Matt C. Abbott
A priest’s regret and my regrets
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By Matt C. Abbott
April 22, 2021

I read with interest an April 21 news story from the Chicago Sun-Times, excerpted below:

    The pastor at Christ the King parish in Beverly is stepping aside while the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago investigates allegations that he assaulted a restaurant worker about 37 years ago, on the night before he was to leave for the seminary.

    The woman recently made the allegations in a TikTok video, saying the Rev. Larry Sullivan and another person followed her into an alley while she took out the garbage near closing time. She said she was 17.

    ‘They attacked me and their intent was to sexually assault me. I fought them off, the police were called, my parents came [and] we found out that one of them was leaving for seminary the next day to become a Catholic priest,’ the woman says in the video.

Father Sullivan denies that any physical attack took place but does admit to “unwelcome verbal comments.”

He released the following statement to parishioners, which has been published by wgntv.com:

    Dear Parishioners,

    I am aware of an accusation against me that has been posted on social media regarding an incident that occurred in 1984 when I was 18 years old and had just completed high school. I do recall the night described: I was at a fast-food restaurant and I made unwelcome verbal comments to a female employee that upset her to the extent that her parents and the police were contacted. There was no physical interaction between me and the young woman. I was in the restaurant and spoke to the police, and I left the restaurant without any further police action.

    I was then, and am now, ashamed and deeply sorry that my words caused pain and hardship to her.

    I want to be clear that these allegations were brought to my attention after having been presented on social media and I have not been formally advised that any complaint has been made to the Archdiocese. Nevertheless, I have reported this video to the Archdiocese myself.

    I pray that my accuser accepts my sincere apology and that it provides her with healing. I am also praying that the impact of this matter does not bring unnecessary strife to our faith community.

    Sincerely,

    Fr. Larry Sullivan

I’ve never met Father Sullivan, nor have I communicated with him. But my hope is that if no physical attack occurred as alleged by his accuser, Father Sullivan’s priesthood is not ruined.

I recall, and am haunted by, incidents during my high school years – I graduated in 1994 – when I made unwelcome comments and behaved inappropriately toward certain people, especially some female schoolmates. No, the police were never involved and I did not get in trouble with the school. Nonetheless, I, like Father Sullivan, deeply regret the way I behaved. While the incidents were not malicious on my part, they were foolish, hurtful and worthy of my shame. (Of course, I also regret the sins committed after my teenage years.)

Years later, I did attempt to reach out to more than one individual to apologize for my behavior. It felt like the right thing to do. And whenever I see a teenager behaving badly, I try not to be overly critical.

Ultimately, it’s a bit scary to think that if I had decided to pursue the priesthood – or politics, for that matter – I could very well be “canceled” by the sins and mistakes of my teenage years.

There but for the grace of God go I.

Pray for Father Sullivan, his accuser, and for me, for I am a sinner.

Update as of May 15, 2021: Father Sullivan has been reinstated by Cardinal Blase Cupich. Click here to read the cardinal’s letter to parishioners.

© Matt C. Abbott

 

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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. Abbott has been interviewed on HLN, MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 2019 ‘Unsolved’ podcast about the unsolved murder of Father Alfred Kunz, Alex Shuman's 'Smoke Screen: Fake Priest' podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been quoted in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets. He’s mentioned in the 2020 Report on the Holy See's Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Making Related to Former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick (1930 to 2017), which can be found on the Vatican's website. He can be reached at mattcabbott@gmail.com.



(Note: I welcome and appreciate thoughtful feedback. Insults will be ignored. Only in very select cases will I honor a request to have a telephone conversation about a topic in my column. Email is much preferred. God bless you and please keep me in your prayers!)

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