When Father Robert McWilliams was charged with sex and pornography crimes involving children just two years after his ordination, few were more stunned than those who had screened and formed him for priesthood.
This was a priest chosen and educated in the wake of the Church’s clergy sex-abuse scandal, someone who had undergone an intensive, detailed vetting process and seminary training steeped in teaching about sexual ethics and appropriate boundaries.
Although a sense of betrayal and shock always follows such allegations, in McWilliams’ case it was intensified by the fact that he had been ordained just two years before his arrest in December 2019. From the rector of his seminary and psychologists who evaluated him to his peers, those who thought they knew Robert “Bobby” McWilliams have continued to ask how someone who appeared to be a good priest could now be facing life in prison for sex crimes involving children.
A priest who had been in seminary with him, but asked not to be more specifically identified, said no one had suspected what was learned following McWilliams’ arrest. “There was not even an inkling, a clue … It’s not like ‘we always knew that guy was weird.’ It was not one of those situations at all.”
The priest added that looking back, he now sees McWilliams as having been masterful at concealing his behavior in an atmosphere that continually emphasized personal transparency. “He was skilled in the sense that he knew what to do to mask, to hide.”
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