Journalism in Verse – EST. 2016

A Catholic priest presides over mass.

Revisionist History for the Flock

in Identity by

Trigger Warning: Abuse

ROME (AP) — Pope Francis pledged Wednesday to rid the Catholic Church of sexual abuse and offered prayers to victims of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a day after the Vatican released a detailed report into the decades-long church cover-up of his sexual misconduct. 11/11/20

Not everyone wanted
Father McCarrick
to renew his vows
on the occasion
of his Jubilee year –
but the generous
Pope John Paul II
ignored warnings.
My own children
rang the bells
during Masses
at our church.
How many
white-robed birdlets
were ringing
warning bells
parents ignored?
How many falcons
dived down into goodness
inside the aviary?
The Boy Scouts
just filed for bankruptcy
to ward off costs
of some 300 lawsuits.
I’m reading this
while my grandson
is on a campout.
There are new rules
to protect fledglings.
Now my granddaughter’s
a Scout too.
My husband fared well,
was never abused.
Neither my son
nor my daughter
to my knowledge –
I’ve studied the signs.
Cassocks have always
made good camouflage.
One mother
saw McCarrick
rubbing inner thighs
of her son in the 80s
but her anonymous letter
never made it past the aviary.
Congregations singing
On Eagle’s Wings,
Be Not Afraid
Here I Am, Lord

finally flew
in the face
of the indifferent
anyone’s passion
for faith, just in time
to defrock the man
who now lives
with other dethroned clergy
foregoing any “I’m sorry.”
No steel bars
blurring his vision,
the windows for viewing
wings submerged in a murky pond
near a chapel
where McCarrick
still attends services
every Sunday.



Mary Ellen Talley’s poems have been published widely, including in Raven Chronicles, Banshee, What Rough Beast, and several anthologies. Her poems have received two Pushcart nominations and a chapbook, “Postcards from the Lilac City” was published by Finishing Line Press in October 2020.

Photograph by Annie Theby


What’s known about the abusive U.S. ex-cardinal, as Vatican prepares McCarrick report
[Seattle Times]

‘So many opportunities to stop him’: Survivors react to McCarrick abuse report
[USA Today]

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