|ChrisOLeary.com > Sacrificed > What's the Big Deal II|
What's the big deal?
And being a survivor?
Of the Catholic sex abuse crisis?
When it comes to one's ability to make a LIVING?
Missed opportunities, among other things.
Due to what some would describe as a fear of SUCCESS, but to me is the sense of TERROR that even the PROSPECT of success triggers.
A sense of a loss of control.
And, underneath it all, I've come to realize, only recently, is a fear of betrayal.
The CERTAINTY of betrayal.
The knowledge that what starts off as GOOD will — MUST — soon enough turn BAD.
A sense which began with the Risk & Pizza party at the rectory of the Church of the Immacolata in November of 1977.
A sense that is now triggered by happiness, excitement, and anticipation.
Pretty much ANY positive emotion.
That's one clear, defining characteristic of my life.
A pattern I first noticed when my now ex wife was pregnant with our first child, but have only recently come to understand; to be able to see how much it's affected me, both personally and professionally.
In sum, I'm smart.
Able to develop unique and valuable insights.
To see things others can't.
Such that, multiple times, I've put myself in a position to be able to stand out on a national or even international stage. And, EVERY SINGLE TIME, I've been unable to seize the opportunity.
I'll start to get to work.
But, as things progress, and as I start to get a sense that I'm on to something, and realize how good and big this could be, I'm suddenly overtaken by something.
The 11 Year-Old.
Who, when he gets triggered, shuts everything down.
Keeps me from being able to think.
Or even stay AWAKE.
As he's doing at the moment.
Because, I can only think, The 11 Year-Old — when faced with joy, excitement and anticipation — can't help but flash back to the moment when, in fourth grade, my mom drove me up to the rectory for a night of playing Risk and eating pizza with Fr. Valentine and three other guys.
Fr. Valentine wanted to get to know us. And ME.
I was THRILLED to be asked.
What an absolute HONOR.
So, when my mom pulled up in front of the rectory of the Church of the Immacolata in Richmond Heights, Missouri, just up the hill from the St. Louis Galleria, I opened the door of our blue station wagon as the car was still stopping and jumped out, telling her I'd see her later.
And it was FUN.
So incredibly COOL.
Enough so that, in the one crystal clear, flash of memory I have of that night, what I see is us sitting at the table in the kitchen of the rectory, loudly and obnoxiously laughing with the two other guys and playing the board game Risk, while drinking from a can of real Coke.
As for where Fr. Valentine is?
And where T is?
In that memory?
He was sitting to my left. But now his chair is empty.
And where is Fr. Valentine?
It's kind of weird that he's not in that memory, given that he was the host of the party; the person who invited four boys over the rectory to hang out.
But where is he now...
And then I start to get woozy.
And my memories start to break apart.
As I do.
And now it's just fragments.
A memory about wrestling. Downstairs. In the basement of the rectory. And Fr. Valentine's hand slipping and touching me.
Over and over again.
And then there's a shadow of a memory — visible, but only obliquely — involving a TV room and a sofa, which I sit and then lay down on.
With Fr. Valentine.
And now my head is pounding.
And I need to lay down, because things are starting to spin.
And all the momentum I had is just GONE.
As am I.
What's the Big Deal II
This is Sacrificed, a survivor's eye view of the Catholic sex abuse crisis that picks up, as my story does, where the movie SPOTLIGHT left off, providing a no punches pulled, no holds barred, and, above all else, no enabling look at aftermath of the Catholic sex abuse crisis.
WHAT happened. At a high level. WITHOUT getting into the gross stuff.
And, more importantly, HOW.
My name is Chris O'Leary and I'm a survivor of the Catholic sex abuse crisis.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, I was sexually exploited, abused, and assaulted — raped — by a Catholic priest.
Then, when I went to my archdiocese for help in March 2002, and my friend the cardinal — and not the baseball kind — called me back, that's when things got REALLY bad.
When the Abuse of the Abused began.
Epitomized by my treatment at the Mass of Reparation for the sex abuse crisis, in September 2018, held mere weeks after the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, where I was ignored — SHUNNED — by all the priests in attendance.
