The Mercure Verdict: Updated

Regular readers know that I don't often write about sex abuse per se. Although abuse is certainly a serious problem, I feel like Bishop Accountability does a superior job of reporting it. Besides, once you begin to focus, you realize that it's a vast cesspool. There is really no end. You can only back away and come up for air once in a while.

Nor do I think that the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has a sex problem — they have a control problem. Only change from the bottom up can address the control and power issues which cripple our church. That's why the pathology of the Springfield Diocese, the structure I am most familiar with, is the subject of this blog. Clearly, the People of God of the Springfield Diocese and the corporate sole of the Springfield Diocese have become two separate entities.

Having said that, the Mercure verdict is such an important local topic that I wrote extensively about it in this post.

No sooner had I finished explaining why I found the Rev. Doyle's remarks to be such a whitewash than I found another example of how the clergy of the Albany Diocese are responding to the conviction of the Rev. Gary Mercure. See Rev. Doyle's article here.

This subsequent letter to the editor appeared in the Albany Times Union:
I write in appreciation of the Rev. Kenneth J. Doyle's Feb. 13 Perspective article, "A Test of Faith."

To serve in the same presbyterate with him is an honor and a privilege. His justifiable anger has moved him to a higher plane of compassion and concern for the victims of abuse, and great sadness for those who will absent themselves from a faith community that needs their presence more than ever.

I pray that he will continue to forgive Gary Mercure and commend his eternal salvation to a Lord who came to heal the sick and forgive sinners.

Saratoga Springs

It's interesting that Rev. Kirwin has dropped the "Reverend" from Mercure's name, though Rome has not.

There is nothing wrong with praying for sinners. But, Doyle's righteous anger (similar to the anger of Christ when he chased after the money-changers in the temple, presumably), has captivated Kirwin. Perhaps it has blinded him to more important issues. 

Kirwin lauds Doyle's conversion from anger to forgiveness. This, he feels, puts Doyle on higher moral ground.

In the same breath, Kirwin considers the Catholics who have left the fold because of the scandal of clerical sexual abuse. He finds Doyle's sadness about their departure to be understandable, even admirable. Thus, Kirwin elevates those who remain loyal to the church while he shames those who have deserted her. How disrespectful this attitude is toward those who have left the church for ample reason.

It's not surprising that Kirwin would back a high official of the clerical brotherhood, and the institution that employs them both.  But, let's pose some questions here: are Doyle's anger, compassion and concern really all that remarkable? Do they eclipse that of the principals in the case? That of the victims? How do they compare to the anger, compassion and concern of the parents?

Perversely, Doyle and Kirwins' public posturing threaten to rob Mercure, their fellow priest, of his share in the story. Their focus on salvation appears to be mainly about the two of them. Has Mercure shown remorse? Nope. Has he begged for forgiveness, or shown any contrition at all? Nope.

Missing from Doyle's and Kirwin's statements are the supervisory issues. The mental-health issues. The disclosure and structural change issues. Instead, they see only issues of personal morality.

There is temptation, which the Rev. Doyle resisted, and which the Rev. Mercure did not. There is prayer. There is forgiveness. There is salvation.

Maybe, on further reflection, Kirwin and Doyle will realize that Gary Mercure, priest, predator, or simply one seriously f****d-up human being, was mentally ill, and that he has been ill for a very long time.

Maybe they will realize that his longtime employers share some blame. Maybe they will get off their high horses and desert their higher planes of compassion and concern, and join the rest of humanity in working for transparency and healthy change within the Roman Catholic church.

We can only hope.