But once it reaches the canonical level, that’s when priests run into even more trouble. Maher said there have been and still are many priests who “don’t know what the accusations or the details of the case are. They’ve never even seen the particulars of the case.”
The reason Msgr. Loomis’s case is so rare, Maher said, is that priests who languish for that long and are found innocent usually end up being unassigned and having to find work in the secular world. It’s not canon law that prevents them from serving, he said, but the press and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. In the rare case where a bishop decides to restore a priest to being a pastor after being cleared, the press and SNAP are usually all over him and the bishop. In the few cases where this has happened, Maher said, bishops have had to withdraw the assignment.
Maher could not give an estimate of how many priests are in this situation, only to say that there are “thousands.” “There are great priests out there right now sitting on their thumbs,” he said.
Opus Bono provides some financial support for these priests, and they will get their pensions, but Maher said they basically have to support themselves.
One priest who is in prison, in spite of his professed innocence, is Father Gordon MacRae. He is serving a 33 1/2-67 year prison sentence at the New Hampshire state penitentiary.
If you had asked Maher before he started this work if there is such a thing as spiritual warfare, he would have replied with an unenthusiastic “Yeah.” Now, after doing this for 12 years, he clearly sees the forces of evil at work, “the dissension, the deceit, the lies.”
And because of that, he said, this situation is not going to go away any time soon.
Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz writes from Minnesota.