As was captured by the picture that serves as the cover art for this podcast.
Why would my archdiocese and the Catholic Church do that?
HOW could they do that?
Despite the events of 2002, with SPOTLIGHT and the Dallas Charter, and 2018 and the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report? Treating a survivor in a way that might be CATHOLIC, but is anything but CHRISTIAN? And gives the lie to the promises of the Pope and the rest of the church?
In order to protect certain powerful, connected men.
Abuse Profiteers who benefited from the crisis and their willingness to turn a blind eye to our abuse as children and to then "fix" things when we come forward as adults.
In order to conceal a larger truth.
That some survivors — me and countless others — were simply thrown to the wolves.
As for VOS ESTIS LUX MUNDI, Pope Francis' bill of rights for survivors, which was supposed to — finally — end the torment and ensure we're helped?
It's a sham.
A false hope.
A cruel taunt, directed at survivors.
All of which raises what for me is the big question.
If the Catholic Church can do what it allowed to be done to me, and to us, as children, what else can it justify?
When it comes to children, above all else.
I REFUSE to allow what happened to me to happen to anyone else.
I'll be DAMNED if I allow what happened to me to happen to anyone else.
So I can't and won't stop until I figure out what happened and how.
And ensure it CAN'T happen again.
If Jesus Christ can do what he did, entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to a certain and KNOWN fate, then I can do this.
That's what I called it when it first hit me. As I was working on My Innovation Stuff in the early Spring of 2002, after having been laid off in late 2001.
Up to that point, I'd been making good progress, thinking and writing.
But then I ran into a wall.
In retrospect, as a result of my own personal SPOTLIGHT.
In March of 2002.
When everything changed.
A few weeks after the release of the original SPOTLIGHT articles.
When I was doing so well...
In November of 2001, after the events of September 11 threw into recession an already struggling, post dot com boom economy, my consulting firm was shrinking dramatically and quickly. And I, and many others, were laid off as we rolled off projects.
I did receive three months of severance and outplacement assistance — including the use of an office — and used much of that time to put down on paper a project I'd been thinking about and working on for a couple of years.
My Innovation Stuff.
But then I stopped being able to THINK.
Much less WRITE.
Right around March 2002.
Because, I've come to realize, but didn't understand at the time, of SPOTLIGHT.
The first, original SPOTLIGHT, which I mostly missed, and then my own, personal SPOTLIGHT.
It's hard to describe how I felt, at the time.
To see my favorite priest — and one of my favorite PEOPLE — from my childhood, named as an abuser.
The first word that comes to mind is "Confused."
Then there's "Stunned."
What the HELL just happened?
There I am, rolling along. Not perfectly, but at least to a degree. Finishing up one chapter a week.
And then it all came crashing to a halt.
Making relevant another word.
Is there something wrong with me? Am I developing a brain tumor?
Because I KNOW it doesn't have ANYTHING to do with the r. Valentine stuff. My friend the cardinal told me so.
That nothing happened.
That nothing COULD have happened.
That it was IMPOSSIBLE that I was abused.
So what do my struggles MEAN?
That I'm going crazy? Is this schizophrenia? Or something similar? Which, ten years earlier, had taken one of my friends from high school.
But doesn't schizophrenia usually hit EARLIER ON in life?
So what is THIS?
And why is it putting me on edge? Leading me to scream at the kids, for no reason, as I did at my older son when we were driving back from Spring Break in Florida.
And I'm just pounded by waves of regret about what happened.
What I did.
By the image of my then wife on the sofa at my parents' house, in the late Spring or early Summer of 2002, telling my mom that there was something WRONG with me. That I was DIFFERENT. That I had CHANGED.
And which was followed up by a meeting I had with my mom at the Panera Bread Company in U. City — I'm not sure when, but I suspect in the Summer of 2002 — in which she told me that my dad and she were going to help me financially.
To pay for therapy.
And, as I think about it, damnit, that may explain what happened in 2002.
Whatever it was, and is, I'm fighting it, right now.
As I write this.
I have an idea for a podcast that digs into the reality of innovation. What successful innovators do. Actually. And how that differs from what people teach and are taught.
