Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Or here’s a story. One time when I was an altar boy
A missionary priest arrived at our parish to conduct
A retreat. He was sort of famous and even us cynics
Among the altar corps were interested. Competition
Arose as to who would be his go-to server; we drew
Straws for it and someone joked about Christ’s robe.
Somehow I won. Yes, I crowed and lorded gleefully.
Sure I did. So I was getting ready for the two events,
Getting vested, so to speak, cassocked and surpliced,
When Father Cal pulled me aside and said he would
Take over server duties. I was puzzled and started to
Debate but he was set on the matter, although gentle.
Years later I read that the missionary was a slimebag
Who raped a dozen boys and probably more. There’s
All sorts of things to say here, and they should all be
Said, too, but let me choose a quiet one at the end of
The list of things that should be said­—the one where
Father Cal wouldn’t let something happen. I’d guess
He wasn’t sure, then, but he felt it, and he saved kids.
Somebody should say thanks to the Father Cals. Hell
Is filled with the slimebags, and why they were loose
Among us and protected by ostensibly holy cardinals
Is a story of crime and horror that will never be done,
But someone should thank the Father Cals. There are
A lot of Father Cals who had the guts to stand up and
Stop it or call it out. Male and female Father Cals too.
Somebody ought to thank them. So right here, we do.