A reader writes:
Seven of my eight years in parochial school came before the Vatican II reforms. Our pastor was a miserable, elderly alcoholic. One of the associates was also an alcoholic. Both men were so socially impaired, it's hard to believe that either had a friend in the world. If anyone, adults included, spoke to the pastor, it was with great trepidation because he was so unpleasant.
There was, however, a second associate, Fr. K, who was much beloved by students. He was the only priest to ever visit our classroom. We were always thrilled to see him when he would show up unannounced for a visit. He was warm, engaging and energetic–the only priest that parishioners could relate to. We had 50 kids in our class, about half were boys. Fr. K was in charge of the altar boys.
When it was time to sign up for training as servers, something stopped me. I don't know why I didn't sign up and I lived in fear that my teacher, a nun, was going to come down on me for failing to volunteer. It turned out that two of my friends didn't sign up either. Our teacher never said a word, even when we were, conspicuously, the only three boys left in class while the rest attended the occasional altar boy meeting. I envied classmates who left during the school day to attend meetings and serve Mass across the street and yet something had stopped me from volunteering. You know where this is going.
In the late 1990s, it was revealed that Fr K had been molesting altar boys in the 50s and the early 60s. I had a rough home life and would have been a perfect target for abuse. I've often wondered over the past ten years if our teacher knew what was going on and that's why she didn't give us a hard time. I don't think the nuns had the courage to stand up to the priests. They were so damned oppressed themselves.
I still don't know what stopped me from volunteering to be an altar boy. All I know is that I was one lucky kid.
Keep up the pressure, Andrew. The hierarchy talks about wanting guidance from the Holy Spirit. I believe that what you are doing is done in service to the Lord. In the long run, I know it will be good for the Church.