A victim accuses Cardinal Dolan of covering up for the priest who abused him
Chris O’Leary: "Dolan isn't a
shepherd, he's a wolf. He isn't part of the solution, he's part of
Una víctima acusa al cardenal Dolan
Chris O'Leary says the archbishop of New York covered up for
the priest who abused him
"On sex abuse, Cardinal Dolan isn't part of the solution, he's
part of the problem"
"It's disgusting that this wolf is putting himself forward as
(Cameron Doody) - The Cardinal Archbishop of New York,
Timothy Dolan, "isn't part of the solution" to the sex abuse crisis
but "part of the problem," says Chris O'Leary, an acknowledged
survivor of clergy sex abuse in St. Louis, Missouri, in this
exclusive conversation with RD.
Chris says Dolan covered up the priest who sexually abused him as
a child. A complicity that extended to Dolan's deliberately hiding
from Church authorities the complaint Chris made against a priest
Dolan lived with at the Church of the Immacolata in Richmond
Heights, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis.
Chris' nightmare began in the late 70s, when he was abused by Fr.
LeRoy Valentine. The physical and emotional scars he sustained over
a period that extended into the early 80s meant that it wasn't until
2002 that he dared to tell someone what he'd been through.
In March of that year, just as the Spotlight scandal in
Boston was breaking, three other victims of Valentine's who had
settled with the Archdiocese of St. Louis four years earlier learnt
that, contrary to the promises of then Archbishop (and later
Cardinal) Justin Rigali, Valentine continued in active ministry,
attached to a primary school. The scandal was served, and the
Archdiocese invited other potential victims of Valentine's to come
forward. Chris took them up on their offer.
"I had spent a lot of time -including one-on-one time serving
masses- with Fr. Valentine and I figured, if anyone knew anything
about Fr. V, I did", says Chris.
Chris told a district prosecutor, a local TV reporter, and tthen
Auxiliary Bishop and vicar of priests in the Archdiocese of St.
Louis, Timothy Dolan, about his experiences with Valentine. Only
Dolan called him back, but the now Cardinal Archbishop of New York
told Chris that nothing happened; that his memories didn't mean
anything. As Chris remembers Dolan's exact words:
I know Fr. Valentine well. We were at the seminary
together. We lived and worked together at Immacolata. I know
LeRoy Valentine didn't do any of things he's being accused of. I
know he would never do anything to hurt a child.
However, if you still want to talk to someone, I can
In other words: Dolan didn't believe Chris, but believed in the
innocence of his abuser, Valentine. The man Dolan lived with at the
parish of the Immacolata, in the room adjacent to the one to which
Valentine would bring his victims. Chris says at least one other
victim has since told him that Dolan knew and saw Valentine bring
boys up to his room.
Chris accuses Dolan of having "gaslighted" him, and says this
brainwashing cut particularly deeply. It came from the man who stars
in Chris' very first memory of a priest, when Dolan had his class
act out the story of Jesus healing the blind man in Mark 8 and had
Chris play the role of Christ.
Nonetheless, Chris took Dolan up on his offer to point him in the
direction of someone who could help him, and Chris found himself
meeting a few weeks later with a woman he believes was Nancy Brown,
then Assistant Director of Child and Youth Protection in the
Archdiocese of St. Louis.
Brown, like Dolan, told him nothing had happened with Valentine;
she told him he was just "misinterpreting" Valentine's actions and
intentions. As with the Bishop, Chris took the psychologist at her
word, and, for the next nine years, just went on with his life.
Cardinals Rigali, Dolan, and Burke, together in a photo that
Chris says the Archdiocese of St. Louis has tried to take down from
the internet and social media
"Dolan erased all evidence of our conversations from the
file of Fr. Valentine"
Dolan left the Archdiocese of St. Louis for Milwaukee in August
2002, and Rigali left for Philadelphia in July 2003. But though
these protectors of Valentine moved on, Chris couldn't, and found
himself suffering panic attacks that become more and more frequent
and intense as the years went by.
