unnecessary at christmas

This is where I don’t understand the Catholic Church. And I am Catholic. It is Christmas time and this is what is chosen to go on display instead of Christmas decorations or a nativity scene.

Yes I know, they did it to prove a point to make an impact, but doing it at Christmas is somehow offensive.

I am not getting into the pro-life versus pro-choice debate here, all I’m saying is it’s Christmas so why can’t we reflect the season instead of this? When did being a Catholic meant it was an angry God? Churches do this so often at this point that I don’t know if it’s doing anything other than just turning people off to Catholicism.

I find all these little crosses and the sign offensive. Why always that? I mean if you’re going to take a stand how about taking a stand about all the people dying from drug overdoses? Or all of the people dying because of the violence in this country? Or suffering because of poverty?

Why does it always have to be this argument? And why does this argument have to be on display around Christmas?

I hope this church shows some Christmas spirit soon and gets back to the meaning of the season.

#BahHumbug

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thoughts on ash wednesday

8614157810_f24ca9eb63_oThis is a post that some may have a problem with.  But it is my opinion.

Today is Ash Wednesday.  I am Catholic.  It is a very holy day, the first full day of Lent.

The voices of many priests float through my head “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

When I was a child, I loved being Catholic.  We lived in Society Hill and we had two amazing churches right in my neighborhood.  Across the street was Old St. Mary’s and down a little bit on Willings Alley, our church where our family pew still sits, Old St. Joseph’s, Philadelphia’s oldest Catholic Church founded by Jesuits in in 1733.

I was baptized and received my First Holy Communion at Old St. Joe’s.  I received my catechism from Father Drain, one of the Jesuit priests at Old St. Joe’s.  He was a marvelous man.  I still remember the room in the rectory – full of stiff and formal Victorian furniture.

The Jesuits were my foundation as a Catholic.  A couple of weeks ago, some fellow Catholics on a Facebook thread said Jesuits weren’t even really Catholic.  I found that sad and offensive.

As an adult, I have had a love hate relationship at best with the Church and with being Catholic.  I have yet to join a church in Chester County, as a matter of fact.  Maybe that means my immortal soul is at peril, I do not know.

My love hate relationship lives in the pomposity and hypocrisy I see today in the Catholic Church.  Let’s start with the whole sexual predator priest issue.  They excommunicated a priest and put him back in the neighborhood where I used to live and he roamed free for years until he was arrested a second time and went to jail on a guilty plea as a sexual predator.  Until he was convicted, we the neighbors had to watch him because no one else was.

Then there was the Monsignor from a parish in Wayne I was introduced to at a viewing.  He berated me in front of people at a viewing for the fact that at the time I had said that I would be choosing NOT to be married in a Catholic church and that I found modern Pre Cana to just be about the money.  He was awful. Ironically, he was removed a few  years later as a pedophile priest.

I move out here, and one of the first Catholic things I am hit with are exceeding graphic pro-life signs along the property of a large Catholic church.  Horrible glaring and angry signs.  Who is the God they worship? Is he mine? I don’t recognize anger commingled with religion as healthy.

Recently, attending a funeral of a friend, I was actually in a church that finally did not feel alien to me. Philip and James in Exton.  I found out later it was also designed by a friend’s late father.  It was the first church in years that felt welcoming and warm when I walked in.  And their stained glass windows were beautiful.  As a Catholic struggling with the faith of my birth, it was a really positive experience.

15217657474_a8fb2ac33d_oThen came the recent issue of Villanova University and the larger than life crosses over Lancaster Avenue.  It is something I have never understood and right or wrong, I think the university president is wrong.  It’s not about his legacy, it’s not about a Catholic institution, it’s about the multi-faith world we live in. And a public road, a state highway.

I came home from East Whiteland’s Zoning meeting and flipped on Radnor Township’s commissioners’ meeting.  What I saw was Villanova’s attorney in full Napoleonic glory brow beating Radnor into submission. Ok it is his job, even if he is always unpleasant when he represents Villanova.  However….

