Survivors No Longer Walking Thin Line

In the wake of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on clergy child sex abuse, 900 survivors have called a hotline launched by the attorney general’s office.

PA Clergy Abuse Hotline: 888-538-8541

For many, that call was the first time they shared their abuse.

I vividly remember the first time our pediatrician went over good touch/bad touch with my toddler-aged daughter during a routine exam in 2000. It took me by surprise. The doctor explained it was part of her training and protocol. It was a simple protective measure that hadn’t occurred to me.

Growing up in the 80s, there wasn’t an ABC afterschool special titled, “The Day Father Mark Molested Me.” It wasn’t even a blip on my radar. I knew kids were abused, but I thought it was really rare and happened somewhere else.

It took the release of the 2011 Grand Jury Report about the clergy sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to hit home – literally. I couldn’t understand why the world, or at least my part of the world, wasn’t more shaken.

Many of the survivors were my age and grew up within miles. After suffering in silence for years, they were telling loved ones and strangers that they’d lived a lie by omission – and by necessity.

There’s a fine line between self-preservation and self-destruction when it comes to surviving child sex abuse. The disbelief, rejection, stigma and additional trauma of disclosure has to be weighed against the hope for acceptance, support and healing.

It may finally be easier to choose the latter. I sense a cultural shift since the latest grand jury report, the Me Too movement and widespread media coverage of sex abuse.

According to therapists, when those who endure trauma share their story out loud, it helps them acknowledge it. Then healing can begin, but only if those listening really hear them.

It’s become loud and clear. Public awareness and support is growing. Maybe even more important, survivors know their numbers now. The percentage of the population is staggeringly high.

Neither Kathy or I are survivors, but the statistical odds tell us that someone we love is a survivor or will become one. Neither is an acceptable circumstance. Support and protect.







Claims that Vatican and Pope Knew of Clergy Abuse Cover Up Emerge

The Vatican knew of a cover-up involving abusive priests, Pennsylvania AG says,” by Holly Yan, CNN, August 28, 2018

“Pope Francis Long Knew of Cardinal’s Abuse and Must Resign, Archbishop says,” by Jason Horowitz, The New York Times, August 26, 2018

Does anyone believe that the Pope didn’t know? Clearly many in Ireland believe he knew or stopped considering the Church altogether. Not surprising given the horrific abuses the faithful there suffered at the hands of the institutional Church.

“Pope Ends Visit To A Disillusioned Ireland, Where Church Authority Has Plunged,” by Frank Langfitt, NPR, August, 27, 2018

Speaking of disillusioned, Catholics In Action organized a gathering near the Cathedral Basilica of SS Peter and Paul on Sunday, August 26.  Advocates, victims and their families met to share outrage, support and prayer.

“Philly Catholic group calls for action outside the Cathedral Basilica,” by Antionette Lee,, August 26, 2018

Photography Lesson: Developing from the Negative

By Anonymous

A few years back, a close family friend asked me to do some modeling. He’d signed up for a photography class at a local college. I was happy to help out and was flattered that someone would want me as a subject.

 We met to go over details. He brought along albums given to him to use as a guide. They were filled with photos of women in dresses. He referred to some of the dresses as nightwear – long, slip-like gowns. He offered to supply the clothes, if I didn’t own what was needed. We also went over how my makeup and hair should look. I would see the proofs prior to his handing in assignments and, after he was graded, the prints and negatives would be given to me.

Our first photo session was at my home. Sit this way. Turn that way. Smile. I’d change into a new outfit and repeat the poses. It was simple but exhausting. After three hours, I hoped this was the only and last session. But he needed more photos for class. The shoots continued on weekends.

He called to say a friend’s newly-painted house would be a great place to take photos. I was more comfortable in my own home and reluctant. He must have sensed my hesitation, because he began offering reasons for me to say yes. “I’ll bring sandwiches.” “Don’t worry I have the clothes and everything set up there.”

Everything went as promised. After eating our lunch, he showed me that the clothing I was to wear was neatly hung in the bedroom closet. We started taking pictures in the basement, then on the steps and ended up in the bedroom. Then, he handed me “nightwear” to put on. But this wasn’t a long slip dress like I’d seen in the albums. It was a green slip that barely reached mid-thigh.

 I felt like a deer in headlights. Robotically, I walked to the bathroom and put it on. With camera in hand, he met me in the bedroom. First, he had me stand by the bed post. Then, he had me pose on the bed. He must have realized he’d pushed me too far and said we’re done for the day. Still in shock, I went home.

Unsure of how to handle what happened and what I was feeling, I made an appointment with a therapist. That sick feeling in my stomach was validated when my therapist explained that the photo sessions were totally inappropriate. There was no photography class with homework like this. Any nagging feelings I’d pushed aside seemed obvious now. How could I have been so naive? I began questioning everything. Who else saw the photos? Why me? Who were those other women?

