A woman, Mrs. Jane, is suing two priests in our diocese for inattention to an alleged act of abuse. She claims that Fr. Fred touched her daughter inappropriately, and claims Fr. Jack, the pastor, did nothing about it.
Moreover, she says that she now does not feel welcome at that parish, that the priests yelled at her daughter and said she was lying, and that now the girl is withdrawn and uncommunicative.
Jane, Fred, and Jack are not their real names, by the way.
I've been following the case via the newspaper because years ago I worked with Fr. Jack for several years. No wait, it could only have been for a year or so -- it just seemed like several years -- no wait, that would have been a class he taught that we attended that seemed like several years. As I recall, after that class, someone had to clear away the moldy skeletons of those who had died of boredom early on in the talk. But I digress. I was concerned that a priest I had known to be dutiful and honest had gone bad -- Jack had been fairly single-minded about being a priest, and I found/find it hard to believe that he would screw up so mightily as to tolerate abuse in his parish.
When I read the account of the alleged abuse, and found out that the "inappropriate touching" was two touches on a breast during a wrestling "tickling match" between Fr. Fred, a 13-year-old girl, and a 10-year-old girl I threw my newspaper into the air in disgust, picked the paper up, read on to discover that the mother had followed Fr. Jack from one parish to another because she was in love with him, threw the paper into the air again and made a list of Idiots.
1. Fr. Fred, for wrestling with girls. Verboten in the culture in the Exotic East from whence he came, verboten in the seminary, verboten in sunny California. I don't know what the man was thinking; he doesn't have a history of this sort of thing.
2. The Diocese, for not providing its priests with a mandatory checklist of behaviors that are NOT to be embarked upon, including making house calls to the home of any woman who is alone (there are always chaperones available), physical contact beyond a chaste hug, (to include forbidding goosing, pinching, slapping, groping, tickling, biting, snuggling, and lap-sitting) and conversations that amount to saying "Let's screw around" no matter what wording is used.
I have to add here that I did have that kind of little "talk" with the 95 volunteers who worked for me -- they were all fingerprinted and knew that I would see them fry if there was any indication that they had verbally or physically abused any of our students. Even regular hugging was forbidden. And being alone in a room with one student was absolutely, positively not to occur under any condition. Now back to Idiots.
3. Fr. Jack, for not keeping an eye on how often Mrs. Jane was inviting Fr. Fred to dinner or to come visit. And for not taking Fr. Fred aside and explaining to him that Mrs. Jane was a Priest-Stalker* and that he needed to keep his distance from her and her family.
4. Mrs. Jane, for allowing (if not encouraging) her daughters to be so physically intimate with ANY ADULT MALE (shall we say, old enough to sprout whiskers?) as to wrestle with and tickle him! WTF was she thinking??? And she had left the room in which they were indulging in this idiotic frolicking!! IDIOT, IDIOT, IDIOT!
Or wait -- was she indeed an idiot, or is something else going on here? It seems that Mrs. Jane had become acquainted with Fr. Jack at a different parish; close to him, she relied on him as she fled an "abusive" marriage, and wanted him to be a "Father Figure" to her family. When Fr. Jack moved on to become pastor of a parish some distance away, she followed him, sat in the front pew at Mass the better to gaze at him, and even wrote him a letter divulging her love for him. "I am in love with you" the letter was quoted as saying.
I wonder if it was at that point that Fr. Jack told her to please leave him alone, or if he had already figured out that his latest lady fan was a Priest-Stalker* and tried to extricate himself from the equation. Allegedly he told her that he was not interested in a romantic relationship, and allegedly later he asked her to please worship at a different parish. His parish staff knew that she was overly interested and tried to discourage her from pestering Fr. Jack. Was it then that she increased her attention to Fr. Fred?
*Priest-Stalker : woman who has a "thing" for priests, whether it is because of their status, because they are "safe" playthings due to their celibacy, or because they represent a "forbidden fruit" that is exciting to romanticize. These women will volunteer for any activity that might get them the attention of the priest. From pressing their bosom against the priest's arm to preying on a priest's loneliness, they'll do just about anything to get "Father" to notice and cater to them. Working full-time for a large parish for six years, I saw them all the time. They could be young or old, married or not. But give them a chance to be with a priest and in seconds, figuratively speaking, someone needed to pry them off the priest's leg and whack them with the newspaper, saying, "Bad dog! Baaad dog! Stop that!"
One of the worst ones I ever saw came to the parish, immediately started scheduling "counselling" appointments with the (young, nice looking) priests, joined the choir, the sunday school teachers, the youth group, the liturgy committee, the club that was a support group for the priests' religious order (which I will also decline to name), summer Bible school, and took over decorating the church (when everyone fled from her incredibly obnoxious presence.) I felt that she was a nutcase from the get-go, and it surprised me to see the busy priests (we had a congregation of about 15,000) make endless time for her "appointments" and tolerate her inappropriate familiarity. Once she scheduled herself to make a week-long retreat at the religious order's house in the Bay Area because a certain new priest was supposedly ensconcing himself there for his vacation. After bragging that they had allowed her to go on Retreat there for weeks, when it turned out that the young priest had fled for some other venue (he was no idiot, that one) she abandoned her retreat mid-week and came back to the parish looking for him.
She could easily be a Mrs. Jane.
So anyway, I was a staff memeber and worked with Fr. Jack when that Priest-Stalker was in the parish, and she was on him like a leech practically from the day he arrived. Fr. Jack is not a bad-looking man, and she was hot for him, calling him by his first name without the title (which he dislikes, ordinarily) and signing up for all the programs he initiated. His response was not to discourage her, but to use her fervor to get things done. He openly disapproved of paid staff and felt that volunteers could handle all the parish activities. His personal stalker did get a lot of stuff done, I'll agree with that. But at what price? Well, he didn't have to find out. He put in for a transfer to a different parish, so he never had to deal with the Stalker's nuttery after that. In fact, he transferred to Mrs. Jane's parish, where I have no doubt in my mind that he did the same thing. Her inappropriate attention was used to get things done, I'd bet any money, and he didn't bother himself with what could happen.
Now he knows. Idiot.
I could have told him all this almost 10 years ago, but he was firmly, arrogantly self-assured that the laity are dummies compared to priests, and that he himself needs no assistance or instruction.
I'm sorry that this is happening in his parish, but frankly, I think he and this diocese have just asked for it.