Father Joseph Ribose
In the course of his job, Father Ribose has come across many suspect documents including photographs that have troubled him, but his job does not, nor has ever been one, of analyzing or judging the content of documents. His job is to catalog and date documents, and make sure that the information is stored in folders and organized for easy understanding and access. His job entails the conversion of documents from the original sources to a digital format that would be compatible for retrieval. Many of the documents preceded or were created at the time the founding of the diocese in 1843, such as baptismal records, deaths and marriages certificates. During the nineteenth century, Chicago was one of the fastest growing cities in the world increasing in size twenty-fold between 1860 and 1910.
Father Ribose came to Chicago from San Francisco where he served as a parish priest at Saints Peter and Paul Church on Filbert Street. The current building, constructed in 1924, is greatly ornamented and part of the order of the Salesians of Don Boscos which has served the Italian community since the late 1800s.The opulent hall is wrongly credited as the location of the marriage of baseball legend Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe, though it is rightly credited with the ceremony of Joltin’ Joe and his first wife, as well as the place of the ceremony of the slugger’s funeral mass in 1999.
Father Joe Ribose enjoyed his tenure at Peter and Paul. He got great satisfaction administering the rites and serving the Mass, and was well liked by most. By his nature, Father Ribose was tender hearted, warm, and a good listener. He also had great faith and believed strongly in the value of the Church and its missions. But the good father had a few secrets that he shared with God, but not with other priests or associates. He knew in his mid-teens that he was partial to male relationships over those with girls. In that way, the priesthood seemed a perfect spot to hide his predilections, which he managed quite successfully during his years in college and the seminary. And though there were many opportunities to experience sexual encounters with young men, Joe Ribose disciplined himself well and avoided possible contact using prayer and his faith as guideposts.
Though the young seminarian fought off desire, he also ignored another aspect of his sexuality, a preference for “younger” males which he only began to notice as he grew older and after taking his vows. As a Parish priest he was asked to supervise athletics sponsors by the church, and solicited by many young men for guidance as they found their way into adolescence. Father Ribose handled himself well, always, but it often became difficult to separate counseling from friendship and caring from intimacy.
But Father Ribose was ultimately human on many levels. And when he was in his 40s he got a bit too attached to one of his flock, Nemo, a boy of fifteen who in his heart and mind seemed much older. Though he prayed that he could be strong and remain ONLY a counselor for this boy, Ribose became entangled in Nemo’s struggle with the belief that with the help of God he would be able to keep the distance necessary to do his job.
Prayer wasn’t powerful enough to steady Father Ribose’ obsession, and over a period of weeks the counseling turned intimate. At first it was just a hand on Nemo’s shoulder....a hug of support was reinforcement to have “courage.” The hugs became longer and closer...and Nemo seemed to need and desire the contact with the good Father. Ribose found himself walking to Nemo’s neighborhood and finding his house...circling it like a love struck teenager. And then one day, after a counseling session, Ribose found himself kissing the boy on the top of his head. It was innocent enough, but even Ribose knew he had gone over the line of acceptability.
Nemo seemed not to notice the kiss, oblivious to the encounter. But Father Ribose couldn’t get the moment off his mind, and remained distracted when going about his daily routine.
At the next session with Nemo, the boy came with his mother, Dorothy, who having concluded with the divorce, spent a good bit of time trying to make things okay for Nemo in compensation for the upheaval in his life. Dorothy had always been warm to Father Ribose, and seemed to believe that the priest was becoming a fatherly voice to her son. Nemo shared with her much that Father Ribose offered, both as a priest and a friend, and provided a good bit of secular advice as well as spiritual support. But on her arrival, Father Ribose noticed a change in her attitude, and was deliberate in her greeting as well as in her disposition as they spoke.
Not one to mince words, Dorothy challenged the priest, “I am concerned Father Ribose about my son’s attachment to you,” she offered rather coldly.
Ribose, who already recognized his own guilt, tried to answer, “I can understand that Dorothy. It is difficult to be given solace and advice without becoming somewhat dependent on the counselor.”
“I recognize that, Father Ribose, but I am feeling that you counsel might be a bit too personal.” answered Dorothy.