I am Catholic, and if this was solely on Villanova’s campus NO ONE would care. But this footbridge is going to cross a public road that gets public funds, and to build this they will get some public funds, correct? This is NOT being anti-Catholic or a being a bigot it’s a question of a PUBLIC road. Not everyone in the world is Catholic, so how others feel about this bridge being overtly religious over a public highway should matter.

I challenge everyone to look at the  bridge over City Line Avenue St. Joe’s University bult. It manages to be there without throwing Catholicism in everyone’s face.  But then Saint Joe’s is a Jesuit Roman Catholic University and Jesuits aren’t really Catholic, right?

We live in a world of many faiths.  I think if the bridge design featured crosses on the piers in bas relief, it would be in better taste. It would represent the religious foundation of the school without non-Catholics feeling as if someone else’s religion was being shoved at them.

As a Catholic I have always felt it was wrong to foist the religion of my birth on anyone.  I know who I am, and strangely I retain my underlying faith, so how is it I am a bad Catholic because I agree with the critics of the bridge design? Look, we are not living in medieval Spain or France, we live in a country that is a melting pot of religions. We can maintain our own religious identity while being sensitive and considerate to the religions of others, right? Or we should be able to?

One of the critics of the bridge of crosses is a very close friend of mine.  She is a senior citizen and a grandmother.  She gives more to her community in a year via her generosity than most people give in a lifetime.  Her comment about the bridge was that perhaps a more ecumenical approach to the bridge was better in today’s world.  She also had the thought of why couldn’t the crosses be more subtle, carved into the stone piers instead of challenging everyone over a public road.

My friend feels the frightening aspects of attacks on certain religious groups quite keenly as her 17 year old granddaughter works after school at a Jewish community center and is being trained on how to evacuate children and adults in the event of threats like the recent bomb scares.  This is the world legacy we are foisting on our children.  It’s the whole hate begets hate.

Because my friend was interviewed by some media and expressed her opinion publicly, albeit very gently and politely, she has been demonized and vilified. Publicly, including in the media.  She has even had conservative radio show hosts want her to come on the air, and I know damn well it’s not because they want to fairly represent her right to her opinion. It’s because  they know she would be ratings gold if they put her on the air so people could phone in an essentially abuse her without accountability.

So she is now branded an anti-Catholic and a bigot and “she must have a bunch of pink crocheted hats.”  She and others of a similar opinion, which I guess must include me are being compared to perpetrators of hate crimes. Hate crimes, you know like those horrible people who destroyed gravestones at historic Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia. Now these same critics are saying that even more people are anti-Catholic because not enough media attention and public attention was paid to a similar desecration of gravestones at Holy Redeemer Cemetery in Philadelphia. Doesn’t matter that no one can control the if it bleeds it leads philosophy of what is newsworthy to television station managers and newspaper publishers, right?

I am sorry but do these people HEAR themselves? People with a different opinion are anti-Catholic? Even if they are Catholic?  Jesuits aren’t really Catholic even thought the current Pope himself is a Jesuit? It’s like committing a hate crime to say maybe rethink all those crosses on a footbridge crossing a public road driven by people of many different religious beliefs?

Religious pretzel logic.

Yes…religious pretzel logic.  I am sorry but it is upsetting.  And it’s why people struggle with being Catholic, or with any other faith when people are pushed to slavish devotion with no room for individual thought.

I was not raised to be this type of Catholic.  Have I ever felt people went out of their way to make me feel bad for being a Catholic? Sure.  How many Ash Wednesdays did I go to Our Lady of Victory in Lower Manhattan for ashes to return to my trading desk where I worked to have way too many people tell me I had schmutz on my forehead? And that continued for over a decade in my old office in Conshohocken every Ash Wednesday when I went to St. Matthews at lunch for ashes.

I found it offensive but I said nothing.  It was not worth getting into it.  I knew who I was.

