Stained Glass

Written By: luke4079 - Oct• 17•13

Before the second printing of our book, Luke17:2, I thought it would be good to submit this essay, ‘Stained Glass,’ to the archive of this website. It was originally written in 2002 in response to the sexual abuse revelations in the Boston Globe; and specifically in response to the abuse of my brother, and death of my best friend, Jimmy Francis, at the hands of Rev. Ronald Paquin. I wanted to reveal these truths, and to offer a corrective to the Church. I knew that one of my brothers had been abused, but had yet to learn of the other’s, Michael’s, at the time of this essay. Over the next decade, Mike and I discussed and pondered and wondered and railed about the nonsense, mess, and horrors the Church afflicted upon us, and then we wrote a book about it. But ten years before that book, and a few months before his abuse revelation, I remember back in 2002 seeing him in the corner of the room reading this essay for what seemed to be way too long a time. Mike was being quiet and very un-Mike-like in the corner with these words and I wasn’t really sure why. Now, I think I know. And perhaps these words propelled his actions? I’m not entirely sure; but I do think they are important to the history of this project; and I would add that today I would not waste these words by addressing them to the Catholic Church. I have learned that they are an institute antithetical to Jesus. Protecting their own asses always comes first! They have no interest in compassion and charity. The Church supports a narcissistic culture. It’s a system without checks and balances which incubates hubris and greed. It’s maniacal and monarchical, barring democracy, as well as transparency. It convinces its adherents that they (the bishops/administrators/clerics) control heaven and hell, as well as access to Jesus and forgiveness. They lure with food, education and healthcare, leaving the recipients guilty and indebted to the absolute authority. And the saddest part is that the Jesus message is easy to peddle — it’s so potent and beneficial — therefore so easy to be coopted and used for selfish and sadistic ends. So, anyone with a known or unknown proclivity to dominate and abuse, or who feels the need to be secretive, or thinks they should be bowed to, would find refuge and advancement in an institute designed this way. And had I understood that ten years ago, I would not have wasted my time trying to work out a solution with them. They were never a part of me, nor I them, for they from the start were engaged in a swindle. So, it’s obviously beholden upon States to put legal pressure on organizations like them which believe that they are above the law. It is The People’s duty to prosecute! And it is the believers’ duty to rid themselves of these imposters who call themselves leaders. Wake up! Kick them out! And redistribute that Vatican wealth! I assure you Jesus was an Egalitarian.

So, with that said and offered solely as my opinion, I now offer the essay which began this literary endeavor.

 

~ Written by Patrick Emerton

*********************************

STAINED GLASS
By Patrick Emerton
March 17, 2002

Truth, truth and reconciliation … a brook running over so many years … White Mountains, New Hampshire. Dark forest. The fire light dimming. Flames snapping any remaining wood. Embers sizzling, the water rushing on, slapping rocks, welling and flowing below four very good friends all filled with beer, cramped on the bank in a glowing blue tent, casting shadows with a flashlight, crazed and spastic, hilarious and wild. There were no parents. We were there with our parish priest. He was there to protect us, shepherd us. Our folks knew that we would be all right. I and my friends in our tent. Father Paquin and my younger brother, then about 12, in a tent to themselves. Laughter. The brook. The fire going out. Night.

That summer Paquin had isolated one my friends, Jimmy, from the rest of us. I was jealous and confused one afternoon when Jim said that I couldn’t go to Bethlehem with him. Jimmy said that Father Paquin was taking him and three younger kids to a private chalet in the White Mountains. I wasn’t invited. Jim was standing next to me. We were in the Haverhill stadium watching our team practice before the big Thanksgiving Day football game. The sun was shining brightly. Jim was directly in the beam. He had to shield his eyes and squint in order to talk to me. He leaned, one foot on the steel railing, someone ran the ball up the field; but Jim didn’t have an answer. He had been spending all his time with Father Paquin, our new parish priest, and recently he had spent a few days at Saint John’s Seminary in Boston with him. Right where the Cardinal lived! My friend was thinking about becoming a priest. It seemed he was veering away from a future in the NHL, and was now talking about becoming a servant of God.

All full of smiles that day he was, standing one foot on the railing; but he never, really, told me; he never really answered me when I asked him about all this priest stuff. He never really said anything in particular that I could follow concerning it. He just seemed to be interested, and I think that was what I admired most. My mother was a Carmelite nun, cloistered in the habit for six years before she had me, her oldest — a very serious and meditatively deep woman of God — she raised me in a strong, mystical sense, steeped in faith, deep in ritual. I could only admire Jim for his choice to be a priest and his decision not to talk about it. He was following the call of God, and that’s all I needed to know.

