I’m Adele. When I was twenty, I met Fr. Karol. He was my professor first, and our friendship, relationship, whatever you want to call it, took place over about nine months. We got to know each other slowly because his class was a lecture, so he didn’t have much interaction with students. But I made a point of bringing him food, and asking him how he was doing because while he was all passion and jubilance in public, he’d make off comments in class which suggested he was lonely—he was a foreigner in a new country, after all.

My kindness to him, asking him if he had somewhere to go for Thanksgiving, inviting him to my family’s dinners, asking how he was doing, as well as my performance as a student made him interested in me. Two things really changed our relationship from just student-teacher to friendship, however. First, I told him I wanted to study theology, specifically, the same area he specialized in. So, I asked if he would mentor me. He said absolutely he would. He was pleased someone was actually interested in his area of study.

Second, I went on a retreat where he was one of the priests who heard confessions. There were only two priests to choose from, and I knew them both, so I chose him. It was an intense confession because of what I had to confess had to do with trauma I had been through in my life. Hearing my confession was difficult for him because he was getting to know me because we had already made somewhat of a connection. I think it was then I knew he cared about me in some capacity, so I began to confide in him more and more. After a few months of spending more time with him, we developed a bond.

Well, maybe there is a third reason. Toward the end of the first semester, he asked me, with tears in his eyes, “Why are you so kind to me?” I told him, I honestly didn’t know, but probably because he was a good professor. Then, he told me that he was very glad I asked him over for Thanksgiving, because even though he had already been invited by another professor, for the first two years, no one invited him, meaning this is the first year he wasn’t alone for that holiday. Most significantly, he told me he was very lonely the first two years living in the US. When he told me this, I felt obligated to be attentive to him in the future, and it reminded me of my own father, who I always tried to make feel less lonely.

I was not interested in him romantically. What I wanted was a father figure. He was about twenty years older than me, and I was hurting because my father had recently left my mother and younger brother. Maybe he wanted was companionship, or maybe, a relationship, and perhaps he didn’t know what he wanted. But what he did want—he told me all this—was for me to read his books, talk about his scholarship with him, go out to eat with him, and he even mentioned visiting me when I went off to grad school, and he hoped to go on vacation with me at some point, (which I know, he made it sound all very romantic without intending to, I think, but I focused on the fact that he was a priest). He was looking to the future, a future in which I’d be a student he could be proud of.

We did go out to eat together sometimes. When we did, I got the distinct feeling that what he wanted from me, I couldn’t give him. I was naïve, so I had no idea how to interpret this feeling. In retrospect, I think I knew he was looking at me in a romantic way, but I didn’t know how to take it.

When I talked about my father, he’d get very upset, as in, he’d literally start tearing up. I’m not sure he knew how to handle my sadness, so he’d try to cheer me up by telling me that I was beautiful, that I was brilliant, that God loved me very much.

Later in our friendship, he revealed why it was so hard for him to hear about it: his own mother sent him away to boarding school because he was too high-energy, but she kept the other children at home with her. He felt utterly abandoned too. At one point, when I was crying with him, about my father, he told me would “never abandon me,” that’d he’d “always be in my life, no matter what.”

Every time we were together, there was a tension that I couldn’t name, and it felt uncomfortable for both of us. Except he’d always act like whatever time I spent with him was a priority. I’d ask him if it was okay for me to visit him in his office. Sometimes he’d be in a foul mood, but he always said “why wouldn’t it be okay for you to be here?” I think he was exhausted from pretending to be happy all the time, and with me, he felt more like he could be himself. I was one of the few people in his day to ask how he was doing, and I actually wanted to know.

There wasn’t just one thing that showed me that he cared. There were just many small things, like the way he was attentive and kind and sometimes teasing; the way he confided in me; the way he showed me he was so much more interested in me than other students. There were some big things too: When a cardinal from another city came to visit for a talk, there were a group of his students wanting to meet the cardinal. In front of a big group of his students, he chose to introduce me to the cardinal, completely ignoring all of his other students—they might as well have been invisible, since he didn’t even refer to their presence. I was so embarrassed because they all looked annoyed and disappointed to be ignored. I was just a sophomore, and he passed up students he had known longer than me to introduce me. He also would tell me he was meditating on me, trying to figure me out.

