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Chat with Globe writer Don Aucoin

Globe Living/Arts writer Don Aucoin, co-author of the "Parish at the crossroads" series, talked with Boston.com readers on July 17 about St. Gerard's and the priest abuse scandal.

Don Aucoin (Globe writer)
12:56PM
Hi everybody -- I'm here to chat about the three-part series on St. Gerard's parish in Canton that is running in the Globe's Living/Arts section. It looks at how the parishioners and their priest have dealt with the priest abuse scandal. I'm not part of the investigative team, so there may be some questions I won't be able to answer, but I'll give them my best shot.
Edward
01:04PM
What made you choose St. Gerard's parish?
Don Aucoin (Globe writer)
01:05PM
My colleague Bella English and I did a lot of research before settling on St. Gerard's. We wanted to find a church that was mainstream and representative of the broader picture of the Catholic church, but also undergoing a strong reaction in response to the crisis. St. Gerard's struck us as both unique and universal.
alb
01:05PM
Have you been to any of the Voice of the Faithful meetings?
Don Aucoin (Globe writer)
01:07PM
No, I haven't. St. Gerard's is weighing the establishment of a chapter of VOTF. The group is holding a meeting in Boston this Saturday that is expected to draw thousands from across the country and may suggest the future road to reform. They appear to steer clear of doctrinal matters, but would clearly like to see some changes in church governance.
MCD
01:07PM
Have you received any response to date on this series from the Cardinal's entourage?
Don Aucoin (Globe writer)
01:09PM
No response yet from Lake Street, no. A lot of reaction from rank-and-file Catholics, though. A number of people seem quite taken with Father Mac, the St. Gerard's pastor who is the subject of Bella English's profile today. There is clearly a lot of ferment in the pews across the Archdiocese of Boston.
Herbert Walker
01:09PM
Why not do a story on a parish where the pastor is faithful to the Archbishop? Where the people are still coming and the money is still flowing. They are out there, probably more than you guys at the Globe want to know.
Don Aucoin (Globe writer)
01:12PM
The people are still coming to St. Gerard's. Attendance has remained steady, as have, I believe, the donations targeted specifically to the parish rather than the archdiocese. With regard to the first part of your question, I think Father Mac reflects a significant body of opinion in the priesthood. And we did reflect the views of loyalists like parishioner Paul Blake.
Don Aucoin (Globe writer)
01:14PM
It could potentially point the way to a different Catholic church, at least in the United States. As to VOTF becoming a 'new Catholic religion,' no. The group seems disinclined to address matters of doctrine.
rj
01:14PM
Don-- I'd submit that the people are still coming to St. Gerard's in a big way. They've run a week-long Kids Camp full of activities for kids in the summer that is staffed by over a hundred local teenagers. It's a huge hit and something I haven't seen at too many other parishes. Did you know about this?
Edrie
01:14PM
Will VOTF become the new Catholic religion?
Don Aucoin (Globe writer)
01:17PM
Yes, I did know about the camp. In fact, it's prominently mentioned in the third story in our series, running tomorrow, which focuses on the young people of St. Gerard's. The fact that the church runs a camp for 500-plus kids is one of the things that strikes me as fairly remarkable about the church. The kids are at the very center of church life: They can serve as lectors (doing readings from scripture), as eucharistic ministers (giving Communion), and a host of other roles.
Edward
01:19PM
What about the young people? Do you have any sense on where they are in all of this? Their thoughts, concerns, or hopes for the life of the church?
Don Aucoin (Globe writer)
01:25PM
The kids are going through a lot emotionally, as is to be expected. They have absolute faith in Father Mac, and their faith overall is still intact, but some of them feel a sense of the church being adrift, of the grownups having let down kids their own age. You have to remember, these 16-year-olds have no memory of the Pope as the robust figure we adults recall from the first two decades of his papacy; they have known him only as a very frail old man, and it forms part of their broader anxiety and questions about who is in charge. I think this crisis may have hit kids hardest of all. As I say in the story tomorrow, they don't have the decades-deep roots in the church that their parents have, so they have fewer inner resources and personal traditions to draw on. For some of them, this is a devastating introduction to some grim realities.
Jamie
01:29PM
My daughter was one of the four babies baptized after the outdoor Mass - I am not a devout Catholic, but I respect the work Father Mac has done in bringing this dynamic parish together
Don Aucoin (Globe writer)
01:32PM
It seems as though pastors like Father Mac who allow an open dialogue are the ones who gain a greater loyalty from their parishioners. It seems that the pastors who try to stifle or steer the dialogue, or who gloss over the situation, experience some alientation from their parishioners.
es
01:32PM
I'm a young person who was raised as a Catholic and I now feel betrayed by the hierarchy. The series mentions that VOTF is mostly made up of people aged 50+. I think young adults want major reform including allowing women in the clergy and making celibacy optional. VOTF is a good start, but we need to push for more reform in addition to empowering the laity. I think a new American Catholic church should lead the way for the rest of the world.
