Sunday, August 19
By Father Tom Hurley
I woke up to see him crying as he sat at the foot of my bed. Unfortunately, it is one of the worst memories that I’ll hold onto for the rest of my life.
The morning of May 26, 1985 feels like yesterday. It was a Monday that year which also happened to be Memorial Day. Besides getting up to study for my high school final exams, there was really no other reason for me to get out of bed any earlier that day. But somewhere around 6:00 a.m., as I was still in deep sleep, I could feel someone coming into my room and sitting on my bed near my feet. As I opened my eyes and tried to gain some kind of consciousness, the only person I could see was my dad sitting on my bed in his pajama pants and t-shirt, his head hanging low. As I sat up in the bed and asked him “what’s up Dad?” he lunged toward me and he began to cry. “It happened again. It happened again” he kept saying through his tears. I said, “what do you mean? What’s happening?” “Scott drowned in the lake,” he said. He went on to explain that he was notified sometime during the early morning hours when everyone else was still asleep that a boating accident on Lake Michigan the night before had left my brother Scott missing in the water. He was 26. I was speechless. The only thing going through my head was “oh my God, how could this happen to us again?” Again. Only two years prior we mourned the sudden tragic death of my sister who was only 23. I have relived that awful moment in my head over and over again.
That same awful feeling pierced my heart this past week when the Pennsylvania Grand Jury released its 900+ page report on the sexual abuse crisis amidst the Catholic dioceses in their state. Over 300 priests and more than 1,000 victims spanning a 70 year period of evil. Like many of you, I am sickened and heartbroken by the revelation of such darkness that has blanketed the life of the Church. When I saw so many of the reports flooding Twitter on Tuesday, I couldn’t help but feel the same way I did on May 26, 1985: it happened again. Here we go again. When will this ever stop? I am speechless at the extent of the shame and destruction that members of the clergy, priests and bishops alike, have brought upon countless victims. How could this happen? And how could this go on for so long? How many lives have been permanently wounded by such sickness?
In the past days I have heard from many of you regarding your hurt, disgust, bewilderment, and total confusion as again, we face this terrible chapter in our life’s journey as a church. Trust me, I share in your anger and sadness. This is not what I signed up for 25 years ago. I never imagined that I would be writing about such a dark, ugly topic in a church publication 25 years after ordination. Nothing but great parish priests, great women religious, and great Marist Brothers were part of my vocational call to the priesthood. I love being a priest and I love the Church. And yet I find myself again having to apologize on behalf a church that has failed miserably.
We are a Holy people. We are a Life-Giving Church. We are a Church so passionately and deeply committed to the Gospel of Jesus. We do it well. I am proud of Old St. Pat’s and I am so proud of the many, many incredible ways the Church is living out its Gospel driven mission in the world today. I saw it at the Border this summer; I saw it with high school kids in Kentucky a few weeks ago; I see it and you see it too.
Let’s pray and work towards the Healing of the Church. Let’s pray and work towards rebuilding the lives of victims who have been harmed by members representing the church.
For Hope; For Healing; For Peace; For a renewed commitment to Building the Kingdom of God: mercy, love, and charity.
Father Tom Hurley