Remembering a Flawed Man

By Mark Mangie. Today I attended a Memorial Service for a long-time friend of mine. I have known him since 1968. He was a priest. He mentored the Newman Student Organization at Youngstown State through the tumultuous years of the late 1960’s…a time of upheaval not only in the United States but in the Catholic Church. Over the years he married many of my friends, baptized our children, ministered to the sick and dying of our older family members. He attended our social gatherings. We joined him in celebrating his life's milestones NUMEROUS times. For better or for worse, he was a part of our lives.

He certainly reflected the times in which he lived. He was bombastic, showy, wore his heart on his sleeve, loved Christmas and Christmas decorations, and loved the company of people. He knew how to have a good time. He loved his family. He was kind and welcoming to everybody. And he was open to ideas outside the scope of normal Catholic orthodoxy. Religion should be inclusive…not exclusive. Religion should be open to different points of view.

At the same time, because of the closeness many of us maintained with him, we were aware of his flaws and shortcomings. The human condition swirled around him. Some of those flaws and shortcomings were worse than others. And of those one in particular was, and is, deeply disturbing. Our knowledge of the activity came when the Vindicator published the list. How deep can a human bury a secret?

So…how are we supposed to handle that? Here is a man that played a major part in our spiritual lives now exposed for all to see. For the past several years, before the revelations became public, he had been very ill. On oxygen and often relegated to a wheelchair…barely able to breath and suffering large amounts of pain…what do we do with that? When your name appears on a list, and you are sick and dying as you watch your life’s work evaporate before your eyes…how do you handle that?

None of us who interacted with him when we were in our late teens ever experienced that kind of behavior…nor did we know anybody who did. We were all extremely active within the church. You think we would have heard something. He was well loved in all of his parishes. My understanding is the indiscretion happened only once. Who knows? That is something he has carried to the grave.

As Catholics, or in my case as a lapsed Catholic Episcopalian, we are taught to forgive the sinner. God forgives all…and we are all sinners. But that doesn’t make the feelings of disappointment and sadness go away when the curtain is drawn and the person you held in high esteem turns out to be as flawed as the rest of us…maybe worse. That doesn’t mix with the many memories of the good this man did or his role in our lives over the years.

The dilemma is not resolvable. We have to leave it to God to sort things out. I was glad we were all there today to say goodbye to an old friend…notwithstanding anything else. I was glad we were able to share the good memories together. I was glad to be with this group of people who have been part of my life’s journey. But the cloud hung over us.

It is the good times that make life worth living. And God’s solace that takes care of the rest.

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