I escaped the predators. Others may not have.
The sports I played as a kid, mainly baseball and hockey, didn’t lend themselves to closed-door conferences with coaches. And dads were ever-present.
I gave Boy Scouts a try, but our leaders were idiots and I quit.
Most important, I wasn’t an altar- or choir-boy. Unitarians didn’t qualify.
But I wasn’t completely oblivious. In our neighborhood-kids’ grapevine, vague allusions to priests and the boys who served them occasionally circulated. We laughed unknowingly knowingly.
There were also rumors about what might happen if you rubbed a certain organ in a certain way. But that was premature. The possibility that, God forbid, someone else might help with the rubbing, or that you might help someone else, didn’t arise.
Whatever dark secrets were floating about, I was too busy to care. There was too much else to do. The neighborhood was filled with kids and we lived outdoors, in the cornfields across the street, in the creek up the street, in the swamp near the creek, in the woods up the hill, in the abandoned quarry at the top of the hill.
Some of us were Catholic, some were not. We all knew who was what. It didn’t make any difference when we were bashing through our pagan Eden, with its occasional perils (especially the quarry walls), but, at least, no predators.
It wouldn’t have occurred to us that some of our mates might be safer there than a mile away, at St. James, in God’s anointed sanctuary, in the hands of the priests.
This isn’t an attack on St. James. I have no idea if anything bad happened there. It’s not a call to substitute organized religion with some kind of youthful paganism (keep Lord of the Flies in mind).
And it’s not an attack on the Catholic Church. It’s simply an appeal to human decency and common sense.
The Church is as capable of good as it is of evil. It has the history and the horsepower to make a difference in human lives. It also, now, has a Pope who seems genuinely to care as much about people’s physical and psychic needs as their spiritual well-being.
Please, Francis, be sensible. Open the priesthood to married men and to women! The notion of a celibate priesthood is a sick joke. In a battle between Sex and God, Sex will usually win.
The change wouldn’t guarantee an end to scandals, but at least it might warn aspirants that the church is not their personal pick-up bar, and allow a growing number of priests to satisfy their urges within the bounds of church doctrine, the law, and sensible morality.
Perhaps, then, the Church might, with an easy conscience, allow its priests to lead its children among the fields, the swamps, the woods, and the hills where godliness also lives.