Another weekend with that familiar feeling in the pit of my stomach

Some days I hate this job.

OK, these days, there are a lot of days I hate this job.

These are difficult days in the newspaper business.

But that's another story, for another day.

The story this day is about the rock that I have carried around in my stomach for the better part of the last two decades. That's how long I have been editor of this newspaper. It's that queasy feeling I get in the pit of my stomach every time I get wind of a story that I know is going to be big news - and big controversy.

You don't get into this business to make friends. Or to make money, for that matter.

It is one of the reasons journalists, including this one, refrain for the most part from joining a lot of organizations such as Rotary, Kiwanis or the Lions. We don't run for local office. We don't join a lot of community advisory boards. I am not even a member of the Delaware County Press Club.

For the most part, this is to avoid any conflict of interest. We are supposed to be watchdogs, not affected by personal relationships.

That's easier said than done. At a lot less painful.

I do, however, speak often to exactly such groups. I talk about what I do for a living and the convulsive changes that have rocked the newspaper world.

They invariably want to know how they can get good stories about themselves, their towns and their businesses into the newspaper. I am more than happy to oblige them whenever possible, and whenever it merits such coverage.

But I also tell them something else. I also assure them that is a very good chance that I or someone else from the newspaper may be calling on them one day when the news is not so good.

All of which is kind of a preface to saying that the rock that resides in my stomach got a little bigger over the weekend. St. Joseph's Parish in Downingtown is in the news again. You can read about it here.

I happen to be a parishioner.

More than that, I consider the man at the center of this latest controversy a friend.

I still do.

I first met Monsignor Joe McLoone when he was pastor at St. Katharine Drexel in Chester.

AFter his arrival at St. Joe's, one of his first tasks was overseeing the construction of a new church. St. Joseph's is the largest parish in Chester County - even after a chunk of it was split off to form St. Elizabeth's a few years back. It is the second largest parish in the entire archdiocese.

The old church, where I happened to get married, was bursting at the seams. I still wondered about what that money could have been used for instead of building a massive new facility. It didn't exactly soothe my feelings that they knocked the old church down. The only still standing there is the bell tower that sits in the middle of the new parking lot.

I used to kid the monsignor all the time. "You came here from St. Katharine Drexel in Chester. You think we really need a $10 million church." He was always wise enough not to respond.

It was first announced that Monsignor McLoone was taking an extended leave of absence back in February. At the time it struck me as kind of odd that not much information was being released.

The next week, I imagine in an attempt to tamp down rumors in the parish, it was announced that the leave had nothing to do with children.

Yeah, I guess that's the kind of world we live in today.

I made a few inquiries into how he was doing, but didn't really think that much about it, aside from that little gnawing in my gut, a result of too damn many years as a newspaper editor, that told me something wasn't right.

Last Friday I got a phone call about 1 p.m. Suddenly that little knot in my stomach became the size of a beach ball.

Yes, there was indeed more to the monsignor's leave than we first knew.

It was going to be addressed at every Mass at St. Joe's this weekend.

It was not pretty.

We had a reporter in the 7:30 Mass to hear the remarks delivered by Monsignor Thomas Dunleavy, who had been named parish administrator after Monsignor McLoone first took his leave.

In a selfish kind of way, hearing what he told the faithful was a bit of a relief. I am not above telling you I had wondered exactly how we were going to cover the story, how much detail we would provide. It turned out the archdiocese did not leave a lot to the imagination.

As I said, it wasn't pretty.

Ironically, Monsignor McLoone was brought into St. Joseph's in the aftermath of criminal charges being filed against the former pastor, the Rev. William Lynn. He faced charges stemming from the grand jury investigation in Philadelphia into abuse of children by priests. Lynn was not charged with any abuse. Instead he was charged with endangering the welfare of children for allegedly moving problem priests into other parishes without notifying parishioners. He was convicted of one count. That conviction was thrown out in 2015. He is currently awaiting retrial.

At the time I wrote several blog items and columns concerning the scandal that had enveloped the archdiocese - and St. Joe's.

Let's just say it was not especially appreciated by many of the faithful who remained loyal to Rev. Lynn, in particularly one woman who sent me an email and a request to "stay there in Delaware County WHERE YOU BELONG."

Like I said, you don't go into this business to make friends.

This weekend was certainly proof of that.