In October of 1994, Jenny Grosvenor received a letter from the priest-principal of her late husband’s Catholic high school. It was obviously a form letter. It had no salutation, no “Dear…” Instead, the letter began…We have been informed that you and your family have suffered the loss of a loved one during this past year.
Jenny’s “loved one” had died four months earlier, at the age of 32. By suicide. Her husband. The father of their four young children.
The letter continued…
Prayers were offered for the repose of the soul of your loved one at his alma mater. As the years have passed, Stepinac High School has lost track of many of her former students, so we ask that you share this announcement with all interested parties and please call our Development Office.
Now, it’s a little hard for me to imagine a priest doing something so callous and obtuse. Sending a form letter to a widow in her early thirties with four babies.
But it’s worse than obtuse. Under the unctuous veneer, the letter actually communicates dismissive contempt. Father would have shown more respect if he had simply written what he meant, in a straightforward manner, like…
I really don’t care about you or about your dead ‘loved one.’ Send some money.
But guess what? We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of the contempt involved in Jenny’s situation. The word “contempt” doesn’t even capture it. Jenny puts it better, in an article she just published: conspiracy of pedophiles.
Jenny’s husband Peter killed himself because: a criminal sex-abuser priest who worked at the high school had destroyed part of his soul. Father Donald Malone (now deceased) dealt Peter a mortal blow. Peter wrote in his suicide note: “This thing has been in me for years, it was time to come out.“
And the priest who wrote the “condolence” fundraising form letter? Also a criminal sex-abuser of minors. The now-laicized Monsignor John J. O’Keefe.
In her masterpiece of an article, Jenny explains her decades-long attempt to understand her husband’s untimely death. She recounts her dealings with the Reconciliation Program of the Archdiocese of New York (about which I wrote last year.)