Sexual abuse of children-the very topic-arouses a myriad of emotions, from anger to disbelief. When the alleged perpetrator is a priest, reactions range from rage at the accused and/or Church to disbelief and hostility towards the victims.
Under American law we are all entitled to due process. When a crime has been committed, the court system is the venue to judge the guilt or innocence of the accused. We are a nation built upon the premise that justice should extend to all. Why does canon law even figure into this equation? Was there or was there not a crime committed? If so, then let the justice system do its work. If the priest’s guilt has been established, he must face the legal consequences. These consequences should be at least as harsh as those administered to any other sexual abuser.
Some confusion seems to exist about the exact definition of sexual abuse. The legal system has defined the various types of sexual abuse, so a standard already exists in America. We do not have to re-invent the wheel; we simply have to follow the letter of the existent laws.
How about sexual abuse for which the statute of limitations has expired? Should there be a moral statute of limitations-if the abuser legally escapes the limitations, does that mean that no harm has been inflicted, that the abuser can now have a clear conscience? The reality is that over the years the Church hid information concerning abuse from the faithful, intimidated many victims who sought support from the hierarchy, and lied to the parishioners about the cause of the priest’s removal. The harsh reality of sexual abuse is that victims are unable to reveal or deal with their abuse until well past the expiration of the statute of limitations. By concealing, lying, intimidating, and stonewalling, the Church has effectively sanctioned the actions of the predators in its midst. Those who have daily dealt with the spiritual, emotional and physical dimensions of their abuse can find NO peace in the claims that they should have “come forward” years before.
The zero-tolerance policy has also come under fire. If a priest has abused only once in his ministry, should he be allowed to remain in the priesthood? For those who answer “yes” can the life impact on that “one” victim be so readily dismissed? In all likelihood, the priest’s abusive behavior came to light only when someone stepped forward with allegations. Despite the priest’s assurances to his bishop that this victim was the only one, in most cases the reality is that many victims preceded this abuse victim. By questioning the necessity of a priest’s removal for only “one” offense committed many years ago, we overlook the fact that the abuse was a CRIME many years ago, is still considered a crime, and that the victim/survivor has had a life time of pain. In the scales of justice, is a child or adolescents life less valuable than that of a priest? A priest’s dismissal for sexual abuse cannot be more painful to him than the pain his victim’s have suffered daily.
Another issue is that of “forgiveness.” When a bishop states that HE forgives his brother priest, wouldn’t the person doing the forgiving have to be the Victim? If a crime committed against a person, do the friends of the criminal have the right to “forgive” his actions? Does their forgiveness erase the damage done to the child or to the adolescent?
Another variable in this complex situation is the reaction of parishioners to allegations of sexual abuse against their pastor. In most cases, the priest is seen to be caring, dynamic, and charismatic. Catholics then struggle to reconcile two contradictory situations-the public perception of his integrity versus the private reality of his crimes. Piercing the veil of denial is almost insurmountable. We each have comfort zones, areas where all is right with the world and we feel secure in our perception of reality. When the horrendous specter of clergy sexual abuse, rape, sodomy arises, many cannot accept the truth, since that threatens the safety and security of their comfort zones. Denial is powerful in its impact. Victims are left isolated, abandoned by their parish communities. Sometimes outright hostility is shown to victims and to their families.
A different variable is minimization, or the trivializing of the abuse impact. By downplaying the devastation the abuse victim lives with on a daily basis, many otherwise decent, compassionate people further hurt the victim. As survivors tell their stories, common themes occur-a spiritual abyss, mistrust of others, desperate attempts to deaden the pain, and a profound sadness. Comments such as “get over it.” “That happened so long ago:why bring it up now?” or ” Remember how much good the priest did” further exact more pain. These remarks stun victims since their lives have been permanently altered by what others consider unfortunate, but manageable, circumstances.
A major factor in this issue is the role of power. Members of the hierarchy of the United States, in general, seem threatened by accountability for their actions. Often the laity is relegated to the role of second-class citizens, as “unenlightened” so therefore unnecessary to consult. Did any bishop, when getting medical advice about priest abusers, ever have the idea that perhaps parents might have different ideas from theirs about putting a molester within reach of their children? If any bishop had said to parishioners, “is it all right to allow a child molester to lead your parish?” the answer would have been a resounding “NO!” coupled with disbelief that the bishop would even have to ask the question. In order to control the followers of the Church, the hierarchy has exerted a stranglehold on information throughout the many, many years. Secrecy, lies, evasions, and false perceptions have kept the hierarchical power base intact for far too long! To truly be a Church of the people the hierarchy has to dismantle their many protective mechanisms and instead be truly approachable. The laity is NOT the enemy! The money needed to maintain the power base with its expensive attorneys, came from the pockets of the average Catholic in the pew. Surely using the laity’s money to maintain the hierarchy’s control cannot be justified.
Also an air of arrogance is perceived among many in the hierarchy. Some act as if they alone possess truth and insight into spiritual matters. Why do some bishops and archbishops and cardinals insulate themselves from contact with abuse victims by having layers of diocesan personnel deal with victims? If the Church is a family, why then are the spiritual “fathers” reluctant to listen to victims and to their families? The imperative word here is LISTEN and take in what they hear. The message from those abused is unpalatable, but the discomfort of the listener pales next to the searing pain of the one spiritually abused. How can the Church extend a healing hand when many “healers” have little in-depth understanding of the ravages of abuse? Sexual abuse is not something that disappears with its revelation. Bishops who truly want to help must be willing to listen to the victims stories: in effect, they have to allow themselves vicariously to suffer as the victim has. They must “walk the walk.” not merely “talk the talk.” They must allow themselves to FEEL the abandonment, depression, rage, and despair victims undergo. Until they can look into the eyes of a survivor as a true brother/sister in Christ, they cannot be effective, ever.
How can lay people effect change in the Church? First, by realizing the power of their money. If an appeal for justice cannot prevail, often a threat to the finances can. Church-sponsored charities and institutions must continue their services, but the laity can exert pressure for openness and financial accountability. Second, they can speak up in great numbers to STOP this spiritual “HOLOCAUST.” Concentration-camp survivor Elie Wiesel could have been referring to today’s sexual abuse by his words: “let us remember: what hurts the victim most is not only the cruelty of his/her oppressor, but the SILENCE OF THE BYSTANDER.” By not speaking up, we give tacit consent to injustice and to abuse. To remain morally neutral is to allow evil to continue. Catholic lay people collectively insist that no child or adolescent be “sacrificed” to this evil.
117 thoughts on “A Letter from a Survivor”
Wow Vicky what a great letter. Your passion and insights come through loud and clear……………
Thank you Vicky. Your letter is powerful, compassionate and honest. You are so brave and unselfish. I agree with your letter on all counts.
I admire you immensely, and I believe the victims.
God Bless and stay strong.
I keep thinking of different signs I can make for the next prayer vigil, and I continue to return to this – “To the Survivors, I believe you, I support you, I love you”. Vicky, thank you for your letter, you reminded me why I want to make that sign. I pray for you, you are so strong.
Vicky – your words are very powerful and I am certain speak for other victims who read this blog but may not be able to put their thoughts into words. Thank you. The inner strength that you possess speaks loud and clear. You are truly an inspiration.
Vicky’s letter is the best and most comprehensive statement I have seen. Period.
Maureen was just suggesting discussing the abuse situation with her parish.
From an organizing point of view, why not reproduce lots of copies of Vicky’s statement and take them with you when you meet with parish leadership?
For that matter, why not use Vicky’s statements in LOTS of other parishes as well?
C4C has days like today where a number of new blog topics are introduced, all on one day. I think it would be really unfortunate in the plethora of blog topics to not REALLY USE that letter.
Vicky, your letter is the most comprehensive and compassionate summary voice for the victims and our hurting church that I have ever read. Joan, your idea is an excellent one. I think Vicky’s letter should be sent to the Archbishop as well, but in a public forum so that if he deletes it or ignores it, other readers will be aware. Bravo, Vicky! Joan, your wisdom is from the Holy Spirit! God Bless!