Don Aucoin (Globe writer)
01:35PM
It will be interesting to see where the American Catholic Church ends up vis a vis the rest of the world. The Vatican has appeared at times to see the American Church as dangerously out of step. Some have predicted that the American church might splinter off, but I have a very hard time envisioning that, frankly. Your point about the views of young people is well-taken. The ones I talked to do generally want the changes you allude to as far as women clergy and making celibacy optional; part of their youth is their puzzlement at why those policies exist in the first place. They will ask insistent questions about those mattes, I think, as they get older and assume more control over church affairs.
Edward
01:35PM
Do you get the sense that the young adults feel compelled (called or drawn) to minister within the church? If not, do you have any insight into what prevents them from considering such service?
Don Aucoin (Globe writer)
01:39PM
The young people I talked to do feel that obligation very strongly, and St. Gerard's encourages it. There's no sense that children should be seen and not heard in that church. However, some teenagers drifted away from the church as the crisis unfolded. It could be permanent, or it could be a temporary spiritual crisis of the sort many people go through when theyre young. A lot depends on how the broader Catholic church responds, because young people are clearly watching closely.
Jimmy Jack O'Reilly
01:40PM
DO you argree wth "the elephant in the room" article in last week's The Weekly Standard and that the media is outraged but not all that outraged because of the issue that the article says is at the heart of all of this?
Don Aucoin (Globe writer)
01:42PM
I haven't read the Weekly Standard piece you allude to, but will try to check it out. I don't think the issue is the media being outraged or not outraged, but just trying to cover the story fully and fairly. The question of being outraged or not, and at whom, is one that individual Catholics have to answer.
rj
01:43PM
Don and others--I agree but I can also personally vouch for the role the kids at St. Gerard's play and the enthusiasm they still show. My 7 year old has been a Kids Camp attendee for 3 years. My wife has participated in the organization the last 2 years and has consistently made remarks about the genuine care shown by the teens that run the camp toward the young kids--it starts with the care Father Mac has shown those kids. They have a lot to be proud of and I'm glad to see the good workings of the church being fairly portrayed by the Globe in the midst of a very trying situation.
es
01:44PM
Do you think that withholding money from the church is the best way to send a message that changes need to be made?
Don Aucoin (Globe writer)
01:46PM
That's really not for me to say; it gets back again to a question that individual Catholics have to ask and answer for themselves. I can say that a number of influential parishioners at St. Gerard's do feel, rightly or wrongly, that a financial message resonates more loudly with the archdiocese than any other kind of message.
Globe reader
01:47PM
How much of this is true reporting and how much of it is political activism on the part of the Globe? This is assuming that you understand that most people in the Catholic Church believe the Globe has an anti-Catholic bias, bordering on anti-Catholicism.
Don Aucoin (Globe writer)
01:50PM
I assure you this is true reporting. This is an honest portrait of St. Gerard's as we found it to be over two months of visits during Masses, vigils, discussion groups, picnics.
Edward
01:52PM
How well do you think parishioners are able to see the real issues in the church scandal versus the venom spit out by troublemakers who wish to reduce this scandal to the simple phrase "Through out the gays, and you won't have any more trouble." After all, there are a great deal of young girls, teenage girls and young women who have been abused?
Don Aucoin (Globe writer)
01:54PM
I didn't encounter any of the '"venom'' of which you speak at St. Gerard's. It seems for most people the issue is as basic and profound as this: Children have to be protected,whether they're boys or girls.
Herbert Walker
01:55PM
Don, do you really think there is no bias in the media coverage? And what was the point of publishing a book about the crisis, other than trying to fan the flames.
Don Aucoin (Globe writer)
01:58PM
The media have paid a lot of attention to this story, no question. But the better newspapers (like the Globe, if I may say so) have also been at pains to remind people that there are a lot of great priests out there, and that they are suffering through this crisis as much as anybody. Re the book, I wasn't involved in it, but it strikes me as an attempt to tell the story as fully as possible.
es
01:59PM
Unfortunately, the Catholic Church can't blame this scandal on anti-Catholicism. The hierarchy brought it on themselves, trying to prevent scandal with cover-ups.
rizzotta
02:00PM
I am a member of the St. Gerard's parish. I grew up in the parish. I was a member of their CYO group and a Kid's Camp Counselor. Father Mac is not only an outstanding priest, but an outstanding person. He has been available for parishioners to share their thoughts on the scandal. It is because of him, that St. Gerard's continues to have people and money flowing through its doors.
Don Aucoin (Globe writer)
02:01PM
My alloted one hour is up, everybody. Thank you very much for your thoughtful questions.


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