Missing the Northeast: Another look at the Archdiocese

This month’s a column is going to be a bit different than usual. Instead of discussing something I miss about the Northeast, I thought a long time and decided I wanted to write a little bit about an issue – one that has reared its ugly head again once more in the Northeast, as well as the entirety of the Archdiocese – affecting the area and discuss something that I miss that comes as a result of this issue.

Now I’ve never liked discussing issues, and I absolutely despise taking stances on topics. Therefore, I won’t get into any opinions on the topic or what sort of actions should be taken. I simply choose to look at this through the lens of this column, and I hope you all keep that in my mind before you rush to the comments section at the bottom of this page.

The simplest way to begin is to say that I miss innocence, the innocence that comes with being young and simply enjoying life and being a kid.

When you’re young, you enjoy learning and accept the words and information coming from those people who are identified for you at an early age as being your authority figures: your parents, teachers and religious authorities, such as priests.

I remember being in high school when the first wave of accusations occurred regarding priests within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and sexual abuse.

Realizing What That Meant

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t like to discuss polarizing, emotionally-charged issues, let alone think too hard about them. Therefore, when stories first started coming out about indiscretions both within the archdiocese and across the country, I didn’t think much of it.

I guess one of the main reasons behind that was that I saw it more of an isolated problem, not something that was even remotely common.

Some of the news that hit home a little more – such as my former pastor Msgr. John Gillespie, who retired the year I graduated from Our Lady of Calvary, being accused of and then admitting to sexual abuse – didn’t come out until I was in college when I was much less involved in the parish.

In the time since the first big wave of accusations throughout the country, more information has come out against priests who had been affiliated with Our Lady of Calvary for at least a portion of their ministries, including the priest (now apparently laicized, according to the archdiocese’s website) who actually trained me and about 50 other kids my age how to be altar servers.

Still, it didn’t affect me or anybody I knew, so it wasn’t something I spent a lot of time talking or thinking about. And it’s not that I didn’t care or ignored that it was an issue. It was just something I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about.

However, when news came out once more regarding additional accusations against the archdiocese and the 21 suspensions that followed, something just seemed different.

Included in that list was a priest who had been part of Our Lady of Calvary parish a few years ago, a person I didn’t know at all but whom my whole family seemed to like a lot.

Maybe it’s just the result of getting a little older and getting to the point of potentially having a family, but for the first time, I just had this feeling of hurt inside.

So, What Do I Miss?

Now we know it is something that has happened, that should never have happened and that will hopefully be prevented from happening ever again.

Knowledge is a necessary evil, as are the powers to reason and decide for ourselves what to believe. I say “evil” because this knowledge, which I know is important to have, tears apart every bit of reality a person has constructed for him or her at a young age by parents and other authority figures.

So what do I mean by saying that I miss the innocence of youth? I miss the possibility that these things could never happen, the possibility that what we learned as kids in the Northeast will never be nullified, or curtailed by doubt, by such negative circumstances.

These are events and situations that can force otherwise passionate people from things or beliefs about which they might have once cared.

I hope that we get to a point – and soon – when all preventive measures have been taken and such abuses never occur again. That way, the possibility I mentioned can truly be the reality it’s meant to be.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal