On Friday September 7, 2018, the Archdiocese of St. Louis held a
Mass of Reparation at the Cathedral Basilica.
The New Cathedral.
Driving down there to stand vigil — not protest or
demonstrate, but stand vigil — I didn't know what exactly to expect but, given that I was
subject to a Smear
Campaign, and I hadn't been told about, much less invited to,
the mass, I would have been surprised had it gone well.
Yet things went even worse — FAR worse — than I expected.
Mass of Reparation
"How could this be happening? Is it happening?
"Do they not see me?
"Do I even exist?"
These are the thoughts that come to,
take over, and crush me as I stand there.
A survivor of the Catholic sex
Ignored, shunned, confused — stunned —
my heart breaking. Tears welling up in my eyes, as I take one
deep, almost sobbing, breath.
I'm standing out in front of the
Cathedral Basilica of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. The New
Cathedral. In the moments before the September 2018 Mass of
For the Catholic sex abuse
And the atmosphere is...
I'm a survivor of the Catholic sex
At. The. Mass. Of. Reparation.
the Catholic sex abuse crisis.
A real live survivor, in
Not protesting or demonstrating.
Rather, standing vigil.
Not saying a
Not speaking unless I'm spoken to.
standing there, holding two pictures.
Pictures of me.
And some of my classmates
from the Church of the Immacolata in Richmond Heights,
Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis.
And my abuser.
A priest named Fr. LeRoy Valentine.
And I'm completely alone.
A substantial portion of the priests of the Archdiocese of
St. Louis — fifty, sixty, maybe more — are dressed in
identical, off-white robes and lined up, two by two, on the plaza in front of, and the path
that circles around, the Cathedral Basilica of the Archdiocese
of St. Louis.
In fact, the line of priests is so long it stretches out to my left
and then wraps around the New Cathedral, ending out of sight,
somewhere along the West side of the building.
And, none of the priests will acknowledge my
In fact, they seem to be making a
point — if not a show? — of ignoring me.
it's so contradictory, hypocritical, and insane — so completely (screwed) up — that it
seems to have caught the eye of a photographer. And he thinks
he's Spider-Man and is climbing up on, and
angling himself out from, the stoney facade of the cathedral.
Like a kid playing on a jungle gym.
while the adults go about their dark business.
(hell) is he doing? Now he's taking pictures of the priests. Why
isn't he behind me, capturing the scene in its entirety?
The quiet violence.
Ugh, my knees are locked out and my
legs are tightening up. Quads, Hamstrings, Calves, everything. And the
tension — and pain — is starting to flow up my lower back and
into my neck. And I'm just...
But not surprised.
I had a sense this might happen.
of what happened — what was said about me by the Archdiocese
of St. Louis — first in February and then in April of 2018. And what had happened
before in 2002 and 2011 and 2014.
But, still, to see it actually happen...
With the scene crawling with the press.
At the Mass of Reparation.
For the Catholic sex abuse
And the priests
of the Archdiocese of St. Louis are just standing there.
Milling around. Greeting each other.
Chatting. Shooting the breeze. Smiling. Laughing.
Completely, callously indifferent.
To the survivor
standing just feet from them.
Obviously, they have no
shame. No fear.
And I'm done trying to be brave in the face of it. Not any
more. Instead, I'm reduced to just trying to survive.
It goes on for five minutes or so.
And, during that time, none of them — NOT ONE of
these priests of the Catholic Church — will even LOOK
at me. What's worse, when they do look in my direction —
as a priest I think I recognize from my (now former) parish,
MQP, turns in my direction — he looks out
over my head.
But not down.
Like I'm not there.
Like I don't exist.
But I know I exist.
I know SOME people can see me.
standing there for 45 minutes or so, and five people —
two groups of women — came up to me and said, "Hi."
And let me know they're thinking about me. And praying for
And the cop who is handling security also came over
to express his condolences and support.
But that's something the priests standing in front of me
wouldn't — couldn't? — do. Because they were ordered
not to? Or because they know it's not socially
acceptable? A career limiting move?
to, or even acknowledge the existence of, a survivor?
All of them.
And, perhaps, worse.
Now the line is starting to move.
Archbishop Robert Carlson, the Archbishop of St.
Louis, who I've been looking out for, dressed in purple. The
same purple Fr. Valentine is wearing in the picture I'm
cradling in my left hand.
emerges from the left side of the center doors and walks down
the steps in front of me. At my 11 o'clock. Down past the line
To take his position at the end of the
Now Carlson's 40 feet from me. And getting
And now he's crossing in front of me.
But he won't look at me.
NOBODY will look at me.
As Archbishop Carlson and the priests of the Archdiocese of
St. Louis process into the New Cathedral. For the
Mass of Reparation. For the sexual abuse of children.
And I'm left there, all alone.
The next morning I open my computer and go to the
Post-Dispatch web site to see what they have to say about
the mass. I immediately realize what the photographer —
Robert Cohen — was doing.
He wasn't photographing the
Well, not JUST the priests.
Instead, he was trying to capture the moment.
The whole thing.
And he did.
Not just the moment, but the vibe.
The callous indifference.
And, duh, the way to do that is not from behind me, as an
amateur like me would.
But from in front.
Because that angle shows all of
our faces, all at the same time.
Where they're looking.
where they're NOT.
And my face as I stand vigil.
And I can't get over the faces of the priests as they stand there.
Maybe 30 feet from me. Indifferent. Ignoring me.
Refusing to look at me.
Not that it matters.
It was unspeakably callous and cowardly, regardless.
As for what it says?
Who is such a scene — a scene
of callous indifference, directed at a survivor — more likely
to serve? To please?
Or the other guy?
✝ ✝ ✝
How could this happen?
What were they thinking?
In the Catholic tradition, to make reparation means to
offer to God an act of compensation or making amends one’s own sins
or the sins of others against Christ.
In sum, the reason the priests and archbishop of the Archdiocese
of St. Louis didn't care about me because they weren't there to care
Or any survivor.
They were there to apologize to God.