Sins of the Fathers
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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 abuse crisis.

Ignored, shunned, confused — stunned — my heart breaking. Tears welling up in my eyes, as I take one deep, almost sobbing, breath.

Then another.

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 Reparation.

For the Catholic sex abuse crisis.

And the atmosphere is...

Fraught.

Tortured.

Absurd.

I'm a survivor of the Catholic sex abuse crisis.

At. The. Mass. Of. Reparation.

For the Catholic sex abuse crisis.

Of children.

Like me.

A real live survivor, in the flesh.

Not protesting or demonstrating.

Rather, standing vigil.

Not saying a word.

Not speaking unless I'm spoken to.

Just 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.

Our abuser?

A priest named Fr. LeRoy Valentine.

And I'm completely alone.

Again.

And worse.

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 existence.

In fact, they seem to be making a point — if not a show? — of ignoring me.

And 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.

Playing while the adults go about their dark business.

What the (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.

Idiot...

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...

Shocked.

Apalled.

Grieving.

But not surprised.

I had a sense this might happen.

Because 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...

Out in the open.

With the scene crawling with the press.

At the Mass of Reparation.

For the Catholic sex abuse crisis.

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.

Of consequence.

Of accountability.

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.

Again.

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.

And me.

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.

I've been 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 me.

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 talk to, or even acknowledge the existence of, a survivor?

Priests!

Cowards.

All of them.

And, perhaps, worse.
Mass of Reparation

Now the line is starting to move.

I see 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.

Carlson 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 of priests.

To take his position at the end of the procession.

Now Carlson's 40 feet from me. And getting closer.

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.

Like me.

And I'm left there, all alone.

Shunned.

Discarded.

SACRIFICED.

Again.

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 priests.

Well, not JUST the priests.

Instead, he was trying to capture the moment.

The whole thing.

And he did.

So well.

Not just the moment, but the vibe.

The quiet, screaming tension.

The hypocrisy.

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.

Through it.

Through them.

Because that angle shows all of our faces, all at the same time.

Where they're looking.

And where they're NOT.

And my face as I stand vigil.

Quiet.

Sad.

Stunned.

But resolved.

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.

Afraid to?

Not that it matters.

It was unspeakably callous and cowardly, regardless.

As for what it says?

Means?

Discernment, y'all.

Who is such a scene — a scene of callous indifference, directed at a survivor — more likely to serve? To please?

To delight?

Jesus Christ?

Or the other guy?

✝   ✝   ✝

How could this happen?

What were they thinking?

This.

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 about me.

Or any survivor.

They were there to apologize to God.

Not survivors.

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