He came to know me, extremely well. He knew who my friends were and what was important to me. When I went on a different retreat my mom asked him to write a letter for me of support, as often people do on retreats. It was beautiful, and I could tell he put a lot of time in it, and he addressed me, “Dearest Pearl.” More important to me, however, is that he showed up for the part of the retreat in which family and friends come out to show you how much they care about you. Honestly, only he and my mom showed up, which amazed me. I went up to hug him and thanked him for showing up. Later, a woman there who I met on the retreat told me “it was so nice for your boyfriend to show up.” And it bothered me that a stranger thought we were together.

I have bipolar disorder, and because of all the sleep I missed with the retreat keeping us up late, and all the homework I had to catch up on that coming weekend, by Wednesday that week I was manic. (Sleep deprivation in people with bipolar disorder causes otherwise stable people to become manic.)

Because of the boyfriend comment, I became paranoid that people were spreading rumors about us being a couple. But quite honestly, his showing up confused me. Even though my mom invited him, she later said she invited just about everyone, and of course, he could have not shown up, saying that he was too busy or just politely declined. His being at the retreat suggested to me, at the time, that he wanted to be in my life more deeply, and I didn’t know how I felt about it.

Later that week, I went to his office to talk to him about it. Mid-conversation, the tears flowed so copiously, I had to lean forward to see him clearly. With what words I had left during mania, which makes people hyper-religion and grandiose, I asked him “are we like St Teresa and John of the cross?” He didn’t have an answer. It was my way of asking “this is strange and convoluted and intense but chaste friendship, right”? And he not understanding made me cry harder, so I kept apologizing because I knew I had asked something which couldn’t be undone, I wanted he and I to be good and holy, but I couldn’t say the words. My mind was too on fire to speak, to reason, and my eyes were too covered in tears to see, that I had to leave him there in his office, just to stop crying. As a 20 year old, I didn’t have the boundaries or the language to ask what his intentions were, or what he wanted from me. So it all came out wrong, I admit that. However, there was something obviously wrong with me, but of course, unless you have experience with people who are bipolar or are in the mental health field, you’re not going to know what is going on.

By the end of the week, I was in the hospital because I couldn’t sleep and it was causing me to be delirious. While I was in the hospital, he called my mom, telling her I was in love with him and that I couldn’t speak to him anymore. He said that if I did, he’d report me to the administration. When I got out of the hospital and my mother told me this, my first reaction was anger. I hated that he would assume that I wanted anything from him other than for him to be a priest. It hurt me to know he thought so ill of me, like I was a stupid romantic girl. It seemed so out of the blue for him to make that accusation. To this day, I have no idea what it was. I think he may have been afraid of the attention I drew to him by showing up and leaving his office crying. I think by then he knew that other students and professors were aware that I was a “favorite” student, and I think he might have been afraid of the worst possible perception.

Every time I saw him after that he looked, so, so, so, miserable, and when I saw him in class his eyes were bloodshot and glistening, the way they would be on the several occasions he had gotten upset in front of me. It was the end of the semester before the summer, so I didn’t have to see him very much at all, only a few times, but I knew it would be too hard to have to see him again, to be treated like a pariah after he promised to never abandon me, that I left the university. I considered him an important father figure in my life, so it devastated me to be rejected by ANOTHER father figure.

What I wish more than anything that he was honest with himself and with me what he wanted all along. I was only twenty, and I have no idea how he thought I’d figure this all out on my own without guidance. It would have been kinder too if he told me the truth, and spoke directly to me why we couldn’t see each other anymore, instead of going to my mom, of all people. In retrospect, however, I think the whole friendship was kind of inappropriate. Once he heard my confession and began to “counsel” me about my father, he put himself in a pastoral role. That pastoral role has certain responsibilities to not become overly involved, as it creates confusion for both parties. It’s why therapists don’t hang out with their patients. With all he knew about me, all he had promised to me, he had a so much power over me. It was an abuse of power for him to treat me the way he did. I found him a comforting presence, so I turned to him for help, and he offered himself as the answer to my problems. He should have known better.

We invite all our readers to give their thoughts, prayers and words of encouragement to our Adele. Please remember that anybody can fall in love at any moment in his/her life. It has nothing to do with one’s mental health or way of life. We are humans. We can’t survive without love. Now if it is born in the so called ‘wrong place’, what can we do? Removing our love feelings towards somebody is not like erasing a mistake on paper. It goes much deeper than that. Love is our universal language!

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