Sunday, December 27, 2009


This article was printed in the National Catholic Reporter on July 20, 2007. Someone asked that it be reprinted here.

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Issue Date: July 20, 2007

Throwaway priests

Dishonored and disgraced for their crimes, fallen priests deserve our sympathy


Does the Catholic Church remember its fallen priests, the priests who molested children and are now serving time in prisons? Who among us has asked for blessings for them as they serve their time behind bars? The hands that once consecrated the host that became the body of Christ now reek of ammonia from cleaning toilets.

Amid the flurry of accusations, trials, more accusations, payoffs, and dioceses declaring bankruptcy, I began to wonder about the treatment of priests in prison. I wondered how their fellow inmates treated them. Were they revered as men of the cloth or debased as child molesters?
To abuse a child is a horrific act. I know because I was an abused child. Some might find it astonishing that I, the victim of such abuse many years ago, could feel sorry for these fallen priests. Despite the desire for revenge that still burns deep in my heart, something in me wanted to reach out to these men who had served God despite their failings. I wondered if our church ministered to them in any form.

Through the Internet I was able to get information on the accused priests, their sentences and where they were serving their time. I wrote to some of them. I also posted my desire to hear from them on Web sites sympathetic to the defrocked men. Some of their responses astounded me. They all asked to remain anonymous. Most of the priests I heard from indicated that they had no access to Catholic chaplains or materials, including retirement monies they thought they had a right to. It seems that the church that once embraced them and covered up their crimes has abandoned them. They have been defrocked or laicized and are now treated as pariahs. Their situation in prison is not pleasant.

One priest, now 79 years old, wrote, “Mistreatment by the young inmates is continually horrendous. Insults, curses, spitting and assaults are daily. From one attack I received 42 bruises.”

During the 11 years this priest has been in prison, several close family members, including his mother, have died. Other family members do not communicate with him because he “embarrassed the family.” He believes that he will die a lonely death in prison. He’s probably right.

While reading the three-page, handwritten letter, I had to stop several times because tears blinded me. I wept for our “lost sheep” as this priest calls himself and other convicted priests. He feels the church has thrown them away, and it is difficult to disagree with his assessment.

Another priest wrote from prison: “From the start, I was subjected to foul comments and slurs related to my crime of indecent liberties with a minor. Most inmates are tolerant, and some seek information of a religious nature. The biggest offenders are young, angry white men between 19 and 30 years old. Most black men say nothing. I have, as yet, not been physically harmed. I’ve had a TV set tampered with so it could no longer be used. I’ve had feces spread on my blanket and pillowcase, etc. Sex offenders are at the bottom of the ladder in prison. Life behind bars is a total waste of time other than when one spiritualizes it as an opportunity to expiate for one’s sins.”

Still another priest said his fingers were broken by an inmate who wanted a painting the priest had just completed. When he refused the demand, the fingers on his painting hand were broken like matchsticks.

The attorney for an 83-year-old former priest responded that his client “is an older man and his memory is substantially infirmed. I doubt that he has an accurate memory of his stay at a local jail (no prison time). I arranged for a private cell and no contact with jail inmates.”
I ask myself if sentencing men in their 70s and 80s to 200 years in prison makes us better Christians or relieves the pain of those molested. Our church ignored the problem for years and suddenly it’s first in line to condemn. There is no denying that punishment is deserved, but so is forgiveness.

Nobody knows better than victims of sexual abuse the pain and the torment that remains with us for the rest of our lives. We go through the daily motions of living as if nothing had happened to rob us of our childhood, but we suffer in silence. Rape is a vile, violent act. I weep for the children who were abused by priests. I know their pain. I used to fantasize about ways to torture the man who raped me. I wanted him to die a slow, agonizing death.

Forgiving an abuser takes more love and compassion than many of us can muster right now. Yet forgiveness is essential for our own spiritual survival. To forgive is not to forget, but rather to believe that the Lord in his wisdom is still in control and that all wrongs will be righted someday. God is loving and just to both the victim and to the abuser, and I pray that all of us who have suffered abuse will one day be able to forgive our abusers.

