God Love This Man
Fr Bob McLaughlin was for many years Newman Chaplain at Temple University here in town, always sought out by press for his solid commentary of big church events. A couple years back, he was sent to the rapidly-growing hinterlands of Chester County (half of which is now owned by the Vanguard Group) and he built what I'm told was a beautiful mega-church for his parish.
As if we needed further proof that the best priests in this town have always been Newman Chaplains, Bob Mac let 'er rip in today's Daily News.
Well, they believed it because we've always been told that we handle things differently in Philadelphia -- that's the way God intended it. We are the chosen race, after all, and He didn't give us a Pharaoh for nothing.
Father Mac cherishes his church.
But he is incensed by his church's leadership.
"They betrayed everything I pledged my life to," Father Mac told me. "When the scandal broke in Boston, I went to our leaders and said, 'Tell me the truth about Philly.' They assured me - to my face - that there was no cover-up because 'We handle things differently in Philadelphia.'
"I took that message to my people, and they believed me."
I've already talked to people in the pews who are furious with McLaughlin. These same people maintain that "the kids asked for it" and the press has no role in covering things Catholic -- well, bad things Catholic.
"I questioned my vocation," he continued. "I thought, 'I don't want to work for liars.' And then the Holy Spirit hit me upside the head with a two-by-four - which he has a habit of doing - and said to me, 'You don't work for those liars downtown. You work for the good people of St. Basil's.' "Admittedly, this reminds me of the opening of Jerry Maguire, when Tom Cruise published his 'mission statement' and all the other SMI agents were seen in the hotel lobby asking each other, "How long do you give him?"
And so, when Cardinal Rigali released his lawyered-over, five-page statement addressing the grand-jury report, Father Mac refused to read it to parishioners at Mass, the way he'd usually read a missive issued from the archbishop's opulent downtown mansion.Um, I'm checking Mapquest to see how long it takes to drive to Kimberton. If our crunchy friends can drive two hours to watch some young guy face the wall and whisper in Latin, I can do 45 minutes to get some sanity from the pulpit.
Instead, he said, at four services, he spoke from his gut to a congregation that he knew needed to hear the truth as much as he needed to say it.
"I told them that, all my years of preaching, this was the first time I'd rather hide in the woods than face them," he says. "I told them, 'I will not stand here and defend the indefensible. We were lied to, again and again and again.' "
He cried, he said, when he shared how deeply it hurt to suddenly be regarded with suspicion, because he'd devoted so much of his life to youth ministry and education.
And his voice boomed when he pulled from his pocket, right there on the altar, his license to carry a firearm and told his people, "I have a license to carry a gun, and I promise - I promise - that your children will be safe in this parish as long as I am your pastor!"