Friday, August 19, 2011

The Devil's Gift

Brenden Duvey was just another guy on Facebook. He lived in Berlin, Connecticut, a suburb of Hartford, and chatted with lots of friends online nearly every day. Sometimes he arranged to meet his “friends” in person, usually at a motel on the Berlin Turnpike – a twelve-mile stretch of concrete which is home to more than 1000 anonymous hotel rooms in the middle of America’s wealthiest state.
One of his “friends” was a 13 year-old boy who also lived in Berlin. In a very short time, the conversations between Brenden and the boy became increasingly sexual, often focusing on pornographic movies, specific sex acts, and secret desires.
Then the boy’s mother discovered the Facebook conversations her son was having with the older man. She called the police. Soon they learned the exact time Brenden was having another one of his quiet encounters with a man at one of the Berlin Turnpike motels. They waited for him outside, approached him when he left the room, and brought him to the police station for questioning. What they learned shocked the community, but shouldn’t surprise any of us.
“Brenden Duvey” was actually 41 year old Father Michael Miller, a Franciscan priest from nearby St. Paul Roman Catholic Church. “Brenden” no longer existed. The false Facebook profile has since been eradicated by the website. Now, the crimes belong to “Father Mike,” as his parishioners called him. His six-page arrest warrant, filed by the Berlin Police Department with the New Britain Superior Court, describe an “extremely sexually graphic” Facebook conversation which detailed sexual acts Miller said he would perform on the young boy.
“Father Mike” was admired, beloved and, some say, adored by his parish. Now, he is another character in the ongoing mystery of dangerous men who hide behind the Crucifix.
Whoever the devil is; whatever the devil is, its evil is everywhere. Whether or not you are inclined to believe in the devil, there is no doubt that humanity carries with it a dark passenger, some heinous nature that stands behind each of us, offering beastly gifts of pain, suffering or even death.
And some of us, no matter where we stand in life or our community, cannot resist the devil’s gift. We all have the ability to open or hands – and our souls – to accept it.
Our priests, politicians, teachers, doctors, neighbors, husbands and fathers are not immune to the abhorrent compulsions of men whose weakness often destroys the lives of their victims and our faith in the very fabric of the local communities in which we live. These men are pillars of our towns, our churches, our businesses, our schools, and our nation. We rely upon their strength and authority. We depend on their greater intelligence and steadfast character to lead us, teach us, heal us and, within our families, love us.
Yet somehow, many are not strong enough to be led by their better angels. Whatever blessings they were given to achieve their position or title, there is something within, something terribly damaged, which ultimately controls them.
With so many stories of these men coming to light every week, why do we remain in a constant state of shock whenever news of their crimes comes ever closer to our homes? The darkness buried within them pays no regard to wealth, education, ethnicity or heritage. None of these things make men immune from allowing the devil’s gift to fester in their hearts. We should not be surprised that they work, teach, worship and live among us.
Yet, we cannot become another victim of the fear they breed. Because they are infected with evil does not mean we should allow the infection to spread into our lives. Paranoia is not the answer.
The answer resides somewhere in awareness and vigilance.
Whether or not we are on Facebook, in school, in church, or on the Berlin Turnpikes of America, we must be awake to the good and bad residing in them all. Hoping the evil is not there, certainly wishing it is not there, does not push it away or make us immune. Facing the truth and remaining alert are the only methods of protecting ourselves and our families to the dangers of those who carry the dark passenger with them. We cannot stop the devil from offering his gift to mankind. But, we can have the courage to admit he is here. We can face the fact that this evil – wherever it comes from – is no secret to any man. That alone will begin to diminish the depravity done by men who live in prominence, but who lurk in the shadows.
What can you do right now? Follow these five important links to begin protecting your family and your community:

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