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May 9, 2014

848 De-frocked

Roy Meachum

This week the Roman Catholic Church released figures showing that 848 priests and nuns have been de-frocked; some 2,572 had lesser penalties. The church didn’t announce what happened to the several thousand whom the Vatican punished. The faithful may need the answer.


Some readers remember that I am a product of seven years of Catholic boarding school; in the process of becoming educated I also swore allegiance to Rome. Three times in my long life I was baptized. In the evangelical Christian church, and the last time I became an Episcopalian, where I settled. The number could not be misconstrued. In between I counted myself a member of the Roman Catholic Church. (You should not be confused by the number of medals around my neck; this is a cultural statement, not spiritual. Being a former citizen of New Orleans, I’m entitled.)


A Holy Cross brother became a fixed idea (idea fixe) because of his swishy ways and broad gestures: Nobody messed with me when I was growing up. Around the campus, Brother Salvatore was a bit of legend. No student would willingly get alone with him. After the junior dormitory, I was assigned to Brother Gregory and St. Benedict’s Hall; he came from the West Coast and was renowned because of his flying fists. Still rumors passed through the halls.


As a Washington Post reporter, I could not get closer; I lived in Georgetown, the capital of the gays at the time. My fellow tenants were homosexual; the real estate agent who showed the apartment hinted broadly that I was never to entertain ladies. But I lived in the neighborhood to go to college.


Under Pope John Paul II, I first heard of homosexuals; this is unfair because it fixes a name to this era. But there was unreality about the time. We heard rumors about what male clerics did to boys – and nuns to girls – never dignified by mention in the media. Understand I was a Catholic in that period.


Boston was exalted by Richard Cardinal Cushing’s presence in the early days of the scandal. He was followed by Bernard Cardinal Law, who bore the brunt of sex stories, proven that priests enticed boy into criminal behavior – as nuns did young women and girls in their charge. The extent of the cardinal’s actions was to conceal such priestly conduct.


There followed a media circus.


Reporters who had been suspicious all the time waded into the scandal; headlines became characteristic all the way in. There was a tendency to treat similarity all the priests ordained fathers, brothers and nuns.


Now comes the confirmation: 848 defrocked and 2,517 subjected to other penalties, less than having their Roman collars officially removed. Cries come for clergy along the Greek example; once married a priest cannot hope to become a bishop.


Of course, there is lack of religion, which may figure into the resolution.


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