He Sings Way Too Much To Be A Stoner

If you live around Charleston, you probably already know that our parish priest, Father Jim O'Connor, has been arrested and charged with felony possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. (Father Jim was found with 72 grams of marijuana in his vehicle and, in West Virginia, anything over 15 grams requires this felony charge.)

So I guess it goes something like this...Father Jim and Joe Deegan (a long-time parishoner, former drug counselor...heh...yeah, I know) were driving along and the cop behind them could smell the odor of marijuana. He pulled Father Jim (hereinafter known as "Father J."...because I'm funny), and J. Deegan (because I'm still funny) over and found that they had both been smoking pot, got permission to search the vehicle, found the pot in a bag, and so on.

Let me say...there is no way I'm saying this is not a serious matter. It is a serious matter. One has to wonder what kind of recklessness would cause a priest to risk his entire career, and possibly his freedom, for such a thing. Right now, though, nobody knows the whole story. Neither Father J. nor J. Deegan have had the chance, in a neutral forum, to tell their story.

If you've met him, Father J. just doesn't seem like a stoner...and a drug dealer is about the last thing in the entire world he resembles. He loves to sing and has been known to sing an entire mass. He's a friendly, outgoing man and, despite having come in after the truly beloved Father Leon who served decades at our church, he managed to make his own way and to be liked. And I think if he was selling pot, we'd have had lots...LOTS more teenagers in the parish. (Justkiddingdontsendmehatemail.)

So...what is really the right thing to do here? Father J. has been suspended pending an internal investigation. The outlook is not good. If you believe, though, that there must be some serious issue for Father J. to have taken such a risk, then one has to think that maybe there is some type of addiction present. Luckily, as far as we know, he has hurt no one but himself with his behavior. And, you know, my son was at Camp Leon earlier this year under the leadership of Father J. After this week's news, my feelings about the camp haven't changed at all.

Now...what if a priest were an alcoholic? If the person who is supposed to be the spiritual leader of your congregation has a very human, self-destructive problem, why does he have to become an example of what happens when people discover your problem...and react by casting you out? I know it's the strict rule of the Diocese that he be removed from his position, but why permanently? If he has hurt no one, why does he not deserve treatment and/or counseling then the opportunity for another chance? Could the whole community not learn something valuable by allowing Father J. to recover from this downfall and stand on his feet again? Why do we teach forgiveness, the hope for recovery from any number of problems, and the potential to return to a state of grace and then turn around and cast these first stones at another human being from the word go?

From the members of the parish, compassion he will receive. Forgiveness is certain. Employment and the ability to hold his head up in the community...not looking too good. I just don't think it's fair.

2 comments:

spinster girl said...

I like Father Doobie Doobie Doo...
Eh, as you know Blessed Sacrament was my home parish for a long while. The one thing I know about the people there is that they are welcoming, open and warm. I hope this will work itself out. What I'd really like to know is where they were headed -- White Castle?

TTHBTK said...

Top marks for hilarity, SG! You crack me up...and rock!

And, yeah...your nickname idea is funnier.