Catholic or Ex-Catholic Dopers: What PERSONAL Experience/Knowledge Have You of Lecherous Priests?

Mods: I really don’t know if this is the right forum- feel free to move it, if you see fit.

I was born in 1961 in a blue collar section of Queens, in New York City. As a kid who went to a Catholic church and a Catholic school that were both on my block, I spent a LOT of time around priests as I was growing up. It was pretty normal for us boys to throw a football around or play stickball or roller hockey in the schoolyard with the priests. I, along with several other boys, used to go to the rectory often to play chess with one of the popular priests. We thought nothing of it, and neither did our parents. I have a lot of good memories of those days.

Now, unlike many people, I have absolutely NO bad stories to tell about the priests who hung out with us. None of them ever made any moves on me. And I never heard so much as a RUMOR about a priest from any other boys. At no time did any friend ever whisper to me confidentially, “You ever get the feeling that Father Bill is kind of… strange?”

It’s only in RETROSPECT that I wonder if bad things were happening all around me, and I was just too young or dumb to see it. In truth, I was in college before I ever even HEARD about a scandal involving a priest I’d ever known (a Jesuit guidance counselor at the all-boys high school I went to was either defrocked or allowed to quit the order after an affair with a student). It wasn’t until much later still that I heard women I’d grown up with saying matter-of-factly, “Father Mike always liked to cop a feel” or “Father Ed always stared at my cleavage.” Again, I had no idea any of this was going on. I rather idealized the priesthood, which is one reason I never seriously considered becoming a priest myself!

What I’m asking here is… for those of you who grew up Catholic, what was your PERSONAL experience? Did any priest ever cop a feel, or try to molest you in any way? Did you ever know someone else who experienced it? Did you hear widespread rumors that, “Father Tim is kind of creepy- stay away from him”? Was there a priest in your parish that “everybody knew” was a lecher?

I’m not looking for prurient details- I’m really trying to get a feel for how widespread the problem was in my youth. I honestly don’t know if I had the genuinely great childhood experiences I remember, or if I was just living in a fool’s paradise. Maybe the priests in my parish were just great guys who liked kids, or maybe there was more going on. Maybe I just wasn’t cute enough to appeal to any pedophiles.

I had what I THOUGHT was a parish filled with great priests. Maybe I really DID (I have no tangible reason to think otherwise). I just can’t be sure any more.

What was your experience?

None whatsoever. (I was a practicing Catholic until around age 16.)

None whatsoever

(the abusers were a tiny minority; the cover-up was organization-wide. That’s the scandal)

None. My father was great friends with one of our priests growing up, and he would come with us occassionally on family vacation. But I was too old for the altar girl movement, so I was never too up close and personal beyond my experiences with Fr. Tom. We were on Army bases growing up, so I don’t know if that changes anything.

I grew up as a Catholic, attended two different Catholic grade schools, and a Catholic high school. The priest who taught my Latin class during my sophomore year of high school was, years later, involved in a sex-abuse case (I have no idea if the incident occurred during my time as a student at that school). While we, as students, considered him to be a little odd, I don’t think we thought he was odd in “that way”, and none of us were aware of any such accusations against him at that time.

AFAIK, no other priest which I knew or interacted with (and that adds up to probably 25 or so priests, in total) was ever accused of any improprieties.

Not strictly personal, but…

I was an alter boy in grade school. The priest in charge of all the alter boys (and for the last year or so, alter girls) was a relatively young, nice, friendly guy. He threw occasional pizza parties with movies & stuff for us. He never did anything to me, nor did I hear about him doing anything to anyone else at the time.

About a decade ago (I think), several people came forward and accused him of molesting them, boys and girls. The church tried to keep it quiet, but the news got out and soon the whole parish knew. The church set up a formal hearing for everyone involved on a Wednesday. Monday morning the priest was found dead in his room, suicide.

After that, a big argument started in the parish. Priests at that church were always buried in the cemetery on church grounds, and a lot of people objected, on the grounds that suicides can’t be buried on holy ground. No one gave a shit about the kids anymore, no this was much more important.

I grew up in that parish. One of the reasons I’m an atheist now.

None at all and I don’t remember hearing any rumors of anything.

I know a lot of the other kids at Catholic school hated a certain priest but from what I heard it was because he was mean. Maybe he was the one you had to see if you got sent to the office.

However, the guy who lived next door to me when we were kids got kicked out of seminary school for beating the crap out of a priest that tried to molest him.

The TLDR version is I’ve run into lecherous priests twice.

One was when I was 10; we’d visited Covadonga Sanctuary and went to have confession afterward. Traditional confessional, but still, it’s not like you can’t see how large the person on the other side is. The priest asked straightaway whether I had a boyfriend, “father, I’m TEN!” didn’t faze him at all - apparently being ten isn’t an obstacle either to having a boyfriend or to having sex :eek: (I still turned away when people kissed in movies). My father was in another confessional, my mother waiting for mine. I left the confessonal, went to her and told her about the priest’s questions - she proceeded to fall on him like a ton of bricks.