Jim met Father Paquin at Saint John the Baptist Church in Haverhill, Massachusetts. That was where we all met him. It was the summer of 1981. We were then 16, or thereabouts; and he was the new priest, transferred from the next town over, Methuen. He was replacing the cool priest, who had taken us to Florida. It would take a lot for Paquin to be better than him. Soon, we found out that Paquin helped Jim get a driver’s permit, as well as a motorcycle license. Now, how cool was that! A priest with a bike. And his car! It was fast and sleek: a fully loaded Toyota Supra, which he said that we could drive whenever we pleased. … Now, really, How cool is that! He pulled a string, and I got my driver’s license on the day I became eligible. He and I laughed a lot and talked about the New Testament. Sometimes very seriously. He bought my friends and me a lot of beer. My mother allowed him to sleep on the floor with us kids when he came to visit the family’s beach cottage. Right down there on the floor with us. What a cool priest! My mother on the couch; the ocean, outside; Father Paquin, Jim, my sister, brothers and all our friends on the floor. She had to figure he could only be a good influence on us, seeing as our father was so often so very ill and hospitalized.

I let it go. Jim wasn’t answering any of my questions as to why I couldn’t go. He just got quiet, squinting, blinded by the sun. He looked down, one foot on the steel railing, and said that I just shouldn’t go to the cabin in Bethlehem, NH, with him and Paquin, and that’d he’d be back by Sunday. But Jim never came back. He and Paquin drank hard that night, which was what we usually did when we were with Paquin; and then they got up very early, along with the three others who were on the trip. They got up just as the sun, I imagine, was coming up over a curvy mountain road on a day when the whole world was full of snow. Father Paquin, it was said back then, fell asleep at the wheel. And my best friend, Jim, tried to regain control … before they hit some ice and flipped over, tumbling down the mountain until the car hit a tree … and there it lay resting on its driver’s side when Jim, in the passenger seat, jumped to the ground … and once safely there, he sat getting his composure back … and that’s when the car came back and fell on him, folding him in half.

*****

Father Paquin gave Jimmy’s eulogy. He spoke to all of us gathered in the church, gathered as we had over so many Sundays, finding a balance between boredom and that dazzling sense of sanctuary which can come from ritual and scripture. Loved ones, neighbors, relatives — we were all there grieving when Father Paquin raised the host over Jimmy’s coffin – over the body of my friend in front of the altar that I had knelt a million times before, in front of the altar that I proudly sat upon serving at the right hand of those who have the power to transform mere bread and wine into the immortal flesh and blood of my God and Savior, channeling that power for communal consumption — bells rang … and then it was very cold around that hole in the ground on the door step of winter. Icy rain touched us all as we stared into the darkness. A neatly cut hole in the grass. A mound of flowers. Granite. He went down slowly as I watched my father embrace my best friend who had been standing alone and whimpering.

There was camaraderie in it. A warm rising. We all laughed our asses off sharing stories about Jim the night before. We were gathered directly above him, all his friends in folding chairs on the second floor, right over his casket in the funeral home; we waked him up rightly that night by taking turns, sitting in a ring, a dozen or more, reminiscing, reminding each other of his essence: what it was he made so memorable, what it was that was so worth being near, what made him the great friend to each and everyone of us. My mother poked her head up to the top of the stairs in order to quiet us whose laughter was disturbing the mourners below: she gave us a look which said, “I know you’re full of his presence, but you might have to tone it down a bit.” She smiled and then descended with memories of him.

The line of cars was long. The grave was at the bottom of a cold wet hill. No sun shone that day and we all shivered when the coffin went in.

*****

A few months later, Father Paquin took all of us, Jim’s friends and his family members, down to Orlando, Florida on a church sponsored trip. He was doing this to help us get over Jim’s death. He kept the youngest boys in a room with him — the ones who were in the accident, all about 12-years-old, and some of their friends. We, older boys, around 16 got a room to ourselves. Every square inch of the fridge was packed with beer. We partied all night, danced on every bed, and then jumped into the pool. We truly were having the best time of our lives. We were erratic with celebration in the spirit of our good friend! … And that is how I recall my times with Father Paquin … jumping into the blue shimmering hotel pool at night, going to sleep by the brook in the mountains … life went on, and I grew and I admired and I trusted and I was guided by the Catholic Church in all of its examples and endeavors to help and heal, to lift and console, unite, celebrate, teach and shelter … it was all truly worth following, — Jesus’ message, “Be honest, reveal, open-up, live in the light and unite with all living things, show compassion, offer care and share in that inner guiding brightness by trusting and having faith, by not hiding who you are! For we all are God’s beautiful children! Everyone with a spark of the Divine!” … We were so happy and so young and so drunk, the littlest ones with Paquin causing a ruckus in the room next door running around in their underwear.