But today after the past couple of days, I once again question the faith of my birth.   I just do not understand how people who call themselves Catholic and Christian can spout what I feel to be such ugliness at the onset of one of the most holy seasons of the year?  Maybe this is just a by-product of the ugliness of the politics that swarms our country at present.  Whatever it is, it is sad.

Norman Rockwell had a painting truly appropriate for this post.  Here it is:

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a touchy subject, who is holier than thou?

4549193615_81d22effef_bI was always told in the scheme of manners the things you should refrain from discussing at a dinner party are religion and politics. How about on blogs? Today might be the day for some rule-breaking as the topic of religion is on my mind.

We’ll start with me.  I am born, baptized and all that good stuff a Roman Catholic.  To me the church I was born into was quite different from the one which exists today.  Maybe that is because my first parish was a Jesuit one called Old St. Joseph’s on Willings Alley in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia.  It was and still is a beautiful church with an amazing history steeped in the very formation of this country given it’s location.  We have a family pew there.  If I am deadly honest with myself the last time I felt at home in a Catholic Church was that one. It was a church where both the beauty of the actual building as well as the disposition of the priests really made you believe.

We moved to the Main Line when I was 11 turning 12.  There we joined a parish called St.8279630940_c744af500a_b John Vianney.  When I was young, the pastor there was this amazing man called Father Ignatius Reynolds.  My great-aunt Josie had sung at his ordination mass as it turns out.  I liked him and his teachings, but was turned off to an extent as a new kid there when I had to go to Sunday School at the then parish school.  There I learned the cruelty of children of “good Catholics”. One of the nuns who taught us was completely senile.  The kids were merciless  with her. But then again, so were some of the kids with others.

Believe it or not, in 7th grade I was bullied in Sunday School of all places. The girl had a fairly pleasant sister, but she was the kid who had the less pleasing personality in the family and at that time she was mean as spit and a bully.  It wasn’t much fun to be bullied in Sunday School.  I  learned to stand up for myself when I realized no one else would and thankfully when I told this girl to buzz off, eventually she did.

The fact that this Sunday School was attached to a Catholic Church which did nothing to control some of the kids did in a way create an issue for me with the Catholic Church. Next issues for me would be when I got a little older.

When my parents moved from suburbia back into the city decades later they had their records transferred to a new parish close to them.  My records were to stay put as I was still on the Main Line.  But then I realized mine hadn’t stayed put.  So I called up the rectory and spoke to Father Lexus (what else would you call a priest who you had seen driving a Lexus?).  Father Lexus said to me “well I don’t know who you are”  I asked him with all due respect if he could possibly know all of his parishioners because not only was he new to my parish, he had another parish, which made him responsible for what is known as a twinned parish.  Father Lexus told me he would have to interview me and then decide.  Talk about a turn off.  I had been confirmed in the parish, him appointed about two seconds to the parish.  But hey, unfortunately with most affluent parishes, it is always all about the money.  As a fairly ordinary person in that regard, I was in a sense forgettable.

4630768420_7412f21d05_bThen an amusing thing happened after that.  I was on a train bound for NYC with a friend for a party and this little man in full clerical black robes to the floor glides by on the aisle.

“Who is that?” my friend asked.

“Cardinal Bevilaqua.  I think I will go say hello.” I replied

So I went up to speak to Cardinal Bevilaqua.  After all how often do you get to converse with a Cardinal?  He was a very pleasant man.  Of course because at his core he was a priest, he asked me what parish I belonged to.  I told him honestly I did not know and recounted a gentler, more polite version of the Father Lexus story.  Miraculously, a few weeks later, I started getting donation envelopes and parish mail again.  I was back in.  No great surprise there as he had appointed Father Lexus to my parish in the first place.

