THE REPORT: The Cardinal's Role
Cardinal Krol will be dead a decade in March, so there's not really much that I can say that conflicts with the report, aside from the fact that he should've known better. As for Cardinal Bevilacqua, without whose example and encouragement I would've never entered the life of the church and kept the faith, I don't know what to say other than the fact that I'm heartbroken and don't know what to think. And, more than anything else, that's what's had me crying through the day because it hits home hard, very hard.
That said, I can recall a moment from a discussion we once had. As a rule, I have never revealed anything from my conversations and correspondence with Cardinal Bevilacqua through the years. But in the light of what's been out there today, simple justice impels me to disclose this.
Two months before my high school graduation, I went up to the office to visit with His Eminence and let him know that I had chosen to attend Penn -- ever the teacher and scholar, he was extremely eager to hear of my plans and I had asked for some time together so that I could get his mind on them.
I remember it vidivly: We sat by the window, before which the northern skyline of the city sprawled out as the Vine Street Expressway ran underneath. It was an unusually cold mid-April day (I wore a topcoat to the office), and we spent about 40 minutes talking over various things of interest to us both.
But I can recall one point where, when speaking of the difficulties of ecclesial life, he looked intently at me and asked, with palpable concern -- for me -- "Rocco, has anyone ever hurt you? Has a priest ever hurt you?"
After nine years of his presence in my life, I could tell that he wanted to know this as a mentor and friend, and that alone; this was certainly not the institutional lawyer who others have portrayed, he was never that way with me, ever. He also might've wanted to know if a priest's possible actions had anything to do with my decision, after many years of discernment, to not enter the seminary -- a move which, I know, caused him much sadness.
But if the report's implications of concern solely for liability and scandal were true, I would not have been asked this question by the archbishop himself in a personal meeting, with just the two of us in the room. But that's exactly what happened. Say what you will, but I was there and I was the one being asked.
So there'll be a lot of words out there today from various people alleging various things. But, even more than that, I know my own experience before all others, and it counters much of the perceptions alleged in this morning's publication.
Take it for what it's worth, but that experience is worth a lot to me. It may anger or befuddle many, but from what I know, I have no qualms standing firmly and publicly today at Cardinal Bevilacqua's side. As ever, but especially today, he has a high place in my thoughts, my prayers and in my heart.
Again, say what you will -- but I was there.