After high school, I went to a Jesuit university, spent the following years as an artist, painting, acting, writing, and then I joined the priesthood when I was 24. I spent that year living with the Jesuits, trying to see if I were fit to be a priest. … When my family heard the news, I received a call from my youngest brother – the one who slept in Paquin’s tent. He was furious and not making any sense. He was calling from a party halfway across the continent, and he was very seriously pissed off. He hated the thought of me being a priest. He was appalled and wanted to know how I could even be considering such a retched thing — considering what Paquin had done to him! I, very drunk myself on the other end of that late night call, couldn’t follow what he was trying to say – but I do remember him railing-on about something that happened along the bank of a brook in a tent — and he needed some truth to be told. He wanted to know if I knew what that prick had done to him …? … the line was silent. Both parties raged on. I assured my brother that my choice to be a priest would somehow fix what went wrong, and then our parties again raged on lifting us into swells of laughter that would carry us into the rest of our lives.

*****

After hearing from so many friends, dozens of them, who have been victimized by Paquin (or other priests), I have come to see the need to humbly call upon the Church to tell the truth and to reconcile. Those responsible for torture must let their victims free! The church must face those they have hurt and it must be done as a sacrament in the church! Before the eyes of God! In the House of the Lord! This public healing must happen. It must happen where Jimmy’s coffin sat, and it must happen where all those holy words were spoken over all that broken bread when we were taught that Jesus’s way was the light of our lives. Let us follow and walk in that revealing light. Be truthful and take responsibility for what you have done, Catholic Church! Lead by example as Jesus did, speak honestly and act openly by offering to help those who have been hurt. Lead by example! Give your people a reason to trust in you. Ask for their forgiveness. Surely, you now know exactly what you have done! You need salvation and you need reconciliation. Share in the truth, Saint John the Baptist Church and Haverhill, Massachusetts, as well as the Arch Diocese of Boston, and all you provinces that have erred by covering-up criminal offenses by moving the offenders onward to offend, again! Take example from the life, death, and rising of Jesus, and find that radical and renewing spirit which can take the form of brave political action, such as the act which established the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Take example by it! The Commission was set so that victims could say what they needed to say to their tormentors. South Africa had a violent and bloody past which needed to be dealt with if freedom were to take hold. The Commission’s final report, written only after all the innocent victims had a chance to face the ones who had so badly hurt them, states that:

The Commission’s quest for truth should be viewed as a contribution to a much longer-term goal and vision. Its purpose in attempting to uncover the past had nothing to do with vengeance; it had to do, rather, with helping victims to become more visible and more valuable citizens through the public recognition and official acknowledgment of their experiences. … [This hearing] is the beginning of giving the voiceless a chance to speak, giving the excluded a chance to be centered and giving the powerless an opportunity to empower themselves. … In addition, by bringing the darker side of the past to the fore, those responsible for violations of human rights could also be held accountable for their actions. In the process, they were given the opportunity to acknowledge their responsibility to contribute to the creation of a new South African society.

And thus, with a political act founding the establishment of a public hearing, a key pillar of the needed “bridge” between a deeply divided South African past of “untold suffering and injustice” and a future “founded upon the recognition of human rights, democracy, peaceful co-existence, and development opportunities for all” was played-out in “a world wide acceptance of direct and indirect, individual and shared responsibility for past human rights violations.”

And it is in this spirit that I call upon the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church to allow those individual parishes where abuses have occurred to hold their own, or join with regional, Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, guided by justice, and controlled by professionals, such as psychologists, who understand the art of healing. Please, open yourselves up, so that your people can trust in the Church, again.

****

I remember walking a path with my mother upon the cliff tops of Maine. I was talking to her in order to find out what became of Fr. Paquin. It was 1991. And she told me upon a walk that Jimmy and I often took high above the Atlantic, above the jagged and pounded rocks, that Paquin had been sent away to some hospital, a psychological treatment facility in Maryland. And that sufficed for me, for then. And I figured my year attempting to be a Jesuit wasn’t all in vain; and that somehow, even though I had left, I figured that that year of prayer, devotion and contemplation maybe did do some good. And I kept my brother’s confession to myself — the one he blurted-out over that phone call, so angry that I could even think of wanting to be a priest.

