I was around priests as a boy… guess what happened? (Opinion)
In the wake of the Newark Diocese releasing a list of all of the 189 clergy that have been credibly accused since the 1940s, I want to tell my story. I believe my story is typical of boys that served as altar boys and attended Catholic school in the 1960s and '70s. Nothing even close to the horror stories we've been hearing in the last 20 years ever happened to me or any of our friends. Nothing. The men we knew as priests were stern, sometimes jovial, sometimes distant and always pious.
This is not to diminish in any way the horrible things that happened to many young people throughout the years and around the world. Our hearts go out to them and we wish them peace and healing. One can't imagine the nightmare of having a trusted member of your world violate you in such a way. The church is trying to make whole those people who were affected, as they should have done years ago. And those that covered up for them should live with the shame and disgust they so heartily deserve.
I do know someone that I met later in life that claimed to have been violated by a priest, not in this state, but the effects were long lasting and deeply damaging. But it's important to let the world also know that there were and are many wonderful men who dedicated their lives to the church as priests or beacons. These men provided spiritual guidance and great example to many of us in the Catholic faith as children and adults. Their life's work and reputation has been tainted and damaged forever, even though their behavior was exemplary and honorable. For those of you that only hear about Catholic priests in the context of these horrible stories of abuse, just know that the majority of these men were good.
Their stories never make the news. But for the countless millions who they've comforted, counseled and taught, their stories are admirable. Whatever you may think of the Catholic church and it's ways, especially celibacy, know that many men were strong, honorable and decent people who wouldn't think of hurting a soul. While we all feel the anger, disgust and shame of what some priests have done, and there is absolutely no excuse, know that there were many who did good. The good deeds that don't make the news and quietly go unnoticed, as they would prefer. My heart and my prayers are with them today too.
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