Way to go Vicky!
I agree that your words should be passed along to those among us who are in denial.
Thank you, Vicky~ you expressed exactly what the people who want- or should want- to help need to know.
I just posted Vicy’s letter on the Philadelphia Priest’s website.
Awesome, Joan. I hope someone responds.
I am not holding my breath on a response Child Guardian…although it would be great.
I did it so that if any Philly C4C reader wants to address Vicky’s concerns with any parish or other Church leadership players, it can be pointed out that the priests of the AD have had an opportunity to READ and CONSIDER Vicky’s very effectively made points!
The priest’s Association link is http://philadelphiapriests.com/2011/07/28/the-association-is-approved/
I went back and took a look at the postings and comments. Since June 19th on their home page, there have been, perhaps 18 association postings, the most recent dealing with AB Martin on 60 minutes and NINE COMMENTS.
If you choose the Association of Philadelphia
Priests segment, you will find a very small number of comments, a few by me, and a few from, Jerry, SW, Sister Maureen et al.
By C4C standards, a complete priest/laity nonstarter.
If you are a priest with a specific ‘connection’ then I assume there is Internet communication.
But what a paradigm for the Church laity interface!!!
Oops, the number of postings by the priest association on its home page since its inception in June 2011, was closer to 40, a number of Chaput statements etc. The number of comments in response was NINE.
C4C has been averaging 2500 hits per day.
THANK YOU, JOAN. PLEASE USE THIS LETTER IN WAYS THAT WILL HEAL, THAT IS ALWAYS MY INTENT.
Oh Vicky, it is such a great letter….I have confidence that C4C folks will use it! And please take a lot of comfort in the fact that it IS healing!!!
Very powerful. You are a hero to victims everywhere, Vicky.
..as a survivor all I can add is AMEN, Vicky..
so powerful Vicky!
Vicky you amaze me. Please continue writing and communicating. I think that anytime I encounter an apathetic Catholic I will give them a copy of this letter. It puts into words so well what I try to tell others. Thank you Vicky and it was an honor to have met you on Friday.
Vicky, thank you for your powerful words. Thank you for your insight. Thank you for the call to solidarity: RCC people MUST learn that if we are the church, it is to us to make our sisters and brothers in the the pews understand that the heirarchy must answer to us. This is a powerful concept. Please God it will come to fruition before too long. Please God all RCC people will come to understand that this change will not be easy. Please God we will all have the grace to face this challenge.
Thank-You, Vicky, for your inspiring and comprehensive letter, complete with the kind of questions we can be asking the church-hierarchy, the complacent Catholics, and our secular policy-makers. Can I hand this out and/or perhaps leave it at church-pews? I cannot, for the life of me, understand how independent, modern countries allow canon-law to enter their judicial system. What happened to the separation between state and religion? It seems that the Irish Government has finally had enough and wants to run their own country, without Vatican interference. I am hoping that America resolves this issue, once and for all, with Secular Laws superseding Roman ones. Does the RCC think they can fool the people with their arguments in favor of the statute of limitations or their sermons on forgiveness?
Vicky, keep up the good work. I believe the victims.
SPEAKING-UP, YES, YES, YES. Pass the letter out to anyone you see fit. Thank you for all your kind words. I truly hope that this letter will help in some small way to reach people who are struggling with their faith, no matter how it might look to others.
Vicky, I join with the others and thank you for your letter. Your words are powerful and moving. Thank you for putting your thoughts into words. You have my support and admiration.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afb4A8SppmQ Just a reminder Jesus’s heart beats in us if we let him in……………….
Vicky, Thank you for putting into words what has been in my heart for so long. Feelings that I’ve been unable to express as eloquently and thoroughly as you have. I will be stepping into room 304 to testify in a few weeks and hope to be able to harness half of the courage and conviction you put forth in this forum.
James, when you are on the witness stand remember that a lot of us are praying for you. If things become difficult, look to the observers in the back of the courtroom and see the support and appreciation in our faces. Let us know the day when you expect to testify. I will make every effort to be there and I suspect others on this site would do the same.
I second that. Thank you, James, for your courage. I have a five month old daughter. All of those survivors and their supporters are working for justice for past sins, and prevention of new ones. My little Grace will inherit a better world than this current one. I am praying for you, James.
Thank you all, this site means more than you can know to me, April 25th is my day in Rm 304
James, I’ll be praying for you on the 25th. We’ll be with you on that day. Don’t worry about being courageous, you already are.. Just be there and tell all. ((hugs))
James – I put the 25th on my calendar. If I can not be there in court I will be sending many prayers and positive energy.
When you bravely step into room 304, know that what you are doing will protect children in the future. If there are moments where you feel less confident…please draw strength from all C4C posters and countless others that support the survivors.
Stay strong if possible, and God Bless.
James – Please know that although I don’t know you personally, I support you, I believe you and I am so sorry for your suffering. You may not feel it at times but you are stronger than you know, stronger than most. When you are feeling scared, frustrated or angered, know that there are so many of us praying for you and supporting you. Much Love.
You will not be alone! I believe you. I support you. You have more courage than you may ever realize.
You’re just telling the truth by telling your story.
My husband asked me to share with you…”You are not alone and I wish you healing! Be prepared to experience a freedom like no other as you stand in the fullness of truth! Thank you for coming forward. On behalf of all children, thank you.”
James, I join the others. I believe you and support you. You are brave for stepping forward. I will keep you in my prayers, especially at April 25th approaches.
There is a spiritaul realm many fail to recognize because they are too worried about losing their manmade possessions and status etc. I see you as protecting innocence souls from harm and that is building up the kingdom of God. Let God work thru you and have no fear as we will be praying for you and God can do some pretty amazing things thru us if we let him
“A priest happened to be going down the road, but he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side………………..Which of these three, in your opinion was neighbor to the robbers victim? He answered “The one who treated him with mercy.’ Luke 10 29-37 So much truth even for today…….
James@15, Your response brought tears to my eyes. Please let me know what day you will enter room 304, if I can’t make it and I will try, it would be an honor to meet you and take your hand supporting your great courage. We stand in solidarity, together, we are strong. Truth, is strength. Let me know how else I can be there for you, I care so much. You are NOt alone anymore!
There are real Christians pulling for you, and God is proud of your enormous strength and courage.
A different country but the same tactics from a Universal Church.
All power to you Vicky.
The letter points out that the main issue, almost the only issue, is POWER. It starts with the statement that “we are all entitled to due process.” But the POWER issue here is that priests are entitled to more rights than anyone else. They can have their crimes covered over; they can do anything they wish without penalty. The bishop will protect them, and no law enforcement authority will mess with Justin Rigali. Next, POWER is the issue in the letter where it talks about word games that bishops play with the people. Here, the letter describes it as “confusion seems to exist about the exact definition of sexual abuse.” Of course, it is all a big mistake of words. Priests always like to play word games with the little people.
Then, POWER is the issue in regard to setting lawfully appropriate “statute of limitations” for children who have been raped by their spiritual leaders. We know where the bishop stands on that. It is a Power issue. Next, the letter talks about another POWER issue, “The zero-tolerance policy”. This was just a game the bishops played to gain favorable publicity. It is about keeping POWER by any means necessary. Another way that priests and bishops do this is that they reserve the right to lie under oath if done for the benefit of Holy Mother Church, the Spotless Bride of Christ. Another POWER issue “is that of “forgiveness.”” Here the bishops and priests say that only they have the power to forgive sins. Well, bishops, we hereby place you on notice that we retain the right to determine if we will forgive our bishops for what they have done. It does not look favorable for you, and you should start packing your bags.
Another POWER “variable in this complex situation is the reaction of parishioners to allegations of sexual abuse against their pastor.” Of course, he is our pastor, right or wrong. Well, we have wizened up and you are no longer getting the benefit of the doubt. I any case it is time for you to go. Another POWER is “is minimization, or the trivializing of the abuse impact.” Here the bishops simply downplay “the devastation the abuse victim lives with on a daily basis”. This is another form of power and control.