It was 1993 when I was playing with a vice in a workshop. My friend who had become a patrolman in Haverhill asked me if I remembered Paquin. We each put a hand on the wood in the vice. I turned the crank tightly when he said that he found father Paquin, late, a few nights ago, parked with a young boy in a cemetery. It was a few yards away from Jimmy’s head stone; and my friend remembered how great Father Paquin had been to all of us back then. He remembered how Paquin used to take us camping, and he said that Father Paquin said that it was just a little late night counseling that he was doing there in that cemetery. He said that the boy he was with lived in a very troubled home, and that he was in need of assistance. My friend remembered how nice a guy the priest was to me and my family during a time when we so badly needed a good male role model, due to our father who often went missing. He remembered Father Paquin and apologized for the interruption. For surly he must have been doing what he always did, which was be a guiding light for the kids. So, my friend, the patrolman, turned off his flashlight and told Father Paquin to have a good night.

*****

It wasn’t until the John Geoghan case became public in January of 2002 that the memory of this man, Father Paquin, finally and fully came back. My entire family was gathered at my younger brother’s house for a reunion. We were watching the Patriots play the Steelers when The Boston Globe landed its January 26, 2002 front page story about Paquin and his admitted abuses right into our family’s lap. My brother and I talked again about that night in the tent for first time since it was mentioned in that ragged and frantic cross-continental call … and there it was again! He was afraid, confused, angry, and in doubt, even though it was so many years later and he was now an adult. It was right then that I knew that this article must be written for not only him, but also for Jim, the good name of Jesus, and for every other friend who has told me about how horrifying it has been since they were robbed of their trust, since their faiths were raped and their souls murdered.

So, in this Easter time of reflection on death and rebirth, renewal and forgiveness, I think it important that we all hear the words of the Most Reverend Archbishop Emeritus, Desmond M. Tutu, in his final report as Chairperson of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I leave them as a plea to municipalities and parishes to hold such healing hearings in the spirit of Spring and Easter and all that needs renewing, let us bear in mind that:

The past refuses to lie down quietly. It has an uncanny habit of returning to haunt one. ‘Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it’ are the words emblazoned at the entrance to the museum in the former concentration camp of Dachau. They are words we would do well to keep ever in mind. However painful the experience, the wounds of the past must not be allowed to fester. They must be opened. They must be cleansed. And balm must be poured on them so they can heal. This is not to be obsessed with the past. It is to take care that the past is properly dealt with for the sake of the future.

 

Patrick Emerton
March 17, 2002

 

CODA: A wrongful death lawsuit filed in April 2002 by Jeffrey A. Newman, representing Sheila and Harold Francis, asserts that the archdiocese ”breached” its duty to the parents by allowing Paquin, “a known pedophile who had engaged in predatory sex with minors in his parish, to remain a priest where he could continue to prey upon children to satisfy his unbridled sexual desires”; the suit, also, claims that the road was not icy at all. And Paquin had been drinking heavily and fell asleep at the wheel. And just a few hours earlier, Paquin had crawled into Jimmy Francis’s sleeping bag and molested him. On behalf of another victim, in May 2002, Paquin was indicted on three counts of rape of a child; May 30th, the Boston Globe reported that Cardinal Bernard F. Law continued to reinstate Paquin to priestly duties, despite numerous detailed complaints of molestation against him and substantial monetary settlements, including several credible accounts from his parish in Methuen, MA, which occurred before he was transferred to Haverhill.

In June 2002 at the National Bishops Conference in Dallas, Texas, while acting as a spokes-person for Voice of the Faithful, a Boston-based group formed in response to the crisis in the Archdiocese of Boston and the broader difficulties afflicting the Catholic Church throughout the world, my other younger brother decided to go public with his own story of having been molested by Paquin. Our family never knew until he shared it at a press conference in Dallas. He could never, quite get it into words until then when he knew that the world would be listening.

Ronald H. Paquin said he was raped when he was 13 years old by three teenage boys; then after his father’s death, he was befriended by a priest – the priest, whom he refused to identify, took him under his wing, only to abuse that trust by raping him repeatedly. [Confession: Ex-Haverhill Priest Admits He Molested Kids For Years, by Robin Washington and Tom Mashberg, Boston Herald: 1/26/02.]

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