A former parishioner of Monsignor John Gillespie questions the safety Catholic schools are supposed to provide.
As a graduate of Our Lady of Calvary grade school in Northeast Philadelphia, the priest molestation controversy has made me ashamed of not only to say where I graduated from but also to admit I’m Catholic.
Monsignor John Gillespie, our beloved parish pastor, has been the target of the lawsuits and complaints.
Always smiling and shaking hands, Gillespie was kind to people of all ages, races and creeds.
The community was shocked and disgusted to learn that the affable Monsignor had confessed to fondling the genitals of several boys during his 16-year tenure at Calvary.
According to the March 22 issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer, a 32-year-old Arizona man, identified in court papers only as John Doe 168, became the fourth man in a month to sue the Archdiocese of Philadelphia with claims that it failed to stop Gillespie from sexually abusing him.
Dennis Brahma, a fellow Calvary classmate of mine, echoed our startled parish’s sentiments.
“Monsignor was a really nice guy, so I never got that vibe from him,” Brahma said.
“When my older sister would have choir practice in the afternoon, I would wait around church for her to finish. I would walk around and have conversations with Monsignor,” Brahma said. “He never approached me in any sexual or misleading way. Now, I consider myself lucky.”
Families send their kids to Catholic schools in order to avoid the violent, hostile environment attributed to public schools. However, time is starting to show that Catholic schools aren’t always a safe haven.
Because public schools lack the enforced morality and discipline that is ingrained by Catholic education, parents like mine believed Catholic schools instilled values and built character.
In 2011, parents must decide whether they’re willing to risk their children’s physical health in public schools or their psychological health from dishonest church leaders.
Trusting their children to the holy clergy, parents are now realizing their children have become abused statistics.
Gillespie joins a plethora of reported priest molesters as evidenced by the flood of lawsuits filed against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia since former Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham released the results in 2005 of a grand jury investigation that revealed a cover-up by the Catholic church administration.
According to the Daily Times, 63 priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia reportedly abused children as far back as the 1940s.
This past February, current Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams issued a second grand jury investigation that resulted in the suspension of 24 priests by archdiocesan officials.
Because the victims are often intimidated or embarrassed by the disturbing situation, they conceal the sexual abuse until they’re adults, and by that point, the statute of limitations has expired on any judicial repercussions.
But these priests aren’t punished – they’re rescued by the Archdiocese.
Despite the allegations and even confessions of the sexual offenders, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua not only allows them to continue service, but also transfers them to different parishes, allowing more children to potentially be harmed.
To Anthony Palumbo, a graduate of Our Lady of Calvary, Monsignor was more than a pastor.
“Gillespie married my parents,” Palumbo said.
“When the grand jury investigation came out, my mother was flabbergasted,” Palumbo added. “You wouldn’t think someone so closely associated with the community would do something like that.”
That is the core problem with these unsettling revelations: The Catholic church promotes security, stewardship and love, yet these hypocrites are ruining the lives of believers who trust these men devoted to spreading God’s message.
Churches collect billions of dollars without paying taxes and are untouchable from the police.
The Holy Trinity has become the mafia.
Why do priests commit such heinous crimes?
Is it because of the vow of chastity that the priests are compelled to release their sexual frustration on defenseless children?
Does the Catholic Church need to allow priests the option of marriage or at least dating?
With church attendance declining and Philadelphia Catholic schools closing at an alarming rate, a solution needs to develop before Catholicism crumbles.
Maybe the Church should replace the vow of chastity with a vow of justice.
John Corrigan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.