A priest in New Hampshire resigned from his parish after acknowledging he had a “relationship” with legally minor girl some years ago. That’s the right for him and the diocese to do and his letter explaining the situation was kind of creepy. He said he “loved” the girl, who the diocese would only says was under 18 at the time, and wanted to marry her but couldn’t leave the priesthood. Okay, but the reactions of some parents was a little over the top.
But several parents who came to pick up their children said more. “I would never have expected this. This is the man who baptized my children, did their First Communions,” said one mother of two, who did not want her name used. “This is the man who came to my house when my son was born, and talked about baptism.”
“I’m betrayed and I’m angry,” she said. “I’m trying to teach my kids the difference between right and wrong. Do I really want him to go through with making his First Confession? What does he have to confess at (the age of) 10?”
Uppermost in her mind was a meeting Haller conducted just last weekend for the parents of children who will be receiving the sacrament. “He talked about what is a sin and what isn’t,” she recalled bitterly.
Do people really expect priests to be sinless? Can someone only talk about sin if they themselves are sinless? Just because the priest had sinned—greatly—in the past doesn’t mean he can’t teach the truth now. St. Paul murdered Christians before his conversion! Are we then to discount his epistles?
As for the incredible question “What does he have to confess at (the age of) 10?” , I hope she’s not trying to tell the newspaper’s readers that her son is perfect, that he never lies, throws tantrums, fights with his siblings, etc. Sure, he may not be guilty of mortal sin, but the point of confession at that age is to get into a habit of moral self-examination that leads to seeking reconciliation with God.
The fact is that the woman, along with so many others shocked by the Scandal, is responding based on emotion—mostly anger—and not reasoning or logic. It’s important that we not let our righteous anger overpower our God-given critical thinking and heart of forgiveness and mercy.