Sins of the Fathers
ChrisOLeary.com > Sins of the Fathers > May 9, 2011

If asked, I believe Deacon Phil Hengen and the Archidocese of St. Louis would say they tried to help me.

I just wouldn't let them.

However, the truth is more complicated, and grows out of the fact that I simply don't trust Deacon Hengen, the Archdiocese of St. Louis' point man on handling claims of sexual abuse.

Or the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Or Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

Or Pope Francis.

That lack of trust is the result of the events of May 9, 2011 and the weeks, months, and years that followed.

May 9, 2011

By early 2011, I had lost everything.

I was unemployed, divorced, and struggling to survive.

At times, I struggled to scrape together enough money to eat.

The problem was that I literally didn't know how to think -- and/or was afraid to think about -- anything other than baseball. While I managed to make enough money off of my knowledge about baseball to survive -- barely -- my symptoms were getting worse. I was having a harder and harder time making money due to my anxiety and other issues.

For a number of reasons, the biggest of which was my inability to go to confession without experiencing panic attacks, by early 2011 I had begun to wonder whether my struggles were the result of my interactions with Fr. Valentine. As a result, in Spring 2011, during Holy Week, I contacted Deacon Phil Hengen, the Archdiocese of St. Louis' point person when it came to allegations of sexual abuse by priests.

On May 12, 2011 I met with Deacon Phil Hengen and a Review Team (now called an Investigation Team) to tell them what I had told Cardinal Timothy Dolan and a psychologist back in 2002.

What was driving me was a simple question.

Are you sure this doesn't mean anything?

Lawyers

As soon as I walked in the room, I knew there was a problem.

I had obtained a copy of the Archdiocese of St. Louis' policies for dealing with alleged sexual abuse for 2011 in order to know what to expect. One of the things the Pastoral Policy said was...

A Review Team will be established for each
allegation which is to be investigated under these policies...The Archbishop, the Vicar for Priests, and the archdiocesan attorney may meet with the Review Team, but shall not be members.

As a result, I was stunned when I walked into the room and not one but two of the people in the room were lawyers.

What I had gotten myself into wasn't just a meeting.

It was a deposition.

And I didn't know to bring a lawyer with me.

The female lawyer took notes of everything I said because, in the words of Deacon Phil Hengen, "She has the best penmanship."

Man Enough?

Nothing was said to me during the meeting in terms of whether the Review Team believed me.

The only thing that was said that was close to a reaction, interpretation, or diagnosis were the words of Deacon Phil Hengen.

As the meeting concluded, he wrote the name of a book on the back of his card...

Man Enough

...and then handed me his card.

Man Enough

The name of the book was Man Enough by Frank Pittman. As I read it -- and re-read it and re-re-read it -- I could only assume Deacon Hengen recommended it me because of what I had told the team about my problems working with and for men.

In terms of Fr. Valentine, his telling me to read that book made one thing clear.

Nothing happened.

Assistance Coordinator

Another thing the Pastoral Policy talks about is that one of the members of the Office of Child and Youth Protection is an Assistance Coordinator.

The services of an Assistance Coordinator shall be offered, for each alleged victim. The Assistance Coordinator will assist persons who allege that as minors they were sexually abused by a member of the clergy or other church personnel in making their claims known to the proper archdiocesan personnel.

While that sounds great, here's the problem.

It's bullshit.

Eyewash.

In the 6+ years since I met with the Review Team, I have never been offered the services of an Assistance Coordinator or been put in touch with them. In fact, in my conversations with Deacon Phil Hengen, the topic of an Assistance Coordinator never came up.

Don't Be Fooled

The Archdiocese of St. Louis isn't following its own published guidelines for handling cases of sexual abuse.

That tells me that the whole thing is Eyewash; nothing more than a P.R. exercise.

It's designed to look good on paper.

Not actually help people.

Suspecting that the problem was Deacon Phil Hengen, I went over his head and brought the problem to the attention of Monsignor Richard Hanneke, the Vicar for Priests. Hanneke told me that I had to continue to go through Deacon Phil Hengen, despite knowing Hengen wasn't helping me and I didn't trust him as a result.

That made it clear that my inability to get help was a Strategy, not a Screw-Up.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis didn't -- actually -- want to help me.

They just wanted me to go away.

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