Earlier today, I was looking for some more articles about the Bishop Williamson and found this article about the disgraced friar Francis Stone via “The Deacon’s Bench” blog on the Patheos Catholic channel:
The timing of this article is coincidental, since I had been wondering what happened to Stone a couple of days ago, and now I know more than I would have cared to. I used to watch “Life on the Rock” during my initial conversion, but I think I’d already stopped by the time Stone took his “leave of absence” in 2008. At the time, the incident was spun as Stone “helping a widow” and unintentionally falling in love with her, as if it was a recent development that “just happened.” However, the article I’ve linked to states that Stone and “the widow” had been engaged in a sexual relationship as early as 2001 and had been involved all throughout the time that Stone had been involved with his TV ministry. When I read that part of the article, I felt a bit betrayed, because Stone had been playing the part of a pious friar on TV (including exhortation that his youthful audience be “chaste”) while he essentially had a family on the side.
To understand why I feel this way, I need to state that I think that a sexual or romantic relationship with an ostensibly celibate Catholic priest and a layperson is inherently abusive, not just because of the power imbalance but also because of the secrets and lies that naturally accompany such a liaison. I think most of the women and men who get involved with priests imagine that their sacerdotal paramour will leave the oppressive structures of the Catholic church and run off into the sunset with them, as was the case with Alberto Cutie (who left the Catholic priesthood, married his girlfriend, and became an Episcopal priest), but in real life, this is almost never happens. It’s sort of like the stereotypical cheating husband who tells his girlfriend that he’s going to leave his wife for her but never does, since he likes having a wife to keep house and take care of the kids and a girlfriend for sex or what have you. Similarly, there’s not much incentive for a priest with a boy/girlfriend to choose between an illicit relationship and being a Catholic priest. Even if the relationship becomes semi-public, the hierarchy will simply do what it has always done by closing ranks around the errant priest (including sending him away to a parish where nobody knows him), and gaslight or pay off the former boy/girlfriend if they threaten to make trouble. This is what happened with the clerical sex abuse scandal when families threatened to go to the authorities, so it’s simply more of the same if adults are involved.
I don’t think there is much to say about the child molestation accusations. And really, what can you say? Regardless of the outcome, the lives of everyone involved in this case have been ruined in various ways. Stone’s son (who is also the alleged victim) will probably never have a “normal” relationship with his father, whether because of any abuse or because the animosity his parents have towards each other, and the other children in the family must be torn and confused. It’s hard to feel any schadenfreude about the indiscretions of hypocritical conservotrads when minor children are caught in the middle.