Monday, February 15, 2010

Alan Placa II

by Ed Lowe

Alan Placa II

This apologetic essay is in a response to a letter I received from a reader with whom I essentially agree, though she doesn’t seem to see it that way, and…well…I suppose, points out a failure on my part to be clear.

I thought I was clear. I was mistaken.

I thought I was being Waterford Crystalline clear. I mean, bang the drum slowly clear; in your face clear (figuratively speaking, of course).

I will try again, with apologies to persons to whom the points were less than clear.

I should attempt to make my points, first, without any wise-ass remarks. It has been a problem of mine, anyway. “Smart,” remarks have a way of enhancing a point, but usually only among persons who already agree with you. And they have an intimidating way of dismissing anyone who disagrees with you.

“Smart” remarks also draw attention away from a point, as if you wanted to make the point, but wanted to be sure other, “smart,” people were supportive. Maybe the “smart” remarks obscure it.

I’ll bet I have done that. I apologize. I’d like to apologize for every time I’ve done that, but especially for this one. No, “smart remarks” this time.

Here is Msgr. Alan Placa, of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, Long Island, New York.

That is my subject.

He should not be a priest. That is my point.

In the last column, I referred to a former seminarian. This is not about a former seminarian. Forget about that. I mentioned personal behavior. That was flippant. This is not about the behavior of men or women; or boys or girls. Forget that.

The woman who wrote me got snagged by a distraction on that score, and I was at fault. I lost her in a reference I should not have made. Placa was investigated for another thing, and I mentioned it, and it had no bearing on my point.

I wrote to her, “Like your son, I was an altar server, too, and, like your son, never saw inappropriate behavior by any priest for all the years I was at St. Martin of Tours Church, in Amityville, or, for that matter, during my four years in St. Pius X Prep. Seminary (1959—1963). Not one.

“My father was a cop,” I wrote, “like your husband. I would have no problem getting the police involved in such a situation either. In fact, I agree with you whole-heartedly there.”

And, priests are human, and deserve mercy, and the benefit of the doubt, and ultimately, understanding, and I will agree with you there, too.

Msgr. Alan Placa is human, deserves mercy, the benefit of the doubt, and, ultimately, understanding.

But, he should not be a priest.

Praying in public, wearing priestly clothes, greeting people genuinely, kindly, affectionately, a priest has the look of someone who cares about you, someone who can be trusted, someone who is…priestly. If you corrupt that, you ought to be expelled, publicly.

We are led to believe—all of us, really, in this country, even those who don’t, “believe;” who are not practicing Catholics; who maybe are Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Cherokee, or Tibetan Monks—that people who choose to live as, “priests,” of whatever denomination, have selected to live to a, “higher calling,” and ought to be admired and respected for such sacrifices as they make to lead such exemplary lives.

Their advice, therefore, which we are inclined to seek—what to do in a dilemma, what to not do—has great weight. It has been known to be the best advice available, because it is tempered by mercy, compassion, love, self-sacrifice. It never is selfish. It never has an ulterior motive.

It never has an ulterior motive. Never.

The system perfected by Placa in the Diocesan scandal was to, first, head-off any involvement with the police, then to divide the family. That was its primary purpose; its ulterior motive, codified by Msgr. Alan Placa.

People come to you for advice, and don’t know that you’re their opposition. Only you, the priest, knows that.

(And, by the way, Fr. So-And-So is under a lot of pressure...Your son, you know, has a vivid imagination. Just ask his friends…You know, Fr. So-And-So works really hard for these kids…Let’s pray together, for all the kids, especially the ones with vivid imaginations…Come back in a few months and we’ll talk some more…Then, come back in some months, and we’ll talk some more…We don’t need police here. Police have enough to think about. Why trouble Police with an incident between an over-ambitious priest and a kid with an over-active imagination.).

And, as I said in the piece, but did not emphasize it enough, all the while Mgsr Alan Placa, as this priest, not only didn’t say he was a lawyer; he didn’t say he was representing the priest; he didn’t say he was representing the diocese.

(Are you for The Church; or for your child, here. Who do you believe? What does it say about you, a Catholic, going against a priest of your Holy Church. What if you’re wrong, believing this kid? Has your kid ever been wrong?)

He didn’t say he was counsel to the diocese.

He didn’t say he was working against the boy, his parents, the relationship between the boy and his parents, anything do with love, peace, protectiveness…no, it was all calculated to pass through the statute of the law’s limitations, so the diocese would have much less financial exposure, in the courts, for money.

And how do we know this? How do we see these motives?

Why, the paper, written by Alan Placa, and sent to other dioceses, telling how we in the Diocese of Rockville Centre handle this nagging, pesky, kid problem.

Here’s how we do it. By Alan Placa.

Have a priest (who is a really a priest-lawyer but never reveals that), serve as a sort of spiritual director to the boy and his parents, telling them (…whatever you tell them, until the Statute of Limitations is exhausted), and then…well, then tell them whatever you feel like telling them; tell them you think they’re crazy, if you want. You’re covered. Tell them anything. Tell them tell to go ahead, go to the police, for God’s sake. Once you’re over the statute, tell them to go start an investigation. “Knock yourself out.”

That’s the way we do things in this diocese.

By Msgr. Alan Placa.

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