Saint Gerard is one of many patron saints of the falsely accused. His story is even more relevant now than it was in 1754 when the events leading to his sainthood took place. At the time he was only 28, he belonged to a religious community and was known as Brother Gerard. He had recommended a young woman to a convent. In due course she was dismissed from the convent, and sought revenge on Brother Gerard. She accused him of lecherous conduct and he had to appear before the leader of his community, Saint Alphonsus.
Brother Gerard didn’t want to damage the reputation of his accuser, so remained silent before Saint Alphonsus, who thought he had no choice but to punish him. He banned him from having any contact with the outside world and from receiving Holy Communion. For a Christian a ban from Holy Communion is a particularly hard punishment to bear.
Brother Gerard’s response was to offer up his sufferings for the conversion and salvation of his accuser. In other words, he was obeying Christ’s command that Christians should love their enemies and pray for them. He was quoted as saying that “there is a God in heaven, and he will provide”.
A few months later, his accuser was very ill and not wanting to die with this crime on her conscience she wrote to St Alphonsus, confessing what she had done.
Brother Gerard was restored, and the manner in which he put his trust in God throughout his ordeal became an example for the Church and he became the patron saint of the falsely accused.
Unfortunately, today there are many people in all walks of life who have been falsely accused. Those who work in the caring professions, such as teaching, health care, children’s homes and in faith communities, are particulary vulnerable to false allegations of sexual abuse.
FACT members include a number of people who were part of a church, some as priests, and their suffering is no less than that of Brother Gerard. Unfortunately in the current climate, where churches are understandably strengthening their safeguarding procedures, the suffering of those falsely accused in a church setting can be a lot worse than that of Brother Gerard.
The issues concerning the way churches deal with those falsely accused of child abuse are complex. In order to explain them and suggest areas for reform, we will be publishing further articles online under the pseudonym “Brother Gerard”, the man who is a patron saint of the falsely accused.
You can read about Brother Gerard’s life and some other patron saints of the falsely accused on Father Landry’s page.