Agony of Sorrows

In the heart of South St. Louis, a parish loses its priest because of stricter standards on sexual sin

"It was already on the news -- they didn't even let the rest of the parish hear it first," he adds. "How the cameras and newspeople knew to be here at 5 p.m., I have no clue. That was another big slap in the face."

Terry Edelman, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, says they "most certainly did not alert the media." The archdiocese is providing no further information about the incident 13 years ago. Their policy is now zero tolerance. Campbell will never return to pastoral work of any kind.

"Not being Catholic from birth, sometimes I have this mentality that it's a good ol' boys' club like Enron," admits Doug. "'We didn't know what was going on' -- humbug! That's your responsibility, to know what is going on and the proper way to handle it. People are not perfect. Whether they got a steel cap on or a collar on, they're still human. Today's Catholics are more understanding of the world than they used to be."

Our Lady of Sorrows, in South St. Louis
Jennifer Silverberg
Our Lady of Sorrows, in South St. Louis

Doug wishes the archdiocese had told the truth when Campbell arrived. But Judy knows that if he'd confessed at the outset, "it would have taken a long time to get beyond that. There's a lot of established families with straitlaced values. I don't think he could have been as effective."

Yet the response of those conservative parishioners now is surprising everyone.

"The disillusionment we feel isn't with Father Campbell," says Doug. "We are angry with Lindell (the archdiocesan chancery office) for changing their mind, for not handling this as well as they should have.

"Either don't put him back in a parish, or stand by him if you do.

"Don't protect your own butt and let him be the Judas goat."

The week after Campbell's removal felt like months of hard grieving.

Shocking rumors about other priests.

A numb refusal to judge their pastor.

A feeling of everything they cared about being turned inside out for the world to gawk at.

CNN interviewed Dolan, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch dug for more secrets in its ongoing "Special Report: Problem Priests."

"We heard they had nine reporters on this story, and only two on 9/11," says Doug. "That, to us, feels like a witch hunt. As our son the cameraman says, 'If it doesn't bleed, it's not news.' They are making this bleed more than what is necessary."

The Brolemans are tired of hearing outsiders say, "If they'd just let the damn priests marry, they wouldn't have these problems."

Pedophiles often are married. Celibacy isn't the source of the problem. At most, celibacy is a cloak that is chosen, too often, by men struggling with their sexuality.

Besides, Doug and Judy can't imagine a priest being a good husband and father and still saying 6:30 a.m. Mass and working through to 10 p.m. with the Legion of Mary, the guitar group and the Brownie troop all tugging at his alb.

In a second meeting on March 7, Dolan encouraged Our Lady of Sorrows to continue with the parish-hall building campaign Campbell launched. They have already raised $1.5 million; they need $2 million before the archdiocese will let them break ground.

"As one parishioner said, our priests come and are reassigned, but we live here," Judy notes. "This is our home."

The Brolemans know Lent as a time of self-discipline and sacrifice.

All the saints are hidden under purple shrouds, concealed until the slow beating of fist against chest, the mea culpas of private penitence, have worked themselves out.

On Good Friday, the altar is stripped, and they relive the Crucifixion.

On Easter Sunday, the altar is massed with lilies, and they celebrate their faith's resurrection.

But this year, the Rev. Gary Wolken, acting as pastor, broke with ritual. Halfway through the 40 days of Lent, he pulled the shrouds from two statues so their presence could be felt.

One was a pietà, in which Mary cradles her son's broken body.

The other was the Holy Family.

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