A topic I've been studying for most of my life, and know well.
An idea that, for coming up on three years, I've been unable to capitalize on.
To get started.
Because I get blocked.
I lock up.
And the moment and window and opportunity pass.
It took me a LONG time to figure out the answer to that question.
I first noticed something in how I reacted to my wife's pregnancies; how they made me feel.
Which was ambivalent.
To be clear, I was THRILLED. I WANTED to be a dad. I was EXCITED to be a dad. Because I LOVED the thought of being a dad.
I was completely READY to be a dad.
Going to bars and concerts and partying just bored the HELL out of me.
It was all so self-indulgent and...
However, whenever I'd touch my wife's belly, to feel the baby growing inside of her, something would take over me.
Triggered, I've come to realize, by the sense of anticipation.
I didn't even START to understand what was going on until 2016, when I was fighting Cancer at the same time I was fighting the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
In sum, I received some GOOD news regarding my Cancer — an all clear — and, instead of being relieved, I was instead TRIGGERED.
Such that I had to go driving to work out the anxiety that getting the all-clear provoked in me.
Which was bizarre.
A totally mystifying response.
Completely opposite of what was appropriate.
That made me wonder if what I had earlier characterized as having a "crossed wire" — where I felt and responded differently than most people to things, especially GOOD things — was a thing. How else could I come to see something UNQUESTIONABLY good as bad?
Which, eventually, led me all the way back to the Risk and Pizza Party that took place in the Immacolata rectory in 4th grade, which I discussed in Episode 3: What Happened Part I.
And how I felt.
As I entered the rectory.
Which was excited.
The feeling of anticipation...
And then the betrayal.
As things went on that evening, and happened, and things got...
And then the TV room.
What I've come to realize is that, whenever I see and realize something — an opportunity — and get excited by the insight it represents, and anticipate the good things that might result, there's a part of me that gets...
The 11 Year-Old.
So terrified, in fact — and as is happening now, as I write this — that I get nauseous.
And I want to go to sleep.
As I do, at the moment.
It sounds crazy, but EXCITEMENT is my biggest trigger.
And when I get happy and excited and start anticipating good things, the part of me that is still 11 years old and is stuck back then and there tries to take over.
The 11 Year-Old.
Because it's seen this before.
HE'S see this before.
And knows what happens next.
By Father Valentine.
And my friend the cardinal.
With good things comes betrayal.
The subsequent take-over isn't exactly like the movie Split, but it's something like that.
The 11 Year-Old can't completely take over my personality.
But what he CAN do is influence how I FEEL and how I interact with people.
By making me sick.
Or by making me feel and act like child, not an adult.
As I did the night of the Risk & Pizza Party, in fourth grade. And as he did that one night, when I was still married and at home, when we had another couple over to play board games and I got triggered and disintegrated, acting inappropriately.
And the same thing has happened, often enough, in matters pertaining to business, to pose a huge problem.
I'd only be able to act reactively, not strategically.
And, worse case, if The 11 Year-Old doesn't know how to react or what to do — how to escape from the situation — he will give me a headache and create an overwhelming desire to shut down and go to sleep.
As he is now.
All of which is worsened by the Post Concussion Syndrome I've been dealing with for the last three years.
The presence, and influence, of The 11 Year-Old first became obvious in 2005 or so, when I started to become obsessed with baseball.
Because of The 11 Year-Old.
Because HE was obsessed with baseball.
I was obsessed with baseball when I was 11.
When the worst stuff started.
I can only guess the two panic attacks during Face To Face confession, with my older son in 2003 and then my older daughter in 2005, woke up The 11 Year-Old. Made him aware of my need for him.
Like Godzilla awakening from his millennial slumbers.
As a result, because The 11 Year-Old was obsessed with baseball when the worst stuff happened, the adult me became obsessed with baseball.
To the exclusion of almost everything else.
Things got bad enough that, when I'd tried to think about anything OTHER than baseball — I assume because baseball was where The 11 Year-Old felt safe — he would make me sick.
And, to be clear, that "or else" is happening right now.
