DRINKING FROM THE SAUCER
You may not know it, but if you are reading These Stone Walls, you owe a debt of thanks, in part — or blame, as the case may be — to Charlene C. Duline.
Seven years into a comfortable retirement after an unprecedented career as a diplomat in foreign service for the U.S. State Department, Charlene waded into the midst of the U.S. Catholic sex abuse scandal.
When the loudest “reform” groups were assuming the rhetoric of lynch mobs against priests who were accused, Charlene called for another kind of reform: a courageous and faithful application of the Gospel of mercy and truth to the wound that had been laid bare in our Church.
In 2008, Charlene Duline, a convert to Catholicism, published her memoir, Drinking from the Saucer.
Her’s has been a life of many courageous stands. Before the Civil Rights movement became part of our national consciousness in 1962, Charlene became the first African-American woman from Indiana to be accepted in the nascent Peace Corps.
After a two-year posting in Peru, Charlene took on successively senior diplomatic posts representing the United States in Haiti, Liberia, Tanzania, Swaziland, Panama, and the United Nations Headquarters in New York, and finally Washington, DC.
A graduate of the University of Indiana, Charlene holds a Masters degree in International Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
One would think she had done enough. Toward the end of Drinking from the Saucer, Charlene described her concern for imprisoned and discarded priests:
"After one priest had been killed in prison, I wondered how others were faring. I searched the
internet to find out where some were incarcerated . . . I demanded to know why our Church
officials have never asked for prayers and forgiveness for them."
As I juxtapose, today, Charlene’s decision to reach out to convicted and incarcerated priests, with the more vindictive voices of the self-described “faithful,” I can’t help but consider the well known Gospel Parable of the Good Samaritan. [Luke: 25-37]
A man is left beaten by robbers [yes, from my perspective, the analogy holds.] A priest and Levite pass by in fear that helping the wounded man will leave them ritually impure under the law. The Samaritan becomes the only person free to obey the higher law, to be a neighbor to the discarded and stranded.
In his profound book, Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI wrote of this same parable:
The Samaritan . . . shows me that I have to learn to be a neighbor deep within, and that I already have the answer in myself. I have to become someone in love, somone whose heart is open to being shaken up by another’s need. Then I find my neighbor, or better that I am found by him. (Jesus of Nazareth, p. 197)
Charlene has learned something about the Gospel of Mercy. The lesson did not come cheap, as her memoir describes. Only such a wounded healer could call upon the Church’s shepherds with the force of having lived the Gospel of mercy, to refine the voices they are listening to in all this. “What kind of shepherds,” she wrote. “abandon their sheep when they make a misstep.”
Charlene’s birthday is August 13th, the day before Saint Maximilian Kolbe’s feast day — the date of his execution in prison. Her memoir concludes, not about herself, but about us, the discarded:
"May they feel His Presence today, and every day."
Kathleen Riney says
August 14, 2016 at 6:09 PM
Thank you Charlene! Your acts of Mercy gave Fr. G. a Freedom Few priests in the USA, have.
(Am sure Germany & the EU, are not any better.) You’re a living example of the Grace of God at work, through the intercession of prayers of the Faithful, the Body of Christ.
It’s difficult for some of us, who have been activists in the past 45+ yrs., to Retire to a “Prayerful Intercession”. The trace of Jansenism, that came with many of my Irish Immigrant Great-Grandparents, still nags us to “DO” something! 🙂
Think of the size of Fr. G.’s Parish!! Lowest Operating Cost in the World! Highest # of Converts…. Highest # of Prayer Warriors…….Spiritual Direction for Thousands, from Priests who are “Altar Christi’s”. Wounded Healers themselves! Global Internet Connections volunteered. Life experiences, are freely shared across Boarders of ethnicity, & an Acceptance that transcends “tolerance”, extends even to those who persecute the People of God. ( Although, the latter may take some time for a few of us!)
Thank you Charlene! 🙂
Susan McNair says
July 28, 2010 at 10:46 PM
Dear Father Gordon,
I have read about you Father and I know in my heart you have been falsely accused. It seems that the Church today is so eager to appease the media and the many accusers it is throwing the “baby out with the bath water”.
The Church is not taking the time to see if an accusations are true or not just pay them off and make it go away. What ever happened to justice? Our Savior, St. Paul and St. John the Baptist could answer better than any of us. You are in good company Father but I am sure you know that.