As a Catholic, and a resident of the Philadelphia area I will admit there have been many challenges to faith over the past decade or so.  Look at all the pedophile priests, one of whom the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and then Rome released from priestly duty and put back into my old neighborhood unsupervised for years.  Eventually he was one of the ones who went to jail but what kind of church puts a person like this BACK into a neighborhood full of children in the first place? And what kind of man who called himself a priest ever drove an old gold tone convertible Rolls Royce occasionally?

And then there is the whole Pre-Cana thing.  Back in the day, it meant that you were counseled prior to marriage by the parish priest who undoubtedly baptized you and knew your family. Times have changed, priests are fewer, and the Catholic Church also has turned this in to a warehouse money-maker.

7397697016_1bafcdb312_bWeddings and funerals are BIG business – don’t get me started on the story of a friend who had to pay off her parish so she could have the music of her family’s choice and not the church’s at a family funeral. Or the other friend who buried a family member out of a church close to where they lived in Philadelphia who had the priest who conducted a funeral mass like “INSERT NAME HERE”  and said during his sermon “well we don’t know where [X person] is now.” Uhh we’re Catholic, this was a good man, so Padre how about trying heaven because if you as a priest can’t summon up the concept of heaven well Houston we have a problem, don’t we?  I am to this day, incidentally, honestly glad that the family was bereft enough that they did not actually comprehend what this priest had said.

But back to Pre-Cana.  If you want to be married in the church you are supposed to go to Catholic boot camp.  Now it is not being counseled by your parish priest it is instead teams of married couples who probably know little to nothing about you overseen by priests who know little to nothing about you. Rah rah go Catholic!   But you have to go through this process which includes a “Marriage Preparation Course” get a certificate and whatnot while trying to keep family members from going off the rails while you plan a wedding.  And oh yeah, you have to pay for this inconvenience. No wonder so many couples are stressed out when planning weddings, right? And don’t you love the concept of people who have zero commonality with you other than Catholicism telling you how you are supposed to enter your marriage and live your life?

6915491828_589cb3898f_bAnd then there is the whole thing about divorce.  You are supposed to get an annulment if you were married in the Catholic Church.  I still wonder to this day when a friend of mine’s mother in law got an annulment so her remarriage would be recognized if she annulled her first marriage like it did not exist did that make her children from that marriage illegitimate? After all she was getting her Catholic get and *poof* making the marriage disappear in the eyes of the Church, right?  People I know who have gotten annulments who are more my contemporaries age-wise have spent oodles of money in the process and it took forever, like you were being punished for getting out of a failed marriage.

I will admit freely I am a haphazard church goer.  Maybe it is indeed because of the rigidity of the “You.Must.Go.To.Church” of my youth.  Maybe it is because of the occasional Catholic guilt I get from my mother as an adult about not going to church regularly.

But contrary to what some uber-Catholics might think it does not mean I did not know who I am, or what my faith is because I do.  I just sort of figured God is all around us so would he really judge so harshly if I wasn’t an every Sunday church goer?

I had bits of this discussion with a younger priest (as in not older than dirt) I met while going through breast cancer treatment.  His name is Father Denny and he is the pastor at Our Mother of Good Counsel in Bryn Mawr.  He reminds me of the priests I knew and admired as a child.  He is a remarkable man and one of the reasons I liked him so much other than he was there for me to occasionally chat with when I was going through something difficult (breast cancer), he is also a gardener. If you live on the Main Line and you are looking for a priest who actually walks the walk and doesn’t just talk the talk, he is your guy.8279607406_30986ba04e_b-1

I have friends of many different religious persuasions. Catholic, Jewish, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Unitarian, Baptist, Lutheran, Quaker, Greek and Eastern Orthodox, and so on.   I have watched them struggle with their religions and churches, sat on the sidelines while their churches had some amusingly juicy scandals from time to time as well.  I also have friends who became ministers or who were off spring of ministers and rabbis.  These people in particular are amazing – they live their beliefs, they don’t foist their beliefs onto you and they are Godly and accepting for lack of a better term.  Really good people.