The writer of the letter does not seem to realize that this is ALL about POWER, writing only, “A major factor in this issue is the role of power.” We hold the Pope and the hierarchy accountable. The International Criminal Tribunal of the Hague will be next. We hold you accountable Father, Bishop, Cardinal and Pontifex Maximus. POWER is seen in the “air of arrogance” of “the hierarchy. Some act as if they alone possess truth and insight into spiritual matters.” Pathetic, dishonest men whose days are numbered, cowards, shaking in their boots. STOP PAYING. DO NOT GIVE ANY MORE MONEY TO THE BEAST. “First, by realizing the power of their money. If an appeal for justice cannot prevail, often a threat to the finances can.” Let the Holy Spirit in. Tell the evil doers to leave the church. Hold Justin Rigali accountable.
You’re right Mark the issue is power! BUT, again, they ONLY have as much power as each individual Catholic accords them. If one shows them respect simply because of the costume they’re wearing, you’re perpetuating clericalism, and all the DEBAUCHERY that goes with
Start investigating Rigali; dig him out of whatever spider hole he is hiding in NOW!
Disrespecting them whenever and wherever I can, STOP BOWING DOWN TO THESE DREGS OF SOCIETY !
Sometimes I have been somewhat critical saying that all too many comments on this site appear to be to be hand-wringing and not action. Vicky’s letter is right on about how the “The Gowns” isolate and insulate themselves from the torture of the innocent. Now, this letter needs to be hand delivered to someone in authority in the AD with the requirement that it be answered, in full and in writing and face to face verbally. No genuflecting or other signs of obeisance – but human being to human being.
The bishops should have hired you not crimologists at John Jay.
When you told me you had written a letter about your experience, I imagined hearing a description of your experience, a narrative that would appeal to the heart. What you have written is an unusual contribution. Most accounts by victims of abuse are descriptions of the experience of being abused and the aftermath. They are powerful because they allow the reader to imagine what it might have been like to be the victim. The reader vicariously “experiences” the assault(s) and what follows. Of course, those of us who were not abused can never fully understand the experience.
What you offered here is an account of the underlying conditions that give rise to the experience. You present the context, the underlying variables or themes, the conditions, if you will, that make this experience what it is. I am struck by how richness and complexity of your analysis. I don’t believe I have ever read this kind of analytical report from a survivor; it touches the heart but is addressed to the mind. It is especially powerful because it is an insider’s view of those underlying structures of the experience that must be dealt with if we are to plan actions to prevent this from happening again.
Wow. Many thanks.
Vicky and Martin, and Reid….First of all, huge thanks to Vicky for not only her earlier comments ‘from the ‘heart’ of a survivor, but as Martin just said, for her ‘analytical’ assessment….
Especially powerful ‘because it is the an insider’s view, of those underlying structures of the experience that must be dealt with if we are to plan actions to prevent this from happening again.’
And I take Reid’s comments seriously, an ‘action’ response is hugely important.
And there has been action, vigils, efforts with SOLs, I think it was Vicky who gave a talk in a parish.
Right now in Philly, with the drumbeat of news from the Lynn trials, is not a bad time to be ‘Action oriented’. Contacting public officials, contacting church officials, distributing info, like Vicky’s letter to ANYONE who will read it, letters to the Editor, comments on other blog sites, and certainly C4C, are great. And Thank God, that folks are speaking up. And God willing, may it continue and grow.
But this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. When the dust settles, there will still be wimpy abuse laws on the books in PA and elsewhere, organized episcopal opposition to strengthening laws that protect innocent kids, the whole nine yards. And folks who oppose sexual abuse of children will need to fuss with the messy legislative details that give prosecutors the opportunity to prosecute, in other Phillys.
Vicky wrote: Did any bishop, when getting medical advice about priest abusers, ever have the idea that perhaps parents might have different ideas from theirs about putting a molester within reach of their children? If any bishop had said to parishioners, “is it all right to allow a child molester to lead your parish?” the answer would have been a resounding “NO!” coupled with disbelief that the bishop would even have to ask the question.
Exactly what I have been thinking when reading these accounts or sitting in the trial when decisions about priests were outlined. It seems like at times the only people not consulted were the most important people in any decision concerning children….the parents.
Pssst. Can you keep a secret? The Passover never happened. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/staks-rosch/the-biblical-exodus-story-is-fiction_b_1408123.html And here is Justin Rigali. Pray that he is brought to justice. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyAeskXgEos&feature=related
Vicky dear….. Your letter needs to be in the ” OPINION COLUMN” IN EVERY NEWS PAPER IN THE WORLD.! You have been inspired by the Holy Spirit. I say the same to you James, when you go to court, know that what you say(the words) will be provided to you by the Holy Spirit. That’s scriptural. God Bless you and know we’re proud of you!
I’ll put it in the papers here in Denver and San Diego and Phoenix … Those are places I have lived and are known as a “letter to the editor” person. They have my stats. Please let me know how to do it! Thanks.. Remember I’m in my 83 rd yr. Not old but short term memory, a little shaky at times.
Vicky and James, Chosen.
Prophets of the truth.
Vicky and James, God knows we support you! And this blog which has been in many ways dedicated to you, got the most number of ‘votes’ that I have seen on C4C…there are many many quiet readers who deeply care about, you too!
Vicky, your words are awe inspiring! I wish it could be read in ever parish!!!! I’m sure it would pull some heads out the sand!!!!
It always amazes me to see how things unfold on C4C. A chance for Vicky to share her powerful letter and what that meant for James. People reaching out to James with their messages of support. Vicky’s letter being downloaded and copied for people to share at their parishes. If we planned these things they probably would not happen,it all just continues to unfold on its own.
It is the work of the good Lord, indeed! Even the resident thumbs-downer cannot find a way to defend this nonsense with words, just a “salt in the wound” prod by clicking thumbs down on a survivor who is testifying. We are with you, James!
Kathy, I think that ‘unfolding’ on C4C is the Holy Spirit. I wouldn’t worry too much about. ‘ planning’…
Kathy, do you have any words that describe the role that thumbs down people play in what “continues to unfold on its own”?
Hadit, their role has always been the same…
Deny, hide, protect (themselves)…nothing like the God they claim to follow.
Their role in this “unfolding” is going to be to stand on the sidelines in the silence, clinging to their like-minded acquaintances in the pews while the Body of Christ train leaves the station. Even as it leaves the station I will hold out my hand to welcome them aboard, but we will not stop this train!!!!
hadit I think along the lines of the excellent comment by survivor’s wife.
Thanks, SW, I agree with Kathy, great post.
I’ve mentioned my pew sheep neighbor here before. She possesses a decent amount of information. She’s relatively informed. What she is adverse to are ideas like clericalism, lack of Church transparency, colluding or conspiracy in the sexual abuse crisis, the lack of inclusion in the Church, misogyny, etc. The things she can’t accept tend to be the things she does not experience first hand. If she doesn’t see or experience it, it’s not there. The other thing she is adverse to is the “style” implemented by Catholics advocating for change, frequently speaking of it. I would say that there are as many “styles” as there are advocates, but she would chalk it up to one, big, disrespectful and offensive dumping on the clergy and the Church. You just don’t do that!
Hadit, how old is your neighbor? Has she had any leadership experience in Church stuff? Was she socialized to be gracious?
How independent is she relative to other issues, ie political, sociological et al?
She’s 61. A convert at 34. Always single. Only involvement is in Bible study scenarios, cooking and assisting for community meals, etc. No leadership. “A priest is responsible for her conversion.” Fairly independent in thought. You just don’t do that to the Church! Church IS God.
Hadit, she sounds like a good neighbor, but I am sure we have had a number of blogs that have looked at folk’s level of psychological ‘freedom’ ie the ability to challenge an institution on which one’s psyche depends……..
Martin did a great job on this, just recently.
Kathy, I d like to go back to that ‘unfolding’ discussion a bit. What C4C does as a ‘forum’ is TRUST it’s commenters. It respects them and the ‘unfolding’ process that occurs. It is respectful of everyone.
