Monday, February 18, 2008

Falsely Accused Priests Are Also Victims

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.

1 comment:

jmKelley said...

Dear Friends,

A priest-friend was falsely accused by a lone accuser four years ago, and he was summarily tossed onto the street. The civil case against "Fr. Joe" was dismissed after the accuser bragged to friends that he was just doing it for the money. Despite all this, Fr. Joe has still not received any hearing from the diocese. This is typical of the denial of canonical due process throughout the country.

After decades of enabling and covering-up child abuse, the bishops have now gone to the other extreme. Just one accusation, without any corroborating evidence, is enough to get a priest suspended without pay, and presumed "guilty unless proven innocent." And in many cases, priests are still kept suspended, treated as guilty, even after they've been exonerated by civil and church courts.

I wrote this prayer and am asking friends to join in praying it for all falsely accused.

Thank you for your work for justice,
John M. Kelley

Prayer for Innocent, Falsely Accused Priests
by John M. Kelley

They cried out, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "I find no guilt in him. Take him yourselves and crucify him."
(John 19)

Jesus Christ, Lamb of God,
falsely and maliciously accused by the mob,
have mercy on us.

Jesus Christ, Lamb of God,
handed over to death by cowardly authority,
have mercy on us.

Jesus Christ, Sun of Justice,
vindicated by your Resurrection,
grant us justice.

Father of Truth,
send the light of your Holy Spirit into the darkness of every false accusation and unjust condemnation.

Give strength to the innocent to stand firmly in truth, as you gave to Jesus, in the face of torture and death.

Give courage to church and civil authorities
to grant justice and due process to the innocent, in the face of the mob.

Father of Mercy,
deliver your innocent ones from evil;
grant them speedy justice and vindication,
in the name of Jesus Christ, our Victim and our Savior.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on all
innocent victims: the abused and the falsely accused.