Now to where I am going with this post.  I might not be a devout Catholic, but I know that is what I am.  I  have no issue with people practicing and embracing  mainstream religion (although I prefer religion in moderation).  Where I go off the rails is with the super evangelical and so-called “born again” Christians. Off shoot religions. And these are the people who never in any way shape or form can ever truly respect you are not like them as far as religion goes and they love to recruit new blood and foist their beliefs onto you.  I have a huge problem with people who try to foist their religion on you.  It’s not right and I do not know that God.

In any event,  have noticed an alarming and disturbing religious trend in this country and in this state over the past few years.  It may partially be like a knee jerk reaction to politics to an extent, or a reflection of the economy, but in a lot of cases I see people struggling to define themselves who in their quest for that fulfillment are getting sucked into groups who I find disturbing and almost cult like.

I know people who were born into traditional religions who have become “born again”. At first I was happy for them because it seemed they had found peace or whatever.  I even went to bible study with one of them to check it out and to try to be supportive of a friend’s new religion choice.

What I found wasn’t so holy or spiritual, it was kind of disturbing. And cultish.

I entered this room of mostly women. There were some men.  There was all this singing and evangelical tent preaching hand waving and I found myself struggling, but tried not to judge.  Then there were these weird God discussions.  I kept waiting for the bible study format I was familiar with to appear – you know when they discuss actual bible passages and go over bible passages they were supposed to review from the previous week?

I looked around the room at the people.  One woman I recognized.  An older woman who at one point had lived in my old neighborhood.  She was born Jewish, married I believe a Catholic.  She then became a Jew for Jesus and then joined that cult-like Church of the Saviour in Tredyffrin Township.  Ironically, in spite of all her attempts at piety, she was one of the nastiest women I had ever met.  She never did anything to me, I gave her generally wide berth – but I saw her do things to people which blew my mind.  I also once witnessed her go into a racist, profanity laced tirade in front of a police officer when she had caused an accident that was so astounding I seriously thought she needed an exorcism.  (She was practically foaming at the mouth while spewing her vitriol)  And there she was reinvented once more, this time a born again Christian.7397665310_cd68d37125_b

After the bible study I remember asking my friend about people in the meeting.  Some had given off weird vibes.  Ends up a few were recovering alcoholics and whatnot, but instead of going to traditional AA and NA meetings, they were part of this group.  There was also someone with serious emotional imbalances who was a danger to themselves and others unless medicated, but this group thought meds wouldn’t help him but Jesus could heal the person so they prayed over them.

I never went back to another meeting although I was asked.  I was polite, I was not critical or judgmental.  But as time has passed this group has sucked this person I know in further.   Now it is at the point where these born again people have replaced a lot of their long-term friends.  They go on these trips to see all these Christian speakers.  Now I thought the Catholic Church liked to make $$, well you have seen nothing until you see all the little nickel and diming that all adds up in the realm of being born again.

These born agains follow people like Joyce Meyer and Sid Roth just to name a few.  Joyce Meyer is one who has been watched for years and in 2003 watchdog groups called on the Internal Revenue Service to investigate Meyer and other TV preachers. Every summer Joyce Meyer does this evangelical conference in Hershey PA that people do bus trips too. She is like this multi-million dollar brand and didn’t people learn from the fraudulence that was Jim and Tammy Faye Baker?  If Jesus walked around with bare feet and plain robes giving things away, how is it these people are raking in the dough and claiming to live in God’s image?

And let’s talk about this new image of God for a moment.  Was the God you were raised to believe in an angry judgemental deity? Was he homophobic and intolerant?  I have to ask because some of these searching off shoots of traditional religion do just that.  Take the ever charming Westboro Baptist Church which in a twisted sick move as per the Huffington Post praised the death of those Arizona firefighters recently and said they would picket funerals.

Truly, I try not to judge where religion and religious beliefs are concerned. However I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on the fact that some of the born again Christian beliefs some people are turning to is kind of scary.

What scares me is that these groups have turned some people who used to be very much live and let live into incredibly intolerant beings.

