Rev. Michael Mack

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A Case Study of Sexual Abuse and Murder
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Victim: Rev. Michael Mack, Murderer: Steven A. Degraff

 

 

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by Leon J. Podles

Published by the Crossland Foundation, July 23, 2008
Copyright, Crossland Foundation, 2008

 

Father Michael B. Mack, a native of Madison, Wisconsin, had the misfortune not only to be murdered, but to be murdered in a place that connected his death with the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church and that put an undeserved shadow on his reputation.

 

Mack was ordained as a Dominican in 19691“Michael Mack to be Ordained,” Wisconsin State Journal, May 17, 1969, p. 8. and served as a Newman Center chaplain at the University of Arizona in Tucson until 1975.2“New Chaplains Arrive at U[niversity] of A[rizona] Catholic Center, Tucson Daily Citizen, October 10, 1970, p. 4. He later (1996-2001) was the director of the Catholic Foundation,3Paul Logan and Katie Burford, “Slain Priest Was Popular in Diocese,” Albuquerque Journal, December 11, 2001. which raised money for the diocese of Gallup, New Mexico, the poorest diocese in the United States. He also was an assistant parish priest in Winslow, Arizona.

 

Like many priests and like many men, Mack struggled with alcoholism.4Paul Logan and Katie Burford, “Slain Priest Was Popular in Diocese,” Albuquerque Journal, December 11, 2001. He sought treatment at Jemez Springs, a treatment center in the mountains of north-central New Mexico run by the Servants of the Paraclete.

 

The Servants of the Paraclete5See Leon J. Podles, Sacrilege: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church (Baltimore: Crossland Press, 2008) pp. 308-311. were founded by Father Gerald Fitzgerald precisely to help priests with alcohol and drug problems. Unfortunately, bishops began sending Fitzgerald sexual abusers, who was at a loss what to do with them. He thought they should not be priests and could not understand the tolerance that the bishops and the Vatican extended to the molesters, whom he called Judases and rattlesnakes. The bishop of Santa Fe removed Fitzgerald from the order he had founded, and the Servants of the Paraclete developed notoriety for treating abusers and sending them into parishes, where they abused again.

 

In addition to treating these abusers, the Paracletes continued to treat priests with less disreputable problems, and Father Mack was one of them. He later joined the Servants of the Paraclete. Like many recovering alcoholics, Mack became an alcoholism counselor so that he could help others conquer the demons that once had afflicted him. As the director of counseling at Jemez Springs later said, Mack “was always working with the underdogs, the misunderstood and the oppressed.”6Heather Clark, “Man Arrested in Priest’s Killing,” Santa Fe New Mexican, January 4, 2002. Mack’s bishop said that Mack “had experienced a lot of difficulty as a young man and as a priest, and he was willing to share his story with people.”7Katie Burford and Paul Logan, “Slain Priest Was Popular in Diocese,” Albuquerque Journal, December 11, 2001. Mack finished up his work as an assistant pastor in Winslow, Arizona in the late fall of 2001.8“Popular Priest Mack, City Native, Murdered,” Wisconsin State Journal, December 12, 2001. At fifty-nine, he decided to take a year off for reflection and study, and on December 2, 2001, moved into a cottage on the grounds of the Jemez Springs center. He would have been sixty years old on December 21, 2001.

 

Footnotes

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1 “Michael Mack to be Ordained,” Wisconsin State Journal, May 17, 1969, p. 8.

2 “New Chaplains Arrive at U[niversity] of A[rizona] Catholic Center, Tucson Daily Citizen, October 10, 1970, p. 4.

3 Paul Logan and Katie Burford, “Slain Priest Was Popular in Diocese,” Albuquerque Journal, December 11, 2001.

4 Paul Logan and Katie Burford, “Slain Priest Was Popular in Diocese,” Albuquerque Journal, December 11, 2001.

5 See Leon J. Podles, Sacrilege: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church (Baltimore: Crossland Press, 2008) pp. 308-311.

6 Heather Clark, “Man Arrested in Priest’s Killing,” Santa Fe New Mexican, January 4, 2002.

7 Katie Burford and Paul Logan, “Slain Priest Was Popular in Diocese,” Albuquerque Journal, December 11, 2001.

8 “Popular Priest Mack, City Native, Murdered,” Wisconsin State Journal, December 12, 2001.

 

 

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