As I write this.
The 11 Year-Old doesn't like me talking or even thinking about him, and he's responded by giving me a headache, and creating passing waves of nausea, and a nearly OVERWHELMING sense that I need to go to sleep.
That mega-doses of caffeine are powerless against.
Same for wine, which only makes me sleepier.
A sense that, as I think about it, I first noticed in the Summer of 2003 — just a few months after my FIRST first confession panic attack — and that drove me to amphetamines to try to overcome it.
A sense that, I think, is familiar because it's how I responded to the worst stuff that Fr. Valentine would do to me.
I'd just go to sleep and disappear.
A sense that I can only, even kind of, sorta fight by putting down my writing and going for a walk, as I'm going to do, right now.
In the hope The 11 Year-Old will stop trying to put me to sleep.
And stop squeezing my head between his huge, powerful hands.
Or is that Fr. Valentine?
I first started to notice the problem of the presence of what had to have been The 11 Year-Old when I began to participate in on-line communities related to baseball in 2005.
While I started out trying to learn, and found I had things to contribute, it fairly quickly became obvious that participating was doing weird things to me.
EXPOSING a weird part of me?
And, of course, 2005 was when I had my second first communion panic attack.
Some of what was going on was standard, "Someone is WRONG on the Internet," stuff.
But not all of it.
And not for long.
The part of me that Internet baseball forums brought out was very smart but also extremely insecure; I ALWAYS had to have the last word, which was something that wasn't true of me in real life. So much so that a number of people commented on it. Asked me if I was OK. Which I thought I was, but maybe not?
Which is what really got my attention.
Because I couldn't help but remember their comments.
This was at the same time that my then wife said something to the effect of, "Chris likes EVERY-body." Something that I know USED to be true but, increasingly, wasn't.
I was changing.
Feeling stuff that only worsened when I was laid off in 2007.
And then got even worse.
So, what's the big deal about abuse?
Imagine the difficulty of trying to be successful when the mere PROSPECT of success triggers you.
A terror you don't and won't, for years, be able to understand.
Despite the best efforts of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the Catholic Church.
I can think of three times when, after I was laid off, I was presented with professional opportunities that I was unable to capitalize on.
Because of the prospect that they would turn into something bigger.
After being laid off, I took the intervening months to do a number of things, one of which was writing a book called Elevator Pitch Essentials, which discussed storytelling in a business context.
That then led to a number of speaking opportunities.
The first was a presentation to the Midwest Jewelers and Watchmakers Association. The problem was that, as the date drew closer, I found myself unable to think. Literally. When I'd try to work on my presentation, my mind would go blank.
All I could stand to think about was baseball.
And, on the day, and then the night, before the presentation, as I TRIED to work, things got worse, not better. I stayed up all night, increasingly frustrated — because this had never happened to me before — accomplishing very little.
The presentation wasn't a complete disaster, and I kind of BS'd my way through it, but it didn't go well.
Fortunately, I had another opportunity, this time to speak to a convention of several thousand women that was being held in St. Louis. However, I found myself unable to reply to the organizer of the convention. And the worst part was that she kept e-mailing me, increasingly desperately, and the more desperate she got, the more it sickened me to even think about replying to her e-mails.
My last and most recent missed opportunity was when I received an e-mail from the head of sales for a major airplane manufacturer. However, and again, I was simply unable to reply to his e-mail.
Another opportunity that went right through my hands.
Thanks to The 11 Year-Old.
Imagine trying to function in the world and make a living while a part of you — that can veto ANYTHING else you try to — is OBSESSED with baseball and will make you SICK, physically ill, if you try to think about anything else. Because baseball is what he was obsessed with, and what he retreated to and into, when the worst stuff was happening.
I'd like to think that things have gotten better; that I'm in a better position to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves, but the truth is that I don't know.
I've never been helped by the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
They REFUSE to help me.
So all I can do is hope and pray that I'll get better.
But I don't KNOW.
And it terrifies me.
Before I close, let me go back to the topic of what the big deal is; how my abuse, and my being a survivor, has affected me professionally.
Especially in terms of missed opportunities.
