Holy Cross Church, Back of the Yards, Chicago, Illinois
Some people have more secrets than others. Those who seem to have the most secrets approach me and ask me how I can reveal so much about myself on my blog. Well, I see my blog as a confessional of sorts. This where I purge myself of my past and afterwards feel renewed.
On several occasions, over the past ten years, people have pointed an accusing finger at me and said, “You’re Catholic! What do you think about all the sex scandals in the Catholic church?” Well, the first time, I was caught off-guard by this verbal assault. I didn’t know what to say. I often think about the sex scandals in the church every time I read about them or see them in the news. My whole life has revolved around the Catholic church, either by being an active participant or avoiding it when I didn’t agree with their teachings.
So, I have a confession to make. Despite having spent my whole life actively involved with (or actively avoiding) the church, I have never been sexually molested! And I never witnessed or even suspected anyone of being sexually molested by the Catholic clergy. I don’t deny that the sexual allegations are real. I’m merely saying that I never personally witnessed any or even heard any rumors about any sexual improprieties by the priests or nuns while I was a Catholic student.
At Holy Cross in Back of the Yards where I attended school and church from kindergarten through eighth grade, I was often alone with the Lithuanian priests and nuns. I enjoyed staying after school to help in the classroom with my teachers who were all nuns. I was an altar boy and I was often alone in the sacristy with the priest who said mass. No matter with whom I was, he or she would strike up a conversation and we would talk about school or church. We always had a mutual interest in each other. During my time at Holy Cross, I often thought about becoming a priest because I admired the holiness of the priests and nuns of Holy Cross Church.
After graduating from the eighth grade at Holy Cross School, I began my freshman year at Divine Heart Seminary in Donaldson, Indiana. While visiting DHS in the seventh grade, I was surprised that the seminarians used profanities and were allowed to smoke cigarettes! At Holy Cross these acts were sins and were subject to discipline! After that weekend visit, I decided that I would not attend DHS. However, in the eighth grade, DHS contacted Holy Cross about my attending DHS and Sister Cecilia the principal was so thrilled that I was going to become a priest! So she called my mother with the good news, who was ecstatic that I would become a priest! My pastor also congratulated me on my decision to become a priest when I served mass for him.
No one listened to me when I said that I didn’t want to attend Divine Heart Seminary, nor that I didn’t want to become a priest. But I never said anything bad, or at least what I conceived as “bad,” about the seminary. My fate was sealed. I would attend DHS the following fall. Sister Cecilia announced to my eighth grade class that we were extremely fortunate because we had a vocation in our class. She called my name and I had to stand up at the front of the class so the class could acknowledge me. My life in the eighth grade would never be the same! The girl I had a crush on no longer waited for me after school. When I met up my friends at the park, they would say, “Here comes Father David” and change the subject to something more innocent in the presence of a “priest.”
At DHS, I spent a lot of time alone with priests and brothers. In fact, they were responsible for supervising us. As a teenager, I enjoyed the company of adults who seemed to take a genuine interest in me. We also had to pick a priest for a spiritual adviser. Once a month or so, or more often if necessary, we would meet with our spiritual adviser and discuss our spiritual development. The two of us would be alone in an office for this meeting. Looking back, I suppose this would have been an opportune time for sexual abuse, but nothing of the sort ever happened.
There was another priest that I enjoyed visiting in his office. I spent a lot of time talking to him because I enjoyed talking to him. Once when the Explorers went camping he went with us. He said we could share the same tent. At the campsite, my friends were all having fun in their huge tent, so I said I would set up my sleeping bag with them. The priest I came with said that I had already made a commitment to share a tent with him. I reluctantly put my sleeping bag in his tent. I wasn’t happy about the situation, but I accepted it. That night, I slept with my hand on the handle of my hunting knife. I was angry about having to be in that tent instead of with my friends. Of course, whenever I went camping, I always slept with my hunting knife in my hand. I was a city boy who was dreadfully afraid of the ax murderer!
Years later as an adult, I would look back at this incident and realize that this priest had taught me a valuable lesson about commitment and making promises meant keeping them. In fact, I would often feel guilty that I suspected this priest would do anything to me while we were camping.
Although I didn’t want to attend DHS, I have to admit that I still warmly recall many memories from my seminary days. I left DHS after the Thanksgiving break of my sophomore year. Every time I came home, I would beg my mother not to make me go back. Eventually, after much begging, she agreed to let me stay home.
Now, whenever DHS has a reunion, I always attend. I enjoy meeting my old friends and talking about the good old days. Once I met two of my former classmates for lunch. We were talking about the good times at the seminary. I don’t know why, but I brought up the sex scandals of the Catholic Church and how we had avoided them at DHS. There was an awkward pause. Then, one of my classmates told me how DHS had sexual abuse. They both knew about them. I didn’t ask them how they knew about it. How could I have not known about sexual abuse at DHS? They mentioned two students from our freshman class who didn’t return for their sophomore year. They were molested by the priest with whom I had shared a tent while camping. Then they asked me if I left the seminary because I had been sexually molested at DHS. I was shocked by these revelations and this line of questioning! I was never sexually molested! I left the seminary because I never wanted to attend in the first place! Many students left DHS for a variety of reasons. I’m not sure if I convinced my former classmates that I was never sexually abused, but that’s the honest to God truth.
Well, in the end, I guess I didn’t make any kind of confession, but rather, I spilled my guts.