How is worshiping that brand of God productive or positive? How is going from believing in an all-embracing God to a judgmental deity a good thing for anyone? And how is it positive in the way they try to control everything that goes on amongst their members lives? If you know people who are part of these groups, you know the deeper they get into the group the less time they have for people in their lives who aren’t part of that group. Almost cult-like in some cases.

Extremism isn’t good for the soul. Be who you are.

And do I believe in God or a higher power? Yes. Perhaps I am more spiritual at times than religious these days, but that is o.k.

Anyway some may not like this post.  Some may find it irresponsible or wrong, but I think we need to talk about these things.  Discussion is not wrong.

a new dawn: defrocked priest heads to jail on child molestation charges

Father Touchy Feely goes to jail today.  I hate to say I was glad to hear this but I was.  I am glad that Edward V. Avery is off the streets. Finally.  Even if it will only be for a couple of years or so.

Why do I care?  This man lived in my old neighborhood for years and years.  On a street named Berkley Road in Lower Merion Township which has always had lots of kids and small children growing up there.  He until recently owned an apartment building he inherited from his late mother Rachel Avery called the Berkley Arms.  A fabulous early 20th century building with large apartments, that throughout the years has also on occasion been home to families with small children.

For years we all watched and waited.  Avery was named in September 2005 in a Grand Jury Report just a couple of days after his mother died.   In 2006 Avery was defrocked by the Vatican.  Yet in this neighborhood full of young children he remained.  He lived across from a narrow street from a Lower Merion School District bus stop.

No one watched him, no one that we knew of monitored him.  He was as a former priest not yet convicted outside the realm of Megan’s Law websites, so if you did not know, you did not know.

I will say that although I thought his little old mother was adorable, he and his brother Kenneth (who died in 2008 and I loved how they referred to Edward Avery in his obituary as Reverend Doctor although he was a Reverend of nothing at this point) always creeped me out.  There was nothing I could ever put my finger on, it was female intuition I guess.

I first became aware of Edward Avery’s presence many many years ago (about 15 years I think)  because he drove at the time a high-end sedan like a  caddy and  I think it was then  followed by a high-end SUV with vanity plates that said “FREVA” (eventually the vanity plates went away and were replaced with first regular PA plates then FL plates) – that stood I always assumed for Father Edward V. Avery.  Being raised a Catholic I found that flashy display somewhat distasteful since all you hear about from jump as a child are how nuns and priests have these vows of poverty and whatnot.   I also wondered about God’s plan when this man was outed in Grand Jury reports and then inherited a very tasty real estate portfolio.   How does God let a man charged with hurting children become in essence a millionaire?  How did the Archdiocese of Philadelphia just put this guy back into a residential neighborhood filled with kids?

In late October 2009 while at a political event for a local candidate from my old neighborhood, Avery approached me.  Why me I will never know, because we weren’t buddies.  He was always filed as be polite and keep on moving whenever I saw him.   He sat there with a beer in his hand and told me how he was being targeted blah, blah, blah.  There I sat with camera in hand not knowing what to do.  It was horribly uncomfortable to listen to someone you did not believe for one hot moment with empathy.  I remember saying to him his choice of venue to discuss his current events with neighbors and locals was inappropriate at best, and if he was innocent, the truth would will out.  Ick.

So when he was charged anew in Philadelphia in February 2011, if I saw him on the street, I turned and moved the other way.  And wondered what would happen this time.

Here is an article from March 13, 2011 from the Inquirer that also appears on BishopAccountability.org:

‘Smiling Padre’: His path to court

Case may be a guide in Phila. prosecution.

March 13, 2011|By John P. Martin, Inquirer Staff Writer

In 1995, a few hundred people packed a Northeast Philadelphia banquet hall to mark a milestone for the Rev. Edward Avery: a quarter-century in the priesthood.

By then, Avery had cultivated a near-celebrity profile as an outspoken advocate for Asian immigrants and as an exuberant part-time disc jockey.

