Angels of God

The McDonnell brothers get a sit down with Cardinal Justin Rigali.

By Mike Newall
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jun. 7, 2006

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Father Gerard Chambers, middle-aged, quick tempered, with thin graying hair, a slight hunch in his back and forever smelling of English Oval cigarettes.

Father Gerard Chambers shuffled through 17 different parishes and three separate stints in archdiocesan hospitals where pedophile priests were sent for "treatment" before he was assigned to St. Gregory's.

The boys told other priests about the abuse but were shooed away. One priest even accused Brian of having "tempted" Father Chambers.

To think of that now, accusing a 12-year-old boy of tempting a middle-aged priest.


Cardinal Rigali asks if anyone would mind if he began the meeting with a prayer.

Bowed heads and clasped hands.


... and lead us not into temptation

But deliver us from evil. Amen.

For a moment Alex McDonnell feels like a schoolboy in mother superior's office.

For a moment, anyway.

"Part of the petition is to deliver us from evil," says Alex, immediately after the amen. "The church did not fulfill that promise."

Alex, the oldest of the McDonnells-reserved, tight-jawed, his blue eyes angrier than those of his brothers-has struggled with his faith and with alcohol. For so long he shut himself off to others.

With a placid smile, the cardinal speaks of how even Christ suffered on the cross.

Alex tells the cardinal how disappointed he was with his statements accusing the grand jury-which documented 50 years of sexual abuse and cover-up by the archdiocese-of "anti-Catholicism."

"The district attorney's office was the good Samaritan who helped the injured person at the side of the road," says Alex, recalling a biblical parable. "The church was the person that just kept walking."

The cardinal speaks of forgiveness.

"I understand forgiveness," says Alex. "But I also understand resurrection, and the church is in need of a resurrection or rebirth of some kind."

Alex tells the cardinal he hopes the archdiocese will throw its full support behind efforts in the Pennsylvania Legislature to abolish the criminal statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases.

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