Would that the Church could do that. That was WHAT Vatican 2 was all about, until some hierarchical types, unable to trust, shut it down. And you can see where THAT got us.
Joan, I like this a lot…. would that the Church could. Note also that there IS leadership here; it is not anarchy or pure democracy. Kathy and Susan set limits and manage them. Martin
Martin, ‘our’ leadership is respectful.
Martin, hit the post button, way too soon.
Not only is ‘our’ blog leadership respectful, but I think the respect issue is at the heart of the Church crisis.
The genius of Vatican 2 was that it was respectful of everyone, empowered laity with priestly responsibilities, embraced mankind.
The genius of Vicky’s letter is that she is calling for that level of respect (and accountability) in the midst of horrifying abuse and institutional arrogance and intransigence. Where laity are second class citizens, and abuse victims need ‘to get over it.’
We are in this post Vatican 2 ‘winter’ where the only way to protect kids and care for victims is to publicize the hierarchical horrors and fight for protective legislation.
Not what John 23rd had in mind!
This is a wonderful, WONDERFUL piece by Anthea Butler! Kudos, Anthea! You are one of us.
…”Who would wash Mark’s feet?”
Excellent article, Hadit! Thank you for sharing.
I think that was one of the most brutally honest articles I have read lately.
Imagine if priests could know the private thoughts, images and feelings of people who are attending Church– the things that come to mind in people who APPEAR to be fully engaged in the sacred rituals, “there,” yet, in reality, are drifting off into private thoughts and images that are triggered by anger, sadness, regret, outrage, confusion, sorrow, etc. Do priests think that the people in the pews are not distracted? In Church on Holy Thursday, Anthea imagined “washing the feet of Mark.” How poignant. How Christ-like. How compelled she was to tell Mark how sorry she was. Who needs a priestly homily these days? Each person’s mind and heart are generating profound things to think about and resolve. Maybe priests owe us silence these days since exploring the extraordinary ideas of our own minds has the potential to transform us is ways far greater than priestly words.
You mean like my devout Catholic mother who shared this with us on Easter Sunday? “I feel horrible that when a priest is giving his homily I wonder, ‘What did you know?’ What secrets are you keeping?’ I just feel guilty that my mind wanders to that place.”
Sheesh…that’s the healthiest thing she could be thinking! We shouldn’t trust people who have shown they are untrustworthy…that’s foolishness.
What would we do without you, SW?
I concur, a great article by Anthea Butler.
What a poignant question…
“For those of you who stay, How can you do it?”
My wife and I (5 kids ages 10-20) struggled with this issues for years. We now attend a non-denominational Christian Church that has welcomed us with “open arms”. For us, the move was a blessing.
How did you explain the change to your children, and how well did they manage the change?
For our 3 older kids (18,19, and 20, all in college), we were straightforward. The sex abuse, cover-up, mistreatment of victims and the sexism ( we have 3 girls) with respect to power positions in the Catholic Church, were all issues. I email them regularly with pertinent articles. Truth be told, all 3 found mass uninspiring.
We gave no reason to the younger ones…just that we needed a change. They love the new religious education department. They are excited to go to kids connection (religious education program) on Wednesday and Sunday. The children’s ministry is Bible based, but fun and active.
I fully understand Hadit, that changing Churches is not for everyone…but is was the correct decision for us.
BTW. My bride (of 24 years) still hasn’t told her 1st generation Irish parents. LOL
Are your wife’s parents informed about the meltdown in Ireland? I’m surprised they are not reacting to what is happening in their homeland. The Irish reaction far exceeds the American one.
I have two boys. It didn’t take having girls to want to point out to my children the inappropriateness of a patriarchal, monarchical and misogynist Church. I guess I was less interested in raising boys, and more interested in raising human beings.
As the Catholic League tells you there is no abuse problem…when referencing Peter Isely’s report, strongly suggest you check out the following Bishop Accountability link:
I went back and reread that Bishop Accountability link I just cited relative to the Catholic League’s ‘take’ on the current abuse stats, and think that, perhaps C4C bloggers should REALLY check that site out…it’s the whole nine yards on abuse, the chart at the bottom
of the page gives you a total overview of US abuse from the 50’s
And the intervening data is hugely relevant.
Here is the citation, again….http://www.bishop-accountability.org/AtAGlance/USCCB_Yearly_Data_on_Accused_Priests.htm
And here are a couple more considerations for your attention, relating the link:
Sorry…here are those additional considerations:
A couple interesting points from the Bishop Accountability link:
‘BishopAccountability.org maintains a Database of Accused Priests and other accused clergy. As of February 10, 2012, there were 3,700 names in that database, including 3,303 priests, 22 bishops, 50 deacons, and 21 seminarians, for a total of 3,396 accused clerics in those categories.
But the USCCB counts a combined total of 6,115 accused priests, bishops, deacons, and seminarians.
This means that there are at least 2,719 accused clerics whose names are still secret. In other words, of the 6,115 total, at least 44 percent of the names are being kept secret by bishops and superiors of religious orders.’
AND, the following reference to the OMISSION of the 2003 stats, which given the numbers in 2002, must have been horrible, suggesting clearly that these totals are majorly under reported, (and we know that many of the accused priests were serial offenders, with perhaps, only one to two victims actually reporting, :
‘As of April 10, 2012, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops(USCCB) has counted 6,115 clerics “not implausibly” and “credibly” accused in 1950-2011 of sexually abusing minors. The USCCB total omits allegations made in 2003.’
According to the citation, the names of 44% of the accused clerics in the US are being kept secret by Religious orders and dioceses, at least 2719, to be precise.
In the Philadelphia Archdiocese there are somewhere around two dozen suspended priests.
The USCCB claims and reports a policy of Zero Tolerance regarding abusing clergy.
I worked my way through links on the citation and here is how bishops who receive abuse allegations, process Zero Tolerance:
See what YOU think.
8. When even a single act of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest or deacon is admitted or is established after an appropriate process in accordance with canon law, the offending priest or deacon will be removed permanently from ecclesiastical ministry, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state, if the case so warrants.
Unfortunately, the phrase that we have bolded – “after an appropriate process in accordance with canon law” – represents a gaping loophole for bishops, allowing them to keep sex offenders in active ministry for months or years. The “appropriate process” is described in the 2003 Manual for Canonical Processes for the Resolution of Complaints of Clerical Sexual Abuse of Minors, by Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, ….The process mandated in the Manual may be summarized as follows:
A bishop receives a complaint and decides if, on the face of it, it has a SEMBLANCE OF TRUTH. We don’t know the criteria he uses. But there is no investigation at this point. [In the Manual, see p. 2, Step One, Part C, “Initial Evaluation of the Complaint”]
If the bishop decides that the allegation does not have the “semblance of truth,” he needs take no action against cleric. [In the Manual, see p. 3, Step One, Part D, Clause 1: “If the diocesan bishop determines that the complaint does not have at least the semblance of truth …”]
If the bishop decides the abuse could have happened, he launches a preliminary investigation. The bishop may choose to limit the priest’s activities at this point, but no restrictions are required. [In the Manual, see p. 3, Step One, Section D, Clause 2: “If the diocesan bishop determines that the allegation does have at least a semblance of truth …”]
There is no time limit on the preliminary investigation. In fact, the Manual says that there are sometimes reasons for a prudent delay. [In the Manual, see p. 4, Step Two, Part A: “Purpose of the Preliminary Investigation”]
When the investigation is done, the investigator submits a report to the bishop. The bishop formulates his opinion of the probability that the priest committed the offense. He submits this opinion and the results of the investigation to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. At this point, it is still possible for the accused priest to be in active ministry. Church law leaves it to the bishop’s judgment. [In the Manual, see p. 6, Step Three: “Notification of Allegation to the CDF”]…
Two obvious conclusions can be drawn: months or years can elapse before a dangerous predator must be removed permanently, with potentially many more children hurt … and it’s likely that many, many allegations are thrown out.
The first paragraph after Zero Tolerance…
I couldn’t get past the first section because it’s such an ineffective process that no child is safe with those measures.
Peter Isely just sent me this data….Think C4C folks will be very interested.
