Priests, Pedophiles and the Past Part 2
Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was in grade school one of the 50 plus students in my class was Judy. Judy liked basketball. My only other memory of Judy was one day in 7th or 8th grade we had to carry boxes of clothes down a stairwell, across a hall and into the cafeteria. While carrying my box another box fell from above just in front of me. Even as a stupid kid I knew that one more step forward and I would have been dead. I looked up to see a terrified face of Judy leaning over the landing.
I did nothing and she quickly ran away. I thought I was fine so why moan? Why get Judy in trouble with sister when all ended well. She didn’t know me enough to want to hurt me, nor I her. It reminded me of years later being in grocery store with my baby son. Men were doing work on ceiling and a lead pipe fell, landing on the handle of the grocery cart and wrapping around it. I was alongside picking something off the shelf and my baby was leaning back with his hands not on the handle. We were both fine.
In seconds management and construction lads surrounded me. I insisted we were fine, so why moan about our good outcome? They were just so happy to not fear a lawsuit.
Judy and I graduated eighth grade and I never see her again. While I was in college she worked as waitress at night in a Dunkin’ Donuts. Her last customer one night was a cop that later found her at sunrise after she got off work having wrapped her car around a tree. Worse part was from the time of the accident and hours later when the cop found her, she was still alive. I can only hope she was unconscious.
My Mom went to the funeral and told me Judy’s father made quite a scene at the mass not wanting to let go of the most expensive casket my mother ever saw.
The pal that called and placed together the notion of abuse and my pal’s, Bernie’s, death told how she remembered the parish priest, Fr. Mahoney/My Money, abusing Judy at one of her parent’s parties. That Judy and she spent their time under a pool table with pool cues to protect themselves. Like with Bernie’s funeral, the pal was not pleased Fr. My Money officiated Judy’s funeral too.
That made me realize a queer thing. When I don’t think about Bernie’s anniversary, I’ll have a horrible nightmare on the 11th of February that I wake up on the 12th and realize the date and why. Sometimes, during these nightmares, Judy makes a cameo appearance of that terrified image of her looking over the stairwell. Her appearance in the nightmare never made sense to me since we weren’t pals. Maybe Fr. Mahoney and her long ago fear of him was the tie-in.
Now, as I thought about all this while getting dressed for a tour that morning who I got irritated with was, of all people, my parents. My parents were not naïve. My father was born on the kitchen table of a 5 story walk up in Harlem. Raised there he served in World War 2.
My mother went to college and lived in Manhattan for years. She often told me of her frustration being in rural Pennsylvania with other Moms that married right out of high school feeling they weren’t as mature as she, and they probably weren’t.
However, despite knowing how the world worked how could they leave we six kids with folks that they must have suspected were, at best, a bit “off”. My mother knew of a lad in my brother’s class the nun/principal beat. When she told me this story decades later she admitted to doing nothing which made me think it was a long story where she came out looking bad.
My brother remembers her saying she told Fr. My Money who did nothing. My thinking is why didn’t she tell the police, or the newspapers? You knew a bat shit crazy woman was beating a child. How could you not? How could you leave your son in the same class?
And that was the source of my frustration on this very morning decades after their deaths. Perhaps, back in the 1970s and 80s, my parents were busy just surviving. Perhaps Mom knew the cops were likely in on the abuse and as a woman of the time frame she had zero power. Perhaps she just didn’t want to face reality. Regardless, there is no point in lingering on those issues.
I am surprised my parents didn’t simply transfer us to another school. Or not let us alone with clergy that were questionable time and time again. That I don’t get and probably is why I was too over-protective with my own kids. I always spent time, daily, at their schools. Not just picking them up or off, but chatting up their pals and teachers every day. If they went off track, or some adult did, I would know. In retrospect it perpetuated their adolescence leading to other Peter Pan type issues, but, at least, they weren’t molested.
And, luckily, neither was I. And, of course, I’ll let my negative thoughts go as my parents were good to me and aren’t I, once again, lucky with the outcome?
I just never thought a few days ago when I heard the news in Pennsylvania about priests being known pedophiles for over half a century it was anything but local news. Now Mexican bishops have weighed in on the situation blaming the kids (gross) and the Pope has been for his position, somewhat brave, tying the notion, for the first time ever, that abuse is criminal act rather than a forgivable omission.