There’s something else you need to know about my family friend. He is a priest. He was the one I confessed my sins to, the one who married me and baptized my child.
He’d been “grooming” me for several years. This was a carefully calculated plan to build and take advantage of my faith and trust. By treating me to meals, giving me presents and always going beyond the expected, he’d paved the way for my cooperation in his abuse.

He knew exactly how to manipulate me. I’d always been a giver and felt I owed him my help. Wasn’t I obligated? People may read this and question my reactions instead of his actions. But they should know it can happen to anyone – at any age. In writing this, I hope to give a voice to others – especially those other unnamed women in the photo albums.

Note from the editors:

As the #MeToo movement emerges, people are learning that sexual abusers aren’t usually strangers threatening with guns or knives. They are friends, family or bosses who wield psychological weapons with just as much force. If it’s still difficult to understand how the story above could happen to an adult, consider the following:

  1. Many people have a driving desire to help others and meet obligations – even when it’s at one’s own expense. You’ve probably heard the term “people pleasers.” Have you ever pushed down your own discomfort because you didn’t want another person to feel uncomfortable? Have you ever felt guilty saying no to a request?
  2. Do you believe there are people who take advantage of others for their own personal gain or satisfaction. “The Sociopath Next Door,” a New York Times bestseller, reveals that 4% of people are conscienceless sociopaths. Have you watched an otherwise “smart person” fall for manipulation? Can this rise to a criminal level? Yes, of course.

Put one and two together and that equals an opportunity for abuse, at any age and in any situation. What can you do? Demand better laws and support for victims. One victim shared that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia only offers six months of counseling for victims who suffered clerical abuse as adults. Surely, they can and should do more.

Did the Beatles Make You Want to Molest a Child?

“Dear Catholic Church Are You Kiddin’ Me?” by Tim Whitaker for Philly Mag’s The Philly Post, May 19, 2011

“Those of us who were around remember those crazy swinging ‘60s. Anomie. Revolution. Acid. Hendrix. Joplin. Time has come today. Give peace a chance. Can I have a hit of that?

Oh, so very stressful, all that stoppin’ the war stuff. It fired you up, made you want to go out and, oh, I don’t know, molest some little boys. You know, just to cut the edge.

You sad sons of bitches. Is nothing too shameless for you Church bosses?” – Tim Whitaker

My two-cents:

There is no amount of stress or isolation that would cause me to sexually abuse a minor. There is no amount of explicit pornography or free love thinking that would make me find a child sexually attractive. Pedophilia or sex abuse has and always will be deviant. Criminals in jail kill other inmates who harm children – even in the 60s and 70s. It’s basic human instinct to protect children. What could over ride that? Money and power, perhaps.

Would the Cardinal Respond on Behalf of Christ?

I wrote a letter to Cardinal Rigali on behalf of the many thousands who have visited and commented here. I respectfully shared your questions and concerns. The following is the response we received on his behalf from the office for communications. This wasn’t a media inquiry. This was a letter from the faithful seeking pastoral answers from our shepherd. We were seeking hope. We got a slap in our faith – not in God; but once again in our Church leadership. Like so many others, our group who according to the diocesan spokesperson “loves their children and their Church,” didn’t get our answers.

Heading into most important week of our spiritual lives, this was an opportunity to restore hope. Jesus hung on the cross for us and yet the Cardinal wouldn’t put his signature on a letter of answers. The way this has been handled shows a fundamental lack of respect for Philadelphia Catholics. It presumes we will settle for below the bare minimum. We won’t.

The Letter On Behalf of the Cardinal:

I write to you on behalf of Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, to acknowledge your recent correspondence containing questions regarding Archdiocesan initiatives to protect children in light of the Grand Jury report issued in February 2011. Its release and the resulting actions by the Archdiocese have generated a broad range of reactions and emotions.

We are cognizant of the fact that emotions have been compounded by the limited amount of information available. While the Archdiocese is not able to answer every question from every concerned individual, it is committed to providing as much information as possible to the faithful through a systematic network. In light of this commitment, the Archdiocese recently released the first in a series of periodic parish bulletin inserts designed to provide information to parishioners. A copy is attached. I realize that it does not answer all the questions you posed, but your remaining questions, along with those of other parishioners, will be considered as possible topics for future inserts.

Each document will focus on action steps being taken by the Archdiocese to assist victims, advance the protection of children, and ensure the integrity of the Priesthood.

Again, thank you for your correspondence and your dedication to the protection of children. They are truly our most precious asset and represent the future of the Church in Philadelphia.


Donna M. Farrell, Director of Communications, Archdiocese of Philadelphia