I came across this little story and would like to share it here.
Yes, the topic is clerical abuse in the Church, an ICK topic if there ever was one. Wouldn’t you rather read something bright and springy? Yep, me too, but don’t be put off by the subject matter.
Take a look at Archbishop Timothy Dolan, and what he has to say about a recent airport encounter. It is short – go ahead a grab yourself a cuppa.
See? As my countrymen might say “Amn’t I just after tellin ya?”
Archbishop Dolan presented the facts beautifully, but that is not all that strikes me about his account.
The Archbishop has the reputation for being a amiable fellow, as many Irishmen do. But Irishmen also have the (not undeserved) rep of never turning down a good skirmish when the opportunity presents itself. The first gem here is how we can see the skirmish averted, a contentious moment turned on its tail. The fellow “who was raised Catholic” put up his dukes, right? By the end of the conversation his dukes were down, as was his guard. Don’t you just wonder about his cab ride home? A “PS” to this story, about this guy returning to the Church after this encounter would not surprise me in the least.
That is where I stand in awe and say “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
The other thought I can’t escape is what that conversation cost the Archbishop. The man was shaken to his core. Shaken. On one hand, we as a people can say “Good”. Good that one brief random sentence from a stranger still has the power to affect a man who has risen in the ranks of the Church. The Archbishop has not insulated his heart and soul, and to that we can nod our consent.
But Tim Dolan is still a boy, we know. He’s someone’s boy. He’s someone’s brother. I’ve always thought that there is a cool payoff to our celibate clergy. That is, that the Church is no one’s family business. Every priest and bishop in the Latin Rite comes from a home just like ours. The bricklayer’s son, the doctor’s son, the teacher’s boy from down the street.
We have friends who farm not far from us. They have raised their kids the way we all raise our kids. With enough deliberate intention and plenty of best as we can. Their sweet boy who captained the football team and worked their farm is in the seminary. He is, I’m sure, as mystified by his vocation as is any happy, healthy, fun-loving boy. That this dear child “of ours” would be the target of such ill will pains me as if he was one of my own.
He is inheriting the same backpack that the Archbishop and every priest carries. It is weighted down with past transgressions and future expectations – some realistic, some nonsensical. The grace conferred on ordination is supernatural and extraordinary, to be sure. It better be. They have to deal with the likes of us and that backpack. The one shaped like a cross.
Comments like the one Archbishop Dolan fielded can shake a man to his core. I guess the fact that a man can be shaken by mere words proves something. He’s a man. Someone’s boy, not with a heart of stone, but with a heart of flesh. For every one of us that adds a bit to the weight of that boy’s backpack, I hope there are 10 of us who can do a bit to lighten the weight of that load.