And go over my career in a linear fashion, trying to understand what happened. In part, so I can stop feeling bad about, and forgive myself for, certain things I did and how things turned out.
It's a topic that's hard for me to think about. I'm not sure why, but I suspect because it drives it home that, and how, everything is REAL.
(And, as I write this, I'm getting dizzy, which is part of what the big deal is about being a survivor.)
I think I've already told the story, but there was the time when my boss, at one of the consulting firms I worked for, left me in charge, when he went on paternity leave for a month or so, and I was UNABLE to check in with his boss, a man who was 20 or so years older than me.
There's something about working for older men that just GETS to me.
And that RUINS me.
I initially wrote this off as shyness, but that's NOT what that was.
That was FEAR.
And, as I go back to the beginning, and go through every job I've held, I can see a similar pattern. Of disturbance and fear. Brought on by older men. Especially when it comes to the Summer.
(And, now, I'm not just getting dizzy, I'm starting to get HOT. I'm starting to SWEAT. I don't think the 11 Year-Old wants me to go here, and he's doing what he can to put an end to this retro and intro-spection. Which means I need to press on.)
On my morning walk, I was thinking about my internship between the first and second years of my MBA program. It didn't help that that was 1993, the year of the historic Mississippi River flood, which was biblically bad. But that was the first FULL Summer I'd spent in St. Louis, after having COMMITTED to being in St. Louis. And, coincidentally or not, I found myself unable to think.
I didn't know why.
I just knew I was struggling.
And it was terrifying, as a result.
What the HELL was going on?
I'm embarrassed by how I behaved at my first job out of grad school, which was at Andersen Consulting (now Accenture). Immature and unfocused is the best way to describe me there.
I was thinking the other day that this could have been because high school, for me, was something I only managed to survive, such that, in college, I had the same experience that most of my peers had in high school.
While, in some ways, I was mature and responsible — my college nickname was "Dad" — I was CLEARLY behind my peers in other ways. Something that became accentuated when I moved back to St. Louis.
And it was a strange feeling, being both years ahead of, and years behind, people.
All at the same time.
Which, I can only guess, was due to the emergence of The 11 Year-Old.
There was part of me that was stuck, there, in the past, and, as I got older, and the gap between my two selves widened, it became more and more obvious.
Moving to Phoenix for a year and a half brought everything back into alignment.
However, when we moved back to St. Louis in the Summer of 1997, that all changed.
And got worse than it had ever been.
As I've mentioned, I started having reenactment compulsions at the start, and again at the end, of the Summer of 1997. I can only assume they were triggered by the thought, and then the reality, of moving back to St. Louis.
The more time I spent in, and the more I committed to, St. Louis, the more stuff started to bubble up.
And get to me.
I was (mostly) OK when we were living at my in-laws' lake house, 45 minutes outside of St. Louis but, when we moved back in to St. Louis for the Winter, and then bought a house, things started to weigh on me.
And it became hard to think.
And to leave the house.
And to do basic things of life that would keep the money flowing to my rapidly growing family. Things like billing clients. Without completely freaking out and melting down, taken over by waves of what I have since come to understand were anxiety attacks.
But I was oblivious to it.
Hey, what doesn't destroy you makes you stronger, right?
But as 1999 turned into 2000, and the world didn't fall apart, I started seeing things.
When it came to innovation, entrepreneurship, and the overlap.
So, one night, when I was out of town, I think in Boston, I wrote a piece entitled, What a Pain In The Ass that summed up my emerging philosophy of innovation and how to see things before others did.
How to do what successful entrepreneurs and innovators did.
And, on a lark, I sent it to Tom Peters, the famous management and innovation guru. Who immediately responded with a job offer.
And then it happened again.
I shut down.
The prospect of working for and with such a big name guru was more than I could handle.
So I couldn't follow up.
Turning a huge break into yet another missed opportunity.
On my own, then, I continued to work on what I came to call My Innovation Stuff, to some end.
And then SPOTLIGHT happened.
And now, 20 years later, I'm back at it, trying to turn these thoughts and observations and ideas that I've accumulated over the past 30 years into a podcast about Innovation and Entrepreneurship. And maybe, eventually, a book.
