On a hot summer’s day in January 2002, while on holidays at my parent’s house, I was greeted by an old school friend who was surprised to see me dressed up in all my priestly regalia.
I explained I was going out to buy myself a second-hand car.
He smiled and said: “And you’re wearing your priest costume to try and get a discount.”
We both laughed heartily as I explained that I just wanted them to know that I was poor.
Fast forward to the present day. I bought a relatively inexpensive electrical item from a reputable retail chain.
I also purchased an all-inclusive extended warranty with it, because the last time I brought something back that wasn't working, the store gave me the runaround until the warranty expired.
After two more staff at this same place gave me the runaround, I despaired that perhaps my warranty would never be honoured.
Then I wondered if the three knockbacks might have been because I was a priest. I’ll never know.
What I do know is that I waited a few more weeks and went into the same store with the same warranty, this time dressed in casual clothes.
In no time at all, I was walking out of the store with a replacement item.
Over the past 18 months, a church not far from me has been subjected to two attempts to burn it down, as well as constant vandalism including smashed windows and copious graffiti.
A school, toilet block and Scout hall on the same block have been virtually unharmed. Again, this could all just be a coincidence.
What is not so coincidental is the increase in people, especially youths and children, who have verbally or even physically attacked me while making comments about priests and little boys.
Perhaps what these people don’t realise is that we remaining priests are just as devastated and outraged by the child sexual abuse scandals as they are.
So many friends and readers of this column have asked me my thoughts on the guilty verdict handed down last week in a court case that’s gripped not just Catholics, but the nation.
Given there is an appeal in process, which is an allowed and encouraged process in the Australian legal system, it would be imprudent for me to make any comment.
Perhaps what these people don’t realise is that we remaining priests are just as devastated and outraged by the child sexual abuse scandals as they are ... Like most people ... my thoughts go first to the victims. If I could turn back time and change it all, I would. I think a lot of priests feel this way.
Like most people, whenever any talk about sexual abuse is raised, my thoughts go first to the victims.
If I could turn back time and change it all, I would. I think a lot of priests feel this way.
Pedophilia is not just sad, it is a tragedy. When we priests are together, we talk about it a lot. It is never forgotten.
Every clerical conference or development session for priests I go to now has a focus on behaviour protocols and how to respond to reports of abuse. I think the Vatican’s recent sexual abuse summit (February 21-24) is a step in the right direction, as it does not make any sense not to talk about it.
As hard as it is, we should never let the scandals and loss of faith in men lead to a loss of faith in God.
In the Bible we read that after praying all night, Jesus chose from all his followers a select 12 that would lead the people. One of the 12 was Judas.
The practice of a minority of the ministers of God doing great evil dates back to the very beginnings of Christianity.
Such events can scandalise us even to the point of disbelief in God.
Such events can also cause the Church to be purified, humbled and to become more compassionate.
As for those who have abused, as sorry and as rehabilitated as they may now be, I feel I must agree with the thinking of Pope John Paul II: “There is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young.”