass. Each week he had the young kids come up around a small, portable, coffee table-type altar to give them a homily. Horror of horrors he seated the youngest near him and the older kids sat behind. He had roving hands. He did not even try to be discrete. They were placed inappropriately under skirts and on boys’ legs. I told our children to never go anywhere or be alone with Fr. English and never let their friends, either. Many of us told our pastor who would do nothing about it. In fact, he joked about us being over protective. Next we wrote letters to the Bishop who ignored them. Our Bishop was in Orlando and we eventually got an appointment with him. Because I was working I was unable to attend that meeting. The parents who did were dismissed as imagining things. Anger and frustration is not strong enough to explain how I, as a mother, felt. There were many nights I cried thinking about how to protect the children.
One of our parishioners was the retired Headmistress of an exclusive all-girls school and a personal friend of Cardinal Cooke. One evening she called me and told me to pray for her she was flying to New York in the morning to see the Cardinal and would fly home that evening. This woman was fighting cancer but took the time and effort to fly both ways the same day to, as she said, “make things right”. Late the next evening I got a call from her that the Cardinal would “take care of it.” He sure did (insert eye roll). Within a week Fr. English was transferred to another parish in Orlando. There were many tears that day. This well-respected cardinal was throwing other children under the bus rather than do the right thing. Sounds familiar to what we are hearing now. Pennsylvania anyone?
It has been many years since the 70's and I do not remember our pastor’s full name, the name of the alcoholic priest, or that of our Bishop. However, I will never forget Fr. English, the pedophile priest. I will never forget how it feels to tell my children that they must always avoid a particular priest and never trust him. Fortunately, my children were never molested. They listened to what I said and never were alone with him. When I think about it, it still turns my stomach and makes me angry. I still cry about it. But what must it be like for a mother whose child or children were molested? If it affects me what must it do to them? How could a Priest, a Bishop and a Cardinal let a priest harm little children and not have him arrested? They were all told but nothing was done to prevent it.
Pray people. Pray. PRAY!!! I'm crying as I write this. Cry with me. Pray with our Spiritual Mothers for Priests during Adoration on Wednesdays. Save our little ones as we offer our tears to Mary in reparation for the times we were too busy to pray. Support the good priests and Bishops. Encourage them to continue the good fight. St. Michael defend us.