In last Thursday’s edition of the Metro section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I noticed a small blurb in the “Local Briefs” entitled “2 Sue Priest, Ex-Priest, Allege Sexual Abuse.” What stood out was:
A Missouri man sued Michael S. McGrath, claiming the former priest sexually assaulted him beginning in 1981 in a movie theater, a van and McGrath’s aunt’s house in Oklahoma. McGrath was at St. Patrick’s Parish in Wentzville at the time, the suit says. McGrath has been sued 18 other times since 2003, according to
McGrath was laicized, or dismissed from the priesthood, on February 4th of this year; a full 2 years since the first accusations. He still lives life as a free man in the Richmond Heights area.
But I knew McGrath when he was Father McGrath, and he was my religion teacher at Bishop DuBourg High School in 1997. My sister also had him in 1995. He was a peculiar man with a crooked sneer, that seemed to get off from giving high school students demerits for piddily dress code violations. He always wore a polo shirt, most of the time with an accompanying sport coat, and he always wore sandals, which I was told was so his feet could breathe because of fungus issues.
As a teacher in the classroom though, I thought he was great. His methods certainly were unorthodox to most though. He had a living room set-up including a couch and two plush chairs, which for one week a month, your table could sit at for class. He even had a great Led Zeppelin “Stairway to Heaven” poster on the wall. One time, after school, he tried explaining to me and a buddy that the song is entirely about Mary and Jesus, but I don’t remember the specifics.
As he lectured, if he noticed someone sleeping or trying to sleep, he would apologize and say something to the effect of “you will learn more from your dreams than from me, so I have no problem with your slumber,” except when he said it, it sounded very sincere, but coming from a kooky guy. He taught us the “Celestine Prophecy,” which to this day I cannot explain, except it is a book about a guy looking for something…hey, I was sleeping.
I mentioned that I spoke with him after school. I also left school property with him and my friend. I am not sure why. He lured us with Rold Gold pretzels that were left over from a blood drive. Luckily we weren’t getting driving lessons from him, which seems to be a frequent striking time for him. We did meet a friend of his, a younger guy, who was on his break from driving a bus. Oddly enough, McGrath went on to do the same. The thing is, I find it strange that we came so close to such a sickening creature, and we had no idea.
He actually left DuBourg in the middle of the year he was teaching my class, without any explanation. It was not until later that I found out why he was actually removed by the Archdiocese.
He went on to drive buses for Metro, which the Riverfront Times actually did a cover story for, but didn’t mention his unknown past. Click on the link, and check out that creep.
I was raised Catholic in St. Louis. I went to St. Joan of Arc for all of grade school. In 1992 or 1993, when I was in the 5th grade, we had a deacon named Bryan Kuchar. To us kids back then, these guys were like celebrities to us for some reason. My sister, who was in the 8th grade that year, had him autograph her skirt. In 1995, he sodomized a boy 3 times. In November of 2003, he was sentenced for 3 years in the St. Louis County Jail. Kuchar was also laicized at the same time as McGrath. Luckily, I chose not to be an altar boy in my grade school years.
During High School, I dated a girl who answered phones for Michael Campbell, then pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows. In March of 2002, he left there because of allegations of abuse from 12 years prior.
I could go on, but my point is that as much as these are played off as stray incidents, I can find multiple priests from my life in the Catholic church that were criminals. It’s frightening to consider my close brushes with these men. It’s even more frightening to consider that McGrath still walks free. At least the St. Louis Archdiocese has done their part by giving back over $2 million to the victims. What good does that do? And where does that money come from anyway? Is it the same money that my family put in the collection plate, or that we spent on gambling and booze at their wonderful picnics?
I’m sure God is looking down with such approval.
Related article (added 1/19/06, but from 6/27/03)