But the problem is that precious little has changed.
I still haven't gotten any help from the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the Catholic Church.
I can only hope and pray that, with the end of the Summer — which is the worst time of the year for me, because that's when so much of the worst stuff happened — things will get easier and I'll finally be able to get the ball rolling and push through everything that's holding me back.
Finally, and in the spirit of full disclosure, radical honesty, Opposite George, and all that, I'm going to talk about it.
What the big deal is about being a survivor.
What's going on.
The very present, as in this week — and this month of August and September, 2021 — reality of being a survivor.
Despite what the 11 Year-Old, or whoever, wants me to believe, I'm not whining. I'm trying to be real. Honest.
First, I've had a stomache for a month.
And, for the third day in a row, I can't think to write.
I can't concentrate.
Today, because I couldn't sleep last night, because of a nighttime stomachache that I finally manage to sleep through out of exhaustion.
I just tried drinking a glass of wine, but that doesn't seem to have worked.
It's bad enough that, because I have a doctor appt at the end of this week, I'm considering asking for a prescription for an amphetamine, which I first tried 18 years ago, during the Summer of 2003, when I was triggered as a result of the first First Communion flashback.
I had problems as the year went by, and the tension I felt as a result of the Summer faded, but it did help me get through the Summer and get things done.
And, to my point about it again being the Summer, it's mid August and one of my memories — serving at the first back to school, all school mass of the year, after something had happened during the Summer — may be getting to me. I often have problems around back to school time and, while I used to think they involved my concerns for my kids, I've started to wonder if the issue is (also) something in my own past. Or both.
Plus, I don't have the start of Soccer Season to distract me, which may be why it's hitting me harder.
Which goes to the point of why I didn't notice, and say, something sooner.
As anyone who has one, much less four, kids can tell you, kids are EXTREMELY distracting. Until they are eight or so, they are incredibly time consuming.
And, I think, one of the reasons I didn't say, or notice, anything about my abuse is that I was simply so busy raising four kids, who were close in age, and I was sufficiently distracted by raising them that I didn't have TIME to notice what was going on with me.
Until my cup was full.
And everything started spilling over.
And, in terms of how everything spilled over then, and continues to, the best way to explain it is to go back to My Innovation Stuff one last time.
For a number of years, I've had the idea to start a podcast about Innovation. Most recently, that was derailed and delayed by my car accident three years ago, which left me with Post Concussion Syndrome.
However, over the past week, I've been trying to get it going again.
And I'm sick of The Catholic Stuff and My Baseball Stuff, both of which have gotten obsessive.
I've got to start making some money.
And start thinking about something else.
Or else I'll go crazy.
I've been thinking about what happened, and why, when, EXACTLY twenty years ago, I started a newsletter that discussed my ideas about Innovation.
A newsletter that went REALLY well.
Until I hit a wall.
As it turns out, as I've been going through the back issues of that newsletter, called The Pain Papers, what happened is this.
No, not the original SPOTLIGHT, which was in early January 2001.
I mean MY SPOTLIGHT.
When, on Sunday, March 3, 2002, a story entitled 2 Paths, No Easy Solution on Abusive Priests ran in the New York Times that said, among other things, that Fr. LeRoy Valentine — my favorite PRIEST, and one of my favorite PEOPLE, from my childhood — had sexually abused three boys in 1982.
And, if you look at the timeline of The Pain Papers, and what I was publishing and when, it all matches up.
It all makes sense.
There I was, rolling along. Churning out a newsletter every week or two.
Despite September 11th.
And despite being laid off in late 2001.
I just kept plugging on.
Getting it done.
And, at the same time, working on my book The Paradox of Pain.
I was productive as hell.
And then something happened.
Which, in retrospect, completely devastated me. Without my even realizing it.
Much as my original abuse had.
It was confusing and scary and terrifying.
I thought I was going crazy.
But it all makes sense.
The timelines all match up.
And it's time.
Time to get back at it.
I KNOW what happened. There's no mystery.
Not any more.
