Friday, April 23, 2010

The Church and Me

With the seismic upheaval enveloping the Catholic Church, I think it time for me to speak out and set the record straight on an extremely sensitive issue. Here goes. Though born and raised (until the age of 16) a Catholic, I have never, ever, been molested by a priest (or a nun) either here in the US or in my native France.

Ah, it’s good to speak out, to reveal this shameful secret. I feel much better now, thank you.

Here is the truth. I have only known (not Biblically) one churchman in my entire life. Father Alexandre de la Rondelette, a former Jesuit serving the French population of Washington, DC, was not a pederast or a molester. He was a drunk, though, and since I was one too for many, many years, I can forgive such a paltry offense.

Père A de la R, as he was known throughout his parish, was a stern, short man with a brush cut, steel-rimmed glasses and penetrating leaden eyes. He liked Scotch whiskey served with a dash of soda water and two ice cubes in a tall glass. How do I know this? Because he was often a guest in my parents’ house, and it was my duty to serve him his drinks, usually eight or nine times in one evening. This was supplemented by several glasses of wine during the meal, and a post-dinner cognac or two.

As Père A de la R’s sobriety weakened, he was wont to get into arguments with other guests, often focusing on the alarming decline of France’s global importance and influence. He was often violently critical of the regime in power at the time, and since many soirées were held to honor visiting members of said regime, his opinions tended not to be popular. He once almost came to blows with the French naval attaché over the nation’s frankly asinine submarine policy and he was overheard to say that the French space program was un sac de merde, which I need not translate here. The latter belief was based on his conviction that if God had wanted men to go to the Moon, he would have given them jet thrusters.

Towards the end of his career in Washington, Père A de la R was involved in some sort of scandal to which I was not privy. I think he may have told a young bride that the First Night droit du seigneur privileges were still held to be sacred, and that if a seigneur was not available, a mere priest would do, but I don’t know for sure. I remember that one day we went to church and Père A de la R was not there.Celebrating the mass in his place was a young priest from Senegal who introduced himself as Père Ababacar Diallo. He’d been educated in Paris and Dakar and preached a good sermon on forgiveness but never once mentioned his predecessor. When specifically asked about Père Alexandre de la Rondelette, Father Diallo retained his toothy smile and was mute. “Le Père has gone on to bigger and better things,” he said. Later we learned the bigger and better thing was a six-months French Canadian rehab for alcoholic Catholic priests.

So perhaps Father Alexandre de la Rondelette wasn’t perfect and like the rest of us had to deal with his own devils.

But he never touched me, I swear.


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