Charlene Duline is a retired Foreign Service officer, a former Peace Corps volunteer and a member of St. Monica Catholic Church in Indianapolis.
National Catholic Reporter, July 20, 2007

Thursday, December 24, 2009


[This story was selected by Angels on Earth as one of the prize winning stories in their Christmas Story Contest a few years ago. Contestants were to write their version of the Christmas story from the point of view of Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, one of the wise men, the innkeeper, a shepherd, or an animal in the stable. I chose to write about a stray dog, Marian, who was there. I’m pleased to share my story with you for Christmas.]


It was a bitterly cold night in Bethlehem, but the little pregnant dog pushed on to her destination. Marian, as she was called, was not sure where she was going, but she only knew that she had to get there. A large, glistening star overhead seemed to guide her. Her human family had put her out into the cold saying they had no room or food for one more mouth. They had taken her in when they saw her begging for scraps of food in the marketplace. They didn’t know then that she was going to have puppies. She was grateful when they took her home with them, but as her tiny stomach began to swell with her progeny, she was tossed back onto the streets. Now, she only knew that she had to follow that glowing star.

She stopped for a moment to rest. She was cold, hungry and sad. She was too cold to sleep, and too tired to walk further, but her instinct told her that she had to follow that star, that something wonderful awaited her when she reached the place where the star shone down. She knew it would be there where her babies would be born. Marian picked up a scent, actually several scents, of animals. Suddenly she saw a pack of wild dogs coming toward her. She summoned up her last ounce of courage; she knew she would have to fight these dogs. The leader of the pack halted the group a few feet from her. He walked slowly toward her. She sensed no animosity from him, but she stood her ground. The lead dog noted her hanging teats and enlarged abdomen. He understood that she had been abandoned as had the rest of the dogs in the pack. He sniffed Marian, and then turned to his pack and sent a silent signal to them. Two female dogs came forward and went to Marian. They rubbed muzzles and stood close to her. They urged Marian to follow them into the woods where they would find pine branches for her to lay on to give birth. But Marian raised her head to the heavens, and when the other dogs looked up, they saw the dazzling star beckoning them. Marian hurried on her way, followed by the pack of wild dogs, all following the star.

Suddenly, in the distance Marian saw a tiny stable. She saw shepherds, sheep, lambs, and donkeys around a manger. A scent of welcoming emanated from the stable. The dogs hurried forward, unafraid of the huge farm animals standing around. Marian looked into the face of a baby, and at that moment every person and animal present went down on their knees before the baby, including Marian. The Baby Jesus stretched out His tiny hand as if to bid Marian to come to Him. Marian looked at the parents of the baby, seated on either side of the manger, silently asking their permission. The parents’ smiling eyes gave consent. Marian limped into the stable and went up close to the baby. He held out His hand and touched her nose. The touch was brief and barely felt, but Marian knew without knowing how that all was right with her little world, the world of abandoned dogs. She knew this was the savior she had heard people talking about in the marketplace. She knew she had been blessed by that savior. She knew also that she and her babies would be saved because she had been touched by this special baby boy. She knew that nothing in her life or the life of the world would ever be the same.

She bowed her head before the baby and limped out of the stable. The pack of dogs had disappeared. Behind the stable Marian lay down in a patch of dry grass, and there she delivered her six puppies. Each was born with a star on its forehead. As they suckled, one of the shepherds came to check on her. He gathered up Marian and her little family, and took them home with him. Before Marian closed her eyes in sleep on that starry night, the once abandoned and frightened little dog, looked once again to the star that had drawn her to the special baby boy. She bowed her head in homage to the King of Kings, and the Savior of the world. Marian rested, knowing that she had been privileged to see the one who came to save the world.



Monday, December 21, 2009



[I'm pleased to share with you a chapter from "Ebony:  Warrior Princess," a book about my adorable miniature poodle daughter who crossed the rainbow bridge two years ago. I still mourn her death.]

