There are lawyers and then there are scum-sucking swine

I was Googling Bill Graham’s name last night and I saw the reason he was on administrative leave and seemed to have dropped from the face of the earth. From 40 years past a “victim” from a high school that Bill had worked at suddenly claimed to have been abused by Bill during that time. He was represented by a lawyer who makes his business (much like the man in California who has gone after Bishop O’Brien recently) to dredge up questionable memories from anonymous victims and then go full-scale attack on priests in the press, effectively causing the church to hemorrhage anxiety (they removed Bill from the parish and have barred him from even thinking he’s a priest) and sullying Bill’s reputation forever.

Bill is fighting back, counter-suing, taking a lie detector test and struggling to regain his good name and reputation in Duluth and beyond. From what I’ve read in his letters to others, he is quite angry. That’s something I’ve never seen in him in 40 + years.

He noted, in a letter to another person, that the defense lawyer claimed to have suffered a stroke, thus having to postpone a scheduled court date. Bill pointed out that, on the same day, he gave an interview on tv, seemingly unimpaired.

Now, the court hearing will be in January. Meanwhile, Bill is hanging out with his sisters in Florida (um, aren’t there hurricanes there?) and will go to Europe for a few weeks.

Where do these righteous, pompous nasty, smarmy pricks come from? I mean these lawyers who chase frail, damaged souls and use them to pummel, smash and destroy priests? Yes, I admit there have been abuses. Yes, the church is guilty of having been irresponsible in neglecting the care of the souls who were abused and protected the abusers to the point of criminal activity.  If I recall correctly, Duluth had to declare bankruptcy in order to pay out the fines that were levied against it for its role in neglecting the prosecution of past clerical abuses. So, I can appreciate that they are hyper-sensitive to accusations that are newly made.

And Bill has never been a conventional diocesan priest. Going off to study. Being a chaplain at a local college, having a sabbatical in Collegeville — he’s pretty much written his own ticket. I’m sure the new bishop, unknown to me but I think a lot more unwieldy than Bishop Anderson, was quicker to wash his hands of Bill than most. I’m sure many of the older priests of the diocese have gone to their eternal reward. As I told Scott a while back, we are now the elders — the Dorans, Donohoes, Smiths, O’Deas, Moynihans have all gone. We are now filling in their loafers, like it or not.

So, Bill stands out as a possible target for vicious money hungry shysters who drag their “Does” before the press and social media trying to shake the tree to rain down millions of pay out for their middle-aged victim. Even if they don’t get their coveted financial payout, the public process ruins the ones they accuse. In this culture, just an accusation can nail a person as guilty. The ease by which the sleaze can take anyone of us down is mortifying.

It makes me pause.

So, the fullness of life which includes a trip into the depths of despair, a fight with demons, a struggle among power-hungry borderlines who coddle you one moment and then spit you out the next — this fullness is Bill’s. His privileged, storybook life, lived in the glass paperweight has been broken and the cold, harsh wind of judgement, criticism and rejection has come lashing at him as sure as the cold wind whips across Lake Superior on a cold winter’s day.

He’s not broke, but he’s badly bent.

Sadder, wiser, perhaps more compassionate. We’ll see.

 

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