The Smiling Padre, he was called.

At his celebration, Avery took to the piano and belted out an Irish tune. “He was beaming,” a former parishioner recalled.

Few knew the underside of Avery’s record. Two years earlier, he had been plucked from his parish and secretly sent to an inpatient program for sexually abusive priests….

Now 68 and defrocked, Avery is one of four current or former priests due in court Monday for the first time since their arrests last month on abuse or related charges. The hearing comes less than a week after the archdiocese suspended 21 priests pending a review of old allegations against them, and follows a grand jury report that blasted the archdiocese’s efforts to expel abusers and aid victims.

If true, the allegations against Avery starkly illustrate how church officials may have ignored warning signs and concealed a possible child predator from parishioners, then scrambled to remove him amid the national furor over abusive priests…..Avery did not answer requests for an interview left at his Haverford apartment. His attorney, Michael Wallace, also did not respond to calls. An archdiocesan spokeswoman said it would have no comment about Avery or the grand jury’s depiction of him.

Avery made his only public remarks about his removal in 2003 when he told The Inquirer that his life and career had been unfairly ruined because of a misunderstanding one night decades earlier.

“I am totally devastated,” he said…..The grand jury report suggests the allegation that led to Avery’s removal was more serious than he has said.

It happened in 1992, when Avery was pastor at St. Therese of the Child Jesus in the Northeast and enjoyed a reputation as a popular and energetic priest.

For a decade, he had been a vocal advocate for the burgeoning Hmong immigrant community in Philadelphia. He helped a family of Hmong orphans settle in a house close to his rectory. He became legal guardian of the two youngest siblings, records show, and called all of them his adopted children.

Avery also flourished as a record-spinning cleric who entertained at bars, parties, and school dances.

“It’s been very beneficial to my priesthood,” he told the Philadelphia Daily News about his DJ business in 1984. “I’ve been able to give a lot of counseling and that type of thing because of it. Parents see me and send their kids to me. They see I’m approachable.”

In a letter in September 1992, a 29-year-old medical student accused Avery of having molested him when he was an altar boy at St. Philip Neri in Pennsburg in the late 1970s…..Archdiocesan officials sent Avery to the Anodos Center at St. John Vianney in Downingtown, a treatment center for clergy sex offenders.

After four days of evaluation, doctors found Avery’s account of his interaction with the young man “vague and inconsistent” and recommended inpatient treatment, the grand jury report says.

Ten months later, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua acted on the request…..Avery remained in Downingtown for six months in 1993. At one point, his accuser was invited to confront him at the hospital. Lynn’s handwritten notes indicated Avery had been “angry” and “in denial” but “got into shame” when he faced his accuser, the grand jury report says.

At the same time, the cardinal’s ranking assistant, Msgr. Edward P. Cullen, allegedly directed Lynn to inform St. Therese parishioners that Avery had left for health reasons…..Avery was discharged from the treatment center that fall with recommendations for “a ministry excluding adolescents and with a population other than vulnerable minorities.” Doctors also said he should attend Alcoholics Anonymous and limit his contact with the Hmong to an administrative or pastoral capacity, according to the grand jury report.

Bevilacqua assigned Avery to work at Nazareth Hospital and live at St. Jerome’s. In a letter to the pastor there, Lynn said Avery should help out “as much as he was able” but made no mention of his treatment or the allegation, the grand jury report says…..Doctors also prescribed an aftercare team to monitor Avery and regularly chart his progress. That team, composed of Lynn and two other priests, allegedly did not meet for more than a year after Avery’s discharge. One of the priests “denied even knowing he was on such a team,” the grand jury found….In December 2003, Bevilacqua’s successor, Cardinal Justin Rigali, declared the accusation credible and removed Avery from ministry. In a letter petitioning the Vatican to defrock Avery, Rigali said he was “morally certain” the allegations were true.

