February 18, 2008
Susan Frazier- The Cincinnati Enquirer
Many years ago, the brother of a friend of mine was abused by a priest. The psychological wounds he and his family suffered from that violation remain unhealed.
I also have a priest friend who was falsely accused of that abominable act, and who has lived a nightmare as he has defended himself against the abhorrent claim.
Now, finally, after being found without guilt by the archdiocesan tribunal, the criminal court, the civil court (upheld by the appeals court), and ultimately the Vatican, the Rev. Ray Larger is returned to priestly ministry. And thank goodness for that.
Because he was innocent of this charge, I had faith exoneration would come. But while one can be restored to ministry, it's almost impossible to fully restore a good name. Some people will always remember the accusation, and not the exoneration. Nor can restoration erase the dreadful memories, the wounding things said about him, the embarrassment and pain of not exercising his calling, the long fear for his future.
As a priest, he will try to put these things behind him and to forgive those who wronged him. He will try to think forward, not back. While his ministry may never be what it would have been, he will embrace his return to what is possible.
But we should all recognize that a falsely accused priest is a victim, just as one abused by a priest and betrayed by the hierarchy is a victim. Accusing the innocent neither heals nor offsets the pain of those who were abused.
I pray there will be no more victims of abuse. And I pray, too, that no other innocent person will be victimized by those who for reasons of greed, politics, desire for publicity, prejudice, or embittered and blind zeal for a cause, advance and support false accusations.