The former pastor of my parish has pleaded guilty to soliciting a minor over the Internet. Actually, the plea was on the charge of the improper use of computer services.
Fr. Fred Guthrie was pastor before I moved to Salem, and I never met him, although I knew him by his lingering effects in the parish. A renovation of the church under his tenure put a huge financial debt on a once thriving parish and stripped the building of almost every sign it is a church. The walls were whitewashed, the statues removed and all that. Likewise, his effects on parishioners were profound too, many of them predisposed to believing the heresies and half-truths that groups like Voice of the Faithful peddle.
Guthrie resigned from ministry in July 2001 for medical reasons. Evidently he had heart problems. In November 2001, he was arrested in New Hampshire at an ice cream stand where he had arranged over the Internet to meet a 15-year-old boy. Except he had been conversing online with a cop instead. D’oh!
The typical NIMBY attitude affects even the most astute parishioners. They can’t believe that Fr. Guthrie could have done such a thing. Phil Moran is a lawyer, a member of the parish, and former head of Mass. Citizens for Life. In the article, he is quoted as speculating that Guthrie pled out because he thought he wouldn’t get a fair trial if the jury knew he is a priest.
“I’m not sure what chance he would have stood before a jury with this hanging over his head,” Moran said. “He, perhaps, chose to do what he thought was in his best interest and the best interest of the church and, perhaps, even his friends to save them from being exposed to any more scandal or embarrassment.”
Or perhaps he recognized that he did what he was charged with and that the evidence was overwhelming and that his only hope for clemency was a guilty plea. Phil seems to hope that Guthrie didn’t do it, but just wants to spare everyone the pain of a trial.
The problem is that Guthrie was caught redhanded. If he didn’t do it, he’d prove it. Claiming otherwise is whistling past the graveyard, hoping that the Scandal hasn’t visited your own backyard.