My fondest memory of the late Bishop John D’Arcy had nothing to do with the church even though it occurred within yards of the most famous church in the world.
For those of you lucky enough to have travelled to Rome with a visit to The Vatican as your top priority, the experience always stays with you. And it starts with the walk up the avenue towards the square and St. Peters. We made our trip about eight years ago and headed off to The Vatican on a beautiful June day. As you approach it is awe-inspiring and makes you think about a lot of things including what kind of life you have led and if you are worthy. For me it was more like a mystical experience because my mother, a devout Catholic, had died just two weeks before and somehow I had it in my mind this day was for her.
So all of that is on my mind when I hear someone calling my name, which seemed rather odd considering the time and place. I look around and finally I see Bishop D’Arcy sitting outside a café with a cup of coffee and a newspaper. He waves me over and asks my wife and I to join him because he said he had some big news. What could that be, especially considering we are now practically close enough to touch the Vatican. That is when Bishop handed me his copy of USA Today and pointed out that his beloved Boston Red Sox had taken over first place in the American League Eastern Division, ahead of those evil Yankees. Good news I said but you surely did not come this far to pray for more Boston wins. No, he said, “I have a meeting with the Pope this afternoon.”
Bishop D’Arcy always did have his priorities in order, first the Catholic Church, then The Church of Baseball.
But Bishop’s legacy will always be his dedication to his faith and his dedication to a church that he believed was not taking care of its business properly. In the 1980’s, long before priestly scandal rocked the church to its very core, he spoke up. As an auxiliary bishop in Boston he wrote numerous letters to his superiors warning about priests he considered troubled and potentially dangerous. He warned of priests who were simply reassigned and asked his bosses to reconsider such a policy, a policy we now know was in place around the world. In one of his letters he parsed no words about the appointment of Father John Geoghan, telling the Archbishop that Geoghan had a history of homosexual activity with young boys. He wrote that letter in 1984 and NOTHING was done. Geoghan, once the civil authorities went after him, was later accused of sexual abuse by 130 former parishioners of a parish in Weston, Mass. Bishop D’Arcy wrote letters of concern to Archbishop Bernard Law about other priests and nothing was done. Law was made a Cardinal and when asked about those letters under oath, he said he could not recall. Yes, of course. The Cardinal could not even recall D’Arcy’s second letter about the now infamous and evil Father Geoghan. Shortly after that second letter D’Arcy was named a Bishop and transferred to the Fort Wayne/South Bend Diocese.
Maybe to church leaders it was a case of out of sight, out of mind but all Catholics who live here turned out to be the beneficiaries.
Bishop John D’Arcy was a good man, a good priest, a good catholic and a person who lived his life in a most ethical manner and style. There can be no greater legacy.
Rest in Peace.