Reader “Bob” found out that a recently deceased relative was one of the many priests convicted of child molestation in the 1990s.
He writes (emphases mine):
When I grew up, Father Tom was always one of those distant relatives who was mentioned but whom I had never met. I knew he was a priest who lived in some sort of facility — I always thought it was assisted living, since he was elderly.
Father Tom passed away a week or two ago. My cousins and I were somehow discussing this, and it came up that he was a child molester, which I had never known (it wasn’t exactly something the older generation wanted to discuss). All I knew about Father Tom was the little things: He sent Grandma flowers every Christmas and Easter. He was a twin, but his twin had died a while ago. My mother sent him cards, just so he got some mail. He was a “sweet old man.” Occasionally, a family member would go visit him. All in all, Father Tom was treated with respect and love, generally at a distance, of course, because he lived in a facility a few states away.
After finding out about his past (and looking up a few articles online about it), I find myself wondering: This man molested over 20 young boys… Good people do not hurt children like that. But in my Catholic family, apparently, the child molester was a sweet old man.
Would this have been the case if he wasn’t a priest? What if he wasn’t Father Tom but rather Cousin Tom?
I doubt he would have been treated the same way. At the very least, he would probably have served more than five months in jail.
Granted, I think plenty of Catholics would still consider him a bad person for molesting children. But somehow, I can’t help but think my family’s affection for this man is directly related to his priesthood.
There’s a lot of anger directed at pedophile priests (and rightfully so), but would you treat them any differently if they were part of your family and you had a personal, positive history with them?