New internal data released by the US Catholic Bishops today reveals that the total number of Catholic clergy who have raped or sexually assaulted children or minors over the past several decades is now 6,115 (a careful breakdown of the numbers in the report can be found at BishopAccountabilty.org). The number of accused clerics is, of course, larger.
Last year, 270 never before identified priests were reported to have committed child sex crimes. 184 of these priests were officially but quietly removed from ministry because these reports of criminal behavior against children were found to be credible and actionable. Quietly, that is, unless parishioners and the public found out about it.
In fact, the total number of newly accused clerics in the US for child sex abuse last year was virtually identical to the total number of newly ordained diocesan priests. The 275 newly ordained diocesan priests in the US outnumbered the number of newly accused child sex offender priests by only five. And, for every one or two priests ordained last year in the US, another priest was taken out of ministry for having sexually assaulted a child.
AND, please forgive two long posts, but the second half of Peter’s article which referenced Philly is as follows:
Each year since 2002, when American Catholics demanded that the bishops begin to take public responsibility for the child sex abuse crisis, 1,723 newly named clerical offenders have been identified — on average 181 new child sex offender priests each year
. That trend shows no signs of abating, and with a 15% increase this year, there are likely hundreds of child sex offenders still in Catholic ministry today.
Absent from the bishops’ yearly report, once again, is the number of Vatican officials, cardinals, bishops, or church officials last year who have been disciplined, dismissed, or removed from office for knowingly concealing and transferring these child sex offenders. That number if reported would be “zero.” That’s the same number, incidentally, as in all the other yearly reports the bishops have issued.
Maybe that is why, after decades of seemingly endless accommodation to Catholic officials, law enforcement agencies are finally investigating and prosecuting senior managers and bishops who have covered up child sex crimes, as in the landmark prosecutions this year underway in Philadelphia and Kansas City.
And that, by far, is the single most promising development in the US Catholic church’s child sex abuse crisis in a long time.
From page 4 of the Bishop’s report of reported abuse in 2011
Accused Clergy Status
Deceased clerics, 253
Laicized clerics, 58
During the 2011 audit period, 683 adults who were victims/survivors of abuse in the past came forward to report an allegation for the first time. Allegations were made against 551 priests and seven deacons. of the accused clerics, 253 are deceased, 58 had already been laicized, 184 have been removedfrom ministry, and 281 had been named in previous audits. (See chart above.)
Thanks for this data.
If this number by the bishops is accurate, and we use the 100,000 victims in the United States (Vatican number from Feb 2012 sex abuse summit)…that means these monsters averaged 16.35 victims each.
John, you are very welcome for the data. And your projections sound reasonable.
Actually that Peter Isely quote was one half of his statement, the other half is hopefully going to be moderated soon, and is very telling.
It deals with the increasinging numbers of US clergy abuse reports, 15% this year. I take Peter Isely, very seriously, an abuse victim, one of the SNAP founders, impeccable academic credentials, has worked with Father Jim Connell in Madison, Wisconsin on the best clergy/victim program in the nation (I have cited their work repeatedly on the Philadelphia Priests Association website).
I am going to ‘copy’ the heading of Peter’s piece, SNAPwisconsin.com
Total number of newly accused clerics in 2011 greater than number of newly ordained priests
For virtually every new priest ordained in the US, a current one is removed from ministry for child sex abuse
Number of Catholic clergy who sexually assaulted children now tops 6,000 mark
John, Kathy et al….I just posted the complete Peter Isely article cited above in two postings regarding the
‘Total number of newly accused clerics in 2011 greater than number of newly ordained priests’
On the Philadelphia Priests website.
Any C4C folks who want to discuss this very depressing set of statistics with their local clergy or diocesan officials can be assured that these officials have access to the data on the Priest’s website.
A professional article on impact of sexual abuse on folks in the pews, or who have left the pews, by folks who know their data:
Consider some of these recent findings related to the enduring consequences of the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church:
In a 2011 survey of American Catholics, more than three-quarters of respondents said the sexual abuse issue has hurt priests’ ability to meet the spiritual-pastoral needs of parishioners.
In an online survey, anger at church leadership for the sexual abuse scandal was the No. 1 reason cited by people who left the church and are not coming back. Nearly two-thirds of respondents who are not even considering returning to the church listed the abuse scandal as a reason for leaving.
The scandal led to a loss of 2 million Catholics, and generated more than $3 billion in donations to other faiths from those Catholics who joined other groups, economist Daniel Hungerman of Notre Dame University estimated in a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Negative publicity from the scandal explains about 5 percent of the decline in the number of Catholic schools in the past two decades, researchers Angela K. Dills of Providence College and Rey Hernandez-Julian of the Metropolitan State College of Denver estimated in the journal Economic Inquiry.
And the outrage is not abating.
Explore the ARDA Data Archive for Survey Questions about the Abuse Scandal
The revelations in recent years of the global nature of the scandal are only inflaming the anger of rank-and-file Catholics, analysts say.
The Catholic abuse scandal became a national crisis for the church in 2002 following revelations of widespread wrongdoing in Boston, Cleveland and other areas of the country. By 2005, as the church responded with new rules and safeguards, many Catholics were willing to give bishops the benefit of the doubt, sociologist William D’Antonio of Catholic University of America said.
However, “Six years later, as the scandal continues and becomeworldwide, the laity seem much more distressed by it,” said D’Antonio, who has led five major surveys of American Catholics since 1987. “The laity seems to be losing their patience.”
Vicky so powerful. James know that
God will hold you in the Palm of His Hand. God bless. I believe the survivors!!
Vicky, you have a literary gift. Surely, God is working through you in your abilty to express yourself so honestly and intelligently.I agree that your piece should not be limited to this site. It needs to be sent to The PA Inquirer and other newpapers. Maybe to Monica Yant Kinney?
Mark, I know I am repeating what others have said, but I don’t think you can hear it enough how grateful we are to you for telling your story in court. As a mother of young children, I thank you. Your courage may prove to be their protection in the future.
God Bless both of you and all who have similarly suffered.
My apologies to JAmes and Mark. I meant to address James in my comment above.
I’ve know you for what, three years? We have talked a lot. I feel I have learned so much from you through our several hours talking on the phone, or having coffee together. We share the same therapist. I appreciate you always seeming to care about me, and what you might be able to say that could make me not be a victim anymore, right at that moment when I needed to hear something. We agreed with each other in Starbucks, that unless you’ve been through it yourself that you’ll never be able to understand what it’s like for us.I think you have gifted many Catholic people with knowledge and compassion toward victims. We didn’t have many supporters just a few years ago, and now we’re backed by people all over the world, not to mention QVC! 😉 (Don’t ever buy the Paula Deen cookware. Completely worthless!)
This letter here might be the most legitimate piece of writing I have ever read if I wanted it to stand out as something non-victims and Catholic parishioners, and everyone should read. It should be read by every priest, bishop, and cardinal in the world.
As much as I swore not so long ago that I would never tell anyone about the abuse I went through, today I feel like it’s important that everyone know our stories. I think it would be nearly impossible to bring crowds of people to this issue if they didn’t know how devastating sexual abuse has been for us victims. I started thinking a year ago that the only way to get people involved it to start being raw with them, and to tell them what the abuse was like, how I believe it has affected my life, and reasons for really why I’m afraid in the dark.
You can note that I thank you for your allegiance to myself and victims everywhere. Thank you for telling your story in the hopes it will bring this issue to the forefront. Thank you for being strong and overcoming. Thank you for all that you do, every day, to make the world a little bit safer for children.
Hats off to you, Vicky!
..as an aside…–Rich, you mentioned P.Deen. –while I admire her and love her recipes, did you know that her bro.-in-law (her husb.’s bro.), a suspended priest in LA, was arrested for soliciting sex from an undercover cop in a park in Savannah? — His name also comes up in the strange details surrounding the murder of a priest in a shared vacation home in Mississippi. Paula did an episode on New Orleans cooking with Fr. Hank (who was supposed to have been active in the post Katrina effort).. he seemed like the “real deal” to me –it’s sad.
