Monday, July 18, 2005

Another Heartbreaker

Thanks to Ichiban Jim at the San Fran desk for this piece from the Scotsman about a priest of SA-E who was himself abused and is taking a leave in Ireland.

As he was preparing to release The Pyjama Parade, the story of how his childhood priest would cane him, Steve Gilhooley found out that Rome wasn't happy....
There are few so self-righteous as the religiously self-righteous [Diogenes]. Or so vicious [Diogenes, again]. While Gilhooley's family and most of his parishioners offered support, there was a vocal section of the Church and its hierarchy that called him a liar and attacked him for disloyalty. Gilhooley believed honesty would cleanse Catholicism of the canker that had poisoned the Church for many years....

When Gilhooley's book was imminent, O'Brien received a letter from the Vatican's Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos. It seemed to Gilhooley that Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos was only concerned about the image of the Church, not the plight of the victim. "He said, 'Shut him up, what disciplinary action are you taking, get him out of the newspapers' - all that stuff," says Gilhooley.

O'Brien, then an archbishop, wrote back. Castrillón Hoyos seemed to misunderstand; Father Gilhooley was the victim, not the perpetrator. A few weeks later, Castrillón Hoyos wrote again. "I am paraphrasing," says Gilhooley, "but basically he said, 'We have every sympathy for Father Steve and the ordeal he has gone through, please pass on our support.' Next paragraph... 'Now, get him out of the papers, stop the publication of his book, and shut him up.' It was awful."

Castrillion, observant readers will remember, chalked the scandals up to "Western pansexualism and libertinism" when presenting John Paul II's 2002 Holy Thursday Letter to Priests. Then the hissyfit got worse and he memorably snapped that, "It's an X-ray of the problem that all the questions about it are in English." It's obvious Castrillion and Rick Santorum are in competition for who can come up with the most self-serving excuse for clergy sex abuse that does not involve blaming sick clergy or moron bishops.

One of Gilhooley's staunchest supporters is Cardinal Keith O'Brien of St Andrews and Edinburgh, who the sash fringe hates because he's smart:

Gilhooley's friendship with Scotland's most senior Catholic clergyman has intrigued many. Why has O'Brien been so steadfastly loyal to the Church's black sheep? Gilhooley hesitates before telling how their friendship began. He was a young priest, being driven home by the Archbishop after a mass. O'Brien told Gilhooley he was often accused of being too churchy, and that he had really tried with his sermon that night. What did Gilhooley think? "I told him I thought his sermon was crap," recalls Gilhooley. "Those were my exact words."

There was silence in the car. "Then he burst out laughing. He roared with laughter, to the extent the car began to shake, and from that moment on he always trusted that if he asked me something I would tell the truth. We got on like a house on fire. He was so good and kind to me. If I have any regrets, one has to be if I hurt him by leaving."

And, lastly, Father Steve has an authentic pro-life message for us all:

Gilhooley's honesty became infamous. He gave a sermon once about El Salvador. He had a friend working out there, and on his church wall he had a picture of some Jesuit priests who had been murdered along with their housekeeper and her child. They had all been dragged outside and gunmen had cracked their skulls open, mashing their brains with rifle butts. "What the gunmen were saying was, 'Here are your intellectuals. If you are going to become aware, if you are going to fight oppression, this is what will happen to you.'"

Gilhooley spoke passionately in the pulpit. "I said to them, '70,000 people have been butchered and none of you gave a shit.'" Silence. A priest had sworn in the pulpit. "And the reason I know none of you gave a shit," he continued, "was because none of you fell off your seat when I said '70,000 had been butchered', but nearly all of you fell off your seats when I said 'shit'."

Now this is my kind of priest.



Blogger Matthew Lickona said...

Of course, Father Steve has no idea if any of them give a shit. The tactic was right there at high-school debate level - shock 'em with dirty words! Oooh, snap! Then come back and accuse them of not caring for their fellow man!
Picture it - you're watching the news. You hear about the horrors in Darfur or some other part of the world. You care. You may even intend to send money for aid right after the broadcast. But you don't slide off your couch. The news, however horrifying, is not shocking. Atrocities, tragically, are nothing new. But then Peter Jennings quips, "and none of you give a shit" at the end of his report. That's shocking, because it's never happened before. It's shocking, because it's unprofessional and inappropriate. And in Father Steve's case, it's beneath the dignity of the pulpit. I don't need plaster priests, but a priest who will conduct himself decently in the presence of Our Lord in the tabernacle? Sure.
Finally, the character of his attack on his parishoners is childishly sneaky - the "evidence" he sought could only be gathered after he made the charge. Gotcha! Thing is, he knew he'd get a reaction by swearing from the pulpit. And he knew he'd be able to skew it to support his accusation. Some pastor. Not my kind of priest. And it seems to me that he shouldn't be yours, either. If you don't go in for frills and displays of worldly glory on the altar, then neither should you go in for frilly arguments that rely on the worst sort of worldly cleverness.

18/7/05 11:28  
Blogger Tom said...

I first heard report of the old "and none of you give a shit" chestnut more than twenty-five years ago, as spoken by a visiting minister from the pulpit of a Presbyterian church in suburban Philadelphia. (Except it was starving children, not butchered Salvadorans.)

If it saves any children or Salvadorans, I don't mind the offense to the dignity of the pulpit.

I doubt it saves many.

19/7/05 10:26  

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