Saturday, May 30, 2015

For priests: Saints who were falsely accused ...

I think there were many.

Yet just a few are singled out as patrons of those who are indeed falsely accused.  The first traditional, or 'designated' patron I'll mention is Dominic Savio, a boy saint.

As a young boy he was accused of doing something mischievous ...

Dominic is the patron saint of boys and of the falsely accused. 
This latter title was given to him due to the following incident. One time, two boys filled the school stove with snow and garbage during the cold winter months. When the teacher came back into the room, they falsely accused Dominic of doing the "dirty" deed. Although disciplined in front of the entire class, Dominic refused to tell on the two mischievous boys. When the truth was later revealed, Dominic was asked why he didn't confess to his innocence. He remarked that he was imitating Our Lord, Who remained silent during His persecutions and crucifixion. - Read more here.

I was falsely accused when I was a kid and didn't defend myself.  If only I had died right away after, I might be a saint today.  I was accused by insurance investigators of starting the house on fire - when the real cause was probably bad wiring - the guy told me I'd go to prison unless I admitted it.

In elementary school, a boy stole my essay and handed it in as his own - actually, we were supposed to read it out loud and the boy was ahead of me.  When the teacher called on me I pretended I didn't do my homework rather than betray him.  Now that was saintly, if I do say so myself - but I soon fell into sinful ways in adolescence. Oh!  Why couldn't I have died right then?  But I digress.

Detraction and calumny - sins of the accusers.

Perhaps one of the most famous saints falsely accused is St. Gerard Majella.  A wayward wench, a convent reject, accused the Saint of getting her pregnant - which is why he's the patron of pregnant women.  I know!  Who came up with such patronage appointments?  Anyway - he didn't defend himself and his accuser eventually recanted and he became a saint.  Yep.

St. Roch was falsely accused 
of being a spy and imprisoned.

Then there is the great Margaret of Cortona - she was falsely accused all of her life - holy gossips always claimed she was guilty of something.  She gives me hope.  False accusations have followed me all of my life.  People will even claim I'm lying about that.  Because I've led such a wicked life - I'll accept it.

That said, we all know the stories of these 'designated' patrons.  Although it seems we can only view them from afar.  Their reputations have been enriched, polychromed with the glorious embellishments of heroic virtue, sanctified by extraordinary graces of bilocation, visions, prophecies, and ecstatic states of prayer.  Even though it is stuff like that which makes it seem worth it to go through when the test comes our way, we can still become even more discouraged precisely because those extraordinary graces appear to be unreachable for ourselves.

There has to be someone less idealized.

Yet there has to be someone - a saint, a blessed, a servant of God who is more real, closer to our own time - someone whose reputation was tarnished, someone who was falsely accused but not yet 'whitewashed' by the hagiographers?  

And there is... these ought to be the new patrons...

A perfect example - maybe even a prophetic one at that, is Blessed Paul VI - or Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini, former Cardinal Archbishop of Milan.  He was accused of being gay, and the story is continuously brought up - though he was falsely accused, I recall the Holy Father speaking of the vicious attack publicly, as the following excerpt from Vanity Fair magazine makes note of:
The Catholic priesthood’s contemporary gay cultural memory begins in the middle of the last century. When Paul VI assumed the throne, in 1963, by one account he took his papal name not from any predecessor but from a former lover, a film actor. That at least was the contention of the provocative gay French writer Roger Peyrefitte, whose 1976 allegations about Paul VI caused such a stir that Paul took to the balcony of St. Peter’s to denounce the “horrible and slanderous” accusations. - VF

Even today Paul VI is maligned and misunderstood - his papacy, his sanctity, all questioned - especially by the holy ones ... therefor he gets my vote for the most excellent patron of the falsely accused.

An authentic mystic-wonder-worker may help too.

Then of course, the runner up would have to be St. Pio of Pietrelcina.  He was falsely accused of everything - and locked away in his convent for years - until Paul VI came along.
In the summer of 1960, the Holy Office of the Vatican dispatched an apostolic visitor to investigate Padre Pio... 
...anxiety about Padre Pio stemmed from a set of audiotapes surreptitiously recorded in the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in San Giovanni Rotondo that purported to document improper relations between Pio and a group of lay sisters, who formed a kind of protective guard around him. Keepers of the Padre Pio cult, they controlled access to the future saint, handled money coming in for the hospital, and appeared to have free run of the monastery at all hours. 
The apostolic visitor, Monsignor Carlo Maccari, left San Giovanni unimpressed by the person of Padre Pio and horrified by the cult that surrounded him, which he thought, according to his report, smacked of “idolatry and perhaps even heresy…religious conceptions that oscillate between superstition and magic.” -Source
For a time it looked like Padre Pio would live out his remaining years being treated as a miscreant.  But Paul VI changed things around rapidly. The Pope was not averse to St Pio. As Cardinal of Milan, Paul VI had sent a request for prayers to Padre Pio in 1959. In 1964, Pope Paul intervened with the CDF and ordered that Padre Pio be allowed to practise his ministry “in complete freedom” and that he was not to be confined “like a criminal”. - Source
Let him sit alone in silence when he has laid it on him...
Two men, with two different reputations, representing two different 'ideologies' within Roman Catholicism - both falsely accused - neither receiving a great deal of support, both suffering the effects of false accusation in darkness and sorrow - perhaps near dejection.

These two saints Paul and Pio, seem to me to be the saints - the patrons for the falsely accused in our day.  We might implore them to come to the aid of those marginalized and suspended, although they share the lot of the saints in light - that light is darkness to the soul of the priest who finds himself alone ... outside the gate by a leave of absence as it were, sharing the shame of Christ.  The joy is unfelt - the peace certain - but the suffering is without consolation.

Please pray for priests who are falsely accused.  Pray for all priests.

Yes, I hear the whisperings of many: "Terror on every side! Denounce! let us denounce him!" All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine. "Perhaps he will be trapped; then we can prevail, and take our vengeance on him." - Jeremiah 20:10

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