Father Mulcahy: New pastor speaks out

Needless to say, the last two years have been trying times for many Roman Catholics. Endless reports of priests involved in sexual abuse and the ensuing cover-up by the Church hierarchy have caused a resounding chorus of "I told you so!" from critics.

"First of all," says Father Brian Mulcahy, the new pastor at St. Thomas Aquinas University parish, "I would say that it is a self-inflicted crisis. It could easily have been nipped in the bud a long time ago. But it's a necessary process of pruning, of 'cutting away the dead branches,' to use our Lord's image of the vine and the branches. And it's a very painful process that has shaken a lot of people's faith, from the top on down."

Even Charlottesville isn't immune. One year ago, Father Julian Goodman resigned from downtown's Holy Comforter Catholic church for alleged transgressions that occurred over two decades earlier in Richmond.

The nationwide scandal caused Fr. Brian particular discomfort in the spring of 2002 "when it was in the paper on a daily basis, and more horrible revelations surfaced seemingly each and every day."

Mulcahy was then serving at Youngstown State University in Ohio. "If I appeared on campus in my Roman collar, inevitably the topic would come up. It was all that people wanted to talk about.

"And, at times, you'd prefer to avoid talking about it, especially in a sort of perfunctory or superficial way. And so, at times, I just preferred not to be in my collar," he says.

Installed last November at Thomas Aquinas, Mulcahy says that the scandal has brought many challenges to the church. He notes that the Washington Post recently wrote that anti-Catholic bias may have become the "last acceptable prejudice."

"While this particular parish hasn't experienced a mass exodus or anything like that, I'm sure there are people who have just given up coming to church in frustration and in disgust," he says.

And yet, in spite of its horrors, the crisis might be considered a call to arms for honest priests everywhere. Fr. Brian says that for the majority of priests he knows, "it has solidified their own commitment to their vocation. And certainly the priests of my own generation– those who are in their '40s or younger– certainly have felt that it's not a time to jump ship.

"It's a time really to recommit ourselves to the call we've been given," he says.