Gary Mercure, a defrocked Roman Catholic priest currently facing child rape and other charges in Massachusetts, was pastor of St. Mary's Church in Glens Falls when I and my then young children were members. He was one of what turned out to be a cluster of problem priests in the parish. I remember chatting with another one who was later exposed as a child molester, the Rev. Mark Haight, at a parish picnic in the parking lot of St. Mary's School. The Diocese of Albany paid almost $1 million to settle a lawsuit brought against him by a man who had been sexually abused from the age of 12. I remember another priest, Edward Leroux, who seemed like a nice old duffer until he was permanently barred from ministry by Albany Bishop Howard Hubbard because of past abuse.
I last saw Mercure a couple of years ago at a press conference in Albany on local economic issues, that was put on by some ACORN-type group. I was planning to introduce myself afterward and chat about Glens Falls, but he left before the event ended. I thought that was odd, and he did leave a shifty, slightly creepy impression, but I forgot about it until his particular scandal broke not long after.
My two children (I also have a non-Catholic stepson) are now grown. My daughter continues to express her outrage about the scandal, and my son does not go to church.
My wife is a Presbyterian, and these days I go by myself on Sundays to another Catholic church, closer to Albany. The bulletin said they needed lectors, and I almost became one, but something bothered me about a prayer the lector reads every week, the one asking that Pope Benedict and Bishop Hubbard "continue to be given wisdom and discernment." Prayer for anyone is a good thing, but the implication of this one, that this bishop has been given wisdom and discernment, seems false. Hubbard has been bishop for over 30 years. A great many of his colleagues also exercised very poor judgment in handling the scandal, e.g. by reassigning guilty priests. It seems to me a pity that you don't hear of any bishops resigning to do penance somewhere, in a Haitian mission, perhaps, or at least in the kind of small church that Robert DeNiro wound up in at the end of "True Confessions." But I don't demand that. I would like a little humility. I would like the words "continue to be" taken out of the lector's prayer in the Diocese of Albany.
Update in February 2011: The Mercure verdict is in. And I haven't heard that phrase in the lector's prayer lately.