At thirteen years of age, I fell under the spell of a handsome seminarian. David Johnson (fictitious name), our landlord’s nineteen-year-old son, returned home on a month-long holiday from the Benedictine seminary in Trinidad. He captivated our young group of siblings and friends with Bible stories and spoke to us about treating each other with kindness and being respectful and obedient to our elders. On Sunday mornings, he took us to Mass at our parish church. Following his example, I became a devout Christian and began attending daily morning Mass.
When I blossomed into a fifteen-year-old, my admiration for the seminarian evolved into infatuation. I was in heaven the morning he took me to Church on his bicycle. Seated on the middle bar, his arms encircled me. Before Mass, while I sat in the pew, he knelt down in the pew behind me and whispered: “You have a beautiful neck.”
I was just an innocent teenager to him. He preferred chatting with my mother while she worked at her sewing machine. As the landlord’s son, my father welcomed him into our home.
After David’s ordination to the priesthood – when I then had to address him as Father Johnson – adolescent girls flocked to hear him say Mass. He became a magnet for attracting young people to the Church.
Years later while visiting my father, I could hear the heated discussion between our landlord and Father Johnson coming from their neighboring residence.
“You leaving the priesthood for a married woman?” The words of our landlord exploded with anguish.
Father Johnson left the priesthood; the woman left her husband and children. They got married and left Guyana. My first love left me with feelings of deception and betrayal. What had happened to his love for God and to serving Him? How could he choose a woman my mother’s age, and not me?
In hindsight, I realize that Father Johnson had made the right decision in leaving the priesthood to marry the woman he loved. He chose not to maintain a sexual relationship with her under a cloak of priestly celibacy.
Ordination does not bestow Catholic priests with immunity from desires of the flesh. But a chasm exists between adults engaging in illicit, consensual sexual intercourse and the sexual abuse of young boys and girls. Theirs is not simply a sin of lust; of fornication and adultery. Their sin defiles innocent young souls: a crime punishable by law.
Pope Benedict XVI has decided to step down as pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church at the end of February. As a Cardinal, cover-ups of pedophile and rapist priests occurred under his watch. (See synopsis of the documentary film, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, released by HBO on February 4, 2013.)
With many other scandals plaguing the Catholic Church today, will the next pope have the courage and humility to do what is right in the sight of God and expose the criminals in their midst?