Sunday, November 14, 2010

A child molester I knew is dead

The Detroit Free Press has a story today on the Detroit Archdiocese's difficult in dealing with clerics convicted of sex abuse. The featured priest used as illustration of clerical alienation is a man I knew, Fr. Ron Williams.

Fr. Ron was an attending priest at my grade-school and was Chaplain of my High School. He also enabled the alcoholic drinking of me and my friends in our teens by throwing beer bashes in the rectory where he served and he sexually accosted a good friend of mine.

His crime against my friend was the trigger point for his demise.

My friend brought charges against Fr. Ron when the priest was going to be instituted as Chaplain of the Michigan State Police. My friend having been raised as an orphan by his Detroit Police Officer aunt and uncle chose to lean on his legal sense of right and wrong and protect future victims from a man who had a badge and was a sexual criminal. He wanted to protect potential future victims who might fall prey to Fr. Ron's authority. He did something the Roman Catholic Church still can't bring themselves to do. He admitted the truth and pursued legal protection to preserve a safer society for his fellow human beings.

Fr. Ron's first reaction was to call me at college and plead his case saying that he was a double victim to society's standards because he was both black and homosexual. He wanted me to denounce my friend's testimony. I didn't do that but, I didn't stand by my friend either. I chastised my friend for his action and tried to defend Fr. Ron as a person. I realize in hind-sight that I was not seeking a moral argument. I was defending the Catholic Church because it was how I was raised. I was raised to defend the institution. What my friend chose to do was moral and good and what I chose to do in seeking to shame him for his betrayal of the power I knew was wrong.

This story helps shape my belief that all religions are false and that they provide inferior ethics. My personal choice was to accommodate the authority of religion rather than the truth of action and I deepened the wounds my abused friend had suffered. I can no longer do this and it is one of the reasons why I am so outspoken against the pragmatic arguments for religion people make in denouncing crimes that religion enjoys while defending their personal enjoyment of practicing and defending the religion.

The cliche I most often hear when I assert my belief that religion is an institution that enables evil is that, "I shouldn't throw the baby out with the bath water." I understand the position because I once held it and applied it to a young man who had to suffer the pain of alienation from a priest who abused his father-figure status. I feel shame when I remember my choice and recognize it as a defense of authority because I believed that authority would keep me safe regardless of the unjustifiable position that authority had proven as evidenced by the victim I was admonishing.

Fr. Ron is dead and his death has further illustrations to the crimes committed by church authority (his abandonment by the Archdiocese, the Vatican's unwillingness to involve civil law for their own self-protection keeping Fr. Ron from the mental health-care he needed) but my shame is still alive and I hope it never leaves me because I never want to ignore the pain of an individual for the sake of securing religion's authority.

1 comment:

Robert Davis said...

Do you know how many victims came forward?