It almost seems that nobody is left unscathed by this blight in the RCC.(..http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2011/07/suspect_denies_killing_priest.html)
That’s definitely a “WOW.” I think child abusers or child abuse victims is like 7 Degrees of Separation. Everybody knows someone else who is a victim or an abuser.
It just seems like to me this problem is so extensive that even celebrities are front and center. I heard that Hollywood has it’s own “pedophile secrets.”
Four years ago, I would have never imagined that priests abused so many children. I was pretty sure I was alone, or at least me and a few other kids who I KNOW were abused, were alone in this. I didn’t know the facts. I didn’t know how often it occurred. I didn’t know that there were thousands of people out there going through the same kind of shit I was/am dealing with.
I didn’t think anyone would believe me. I thought people would blame me. I thought it was my fault and I deserved it. Ironically, there are still days when I still feel all those things. Being sexually abused when you’re young, being raped, and told over and over that “you deserve it,” or “you want it,” I guess after awhile you start believing it. The words that go through my mind every day are difficult to deal with and very confusing.
Most days I try to figure out what I did wrong when I was a kid to deserve this type of life. Consciously I know I didn’t nothing wrong, but in those deep dark moments of depression, anxiety, and panic I question “what I did wrong, what was it about me that made them do that to me? Was I irresistable? Was I too attractive for a man to keep his hands off of me? Maybe it had to do with the clothes I was wearing, or maybe I said something that I shouldn’t have and that guy took it as an open invitation? Why did I fight him off or run away and tell someone?” That is the kind of shit I think about. I can’t explain why I do it, when I really believe that if a child is sexually abused that he/she did absolutely nothing to deserve that. The responsibility lies entirely on the abuser. Why can I not use how I feel when it happens to another child to make myself feel shameless? I don’t know. Like I said, sexual abuse just f#cks you up!
Rich, when it comes those questions, maybe the answer is that there is no answer. There is no answer for WHY evil and misfortune occur — because “the question” is impossibly flawed. Hunting for these answers hurts too much and it holds us back on our journey.
Set those questions aside–They are not yours to answer –and they give you no control over past or present. Give yourself the gift of leaving them unanswered.
There is a small, very different book called “When I loved myself enough” — I’d it recommend highly.
You see, Crystal… plenty of weirdoes to go around, even in Hollywood! I’ll never look at Morgan Freeman the same way again, and to think he “was” one of my favorite actors.
Susan or Kathy, can you put a pdf or printer friendly version of this letter on the site for better printed view? I would like to distribute this. Thank you!
Would someone from SNAP post about the hierarchical attack you are enduring? Can you explain it, can you say what it has to do with the trial in PA, if anything, and can you say how concerned people can help and/or support you?
V4J Why? I feel when there isn’t an answer to things happening to us as humans and christians be it disease, terminal illnesses etc…… These things are not from God. That is the answer. It is because we live on this earth. This would be heaven, nothing to strive for and I feel for some people AD Cardinals etc…. this is it for them..This is their heaven. Devil is alive and living. He can come in any form. This life is a pit stop to eternal life, for which I do believe. God see all and knows all.. Jesus died and rose again for us all. When anxiety comes, panic attacks occur, shield yourself with the light of Jesus…and ask Him to protect you from it.
This is my opinion….My belief….. I do believe the survivors! I pray for all…
What do folks think about Mark’s mother’s testimony in court, today? I think her emotional attachment to Brennan superseded her emotional attachment and parental responsibility to Mark. I think she betrayed her son.
I think she may have been literally trying to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God. This is in contrast to Cardinal Bevilacqua, the most holy Catholic in all of Philadelphia, and the spiritual leader of 1.5 million other Catholics, who lied under oath repeatedly, relentlessly and defiantly. God help him now.
The insidious evil of the crime of pedophile priest sex abuse is that in most cases the only people that know the real truth are the child sex abuser, dressed up in a costume pretending to be “Christ on earth”, and a poor, innocent child who knows he isn’t going to be believed.
Oh, and God.
I think the mother was just as conflicted as many in the pews have been. I hope every parishioner sees themselves in that mother. Everyone claims they would have done differently…but, I bet the Chuch’s last dollar they wouldn’t have…because it’s taken them this long to get this far. Of course, she betrayed her son. And before any Catholic get judgmental about what that mother should or shouldn’t have done…they need to remember what they did when they first learned there were victims. What did they do?
Fr. Brennan was a wonderful priest because he helped her through the loss of her mother. (Emotional attachment) The defense may have been smiling…but that mother showed exactly what “pull” a priest has on a person…to not question a priest even when they are ADMITTING inappropriate acts with your child! Based on the testimony, it sounds as though she regrets not doing things differently. I hope that’s true for Mark’s sake. The trial is about conspiracy and child endangerment. But, that mother’s testimony is a beautiful showcase of how “unhealthy” Brennan was to abuse his position/power…gaining the trust of vulnerable, grieving adults…people he’s supposed to be ministering to, right? Ate Sunday dinner at their home twice a month? Who’s needs are getting met there? What that mother probably didn’t realize is he was probably “using” her while she “needed” him. That doesn’t make him a good priest, that makes him a sick man.
I want to run to Mark even more so…betrayed in every way possible. You have to be laying in an ER, after attempting to take your life, spilling the truth in dribbles…MARK KNEW…HE WOULDN’T BE BELIEVED! Kids intuitively know family dynamics…and the mother proved him right…she didn’t pursue it, didn’t follow up, didn’t take him seriously, didn’t tell anyone else. He knew Fr. Brennan would never tell. Mark, you smart little boy…you knew. You knew what all the adults were too sick to know. I am sorry you were raised in a church that could do this to you and lie about it and born into a family that wouldn’t believe you.
I believe you. Thousands of people believe you.
Yes, his mother betrayed him.
Exactly SW well said
hadit, I found her testimony eerily familiar. I’m not surprised that she has complicated feelings toward Brennan. He didn’t come into their lives with a sign saying I’m an abuser around his neck or he would never have gained access to her family. He groomed the family as well as Mark. In her testimony she reinforced that there was an abrupt change in Marks life after the abuse incident also that Brennan admitted that something “inappropriate” happened between he and Mark. That she would never know what happened to Mark is true, she wasn’t there, only Brennan and Mark could possibly know what happened. She said nothing in the report to undermine Marks credibility or to ascribe any untoward motivations to his coming forward. That said, the close connection between Brennan and Marks mother probably contributed to Marks difficulty in coming forward. That my friends is part of the game abusers play. So over all no surprises and certainly nothing for the defense to smile about that I can see. Lastly, if I were walking out of the courtroom after being grilled by my abusers hired guns for a few hours something to the tune of see you later f#$%ers would probably be among the phrases on my lips. I believe you Mark and you are most assuredly not alone.
SW and James,
Your insights are invaluable! Thank you.
I cannot understand at all why the defense team was smiling.
James, you are exactly right!
The priests groomed families to gain access to the children…and the bishops groomed the laity to gain access to their wallets.
I hope we all reflect on the parallels that are playing out in front of us.
To Survivor’s Wife: “I think the mother was just as conflicted as many in the pews have been. I hope every parishioner sees themselves in that mother.”
Your comments have given me insight into why pew-catholics will sacrifice their own at the altar of priests. Priests receive parishioners into the sacraments. Priests are asked to bless prayer-books, rosaries, statues, homes etc. with the Holy Water that they themselves have blessed. This mother would have felt honored by having Fr. Brennan as a family-friend. Did Mark stand a chance of being believed? What about situations in which the family is financially dependent on the church? The knot gets tighter when there is spiritual dependence. What about the fear of going to hell if catholics speak-up against their church or the hierarchy? It is only through priests that they can be forgiven. They can also be refused the Last Rite if they are excommunicated. The fear-tactics continue from cradle to grave and it was into this culture that Mark was born. I believe you Mark.
Is it difficult for you to hear the testimony right now, since I’m sure it’s also describing your story of abuse too? I know that I have had an extremely difficult time keeping my composure when talking with other people, or hearing their stories through my attorneys in which they not only describe their own abuse by a priest, but they are also able to tell my story, all too familiar, without my having met the victim in the past or present.
