Friday, March 18, 2011

Sadie Frown of the Week: Bearing False Witness

I just read about one of my favorite high profile priests and found that accusations have been leveled against him and that he has been placed on administrative leave. He vehemently denies the accusations and I believe him (I'm not mentioning his name, although I imagine it will be in the news soon enough, because I don't want to help the slander spread in any way, even in defense of him...). Unfortunately the words of his former employee mean (apparently) that he must be placed on administrative leave while the situation is investigated. As he points out on his own site he is being treated as guilty "just in case" and now must try to "prove" his innocence.

My first thought when I read this horrible news was this: There is a sin I would not want to have to explain to God on judgement day. Seriously. "Hi God, um... remember that time when I bore false witness against a priest who had helped people around the world with his direct, straight forward explanations of the faith? Yeah... I was just... um... kidding?"

Sex abuse is horrible. Yet in a different way, these types of lies, both against clergy and against lay people (often times men who have tried to help their communities and made enemies) can be just as damaging and traumatic. Lives are destroyed. Reputations are lost. Cases drag on for years and years and then, after being dragged through the mud the accused is acquitted with a whisper. After all, an acquittal doesn't quite get the same ratings that some drug addled woman ranting about sex or harassment gets.

Anyone can say anything. And in a society where a premium is placed on getting what we want, instead of doing what is right, telling a little lie for money, or attention or to hurt someone in a position of power that we've decided we don't like, may not seem all that bad anymore.

I'm sure Satan attacked this particular priest from every angle. After all, he's a man who has strengthened the faith and understanding of many. When that didn't work Satan decided on the next best thing: an attempt to discredit his work and all the good that he has done by leading someone weaker into sin.

We should pray for all involved. Maybe Saint Gerard Majella is a good patron saint for this case. He was falsely accused (google him to see how he became the patron saint of expectant mothers) and the woman who accused him finally repented and told the truth. What a sad day...


  1. I've been reading your blog for the past few weeks, and enjoying in very much. I'm not catholic, but I love to learn about the customs and practices of other religions and find you very informative.

    My family is going through a situation very simular to what this priest is going through. I couldn't agree more with your views as to the effect of one person's willingness to listen to the promptings of the evil one can cause in todays' self gratification society.

    Thank you for this post. It really made me feel like I'm not alone.

    RM in MO

  2. This is so hard. On the one hand, so many, many of our good priests are falsely accused and unjustly removed from ministry. On the other hand, some very high profile priests have been accused and have been found guilty (by their own admission). The Church is still reeling from the scandals of the past few years. I understand the terrible frustration of a man being falsely accused...especially one such as this... and frankly, I believe him; but I'm not convinced the "administrative leave" is imprudent. There have just been too many terrible disappointments. Too many fallen stars. I think we will find ultimately that he is innocent (please, Lord!). Even Padre Pio had to endure something similar. God's will be done. You are very right though about the terrible, terrible effects of false accusations. There are so many that it is crippling. What is to be done? Sin is horrible and damaging. Yes, let us pray.

  3. I just heard about's very upsetting!

  4. I know who you are speaking about and I don't believe it. I listen to him on the radio and a few of his podcasts. A crochet group that I belong to are praying for him and I see others here who are also, I just hope that this is cleared up soon and that his good name is restored.

  5. I always find myself hoping that accusations against clergy are false, because I don't like to think that anyone in such a trusted position could abuse someone so vulnerable.

    I know it's not realistic--there are bad people everywhere and the clergy are no exception.

    Call me a dreamer.

  6. I would suggest that there's a happy medium between putting someone on leave and ignoring the accusations. It wasn't as if the accusations were that he forced himself on someone. The accusations (as far as I understand them) would have been consensual sex between adults and drug use. Does this warrant an investigation? Certainly. Administrative leave? I'm less sure.

  7. Goodness--consensual sex between adults is far less sinister than the idea of forced sex on someone who cannot consent.

    For as much stress as I'm sure it's causing, I am truly relieved that no innocents were harmed.


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