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.

We Want Our Priests to Speak Out

Featured Comment: by Laura Boquist

While it may not be easy to speak out, I believe we are called to do so, and our priests must lead publicly on this issue. The culture that makes every attempt to resolve things privately allowed the abuse to continue for decades, and has exasperated many of us who see hypocrisy on the part of our spiritual leaders.

The laity wants our priests to speak up publicly… in opposition to the secrecy that allowed the abuse to continue, in opposition to the disgraceful way victims and their families were treated, in opposition to the shunning (or worse) of those who did try to report abuse or those who desire to hold the Church leaders accountable for their action/inaction. We want you to speak up for the victims, for their families, for admitting mistakes and crimes, to speak up for renewed leadership in the archdiocese. We want you to address the crisis of faith this has brought about for so many Catholics.

I have known wonderful priests, as well as some not-so-wonderful priests. It is not fair that all priests get painted with the same brush of distrust that this crisis has caused so many to do. It is certainly not an easy time to be a priest. In my opinion, though, much of this blanket of distrust is the result of the silence on the part of our spiritual leaders. Please, please, speak out.

This passage from Matthew continues to come to my mind as we talk about this crisis…

Matthew 21:12-16

Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”

The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.

“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.

“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”

Let’s Hear From the Clergy

Where does the rank and file clergy stand on the sex abuse cover up, Vatican guidelines, Amnesty International’s report and the John Jay study?

Cue the crickets.

Except for a few strong voices, we don’t hear from them in our parishes or here on this site. Why? Is it the conservative culture of the priesthood in Philly? Is it because they are afraid of being punished with an undesirable assignment? Is it because, like many of the laity, they don’t know what to do?

We need to hear from our priests. Many of us struggle in the pew. Our faith is strong but we feel like enablers. Will the clergy stand up, speak out and minister to us?

Here’s one priest from another diocese who agreed to have his correspondence shared.

“I am writing to support the movement of Catholics4Change.  I am listed as a subscriber to your blog-link. I just wish to respond to a general theme of this blog.  I have been following the terrible issue in Australia where Bishop William Morris has recently been “fired” from his post as Bishop primarily because of agitators who turned him into Rome and the “Inquisition” of the Vatican.  He seems to be a very open and liberal bishop and one who has been very much loved by the  people there. He has been very much into the issue of sexual abuse – trying to assist victims and their families in his diocese. Of course, he was also charged with supporting the ordination of women and married priests to assist in the decline of ministers in his diocese. There are many other charges against him but these seem to be the most egregious, added to the list is the fact that he supported and encouraged General Absolution (the Third Way) which has been discouraged by JPII, referring all back to individual confession.

How do we expect the Vatican to support any move against the Local Archdiocese of Philadelphia and especially since the Pope has recently requested that Cardinal Rigali is to represent the Pope in Eastern Europe in June for a special celebration?

How much more sad can this situation be, not just for Philadelphia but for all of us as Catholics, seeking honesty and openness in this closed system named Church?

Rev. John S. Wintermyer
Ret. Archdiocese  of Washington”

I invite all clergy to share their viewpoints here at Catholics4Change. We accept guest blogs and welcome your comments. If you would like to submit a blog, please use the contact page to email me.