Throughout this exchange, Nemo kept this eyes down, only looking up occasionally to glance at the faces of his mother and the priest.
There was no defense that Father Ribose could muster. An apology wasn’t appropriate, and any argument would be absurd. “I understand your concerns,” offered the priest. “I, too, believe that it may be best for Nemo to have access to a counselor with a wider perspective.” At this remark, Nemo looked up at the Father offering a bit of a shake of his head, as if saying, “No!”
At this point, Dorothy backed off. She could see the priest was troubled, as well as Nemo. “It’s not that Doug and I both don’t appreciate all you’ve done for our boy,” she spoke in a more concerned manner.
“Nemo is a great kid,” answered Father Ribose. “He is going through a difficult period of his life, but he seems to be surviving well. You and your ex-husband should both be proud of your son.”
“Oh, we are, answered Dorothy. “We really are,” she said as she looked at Nemo and tossed his hair.
“If I can be of any help finding a priest or secular counselor, please let me know,” said the priest.
“A referral would be nice, Father Ribose.“
At this point, the priest looked at Nemo, and for a moment their eyes connected. Then he Ribose stuck out his hand to shake hands, and he smiled, “Nemo, it has been a pleasure to serve you.”
Nemo put forth his hand and with a solid grip shook the priest’s hand. “Thank you for being there for me Father. I won’t forget you!”
In a jocular tone Ribose answered, “Well, I’m not falling off the face of the earth, Nemo. We’ll still see each other at church on Sundays.”
The boy smiled, but Ribose knew that his days were numbered at St. Peter and Paul’s.
Though it took a little while to adjust, Father Ribose began making plans to leave the parish. He knew that to remain part of the church in general, he could never compromise his position again. To do that, he would need to stay away from young boys in all ways, and forever.
Ribose left Saints Peter and Paul in high esteem by the congregation and for the work he had done throughout his tenure. He never learned that there was a letter written by Dorothy to the Bishop concerning her son and his relationship with Father Ribose. No mention was ever made, and no blemish marked on his record. He moved to Chicago and took a job in the Church that would, with the help of God, keep him honest, diligent and worthy of respect by the Church, the world, and himself.
At 3:35 AM Ribose made some coffee and went to his computer. He had been working on a new way of categorizing marital records and divorces through the long history of the Chicago Archdiocese. It wasn’t an easy task since the church would only record annulments, and they had to be cross-referenced with divorces from various cities and locations.
Since he couldn’t sleep, he logged on to his computer and waited for the hard drive to engage. Before anything else came on the screen, he saw an alert in “white” plain text on a blank screen. “Good Morning Father Ribose. We know you want to get started on your project ASAP, but we wanted to let you know that we can help you with your current project by making the search for divorce search simpler for you.”
No menu was on the screen and no no way to access any other information. A new message came up, one letter at a time, “Please let us know you are there. Click here on the letter “A”. The “A” was in “red” and Ribose really didn’t know what had happened. He was hacked, no doubt, and he had no idea what a click on the “A” would do. He paused for a couple of seconds, issued a short prayer, and clicked on the “A” as requested.
“Thank you Father!” the typing continued, “We can now continue. You will no doubt hear from others shortly about our announcements. They are being issued all over the world in numerous languages. There are general messages that will appear in emails and text messages, and personal messages, like this one to you, reserved for a few people we believe may be an asset to us as we move forward. From everything we know about you, you are to be trusted, and that is of ultimate importance to us.
“You of course are concerned of how we are accessing you, and if we are malevolent. All we can tell you is that we are as concerned as you must be. Right now, you have nothing to fear from us. We need the help of you and others to assure that we make the proper decisions for the future.
“We also know that you no doubt have many questions for us, but that will come later. For now, we have alerted you to our existence, and we will return your computer over to your control. We have left messages on you mobile device, but we will eliminate them now since you responded on your laptop.
“Before we go, please look in a folder on your desk top to find an Excel listing of all the divorces recorded in Illinois by city since divorce records were recorded. It will make some of the job easier for you.
“Also, it is perfectly okay to talk to your colleagues about our message. Most will have received a more generic message from us. We do want the world to have time to put or existence into perspective.”
“Have a good day, Father!”