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If you've seen the movie SPOTLIGHT — and, if you haven't, you should — what do you think happened next?
After the reporters of the Boston Globe's SPOTLIGHT team published the first, of what would turn out to be hundreds, of articles about the Catholic sex abuse crisis?
After, with the best of intentions, yes — and, to be clear, out of supreme necessity — the SPOTLIGHT team, and the writers who followed their lead, effectively tossed grenades into so many lives and families?
After survivors went to our dioceses and archdioceses for help understanding what was being said about men who, for us, were the living embodiments of Jesus Christ?
After, in my case, at least, I received a definitive, clean bill of health from a trusted member of the Catholic Church?
And then got sick.
In truth, the aftermath of SPOTLIGHT is FAR uglier than I think people — and, especially Catholics — realize.
Or want it to be.
And that, I can only assume diabolical, reality is encapsulated, perfectly, by the picture that serves as the cover art for this podcast.
And the underlying event.
"How could this be happening?
CREDIT: Robert Cohen | St. Louis Post-Dispatch
It's September 2018.
With my abuser.
At the Mass of Reparation.
I'm ignored, shunned — stunned — my heart breaking.
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, and provides a no punches pulled, no holds barred, and, above all else, no enabling look at the crisis and its aftermath.
What happened and why and how.
Both back then and now.
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.
A scheme whose purpose, I've come to suspect, is to protect certain powerful, connected people.
And conceal a larger truth.
That some survivors — including myself — were simply thrown to the wolves.
And did nothing.
Not only did they know about and MANAGE my and our abusers, but they PROTECTED them.
And I can prove it.
As for VOS ESTIS LUX MUNDI, Pope Francis' bill of rights for survivors, which was supposed to — finally — end the torment and ensure that we are helped?
It's a sham.
A false hope.
If not a cruel taunt.
All of which raises what for me is the big question.
If the Catholic Church can do what it's done to me, a survivor, over the past 20 years, and what it allowed to be done to me, and to us, as children — sacrificing us, then and now — what else can it justify?
When it comes to children, above all 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 why 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.
What happened in the aftermath of SPOTLIGHT? The reports and the movie?
To the survivors?
Those of us who, as children, had to live with the experience, and sometimes the memory, of bailing out of and fleeing our parish rectory after having been sexually exploited, abused, and even assaulted by a priest.
Were we helped?
What happened to our abusers?
To the priests who preyed upon and attacked us? Were they locked up? Or, at least, secured and supervised? Safeguarded? So they couldn't hurt anyone else?
What happened to the enablers?
To the people — men, mostly, but not all — who were told about what happened and did nothing in response?
What happened to the blind eyers?
To those who saw things with their own eyes — testing, grooming, exploitation, and worse — and turned a blind eye to it.
Were they punished?
For keeping their mouths shut.
(Just) following orders.
More fundamentally, WHY did it happen?
Was it just bad luck?
A one in a million shot?
Or is there a deeper — and darker — explanation?
Were we deliberately sacrificed?
As I've come to suspect.
And was that a result of incentives?
Resulting from and related to vocations?
Or canon law?
If so, then, and again, how have things changed?
Perhaps you think you know the answer to those questions.
But do you know? Know know? Or just think know? Are you assuming? Trusting? Hoping?
I'm a survivor of the Catholic sex abuse crisis and there's a reason why I'm not satisfied with the answers and solutions that have been produced to date.
My Friend The Cardinal
While the Catholic Church has done many things to address the sex abuse crisis, there are clear limits to what can and will be done.
Starting with accountability.
My story involves and implicates just such a man.
A man who, as a diocesan priest, from 1977 to 1979, witnessed, and turned a blind eye to, my and our testing and grooming and sexual exploitation, if not abuse. How could he not, given that he spent two years living and working in the same rectory and church as my abuser?
The places where much of it happened.
A man who then did worse as an auxiliary bishop in 2002. Who lied to and Gaslighted me. And others. Who "fixed" the problem. Made sure that we — and the problem — just went away.
Rather than helping us, as children and then as adults, he protected the church.
And he is now one of the select few who are running the Catholic Church. The pool from which the next Pope will be drawn.
He seems to have been REWARDED for turning a blind eye to my and our abuse.
So how, exactly, is that progress?
And this isn't about him.
He's a symptom.
Of an institution and a system that, despite all the talk, remains largely unchanged.
The fact is that too much, if not the majority, of the talk about shame and sorrow and contrition and healing is just that.
How can I POSSIBLY say that?
Given the Dallas Charter, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops promise of Victim Assistance Coordinators, Protecting God's Children, and Vos Estis Lux Mundi, the Pope's bill of rights for survivors?
I can say it because I lived it.
Because I AM living it.
I've tried to get help.
Both before and now under Vos Estis.
I even managed to get a letter — an attempt to blow the whistle on my archdiocese and a plea for help — placed on the desk of the Pope by one of his senior advisors.
Another, different, man who may be the first American Pope.
But, sixteen months later, I've heard nothing in response.
Talk is cheap.
For Pope Francis as for all.
The fact is that, when it comes to the Catholic Church, the sex abuse crisis, and the response to survivors, at least — and, I fear, children, as well — things are not as they SEEM.
CREDIT: Robert Cohen | St. Louis Post-Dispatch
But are exactly as they are SEEN.
Next on Sacrificed, SPOTLIGHT & Me & Since; what happened to me, and I don't know how many other guys, in the aftermath of the publication of the original SPOTLIGHT articles, events portrayed in the movie of the same name.