Warrior princess? Where did that come from? I am a queen in my house. My mommy thinks she is the queen, but I have her number. Ha,ha. Whenever a door is opened, I am the first one out! Mommy tries to hold me back, and she tries to step out ahead of me, but I hold back, and when she steps back to see what I’m doing, I lunge out the door. I know Mommy has read those books on training DOGS that say the boss is supposed to go out the door first. Well, that’s true. But I am the boss and she needs to learn that. When she takes me walking, I lead the way. I go where I want to go and she has to follow. Sometimes when I crisscross the road, she gets tired of that, and tries to tell me that I have to walk on one side or the other. Why I wonder? Why can’t I run from one side to the other if that is what I want to do? She just has to keep up. Actually she should take off the damned leash and let me run. I’m not afraid of any dogs that might be around. If people are around, I want to go up to them to allow them the pleasure of petting me, and oohing and aahing over me. They love me! Mommy gets upset when I see people and I start “talking.” My talking is vocal rumblings of pleasure that there is somebody who would dearly love to pet me. For who wouldn’t love to pet me, the Warrior Princess?

When I lived with my biological mother, Snowie, I thought we were the only two beings like us. I had no idea that there were so many things called dogs out there. When my mommy got me, she decided to take me to obedience school. I was fine until then. But at obedience school there were a lot of big mutts in the class. There was one dog smaller than me. He was a little white doggie named Blizzard. When those big dogs ran over to snift Blizzard, he would roll over on his back and they would sniff him and nuzzle him and then go about their business. But then another one would go over to him and another. He spent all of his time rolling and groveling. Somebody said that’s what small dogs are to do. Well, not this Warrior Princess! The first night of class the owners took off the leashes. Doggies were all over the floor. I tried to stay close to Mommy. I could hear the instructor yelling at Mommy to walk away from me. Those dogs followed me as I followed her. Finally I decided that I was not going to run away from them. I then turned and showed them my teeth and snarled so they would know to leave me alone. Most of them did. There was no way I was going to roll over and let some beast sniff me. Oh no, they had another thought coming. Just let one try it!

Once a baby chocolate Labrador named Hershey was standing behind us. Hershey wanted to play with me. I do not play with dogs. He kept getting closer and closer to me. His owner kept pulling him away. I snarled at him a few times and Mommy scolded me. I heard Hershey’s owner ask him, “Do you want to get bitten?” He knew I was about to tackle Hershey to teach him a good lesson. Mommy apologized to Hershey and petted him. Hmph. I turned my head. I wanted no parts of that puppy. I’m grown; I don’t play with puppies.

There was a time when I would play with other poodles. But then obedience school cured me of all that. I was quite a sweetie before my mommy dragged me off to school. And I would have been fine there if those animals had left me alone. I simply wanted to be left alone. I was not going to be sniffed. And for goodness sakes, why do those animals usually want to sniff one’s butt? I don’t do that. What’s wrong with them? I guess that’s why they call them animals – cause they are! There was a little doggie I used to play with during our morning walks. Her owner would let her out when she saw us coming. Finally, I got tired of her, and one day we walked by and she wanted to play, and I didn’t. I snarled at her. She ran back to her house. I got scolded, but I didn’t care. I was in a bad mood that day I suppose. The next time I saw her I was ready to play. She ignored me. Of all the nerve! I didn’t understand that. I thought we were friends, but the little bitch wouldn’t play with me, and ran back to her house. Thereafter, my mommy wouldn’t even let me stop and pee at the bitch’s house. I hope you know by now that bitch is the word for female dogs. I love using it for obvious reasons!! That little bitch just got on my last nerve! Ha,ha!!

Sometimes Mommy says I’m a piece of work, whatever that means. I am not a piece of anything. I am a jet black, miniature poodle, age eleven, with red bows in my hair. I am too cute. Everybody tells me so.