I often talk about how methodical child abusers are. They develop grooming techniques over time, but when these techniques hold back the abuser from abusing, they seem to go back to the drawing board and hone in on other ways to get closer to the child. I think many children in this case were just steps in the building blocks of these priests’ evil lives. I’m sure they groomed many more children before they got to the point of fondling, kissing, massaging, and sleeping in the same bed with the child until it eventually turned into full fledged rape. Basically what I’m saying is that the fondling and the kissing etc., were just part of those building blocks on the way to developing a strategy to where these “creatures” could finally perpetrate the ultimate, rape, on their victims.
I didn’t realize just how significant the grooming process was, or even exactly how he groomed me until I started seeing a therapist. I realized that Father McDevitt didn’t protect me for the bullies at school because he cared about my self-esteem and well-being. He didn’t lead me around the cafeteria with his arm around my neck, leaning his hand on my shoulder to show all the other boys that I was more important and I didn’t deserve to be abused by my classmates during lunchtime every day. He didn’t tutor me because he wanted me to pass his religion class, or to develop a better relationship with God. He did all of those things just to get close to me so he could sexually abuse me and hurt me and destroy my life. He did exactly what nearly 5,000 known U.S. priests have been accused of doing.
I have heard that of victims of that abusive piece of shit said many of the same things I’ve been saying for over three years. As far as I know though, I was the only one he became physically abusive with, because there was a time during the abuse that I was sure I’d be able to stop it from happening. I didn’t like it, and I remember thinking on the L-train on my way to school one morning contemplating what I could do today to make his stop touching me, and raping me. I told him, “Stop.” I screamed, “NO MORE!” I threatened to tell my Mom or the principal, until he managed to cut off my voice by squeezing one of my testicles very tightly. Urinating in the days following resulted in a pain too intense to describe. I still feel that pain now, and I felt it all throughout my life, and up until just a few years ago, before I came forward to the DA in Philly, that pain was a major motivation to take my secret to my grave. My body has memories. There are too many reason why I would never talk about it, and sometimes I went out of my way to keep that secret from everyone. Sometimes I would slip up and say something that people didn’t understand that was a direct result of what happened earlier in my life, or while in my 20s, when I had roommates and I freaked out in the middle of the night in terror and panic, I always had to come up with another reason to keep my secret in one of my file cabinets in one of the many dark rooms in a corner of my mind. My mind was actually filled with thousands of dark rooms, with some doors always open, or opening from time to time, and doors consistently shut. Throughout my journey in this life, I have desperately tried to close so many doors and open the ones that allow people into my life to see me for who I really am, but those doors stay closed to protect that scared, hurting little boy betrayed again and again, and he doesn’t even want to trust another living soul.
My memories are tough to bare. It’s 5am and I’ve been up since 3am, when I awoke after one of the millions of terrible nightmares that invade my peace time throughout my life. I have invisible scars, but visible pain. Then, I listen to another victim’s story and it piles on the weight of having to not only think about my own personal termoil, but theirs as well. How could this happen to me and then happen to someone else, in almost the exact same manner as the physical, sexually and emotional torture I dealt with?! People in higher positions in the Catholic Church knew that Father McDevitt had a propensity toward little boys. They knew there were complaints in his past that he was inappropriate in his language and touching, and he was also known to have abused boys. The credible information was available to higher-ups years before I would wind up in his classroom, being sexually assaulted every day. In 80s, the creature was even given a nickname by students at a school in which he taught in Delaware, “Father Up-the-Butt McDevitt.” He was a popular teaching priest, a former Philadelphia City Councilman, and a priest who died “in good standing with the Catholic Church.” How could this happen? Why were complaints not investigated? Why was he not removed from the priesthood and exposed to law enforcement? Why did he get to hurt little boys over and over and over?
I know some of the other victims of this creature have been asking the same questions, and unlike a couple of comments that were made to me by other commentors as replies to other posts, I WANT those questions answered. I DESERVE the right to know why this scumbag wasn’t properly investigated, fired, and charged with abusing children.
In a letter of apology I was sent by the Oblates of Saint Francis De Sales religious order in Delaware late last year, the Provincial Supervisor acknowledges that Rev. John M. McDevitt was a child sexual abuser and had indeed sexually abused me and they are sorry it ever happened. Ironically, in the beginning a sincere apology is all I wanted, but instead I was met with confrontation, disbelief, and lies. I also wasn’t aware of how many boys McDevitt had abused and the apology toward me wasn’t good enough, because it wasn’t enough to keep other children from being abused. Someone needs to go to jail. Someone needs to be held accountable. Msgr. Lynn was also in charge of handling complaints of abusive clergy when I was in high school. I had already left Catholic high school to attend one of the more dangerous public schools in the city (because I would’ve done anything to get away from the abuse, including thoughts of suicide or swallowing a full bottle of pain medication only to wake up a couple hours later with a stomache and headache) when Msgr. Lynn had taken over, but McDevitt was still teaching until 1994, the year I graduated from that public school. He must have know about McDevitt? I know one man who was abused a year after I was abused by the same priest. His father complained to the school’s administration over the summer, and they did nothing. It seems obvious to me that Lynn must’ve known about McDevitt and again, he did nothing. NOTHING!
It blows my mind away how anyone could witness or know a child is being abused and do absolutely nothing about it. If I was in a position where I had knowledge that a priest or any person was abusing a child, I would take so much pleasure in protecting that child from the abuse, as revenge for years of ignorance from adults around this man, who knew he was abusing children and did nothing to stop it. I understand that Msgr. Lynn also had authority to answer to as well, but if my boss didn’t help me and get rid of the predators, I would go to the cops! I would stomp across this planet carrying a big stick to make sure a child was protected from scumbag deviant men (and women) who sexually torture innocent minds of children and vulnerable people. I wouldn’t stop until someone does what is necessary. I won’t stop today either. I see no reasonable or legitimate excuse for turning your head or walking out of the room while a child is being abused. I see no good reason to bury allegations in the dark when those allegations are priceless and could very well protect many future children from abuse. Anyone who participates in these cover-ups or throws that information away deserves the same fate as those who do the abusing. I see them as no different from each other. In fact, I have more disdain for the non-abusers, who knew about it and did nothing to prevent it. Abusers are just sick, f#cked up, evil and demented people that I believe have no power over their evil minds. But good men knowing and doing nothing? Edmund Burke surely would have outrage for this kind of behavior.
Well I’ve gone on long enough. My writing today turned from just a question to the Constitution. I’m still very interested in knowing how you feel James, after hearing the “familiar” experiences of any victim’s story. I also hope that you are okay and I’m looking forward to your trial dates. I actually postponed my back surgery from the 20th to the 27th so I can be there to see your cape, because I haven’t been able to get to the trial as of yet to see all the other superheroes there. I will be supporting you and hoping you do very well to confess your truth and expose these evil creatures for who they are and what they do.
Thanks for reading!
Rich: Hold your head up high. You and all the survivors I believe…God be with you always…
I think the answer is yes and no for me re the question Is it difficult for me to hear the testimony right now. While I absolutely hate that this happened to anyone else I do take some comfort in knowledge that I’m not the only one out there. The names change but the stories as I said remain eerily familiar. I think that what happened to you was beyond repugnant, the abuse itself but particularly the behind the scenes collusion that put McDevitt in your path and impaired you on your quest for justice. I’m sorry that you’ve experienced this pain in your life but I honor your survivorship. You reach out to those who walk this path and that is a very good thing.
For me I struggle with balance and boundries. Balance in that I find that I can get drawn into this case to the point of distraction from those around me that I hold dear. Sometimes I just have to push myself away from the screen and go read my daughter a book. This issue sadly will still be there when I get back. Boundries in that while this seems like the most important thing in the universe to me right now; when people who don’t know my background ask me how I’m doing they aren’t really asking for a rundown on the trial they’re just being polite.
