Inola M. McGuire reviews.

The performance of the evening is “Conversations with My Molester, A Journey of Faith” by Michael Mack, directed by Daniel Gidron; starring Michael Mack.

michael-mack_conversations_timo085_under-table_6x10_300dpi_credit-Timothy-Hanson The performance begins when Michael enters the stage. The audience becomes excited as he begins his one-man show, and his introduction permeates the room. Michael shares his childhood aspiration and what life was like for him attending the Catholic Church. He wanted to become a priest. Praying was a very sweet experience for him. He wanted to be a pious young man. For starters, he was an altar boy and he observed the rituals that were performed during Sunday masses.

Michael and his siblings had to relocate and he attended a Roman Catholic Church in his new community in South Carolina. The priest of the church became like a surrogate father to him, and this priest took advantage of Michael’s trust and his innocence at the rectory. The memory of this violation bothered Michael, and years later he told his brother. Michael’s brother asked him a question that shook him to the core. He said, “What effect it had on you?”

michael-mack_conversations_timo070_eraser_6x10_300dpi_credit-Timothy-Hanson By this time, the audience experiences an emotional charge as Michael reiterated what happened to him at a tender age, and how he was treated by the priest. His description of the priest’s seductive moves evokes certain reactions. The audience empathizes with him for it was aware that the memories bothered him.

Michael’s first job before his graduation from high school was at camp for boys between the ages of 7 – 12. There was one boy who stood out, an eight-year old; and he showed him kindness at the camp. Michael takes the audience back to his experience with the priest. It sounded like it was a day or two ago.

After Michael decided to confront his molester, his journey of healing began. By this time, allegations of sexual abuse by priests were dominating the news. He couldn’t believe what he was reading, but he pursued his quest to confront his abuser. He was persistent although he experienced a few road blocks along the way by other priests, some of whom were trying to hide their own shame of abuses. In Michael’s findings, he found out that his molester was molested himself.

Michael was able to share his ordeal with the audience without showing anger and frustration. His one-man show is very timely because of Pope Frances’ visit to America. Now, sexual abuse among Catholic priests is not a thing of the past because some of the wounds are still too fresh in the minds of some of the victims and the public. In addition, the actions that were taken by the church at all levels have deterred some priests from molesting their parishioners. Law suits, prosecution, persecution, imprisonment, and firings have contributed to the curtailing of the behaviors among the priests.

In the past, the conducts of some priests were common knowledge to many people, but the perpetrators were sent to different states or archdiocese within a particular state or city. In many instances, some people did not want to believe that these men of the cloth were wretched beings hiding in plain sight. The audience needs to research what motivated some of the former abusers to become priests. Some people are attracted to specific vocation because of the availability of victims at their disposals.

In Michael’s case, he was very trusting and pure at heart as a young impressionable boy who saw the priest as a father figure in his life. About two decades ago, some people in this society still looked up to priest in the Catholic Church. However, a large segment of the populace was always leery of them because their goings-on have be known around the world. What came to light in the United States of America was not surprising to many people.

After the performance, Michael met with members of the audience in a discussion session. Jayne O’Donnell of the Healing Circle was present. She spoke about how she was motivated to start the organization. A few recommendations in order to curtail the behavior of priests were discussed. Having the third person in the midst of a priest and a parishioner would be expedient for all involved. Psychological evaluation and rigorous background checks should be carried out before men are being considered for the priesthood.

michael-mack_conversations_timo129_mouth-memory_6x10_300dpi_credit-Timothy-Hanson I will surely recommend this performance to all theatre goers and people who are staunch Roman Catholics. They are going to gain some insights on how to inform their sons about the perils of looking up to a man of the cloth. As the saying goes, “Man to man is so unjust, we do not know who to trust.” In my humble opinion, we must respect others in authority to a certain extent; but it is not wise to give reverence to them. Our reverence should be given to God.