From the Heart
As many of you know, the protagonist in my last few novels is a priest. Father Mickey Moran has been my favorite of many creations. The surname ‘Moran’ might have been inspired by a priest friend (Father Patrick J. Moran) who served here at Blessed Sacrament in Hibbing many years ago; however I believe that my Father Mickey is more of a composite of priests I’ve known in the past. Anyhow, Patrick Moran was a wonderful priest and now long retired in his native Ireland along with Father John O’Donnell who also served here in Hibbing and later in Virginia. There is another ‘real’ priest who has inspired this blog. He is also from Ireland and served many parishes in the Duluth Diocese over the years-his name is Father Thomas Stack. Father O’Donnell once told me that it was Father Thomas Stack who most influenced his decision to become a pries. Father Stack was deceased in 1986, may God rest his soul, and it was his wish to be buried within ‘sight of his church’ rather than interred in the ‘old sod’ of Ireland.
Father Stack was the beloved founder of ‘Queen of Peace’ Catholic Church in Hoyt Lakes back in the 50’s. When he arrived in our small mining town there was no church so he said Mass for a year in the cafeteria of the town developer’s headquarters. Later his Masses moved to the newly built community building until his church was completed in 1958. My brother David and I were his first altar boys and Father Stack became like a member of the McGauley family. He was beloved by all who knew him and one of the holiest and saintly men I have ever known.
In December of 2013, the Diocese of Duluth submitted a list of 17 priest that, over the years, had been identified as having ‘credible allegations’ of sexual abuse. To the astonishment of myself and all who knew him . . . Father Stack’s name was on that list!
I have since learned that the ‘so-called’ allegation was possibly no more than hearsay. Hearsay in that the ‘charge’ did not come from the alleged victim who passed away shortly before Father Stack died in 1986. A family member or members apparently made their ‘allegation’ to the diocese long afterwards–at a time when such accusations had become big news in mainstream media across the country and claims in the millions of dollars. Subsequently, many Catholic diocese were plunged into bankruptcy paying claims to victims and their families. As you may realize the Diocese of Duluth is currently in bankruptcy status as well.
Let me briefly summarize my contentions: First, I knew the alleged victim and his family. Second, I knew Father Stack very well. Third, I don’t believe that the allegation has any factual basis. Fourth, I don’t believe the Diocese of Duluth did its due diligence in their investigation of this very sensitive matter. (If the diocese had been as thorough as it should have, my brother David and I, along with many others who knew Father Stack as altar boys or parishioners would have been interviewed.) However, of great personal significance to me is that I have been told by a priest involved that ‘investigation’ that there was only ONE alleged victim over the many years of Father Stack’s service to thousands in the diocese. ONE . . . only one hearsay allegation.
A well-known reporter (Duluth New Tribune) recently wrote a story titled ‘Woman takes fight over abuse to cemetery’. His story also appeared in the Pioneer Press in Saint Paul. The woman he referenced is the sister of the deceased ‘victim’ and wants–among other things– to have Father Stack’s headstone removed from the Hoyt Lakes cemetery. She thinks it is disgraceful. Let me quote her reference to the headstone: “I just want that thing down . . .He shouldn’t have have a place of prominence anywhere.” I think her request is beyond disgraceful and that the late Father Stack has his ‘place of prominence’ in heaven as well as in the cemetery.
I have emailed the journalist requesting the he consider another side of the story from another former altar boy. I have written to the Bishop of Duluth. I have telephoned the diocese offices on several occasions–all to no avail. It’s almost as if the Church’s attitude is: ‘Let sleeping dogs lie’. I will not.
The purpose of this communique is manifold. Sure, I want to vent my family’s frustrations. But, more importantly, I’d like anybody who knew Father Stack and reads this blog–or knows anybody that knew Father Stack, will email me at my personal website: firstname.lastname@example.org Apparently, until now, Father Stack has had nobody to defend his beloved reputation. When his name appeared on the ‘December List’ there was (as it always seems to be) a clear presumption of guilt. That is both a human tragedy and a travesty to our system of justice. To be deeply honest, this entire matter continues to shake my Catholic faith. I hope that I live long enough to see a retraction of this hearsay allegation. To me the presumption of the diocese does not seem to be based upon ‘sufficient and/or indisputable evidence.’ Are we all not ‘innocent until proven guilty beyond any reasonable doubt’ and ‘guaranteed legal defense’? Thus, I am sharing my feelings “From the Heart”. If my views are mistaken or groundless in any way, I pray that someone will come out of the woodwork and straighten me out. If that happens I will apologize and publish a retraction. God bless . . .