I am sorry for the families loss. Fr. Mike was a good man and one of my favorite Catholic education teachers. I know that his name was tainted, but I don't believe that bad choices make a person. To err is human. I know that some mistakes or actions are worse then others and I don't want people to think I would ever condone such behavior. I don't, and my heart goes out to the victim also. But I will definitely remember Fr Mike fondly and I am glad that I did have the opportunity to know him.
I was a member of St. Charles parish for the 12 years that father Michael Benham was the priest. More importantly, I was a student this entire time. My experience with the man was disturbing and discouraging to my faith. I did not witness any sexual abuse, but as a child I was traumatized by the effects of witnessing his character alongside the teachings of the gospel and scared to be alone with him.(Being alone in the same room was required as young as second grade in order to practice the sacrament of Reconciliation. This was not done in separate booths, but in a small, closed-door room.). The little boys in my class were allowed to start serving during mass in second grade. They then would disappear from class to meet with Father Mike for 'practice or instruction.' I witnessed my friends come back from these meetings in church very upset and sometimes teary-eyed. As a child I trusted my instinct that I was to be careful around him and I did not trust him. I observed that the little boys in my class (my best friends) were very upset after being alone with him and I was very verbal to adults within the parish about my observations and unsettled feelings towards him.
It is very unlikely that Father Benham discontinued his sexual abuse for the 12 years that he spent at St. Charles. The sins of this man reach far beyond the physical abuse of these children. I trust that there were others who, like me, associated the gospel with the wickedness of this man who taught it to us. Father Benham terrified me as a young girl and as an adult I have resented him and the parish that allowed him to stay there (even after discovering his serious alcohol abuse - see I Timothy 3:3). I am fortunate to have found trust in other Christian leaders as an adult and cannot stress enough the importance of every leader’s integrity within the church.
The Bible tells us to watch our life and doctrine closely. Our doctrine is what we believe. Our life is our religious practices. When we place man-made traditions above the scriptures it leads to harmful practices. In this instance, the man-made tradition of a celibate priesthood superseded the scripture’s instruction that a bishop or pastor be married to only one woman - see I Timothy 3:2. The practice of the celibate priesthood was instituted only after the church became secularized by the Roman empire and was not a practice of the Biblical church. This unscriptural doctrine being put into practice by the Church led to the sexual abuse of thousands of children worldwide. I encourage Catholics everywhere to abandon this man-made, unbiblical doctrine which has perverted the Church.
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