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February 11, 2005

Sad days

It has been a few sad days in the midst of very busy lenten activities. I heard the news originally from Amy Welborn's judgemental blog and with all her quick to judge commenters. Someone in the midst of it all would actually have a better take on things and even with his past infractions I knew Fr. Mike to be a good and effective priest. I found the best expression of all this from one of the students in the thick of things. I had watched Patrick's blog every day to see what he said, and he said it better than I expected. Indeed, I expected him to be kind and generous and he outdid himself.

I worked with Fr. Mike for two years as I directed the Gregorian Chant Choir at Calvert House. Regardless of what he did 15 years ago, I believe in forgiveness and redemption. I still have the greatest respect for Fr. Mike and for all he accomplished at Calvert House.

From my experience and conversations with Fr. MIke, I found the reports difficult to believe and fathom. He has admitted the infraction and it is a serious one. Perhaps he should never been assigned to Calvert House. Perhaps it is through the providence of God that he was assigned, and like Peter who expressed three times, "Lord, you know that I love you, " Fr. Mike deserves more credit today for the outstanding good he did at Calvert rather than blame for something that was dealt with 15 years ago.

Posted by Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, C.PP.S. at February 11, 2005 7:47 PM

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Father Keyes:

Does the fact that you have judged Amy Welborn's blog as judgmental make you judgmental?

No one is taking issue with God's forgiveness being available to all of us sinners if we repent. No one is beyond the Lord's redeeming reach!

What is at issue, rather, is whether a priest like Father Mike with a history such as his should have been assigned to a formation house of young men. Would it be wise to assign a bank teller who 15 years ago was caught stealing money from the bank in the position of bank general manager? I don't think so.

Posted by: Peter at February 11, 2005 10:35 PM

Umm.. Calvert House isn't a formation house for young men. I don't know what the media is telling you, but I am not a man, nor in formation.

Thank you for your love and prayers, Father. I wish you were here to comfort us and pray with us.

I have been in many meetings with student leaders from Calvert House, and all are echoing what you and Patrick have said. We love Father Mike, we have faith in the power of God's grace in his life, we do not believe that his past actions negate the great good that he did for us. He changed our lives— for the better.

My writing on all this is much more emotional than Patrick's. It has to be— Father Mike baptised me. Stay tuned, though, to the next few posts. This stinks, but God is bringing even greater good out of our suffering.

Posted by: Alice at February 12, 2005 8:08 AM

John 8:1-11
Blood of Jesus, stream of mercy ....

Posted by: Yentl at February 12, 2005 1:11 PM

OK, Alice. So I misspoke. It's a university parish. And Calvert House, by its own admission, is a place of formation for University students, male and female, as well as for others.

On the Calvert House webpage, it states:

"... the mission of Calvert House has remained steadfast centered on the idea of Catholic formation as the key vision of campus ministry. In this regard, we form leaders, not only for the Church, but also for the world."

I also found there the following curious comment:
"Given the diversity of the community, Calvert House is host to all Catholic groups from Opus Dei to Call to Action."

Opus Dei is a bona fide Catholic institution (a personal prelature of the Catholic Church), but Call to Action? Catholic? I think not.

Again, back to the point, without denying that we are all sinners in need of God's mercy and that God withholds His mercy and forgiveness to no one who seeks it, still, how foolhardy to assign a priest with Father Mike's background to a pastoral assignment which is frequented by young college students.

In retrospect, Father Mike himself agrees. He stated, "...accepting the appointment at Calvert House was not a wise decision in view of my past history."

Posted by: Anonymous at February 12, 2005 1:25 PM

This is what "zero tolerance" means.

Maybe it's time to discuss a reintegration policy, as the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has had for about 10 years. This involves a return to a suitably-chosen ministry setting for those who have come to understand the gravity of their actions, accept the magnitude of the hurt they have done and therapy and on-going monitoring and support.

What I can't understand is how someone like Father Mike would seek out and accept an assignment that involves heavy one-on-one contact with college students and the seminarians at CTU. Or maybe, not to put the burden on the individual, what I can't understand is the climate and culture of the US hierarcy, even 15 years ago, that did not make it clear how unwise this was.

Posted by: Maureen Lahiff at February 12, 2005 3:49 PM

(And) be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, as God has forgiven you in Christ.
Ephesians 4:32

Posted by: Yentl at February 13, 2005 4:18 AM

If we're going to look at short quotes from the New Testament for perspective, I suggest we also look at descriptions from the gospels and the letters of Paul and his successors and the ones attributed to other apostles, which have a lot to say about community leadership.

Like the "an episkopos/overseer should be the husband of one wife" or the ones about how the women entrusted with the ministry of diakonia ought to behave.

There's a difference, possibly, on how we look on someone as a member of the community, and who leads us.

Posted by: Maureen Lahiff at February 14, 2005 7:44 AM

Ephesians 4:32 was not extended as a NT academic point of perspective, but rather as an invitation to reflection on Christ's call to compassion, mercy, forgiveness for all who ask, regardless of one's position within the community, then or now.
I gently step away from the contention. Peace.

Posted by: Yentl at February 14, 2005 7:46 PM

Patrick speaks the truth with love at his Orthonormal Basis blog. He knows Calvert House and Father Mike well.

"What he did fifteen years ago does not negate the great good that he did at Calvert House, though it does have consequences. Even though I still feel we students were safe with him, it was bad judgment to have him be chaplain. For one thing, the scandal was almost certain to surface in today's climate, and the revelation has not yet done half the harm it will. I can't help but feel let down by the Cardinal and Father Mike, but I still affirm that he has been a good priest to us."

Posted by: Anonymous at February 15, 2005 7:11 AM

Peace to you, Yentl, and to all

Posted by: penitens at February 16, 2005 5:19 AM

"From my experience and conversations with Fr. Mike, I found the reports difficult to believe and fathom." Statements like that have been echoed many times when priests or other people have been found guilty of abuse. People who abuse are not monsters all of the time. They can be quite nice and can do great things things. It is something of a paradox that I struggle with. I have a hard time understanding how abusive people can be so nice, kind and helpful and do so much good.

Patrick wrote an interesting point. He said Fr. Mike is not a sterotypical abusive priest and not a monster. I bet most of the priests and sexual abusers are not like the stereotypes we have in our head. The Archdiocese of Chicago sends all of us who work with kids to a program about sexual abusers. It emphasizes that they seem normal and so nice. The program shows the small warning signs to spot a possible abuser. If they hadn't told us what to look for these small signs would have passed us by unnoticed.

Posted by: Laura at February 16, 2005 2:48 PM

I just had to comment about the man who discovered that the priest who sexually abused him is with students again. The pain that has been in his life has been immeasurable. While I have heard about forgiveness for Fr. Mike, I have not heard many people saying they would pray for the man who was abused. I am not saying we should not pray for Fr. Mike. I am saying let's not forget the victim.

Posted by: Laura at February 16, 2005 2:59 PM

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