Saturday, December 24, 2011

The yoke of his burden

For the yoke of his burden and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, thou hast broken as on the day of Midian.

-Isaiah 9: 4 (From the First Reading for Midnight Mass, OF)

A priest friend emails his news. After months of being unable to celebrate the sacraments publically, he has been given a clean bill of health by his diocesan safeguarding committee after an investigation into (what turned out to be malicious) allegations about 'inappropriate behaviour' with a junior cleric.

When the allegation first came out, a friend who had been taught by said priest 30 years ago texted:

"If the allegation is the usual one levelled against the clergy, it is the most disgusting fabrication I have ever heard"

Thus it proved to be.

So he is cleared, but shunned by some former colleagues and facing an uncertain future in his 70s. Having travelled across Europe with him when I was a student, I could have told them he was a most unlikely candidate to lead young men astray. But such is the tenor of the times that such allegations are not merely taken seriously (when they are, as in this case, laughable) but that the presumption of innocence is turned upside down and an innocent (if naive) priest is cast out and tainted.

Why does the Church get it so hopelessly wrong at times? In the midst of the sexual chaos of the 60s/70s, known predatory paedophiles were shuffled around, allowing them to wreak havoc and molest children in pastures new. Now a ludicrous allegation is taken seriously and an investigation which could have taken minutes to sort out using common sense and a few deftly asked questions becomes dragged out over months by a bunch of curial bureaucrats.

My friend has borne his ordeal with admirable good humour, knowing the accusations to be untrue. But it has been mortifying to see his reputation and good name dragged through the mud.

Please pray for him.


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