Sins of the Fathers > Sins of the Fathers > TOC > Deacon Phil Hengen

At Trinity University, the college I attended, all freshmen were required to take a class called Freshman Seminar. The idea was to teach a variety of things, including writing, analysis, critical thinking, and ethics.

I don't remember all the books we read, but one I do remember is Hannah Arendt's Eichman in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. What struck me about that book was just that.

The banality of evil.

How it can be done by people who think they are just doing their job.

By people who are just doing what they are told.

By people who are just following orders.

Note 2020.5.6
I wrote this piece several years ago. While it accurately recounts WHAT happened, I advance a different theory of WHY things happened as they did in a piece entitled...

Deacon Phil Hengen

Deacon Phil Hengen is a psychologist and the Director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection, which makes him the Archdiocese of St. Louis' point man when it comes to handling complaints of abuse. He was the person who returned my call when I called in (again) with my description of what had happened between Fr. Valentine and me. He also set up the May 9, 2011 meeting with the Review Team.

Man Enough

The only thing that came about as a result of my May 9, 2011 meeting with the Review Team that was close to a reaction, interpretation, or diagnosis was what Deacon Phil Hengen said and did.

As the meeting concluded, he wrote the name of a book on the back of his card and gave it to me. The name of the book was Man Enough by Frank Pittman. He handed me his card and told me.

You should read this book. I think it will help you.

By telling me to read Man Enough, Deacon Hengen was implicitly telling me that the problems I was having weren't due to what had happened between Fr. Valentine and me.

Because nothing happened.

Instead, my problems working with and for older men were due to something else.

I immediately purchased the book. However, the more I read it, the more confused I became.

In sum, Man Enough makes the case that men who grow up without a strong male presence tend to turn into one of three types of hyper-masculine men: philanderers, controllers, and competitors. The problem was that I wasn't ANY of those three types of men. In fact, over the years I had come to know enough of those types of men to wonder why I wasn't more like them.

Assuming that there had to be some truth to what Deacon Hengen — a trained psychologist and MSW — saw, and a reason why he recommended the book, I re-read the beginning of it over again. And over again. And over again. I re-read it countless times. However, every time I would get 30 or so pages into the book and then start again at the beginning because what I was reading wasn't me. Assuming I missed something, I would then start re-reading the book from the beginning.

To this day, I don't know whether Deacon Phil Hengen gave me Man Enough in good faith or whether it was meant to be a red herring; to distract me stop me from following the evidence. However, regardless of the intent, that is exactly what happened.

Reading Man Enough sowed seeds of doubt and confusion that persist to this day.

Following Up

While I was reading, re-reading, and re-re-reading Man Enough, I was also trying to get Deacon Phil Hengen to help me get help from the archdiocese to paying for the therapy that I was undergoing. Ultimately, those efforts amounted to nothing. When I expressed frustration to one of my (multiple) psychologists (who I was paying out of my own pocket), he told me bluntly...

In 20 years of doing this, I've never had someone, who truly wanted to get in touch with me, fail to get in touch with me.

Trust Issues

As a result of my interactions with Deacon Phil Hengen, my trust issues are worse, not better.

My trust issues were first triggered by the presence of not one but two lawyers at the May 9, 2011 meeting, something that was against the Archdiocese of St. Louis' Pastoral Policy. They were then magnified by Deacon Hengen giving me the book Man Enough — which confused me terribly, because it didn't describe me at all — and never giving me another diagnosis.

After the May 9, 2011 meeting, things didn't get any better. It didn't help that I was never put in touch with an Assistance Coordinator, if such a person in fact exists. In general, Deacon Hengen never offered or acted to drive the process and, unlike Cardinal Timothy Dolan, never offered to pay for my counseling. Instead, while he mentioned a Treatment Plan on a couple of occasions, he expected me to pay for its creation, which I simply couldn't afford to do.

The final nail in the coffin was when I told Monsignor Richard Hanneke about the problems with Deacon Phil Hengen. While he initially seemed sympathetic, Monsignor Hanneke was ice-cold during our second meeting and told me I had to go through Deacon Hengen, a man who he knew — because I told him multiple times — that I didn't trust.

I'm hugely triggered just writing this piece. I'm getting Hot. Which is why I had a hard time communicating with Deacon Hengen and why I needed him to drive the process. That's also why I went to Monsignor Richard Hanneke to explain the problem; how I felt like Deacon Hengen was stonewalling.

That's also why it took so long for me to come forward, creating a problem with the statute of limitations.

All of this leaves me convinced that what I experienced wasn't a screw-up, it was a strategy.

Distrust Of Psychologists

And what's the result of all of this?

I have developed an even deeper distrust of people in general and psychologists in particular. Deacon Hengen's never contacting my psychologist D damaged our relationship.

At least that's not an issue because I don't have the money to get help, if I could stand to.