Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Hard Week for the Church

It has certainly been a tough week to be a Catholic in East Tennessee. The news that a man named Warren Tucker had been abused by a priest of the Diocese of Knoxville was hard to take-let alone that we know the charges are true because the culprit admitted to the abominable deed.

What was worst of all for a great many of us is that so many of us knew the guilty priest.

Knoxville Bishop Richard Stika addresses the faithful about the scandal of abuse in the wake of revelations that Father Bill Casey sexually abused a child in the 1970's.

Father Bill Casey has routinely filled in at my parish, St. Patrick in Morristown, and everyone loved Father Casey. As often seems to be the case, no one would have ever pegged the very kindly Father Casey as an abuser. I believe that Father Casey's statement that he is truly sorry for what he has done must have merit to it, because he admitted to the truth of the allegations as soon as he was confronted with them. Knowing Casey's personal sorrow, however, does not make up for the reality that he has done irreparable harm to the victim, Mr. Tucker, and has caused scandal to those of us who have been positively impacted in any way by his ministry over the years. I can't even begin to describe the shock that I felt when I first heard the news about what Father Casey had done many years ago.

The worst harm of all, however, may come to the Catholic Church in East Tennessee. We've already witnessed a case of anti-Catholic bigotry of the most vile sort in Pigion Forge last month. When news of a terrible scandal like this comes, the bigots feel free to crawl out of the woodwork for more public Catholic-bashing festivals. Oh, the Church will survive all of this, and emerge even stronger from it, but now the truly faithful must endure a trial by fire forged by sins which they themselves did not commit.

Rather like Christ did, really.

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