Chris lost his job, saw his marriage fall apart, and became
estranged from his family. All the while he never heard back from
the Archdiocese, now headed up by then Archbishop (and now Cardinal)
By May 9, 2011, Chris couldn't take the pain anymore, so he
decided to return to the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Deacon Philip
Hengen -the then-head of the Office for Child and Youth Protection-
was on the defensive from the outset, bringing two lawyers with him
to his first meeting with Chris, contrary to archdiocesan policy on
meetings with sex abuse victims.
The Church hadn't changed its tune on the abuser Valentine since
Chris had met with Dolan some nine years before. Its representatives
repeated that Chris' abuse hadn't happened. But Chris was to
discover something even more disturbing in his 2011 meeting with
Hengen and the lawyers: that the Archdiocese had no record of his
2002 conversations with Dolan. A gap which made Chris think that
Dolan had deliberately covered up for Valentine.
"Dolan erased all evidence of our conversations from the file of
Fr. Valentine", says Chris. A fact which Chris says was corroborated
by Dolan's successor as vicar of priests in St. Louis, now Bishop
Rick Stika, in an August 2018 tweet. Stika confirmed that Dolan was
still in charge of child protection in the Archdiocese when Chris
made his initial complaint, and hadn't left yet for Milwaukee. Stika
told Chris he had found no trace of Chris' allegations in
"Dolan isn't a shepherd. He's a wolf"
Not only did the Archdiocese of St. Louis insist they had no
record of Chris' 2002 complaint, but Hengen blamed the debilitating
anxiety problems Chris was having in 2011 on father issues. The
denials of the abuse he had suffered sent Chris into a downward
spiral that only intensified when Hengen promised in July 2011, at
Chris' insistence, to speak to Chris' therapist, only to never do
On May 10, 2013 the Archdiocese of St. Louis announced Valentine
would be removed from the ministry due to another complaint received
against him in 2012 which, unlike Chris', had been deemed to be
credible. But not even then did the Church check in with Chris to
see how he was going, instead sticking to its vague offers to
collaborate on a treatment plan that Chris would have to pay for.
Chris grew frustrated with what he says was the strategy of the
archdiocese "to make me just go away" and tried to go over Hengen's
head to Monsignor Richard Hanneke, then vicar for priests, who ended
up simply referring him back to Hengen.
Chris had lost everything and had been reduced to living in his
parents' house, but the worse was yet to come. In October 2015 he
filed a lawsuit against the archdiocese of St. Louis, only to find
two months later that he had a malignant melanoma on his arm. Though
Chris seems to have successfully recovered from the cancer, he says
the stress of battling the Church has led to another serious health
problem: type II diabetes.
Chris was forced to settle his lawsuit against the Archdiocese of
St. Louis in September 2017, due to a problem with the Statute of
Limitations that he says was created by the efforts of the
Archdiocese to gaslight him and give him the run-around. Chris
continues to fight, however, in what he calls the "war" in the
Church between the "believers who believe the [sex abuse] scandal
happened and remains a problem" and the "doubters, deniers, and
fixers who believe, to quote the Pope, 'it's all calumny'".
His website is
the trench from which he fights.
Though in February this year Chris received an email from the
Director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection of the
Archdiocese of St. Louis that recognized that his claims of
Valentine's abuse "were acknowledged by Deacon Phil Hengen, the
archdiocese of Saint Louis and the court system", just a few weeks
later an archdiocesan spokesman claimed "the Archdiocese's record of
Mr. O'Leary's allegations are significantly different" to how Chris
remembers them and that "the information O'Leary shared initially
changed multiple times", thereby denying this sex abuse victim the
closure he so desperately seeks.
Chris seeks too to tell anyone who'll listen the role
now-Cardinal Dolan played in the sexual, emotional, and
psychological abuse he suffered at the hands of the Church. Apart of
the story, he says, has never been acknowledged.
Cardinal Dolan "is a wolf", says Chris. "That makes it all the
more disgusting that... he is putting himself forward as a
"Cardinal Dolan isn't part of the solution. He's part of the
This is the first part of a series in RD on
accusations of abuse cover-ups against Cardinal Dolan. The second
part of the series will be published in coming days.
Una víctima acusa al cardenal Dolan