I must applaud Katie Talarico's account (1/22) about the "ugly side" of the Church. It takes great courage to narrate being hurt by the Church you love and to which you have dedicated to your life. I would submit that the Church established on the Cross ans Resurrection is not ugly. Rather, it is the man-made traps, inspired by pettiness and arrogance, that gets ugly. I, too, experienced such a side.
I was about 13 years old when I received a calling to the Priesthood. I dedicated my whole life to this goal. I aimed my studies toward theology and lifted weights as my athletic pursuit. I did not date and did not kiss girls. Over the years I acquired a "Spiritual Director", let us call him Fr. J. He oversaw my spiritual and vocational development with many meetings, both formal and informal. One day, when I was about 17, something changed. We usually held our meetings in the Rectory Living Room as it was more comfortable and I could play with the Pastor's big dog. I had volunteered for the annual carnival at the local church, so we met before my shift was to begin. This time, however, he led me to a side conference room. We spoke about the usual things; vocations, studies, and weights. When our talk ended, he stood up and blocked my access to the the door. I was a strong kid, 5'5" and about 180 pounds. He stood about 6'5" and over 300 pounds. He placed his huge hands on my face, pulled me close, and placed a soft, romantic kiss on my lips. I could not move as he could easily overpower me and I was confused, angry, and felt violated. Thankfully, the other carnival workers burst into the rectory in their usual boisterous way. He released me and I glady joined my co-workers. After this, he distanced himself and oversaw my spiritual development from a distance, even discouraging my pursuit of the clergy at times.
I continued with my calling, graduated college in three years with honors in Religious Studies. The Vocation Director was not interested in clearing my way to Seminary. He kept telling to gain life experience and to come back the following year. After a couple years, I was called by an "affiliates group", aimed at men that were beyond college age that still felt called. Again, I was stonewalled, in spite of several seminaries showing interest in me. Finally, I asked the lead Priest, let us call him Fr. M, why I ws being blocked. He took me into a private area and said, "you do not play the political game right and you think too independently; until you fix these things we will not let you enter the seminary.
I walked away with $5.09 to my name. I had no marketable skills. But, I had faith and trust in God. He has led me to 3 masters degrees and a Doctorate in Biblical Studies. Yes, life is often a struggle. but the Lord keeps me close. I have learned, over the years, the power of Pauls's words in 1 Corinthians 10:13; No test has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tested beyond what you can bear. But when you are tested, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. In other words, the tests sent from God are fair and can be overcome. The traps and tests of men are ruthless and unfair. Luckily, God is stronger than these tests. As my Bishop told me, God has placed me on a path of His choosing, in His time. It is up to me to keep the faith while waiting for His actions. My rejection was from man, not God. I know He is watching.