Today I went to Mass in a parish I hadn't visited before, as I was on my way somewhere and needed to find an 8:30 Mass.
At the end of the homily, the priest read out a message from the Cardinal, saying that the former priest of that parish (who I believe had left quite recently) had "been the subject of some allegations in relation to child protection" and had been immediately suspended from his post while the allegations were investigated.
I was shocked to hear this, and immediately offered up a prayer that the investigation should be as quick and painless as possible for all concerned, that it should come to the right conclusion and that God should forgive the sinner and give strength to the victim and comfort to the parish as a whole.
What I didn't know was which of the people involved was the sinner and which the victim - if the priest was guilty, the answer would be obvious. If he was innocent, the person who has made the false accusation has ruined a man's life. Either way, this has caused immense sadness and confusion to a huge number of people and possibly created a rift in the parish which could take years to heal.
As I looked around the church, I saw a number of people crying openly. I also saw parents hugging their children protectively, and saw and heard a number of parents struggling to answer their children's questions about what was going on.
As soon as Mass ended, people erupted out of the church, some shouting and swearing about "troublemakers in the parish". All those I heard were vehemently on the side of the priest and refused to countenance the idea that the allegations might be true.
Whether or not the allegations are true, they have cast a dark shadow over the life of that parish. Please remember these people in your prayers.