As far as the emotional impact of reading these testimonies, I’ve spent years becoming adept at keeping my junk out of my interactions with patients because I’m there for their healing and not the other way around. This helps because while I can be overwhelmed with empathy and compassion I know well the line I cannot cross because for me it could lead to a place of overidentification and despair. I’m in a profession with a 30-50% career burnout rate, 8-10% alcoholism and a suicide rate 4 times the average and that’s before we throw clergy abuse into the mix. So I am a firm believer in self care and healthy boundries. I’m looking forward to seeing you soon in Philly.
I would think that one telephone call from either you or from your parents to your uncle, Cardinal O’Connor would have stopped (the late) Father McDevitt dead in his tracks.
You would think. But that’s not the way it always unfolds. First, Rich would have had to have been believed. Victims usually aren’t. Second, Father McDevitt’s compulsion probably couldn’t have been curbed by much. Just think of all the priests who knew their superiors were aware of their issues and yet they continued.
Well, if his uncle wouldn’t have believed him, then I guess no one would have either.
Cardinal O’Connor was loyal to the priesthood and no one else. He would have protected his brother priests and image before he would have protected any children. The proof is sitting in all the secret files and the silent victims.
Are you really saying that if some loved one contacted you about abuse and you happened to have influence over the perp in any way, you would have done things differently?
Your statement seems logical to me…but, given the culture surrounding image, sexuality, power, and loyalty in the rcc…it doesn’t fit.
Dear Survivor’s Wife,
Although I have not been in such a hypothetical situation, I feel confident that I would see to it that the perp was reported and disciplined.
I agree Joe. I believe most of us here would do the right thing.
No he probably wouldn’t have believe me, Joe B. Why would he believe me over the other victims I know who have told him, or the mothers who complained to him because the parish priest was abusing her son? Do you know what happened there? Cardinal O’Connor offered to pay the family’s bills, give them money for Christmas presents, and send them on a trip to Disney World so the boy could “cheer up.” And they weren’t even family!
I think I would be just as screwed up, if not more if I told my uncle a priest was abusing me. Besides, it’s a pointless argument. I couldn’t tell anyone because of the shame, the embarassment, the guilt, I thought I did something wrong and no, I didn’t think I would be believed.
I have an old letter in my possession. It’s a corspondence between my uncle and Cardinal Law. Law is asking my uncle to accept Father Shanley into his archdiocese to teach children Bible classes. My uncle, Cardinal O’Connor accepted, knowing full well that Shanley was one of the most prolific abusers to come out of the 2002 Boston scandal. If I had told him I was being abused, he would have potect the priest, not the child. That’s how these guys operate.
If Law, Egan, Mahoney, the Pope, and all these other bishops and cardinals new about the thousands of priests molesting and raping children, then certainly Cardinal O’Connor was aware of it, and I’m not reading anything in my research that suggest he tried to expose the perps and remove them from the priesthood and hand them over to law enforcement.
I gave you a thumbs down on your comment, Joe b., because I think you comment on this site without using your brain before you do so. If you have any children or grandchildren, nieces or nephews, I certainly hope they never fall victim to a pedophile priest, especially after the tons of information and warnings you’ve been given on this forum. Don’t worry about it anyone, I’ll be back on the street one day to protect them. You just sit at home and think of ridiculous comments you can make on site geared toward protecting your kids. I’ll do the work!
As a survivor of a brutal rape and torture, at the hands of Father Leon Gaulin and others, at St Thomas More parish in Durham NH in 1975, I will start this with a favorite verse from a song that sums up my feelings about having gone through this and dealings with the church.
I’m on the wrong side of heaven
and the righteous side of hell.
Once upon a time I swore I had a heart
Long before the world I know tore it all apart.
Once upon a time I had an open point of view
That was just so long ago before I had a clue
Was there such a time where I didn’t stand alone?
Was there ever a time, and how would I have known?
I find it first, disgusting, that this church will not release me and still considers me a parishioner of the church, simply because of my baptism. I want nothing to do with this church and I certianly do NOT want to be called a member or parishioner.
I ended one part of my fear, by going into the church again and proving to myself it would not fall in on me because I had accepted the guilt and responsibility of what Gaulin and the others did to me that night. At one time, I could barely go into a church, going to my godmothers and fathers funerals, held in them, well it was all I could do to keep myself running out of them screaming in panic. Now I no longer fear the church, nor the demons it put into my head oh so many years ago.
The church and what Gaulin and the others did, controlled me. Gaulin put the fear of hell into me should I have told anyone what he did to me that night to “heal me”. NO ONE should have gone through what I went through.
The nightmares alone afterwards, the feelings of betrayal, guilt and horror should have NEVER been put on my shoulders to carry. They belong on Gaulins and Desmonds shoulders along with the others I know were with them. I felt I was so evil, I took the name Damien from the Omen series of movies, because I thought I was the Anti-Christ.
I remember begging god and jeebus to save me, from what they were doing to me, but NOPE. They were not there. They too turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to my cries for help, along with turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the hundreds of thousands more of us, who were raped, tortured, brutalized, enslaved, beaten, and yes, even murdered, at the hands of Catholic priests and nuns and covered up by their Popes, Cardinals, Bishops and Archbishops.
WE are the ones carrying this guilt and most cannot understand that. We are the ones who blammed ourselves for what happened to us. We did NOT find god and jesus sending their guardian angels to save us, like was promised to us. Nope, they did not lift one single finger to help any of us. That makes us feel like we were guilty, that we did in fact deserve what happened to us. Maybe not all of us, but many of us feel this way.
Where was god and jesus eh?
Where were they when the boys of Artane were going through the gauntlets of brothers, beating on them? Where were they when the boys were being beaten by one brother and when he got tired another stepped in and continued the beatings? Where were they when they were being raped by one, two or more brothers? Where were they when these same boys were forced to participate in the beatings and rapes or suffer even worse?
Where was god and jesus eh?
When a 12 year old girl sent to one of the Magdalene and Good Shepherd laundries, were enslaved, forced to work 16-18 hours in the laundries, without barely any food in her belly? In chemicals NO ONE should be forced to work in? Day after day suffering these conditions, without pay. Even if she was too sick to work, the nuns would beat her senseless and force her to work. The nuns and the societies brought in the money, while these women today who went through this slavery are denied again and again by the church.
Where was god and jesus eh?
When a 7 year old First Nation child was sent to one of their schools, and beaten on a daily basis, raped and brutalized, because they were “savage” indian children who had to be turned into good Roman Catholic Christians? Where these children were used for medical experiments by the Catholic church?
Where was god and jesus eh?
When a young woman, pregnant outside of wedlock, was sent to a womans and childrens home. Where she had to work right up until the day she delivered. Where there was no health care persons really and no pain medications either. Where babies died by the dozens because the nuns did not care for them, spreading diseases and sickness and barely feeding them so that when investigators did go into these homes, they saw children incredibly malnuriroushed and starving? Or healthy babies, sold to the highest bidder Roman Catholic families and forever denied their birth mothers?
Where was god and jesus?
This is why I went from wanting to actually become a minister, to becoming an Atheist. I no longer believe in god or jesus. I no longer believe in heaven or hell.
See the Roman Catholic Church, branded me a liar about my priest rape, though they damn well know I was telling the truth. Why even my rapist Gaulin took right off, right after our investigator went and visited him and no innocent person is gonna disconnect their phones, sell their house and move a thousand miles away if they are innocent.
They of course, used the statue of limitations to deny me justice.
Yeah, the Unholy Roman Catholic Church can claim responsbility for me now, for who I am and who I have become.
If their god stands up and defends and protects their Pedophile Pimps, their Popes, Cardinals, Bishops and Archbishops, who covered up these CRIMES. If their god stands up and defend and protects the brutalizers, the rapists, the torturer priests and nuns of this religion, who caused us so much harm, and if their god stands up and protects and defends the parishioners who insult us, denigrate us and blames us?
Well that god and his son and his church can burn in hell for all eternity for all I care because it is NO god I would ever bow down to and worship.
There is no God, there is only us.
Time to destroy the evil, that has attempted to destroy us.