Another one was a teacher in 7th grade, just transferred to our town, who apparently had an attack of dickopause. If you talk to any of the people who studied under him in latter years, they’ll refuse to believe that he might so much as look funny at someone (“he’s such a sweet old guy, how dare you say such horrible things about him!”). He got stopped cold after the first time he tried to “overstep our boundaries” and we later discovered he’d been transferred because of inappropriate behavior at the end of the previous schoolyear; our students had a reputation for not taking shit from anybody, so his superiors thought that if he tried anything we’d respond the way we did, that we wouldn’t let him get away with it. Never gave any trouble again, he’s still in town 30 years later.

That’s from someone who attended a nuns school, HS at the Jesuits, Jesuit college, and who has been a more-or-less practicing Catholic for 45 years.

When I attended parochial school, we had a priest like this. The boys, in particular, were terrified of him: He was the one they saw if they were sent to the rectory for multiple infractions.

I believe he, along with another longtime priest in my parish, were transferred to other parishes long after I’d transferred out the the school. I didn’t think anything of it at the time because priests, in general, were always routinely transferred.

Both their names came up when the abuse scandal was exposed. The “mean” priest had passed away in the intervening years. The other priest was defrocked. I believe he passed away a couple of years ago.

We girls were more scared of the nuns. I don’t ever remember anybody being molested by them. They were more notorious for doling out physical punishments, especially if you were sent to the office.

None personally, but a few months ago I learned that the parish priest I had greatly admired as a child and teenager had reported himself for the sexual abuse of a minor and was removed from duty.

I just googled his name and found an article that states the abuse occurred 40 years ago in the 1970s. He was my parish priest from the early 1980s-late 1990s and I never heard anything among the congregation accusing him of impropriety, and I thought he was a fantastic confessor. Some of the pieces of counsel he gave me in the confessional are things I still repeat to myself today because of their wisdom, even though I no longer believe in God. One of the most profound religious experiences I ever had occurred in the confessional with him, because of the kind and compassionate way he spoke with me when I was severely depressed and self-harming.

I was horrified when I learned he was guilty of this, so this just might be rationalization on my part, but maybe he repented and reformed? It’s hard for me to wrap my brain around this and reconcile this new knowledge of him with my memory of that wise and compassionate man.

No direct experience of lecherous priests (or nuns), no rumours of lecherous priests in our Catholic secondary school. Two male lay teachers occasionally walked the borderline of inappropriateness, but I never knew or heard of a priest doing anything dodgy.

Years later I heard that one priest at my brother’s secondary school had a reputation for grabbing guys’ arses in the shower. That’s the closest I’ve ever been to clerical abuse, as far as I know.

I’d say the likelihood is that you really did have a childhood full of great priests. Like Slithy Tove said, the problem was never that most or even many priests were OMGchildabusers!!! The problem was the organisation’s utterly hideous response to the few who were.

My husband is a poster here. In the early '80s, when he was a pre-teen, there was a priest at his church who pretty much all the kids knew something was “wrong” about him. The guy admitted to molesting 30 different boys (close to half of them at the parish where my husband was), sometimes dozens of times each victim, across 25 years and 3 different states. He served 5 years, last I checked, for 3 cases. Hubby is relieved that he wasn’t the guy’s “type” or was just lucky enough.

The sister-in-law of my sister (i.e., the sister of my brother-in-law) ended up having an affair with her priest while getting grief counseling after her husband died. This lasted for several years and did not end happily.

That’s the only incident I have first-hand testimony about, and it doesn’t have anything to do with molesting children. I heard stories about one of my parish priests, but he never tried anything with me, so I can’t say for sure.

Cradle Catholic - no experiences with either priests or nuns. Nuns could be mean, but I’ve never known even a mean priest.


I’m not sure of this fits what the OP thought of as “lecherous,” but I knew a priest who fell in love with a married woman who had come to him for spiritual counseling – about problems in her marriage. She ultimately divorced her husband; he left the priesthood and they married. They moved to Atlanta and he got a job as a parish administrator for an Episcopal church.

I don’t get the sense that the priest had been a womanizer at all prior to meeting her; nor, as best I understand it, had she had any affairs prior to meeting him.

One of the priests at the church I was confirmed in got in trouble. Allegedly he had had “inappropriate relations” with a teenage boy. He wasn’t prosecuted, but forced instead to give up being a priest.

None. Not even a rumour. Cradle Catholic.

Though a priest at my parents’ parish was defrocked and, IIRC, sent to jail after embezzling from the church. Quite a significant sum, I believe, and he had been a very well-liked figure before that.

None here either. Some of the priests were just assholes in a general way and some of the nuns were complete bitches, but a few priests and nuns were actually pretty nice. That’s all I got.

Zilch. And I was practicing for a long time.
Interestingly, one of the more notorious of the cases of abuse actually occurred at the Church near where I now live (The parish I would be a communicant at, were I still practicing, and which I have gone to services at), but it was long before my time here.

Absolutely nothing; I’ve been Catholic my whole life.

There aren’t more pedophile priests than there are teachers/lawyers/doctors/etc. The tragedy is that they should know better…and that a very small percentage besmirch the good reputation of so many really great men. God bless the rest of the priests who live through this scandal innocent of charges. They so often are considered guilty by association.