It barely has been a week since the shocking resignation of 85-year-old Pope Benedict XVl amidst widespread speculations of the sort most sordid. This is what Catherine Pepinster, editor of the Catholic weekly The Tablet, wrote in relation to the first resignation of its kind in 600 years: “It has been a very troubled time. We have not got a Catholic church at ease with itself.”
The evidence confirmed the inconvenient truth: there is the matter of child abuser Father Brendan Smyth for whose behavior the head of the Irish Catholic Church had recently publicly apologized. Smyth reportedly abused as many as a 100 young people. Then there was the UK Catholic leader who admitted and apologized last week for similar betrayal of his vows. Cardinal Keith O’Brien dramatically confessed he was guilty of sexual misconduct throughout his career in the Roman Catholic Church.
He is quoted in the Guardian of March 3 as stating: “There have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.” Until recently the most senior Catholic in Britain, the 74-year-old O’Brien asked for forgiveness from those he had “offended” and from the entire church.
Meanwhile, in Saint Lucia the guarded whispers were growing more and more audible about a torrid forbidden-love affair between a prominent local lawyer and a Nigerian-born Catholic priest. I have been reliably informed that the 30-something Nigerian arrived here just under two years ago with three other young African priests. When they realized what was going on, I’ve been told, “they pulled away from the Nigerian but did nothing more.”
Finally, it was impossible to ignore the in-your-face unholy relationship. According to my informant, a decision was taken to have the errant priest admitted for observation and treatment at the Wellness Center—despite his protestations that he was at the very least as healthy as the average stud his age but who was not encumbered by celibacy vows.
It would seem his local superiors had by themselves diagnosed the priest as mentally disturbed, the standard excuse for Catholic priests careless enough to let themselves be caught with their cassocks around their ankles—and which had caused the church more trouble than it was finally able to keep under wraps, not to mention millions of dollars paid out in compensation. Some of the offenders have been handed stiff prison sentences.
Under duress the horny Nigerian clergyman stayed at the hospital just two days, following which he was encouraged by his superiors to leave Saint Lucia. Meanwhile, his lover had quit her job but continues to be “very active” at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, where she also regularly “reads”—to the reported embarrassment and chagrin of churchgoers and clergy. The unconfirmed word is she plans soon to join the Nigerian overseas. It is unclear for how much longer he plans to continue being a priest. Local church cover-ups can hardly be described as phenomenal.
Several years ago, I had presented to Catholic authorities here indisputable evidence that a Laborie-based priest, while pretending to counsel an incest victim whose father was serving time for his depraved activities with her and her two older sisters, had himself been sexually abusing the 14-year-old.
The particular church officials, with whom I’d had a private consultation at their Marisule headquarters, pleaded with me to postpone publication of the story, on the ground that if the truth were brought to light just then the church’s public image would be irrevocably tarnished. Already the now legendary pedophilia epidemic and related cover-ups had been making headlines worldwide, even in Saint Lucia. The church leaders promised—on condition I agreed to hold back publication—to look into my allegations and to take action if proved valid. I reluctantly agreed. Some three weeks later one of the two officials telephoned me to confirm my story.
He said the priest had confessed and so there really was no good reason to publish after all. “So what’s your next move?” I asked. “Oh,” said the high-ranking church authority casually, “everything’s under control, no sweat, he’s gone.” “Meaning?” “Well, he is no longer in the country and has been replaced. He won’t be coming back.”
As for his worshipful parishioners, they had been duly informed their former parish priest had suffered a mysterious illness and gone overseas for special treatment not available in Saint Lucia. They were directed to pray for his quick recovery while showering on his replacement the same special love and respect shown his now ailing predecessor. The more things change . . .