So what if a seminary evaluator said he had a “pronounced immaturity”?
It was the reason I liked him so much. The small, wiry Irishman with the slightly upturned nose seemed to be all smiles all the time, always on the verge of laughter. It made me wonder how he could say funeral Masses or take confessions with a straight face. He was all about fun, games and treating kids to ice cream. He had a trick Superman handshake that he liked to use on the older boys wiggling the small bones in their right hand until a searing pain suddenly dropped them to their knees while he chuckled in his uniquely goofy way.
Maybe a goofy, immature priest who is all about fun and games isn’t the kind of priest we should yearn for in the end. I’m not saying all priests should dour and humorless, but one dangerous pattern I’ve seen over and over is that guys who seek teens and children for sexual gratification also tend to ingratiate themselves with those kids, to try to be cool and be like them.
We had a youth minister in the Boston area who pled guilty last year to molesting dozens of boys. After it all came out, we learned that he had been having sleepovers, playing video games with them, and generally acting like an overgrown 15-year-old. When it’s a 30-year-old man doing that, it should raise alarms and make you wary. That’s not to say that all men who act immature and horse around with kids are potential molesters—most guys have flashbacks to boyhood long into their adult years—but it’s one of those warning signs that you would do well to file in the back of your mind, just in case.
If a guy seems too chummy with children, not just friendly, but like he’s one of them, that’s a sign. If he treats kids like equals—not getting then to act more mature, but acting more immature himself—that’s a sign.
It’s sad that we can’t take people at face value anymore, that we have to be full of suspicion, but it’s a world full of sin. We have to do what we can and should.