A local friend and evangelist alerted me to a story in this story in Boston Globe about the reinstatement of a falsely-accused priest.
As longtime readers here know, the 'archdiocese' (- a phony word without any meaning that was cooked up to distance the archbishop from the execution of his own policies -) has done a terrible job managing accusations of priests.
Canon law is written to protect priests from false accusations, requiring the parties to determine an accusation as 'credible' before removing a priest.
Yet, even when accusations are incredible and in fact impossible, priests are burdened with false accusations for over ten years before being 'returned' to active status.
I put 'returned' in quotes because falsely-accused innocent priests are never actually returned to active ministry. The chicanery and dishonesty involved in sidelining exonerated and innocent priests, sickens any just person.
When I first read the story about Fr. Byrne, I was encouraged to read about his reinstatement, but I am not quite sure what to make of it.
The article first says Fr. Byrne has been 'reinstated' and assigned, but then goes on to clarify the 69-year-old priest is assigned to... retirement.
“In reaching this decision, Cardinal Sean O’Malley reaffirmed his care and concern for all persons impacted by the reality of sexual abuse of children,” the archdiocese said in a statement. “The Cardinal and the Archdiocese remain committed to resolving cases of this nature in a manner that is as just as possible for all involved.”
As priests are not allowed to 'retire' until age 75, it's the same old dishonesty, but just the same, I thought, it is an improvement to have the 'reinstatement' published and to clarify that it is the Cardinal's intention to both protect children and protect priests against the injustice of a false accusation. I believe this to be true and publishing Fr. Byrne's exoneration is commendable.
But then, they drop the shoe.
In June 2005, Byrne received five years of probation after pleading guilty to embezzling more than $135,000 from Waltham’s Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted to his personal bank accounts, the Globe previously reported. He had started embezzling the money at least as early as February 1997.
While this priest, who no doubt suffered under the weight of a false accusation, is now cleared of sexual abuse, the embezzlement, one would think, does not qualify him for 'reinstatement'.
Yet - I know plenty of falsely-accused priests who do qualify for reinstatement.
They do not reinstate whom they should and reinstate whom they should not.
Why, why, why... are they so stupid?
It is exasperating.
Could they not have crafted a message announcing Fr. Byrne has been exonerated, cleared and Sacramental restrictions lifted, but due to the nature of his mismanagement of money is currently assigned to sacramental duty to sick in hospitals and nursing homes?
Catholics tend to be suckers. We are always pursuing and believing in redemption. This was part of the reason why pedophiles were sent away to the doctor for therapy and then reinstated.
We want to believe that all you have to do is explain to abusive persons the reasons why what they are doing is wrong and tell them to stop, sent them on a retreat to exorcise their demons - and then reinstate them because all is well.
Why lie to Fr. Byrne?
Why have the reinstated but retired spin leave readers with the impression that they are still incapable of recognizing that one who pleads guilty to embezzlement should not be 'reinstated'?
If it is the public relations/communications team, the record shows they have done a terrible disservice to the Archbishop.
Whether it is stupidity of the people in charge of communicating the message or something more sinister becomes irrelevant after ten years of it.
At the end of the day, even if it is the people surrounding the Archbishop who are the problem, if he does not remove them, it is construed as a passive/aggressive way of imposing disorder with the cowardice of distancing yourself from outcome and responsibility to your victims.
It destroys trust that is irreparable unless and until those responsible are removed.