Priests Most Wanted
At the spring meeting of Touchstone’s editors, James Hitchcock observed that whenever a priest is exposed as a pedophile, no one ever says, “He was distant and formal,” or “He was an old crank.” The priest is always “warm” and “pastoral.” He is often said to be “charismatic” and “caring” and “accessible” and even “exciting.”
A priest I had met around 1971 was arrested for child abuse recently in Westminster, Maryland. His parents had helped me found the Charlottesville, Virginia chapter of Birthright. Brian was in a religious order at the time, but he later switched to the archdiocese of Baltimore. Many people close to him regarded him as otherworldly. I thought he was odd. He once told a story (which he thought funny) of how he had had a home Mass and one of the participants had given the consecrated Host to her dog.
Everybody loved Father Brian. He was a real entertainer, described in a newspaper story as “a charismatic priest and extemporaneous preacher who used unconventional methods to involve his congregation in the Gospel.” He celebrated sunrise Mass on Easter with balloons tied to each pew. He walked newly baptized babies around the church to be applauded. And on more than one occasion, he ended Mass by dancing down the aisle or by playing a kazoo. Even one of his victims admitted, “He has a naturally attractive personality, very outgoing. Everybody loved Father Brian.”
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Leon J. Podles holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia and has worked as a teacher and a federal investigator. He is the author of The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity and the forthcoming License to Sin (both from Spence Publishing). His latest book is Losing the Good Portion: Why Men are Alienated from Christianity (St. Augustine’s Press). Dr. Podles and his wife have six children and live in Naples, Florida. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.
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