According to the grand jury report, the church offered Avery $87,000 if he agreed to leave the priesthood. It’s not clear whether he took the money or whether he collects a pension or other benefits.

Avery still lives in the 85-year-old, sand-colored apartment building, the Berkley Arms, that his family has owned for a half-century. State records indicate he registered a business called Avery Solar at that address, but it’s unclear what the business is or whether it still exists…..Avery’s mother, Rachel, died in 2005, and named him sole heir to her estate, valued at $1.1 million, public records show. Most of that reflects the value of the Berkley Road apartment building, just steps from the Haverford train station and the tony boutiques of Haverford Square.

He sold his North Wildwood home in 1999. Two years ago, Avery bought a two-bedroom beachside condo in Ormond Beach, Fla., public records show.

I couldn’t believe when the news broke on March 22, 2012 that he was pleading guilty to sexually molesting an altar boy.  Huh, so there we have it, then?  Do innocent men please guilty of sexually abusing kids?  Wow.

When the news broke of Avery’s confession I was once again deeply troubled and angered by the shepherds of my religious Faith: the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  With every day it becomes apparent they have just shifted these sick and morally depraved individuals around various communities with really no one watching them and even fewer people knowing what it is that ails them.

How is that living and acting God’s word?  I still don’t understand.  It also brings to mind a conversation I had with a very sour Monsignor at St. Catherine of Siena in Wayne a few years back during of all things a viewing before a funeral.  At the time, I was planning a move to Wayne and that would have been my new parish.  This guy was all up in my face about getting married in “The Church.”  I don’t know what the guy’s name was, but in March 2011, that parish had a priest removed on suspected abuse charges – The Rev. Monsignor John Close (1969), pastor, St. Katharine of Siena Church, Wayne section of Radnor .  Once again it made me think about the irony of the Catholic Church being worried about my immortal soul, yet for how long in the greater Philadelphia area did they move pedophile priests around like some sort of twisted shell game?

(A good website tracking all this and more if you are interested is BishopAccountability.org )

I was happy when NBC10’s Tim Furlong reported on Avery going to jail this morning:

By NBC10 Philadelphia – Tim Furlong

Former priest Edward Avery will head to prison Monday after pleading guilty on a child molestation charge. NBC10’s Tim Furlong reports that Avery could be behind bars for five years

So what about this Anodos Center at St. John Vianney in Downingtown?  On their website they say:

Opening in 1946, Saint John Vianney Center is the oldest running behavioral health facility in North America for clergy and religious. We are an internationally-renowned behavioral health organization. Saint John Vianney Center is a faith-centered community that specializes in the treatment of behavioral health issues that are unique to Catholic clergy and consecrated religious, as well as the clergy of other major Christian denominations. Our research-based, multi-disciplinary approach, focuses on recovery, reconciliation and a return to ministry.

It doesn’t seem to me like they are meeting their mission, does it?  And who watches over them and their residents?  Does it have a quasi-open campus?  If so, who watches over these people in Chester County? After all (again on their website): 

Our in-patient services pride themselves on the comprehensive care and rich quality of  daily life experienced at Saint John Vianney Center; to that end our facility includes:

  • ….Walking trail on the periphery of the hospital campus
  • Proximity to a variety of restaurants and shopping nearby

So obviously, we can’t trust the Archdiocese of Philadelphia when it comes to pedophile priests, so how do you trust this center where a lot of these suspected and proven problem priests have been sent?

I am still a Catholic, but I am deeply troubled by my Church and  how they test our Faith.  How can we in this week before Easter believe in our Faith and keep our Faith in the midst of an Archdiocese which is supposed to lead all of us as the Vatican’s emissaries?  This is a Church that has let all Catholics down, and I just don’t see them doing enough of anything to either make it up to all of us or to even say they are sorry.

Will I personally join the ranks of lapsed Catholics all across this area?  That remains to be seen.  I think it all depends on the accountability of the Catholic Church today and going forward.  Right now I am not impressed.  Right now I am disgusted.