And, as my friend the cardinal taught me in March 2002 — but I didn't or wouldn't or couldn't learn until this EXACT moment — NOBODY is going to save me.
But it is what it is.
And it's time to save myself.
One last thing.
To make a point about what it's like to be a survivor.
What the big deal is.
I was sitting here re-reading this piece when my mom came in to the room.
And she was crying.
She's getting older, and her Alzheimer's is getting to her, and I can't help but wonder if she's thinking about what's going to happen to me after she and my dad are gone, something that is getting imminent.
And that I think about ALL the time, myself.
I've got a plan to start an Innovation podcast, but I'm having trouble getting started. It's almost 20 years later but, as I try to get going, I'm brought back to where I was then. I guess I've made SOME progress, but not enough.
And the Persistent Post Concussion Syndrome isn't helping.
"We just didn't KNOW," my mom says.
And, all of a sudden, I'm upset.
Because I know it's not true.
Between Face To Face Confession and the Risk & Pizza Party in the rectory, and only God knows what else, within a few months, in fourth grade, I had started to show signs of it.
To act out.
I was not, still am not, and really never was the kind of person to take whatever I was feeling out on my brothers.
Not that I'm aware of.
Though I did get in trouble a few times and can only wonder if that was triggered by something with Fr. Valentine.
But I don't know.
What I DO know is that, in fourth grade, at some point, Mrs. Martignago, my fourth grade teacher, made a comment to my mom that I seemed different.
Now, if you'd asked me if anything was going on, I doubt I could have said anything.
Not anything coherent.
But it DOES bother me when my mom says, "We didn't know," when I know they did.
My mom took the conversation with my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Martignago, seriously enough that she talked to my dad about it and he — evidently, supposedly — went to the library and looked at a couple of books to see what might be going on.
But they never had me talk to a doctor.
Which bothers me.
In part, because the first therapist I discussed my abuse with seemed to be so surprised when, when he asked me, "What did your doctor say?" I told him, "What do you mean? I never saw a doctor about this."
The look that crossed his face, when he told me that, has stuck with me.
It was just...
Such that I don't know what to think when my mom says, "But we didn't KNOW."
But, again, here's a FACT.
If someone had asked me, "What's going on?" I wouldn't have had ANYTHING to say.
MAYBE it was bothering me.
OK, yes, it WAS bothering me.
I can see that in my actions.
Starting with my obsessive work on my underground fort, up in the woods.
But I doubt I had ANY conception of — much less words to describe — what was going on.
And, remember, I LIKED the hugs.
What I DIDN'T like was how long they went on. And where my head was. And how I would feel suffocated, because I didn't have any control of things.
All of which I bring up to make the point that, while it bugs me — STILL — when my mom says, "We just didn't KNOW," the reality is that my parents weren't doctors or psychologists. My dad was a lawyer and my mom was a math teacher before she started staying home to take care of us.
And, the fact is, they did their best.
As for the failures?
Who screwed up?
It was NOT my parents.
Instead, that responsibility lies at the feet of the people who were told of — and who SAW, with their own eyes — the problems and failed to do anything about them.
That's Monsignor Flavin and, sadly, Sister Helen.
And my friend the cardinal.
Next time on Sacrificed...
I'm not sure, to be honest.
I've got one more piece on What the Big Deal is, that focuses on the fear that comes with surviving, that I'm working on and will drop at some point, but I may do a couple of different pieces before that one, because this is a fraught time of the year for me. There's the anniversary of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report and the anniversary of the Mass of Reparation.
And Vos Estis Lux Mundi.
Regardless of where I DO go next, if you'd like to also — or would RATHER — READ what I have to say, go to chrisoleary dot com slash sacrificed. Those pieces also include photographs and videos that document what happened to me and, I hope, help to prove my words and story; that demonstrate the indifference I have and continue to face at the hands of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, DESPITE all the promises and the empty talk.
If you'd like to help support my efforts to create this podcast, and expose the Abuse of the Abused by the Catholic Church, as well as The Program — or to just help me to eat and pay my bills while I'm spending my time on this project — I've set up a GoFundMe...