My prayers are with you. I pray for you every night and all those priests who have been unjustly incarcerated for false accusations; I also pray for those fallen angels who rightly belong there for it is the sin I hate not the sinner.
I pray for all our priests and clergy for it is a rough time for all of Gods foot soldiers.
May the blessings of our Blessed Mother keep you safe and your Guardian Angel watch over you and protect you.
Fr. Peter Lechner, s.P. says
October 3, 2009 at 2:00 AM
Being as I am also involved in an apostolate of help to priests — one that Fr. MacRae was also engaged in with me for several years – with many priests being helped by him before he was sentenced to what for all intensive purposes appears to be life imprisonment —
I appreciate the analogy of the Good Samaritan and the man who was robbed and beaten. Many years ago Pope John XXIII used the same analogy to speak of the Paraclete ministry to priests in need of someone to assist them because of being “wounded.”
Interestingly enough the Pope compared the Samaritan to Christ Himself, who has gone to an infinite extent to be with those whom He has sent out on His mission, wherever they may be. The innkeeper(s) are those who provide help until the Lord returns – and for which they will be “paid” for all that has been expended on their behalf.
My own understanding of this part of the parable is that this applies to all who like Charlene are reaching out -often in unpopular circumstances – to be part of ministering to abandoned souls, including abandoned shepherds.
August 27, 2009 at 9:10 PM
Oh, how I am grateful to you, Charlene, and your outright courage in defense of innocent priests falsely accused. I plan to order your book and then pass it on to others so that everyone can know what’s happening…
God bless you.
Rev Anthony Tran Van Kiem says
August 25, 2009 at 4:35 PM
During the first six months of my ordeal (from Feb to June, 2009, I sat idle most of the time, trusting my Bishop and his Chancellor in particular to protect me, and save my honor. Fortunately the parishioners of Our Lady of Victory where I once served told me to wake up from my torpor and fend for my life.
Suddenly I became superheated and kicked hard left and right. I relaxed only when my accuser retracted his charge (Sorry! A case of mistaken identification!), and my Bishop returned my priestly duties to me on August 15th 2009, the Feast of Assumption.
At the good news my body melted unexpectedly into a jelly and I slept for hours. When I woke up disoriented, feeling no interest in food… Fortunately my daze lasted only a few days. My spirits ( the Holy Spirit?) told me: Move your lazy bones! I did as instructed, I rummaged thru my computer and FOUND YOU! Dear Charlene . You have helped me to find my new vocation!
From now on I will spend the rest of my days comforting PRIESTS ACCUSED falsely or otherwise. They are most pathetic victims of INDIFFERENCE.
Charlene C. Duline says
August 12, 2009 at 10:58 PM
I am terribly grateful to Fr. Gordon for allowing me the opportunity to work with him, and I thank him for his kind words about me and about my book. Fr. Gordon is foremost and forever a priest, and inside those stone walls he lifts up those sorrowing and inspires those despairing despite his own broken life and abandonment by his Diocese and all but a few priest friends.
He manages to retain the powerful faith that has made him the priest he has always been. He relates to the broken and discarded because of his own life experience. We are told that grace transforms our crosses into instruments and fine tunes them. Fr. Gordon is a perfect example of that. He would never present himself in a glow of holiness, but I would.
Fr. Gordon does not deserve what has happened to him, and no one except an innocent man and one of strong faith would continue to fight for freedom for fifteen years. I am honored to help this saintly man continue his fight against all odds. I ask everyone to storm heaven and beg our Lord for justice for Fr. Gordon MacRae.
August 12, 2009 at 9:25 PM
Thank you for telling us about this remarkable woman.
Charlene ‘s witness to God’s compassion and mercy is inspiring.
It is a strange thing but the prayer many of us learn early and say often is not fully lived by many of us
“forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”
Yet this is what we must do but our hearts sometimes struggle with this particularly if we have been hurt.
I have found when you find your heart hardening contemplation of Christ’s passion can help soften it because He who was totally innocent suffered so much for us out of pure love and if He could forgive me for my numerous betrayals and hurts who am I to withold forgiveness from a fellow sinner?
In some ways prison is like Calvary -an innocent person in prison is like Christ on Calvary. Christ was innocent but flanked by guilty men. There was a total contrast in their response to Christ- one humble and contrite the other mocking and unrepentant.
May Jesus continue to imbue you heart with His sustaining love Father