|ChrisOLeary.com > Sacrificed > SPOTLIGHT & Me & Since|
This is Chris O'Leary.
I want to thank you for taking a chance on my podcast.
Because of the subject matter.
And in spite of it.
And, to that point, I want to make clear — and PROMISE — something right up front.
Before I get started.
While I'm a survivor of the Catholic sex abuse crisis, and was sexually abused as a child, I DO NOT talk about the worst stuff.
You don't want to hear it and, let's be honest, I don't want to talk about it. Because then I'd have to revisit it.
And relive it.
Instead, I spend most of my time talking about what has happened since 2002 and the original SPOTLIGHT articles
When I DO talk about what happened back then, I discuss the Testing and Grooming process and what led UP to the worst stuff — the mistakes others made that left me vulnerable — and then, right as things are about to get graphic, I just kind of wave my hands around and say, "And then some bad stuff happened."
"Didn't you know Fr. Valentine?"
My now ex-wife asked me, in the late afternoon of Tuesday, March 5, 2002, as I ascended the basement stairs, having spent the day down there, writing.
I'd been laid off in November of 2001 and was working on a book on Innovation — or, by that point, I was TRYING to, having developed a serious case of writer's block — because I had also been having difficulty finding a new job.
Thing? Companion? Deal? Burden? Weight? Adversary? Tormentor?
Black dog, to use Churchill's term?
Whatever IT was, It had blessedly pretty much completely left me when I went to school, and then lived, in Texas.
There WAS that stuff Senior year...
Stuff that popped up — re-emerged — as graduation approach. And the thought, and the reality, of moving back to St. Louis loomed larger.
And It was completely a non-issue when we lived in Phoenix.
Except for that incident right before we went home for Easter, 1997...
But It had gotten worse over the previous five years during which we had moved back to, and settled down in, St. Louis. Bad enough to prompt me to see three different psychologists in that time.
But It was no big deal.
And, yes, It was affecting my marriage.
But whatever doesn't destroy you, makes you stronger, right?
So I was trying to fight through It.
And, anyway, living in St. Louis made complete sense, family-wise.
I tended to end my day a little early in order to try to help out with our four kids, including my youngest, who was just a couple of weeks old. It was probably a little after 4:00PM and the kids were doing their homework, or working on projects, and my then wife was supervising and preparing dinner while also listening to the news on the radio.
A few minutes prior, the reporters on KMOX had been discussing the fact that a Catholic priest from St. Louis had been accused of sexual abuse by three brothers from North County.
A priest named Fr. LeRoy Valentine.
Who happened to be my favorite priest from my childhood.
The priest who was able to make me feel special, when my dad — who I think was busy working to make partner — wasn't there and able to.
So much so that in 1992, when we got engaged, and were in search of a priest to officiate, I called Fr. V, as he was known.
A request he politely but rather awkwardly and abruptly — curtly — declined.
"No. Bye." Basically.
Which wasn't him, at all.
It was a bit hurtful.
And left me feeling rejected.
Enough so that I remember it and how it made me feel.
Just HOW weird it was.
How totally unlike him.
Where at first I was noncommittal — asking him wasn't my idea — I had grown excited to talk to him again, only to have him quickly respond.
"I don't think that would be a good idea."
That's EXACTLY what he said.
But not something I dwelled on.
Anyway, calling Father Valentine was my mom's idea and not mine, to begin with.
And, in a way, his saying no was a good thing. It made me feel ashamed at the time — enough that I remember it and how I felt — but, as I hung up, I felt this odd sense of...
So, not having talked to, or even thought about, Fr. Valentine since the Summer of 1992, and — not at all concerned, but curious, and confused, REALLY confused — and wanting to understand what was being said, and what was going on, I turned on the TV and waited for the five o'clock news to come on.
And, after watching the report, I made what was easily — so CLEARLY — the biggest mistake of my life.
I went to my archdiocese to help.
And for help.
SPOTLIGHT & Me & Since
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 it happened.
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.
The movie SPOTLIGHT, which chronicled the work of the Boston Globe team that did so much to expose the Catholic sex abuse crisis, and the SPOTLIGHT team itself, did a superb job exposing and explaining what happened.
But what happened next?
After the publication of the first articles in early January 2002?
After the folks on the SPOTLIGHT team, and at the many other publications who followed their lead, effectively tossed a grenade into the middle of so many lives?
Yes, with the best of intentions.
While performing a supremely NECESSARY service.
But one that set off a chain of events that was incalculably disruptive.
And, for some, including me, I'm ashamed to say, debilitating.
Though, I at least survived.
Because, for some, it was lethal.
Can you imagine the confusion, consternation, and turmoil that resulted, for too many of us, from seeing, out of nowhere, our favorite priest — for some, our favorite PERSON — from our childhood named as an abuser?
The replacement for a too busy, distracted, himself traumatized, or otherwise absent father.
Implicated in something terrible.
Something you, at best, could only vaguely, and with supreme difficulty, remember.
At least, when it came to the worst stuff.
Like a dim star which, when looked at directly, with the heart of your naked eye, disappears.
Something that, sometimes, leaves NOTHING to be seen.
Seemingly at random.
And, when there ARE clear memories, they are often your most cherished ones. Memories that helped to make you who you were and are.
That established why you mattered.
And to whom.
Imagine all of that suddenly called into question.
No, the SPOTLIGHT articles weren't the original sin.
Their PUBLICATION wasn't abuse.
They were ESSENTIAL.
But what I'm not sure people understand is that, in too many cases, including my own, not only did the SPOTLIGHT, and the follow-on articles about the Catholic Church, call EVERYTHING into question, they TRIGGERED a process that was WORSE.
Worse than being raped as child and forced to run for your life.
The process of getting help from the Catholic Church.
Or trying to.
The KMOX report about Father Valentine, that I heard in the late afternoon of Tuesday, March 5, 2002, had been prompted by an article that ran in the New York Times just a couple days prior.
An article that was itself prompted by the original Boston Globe SPOTLIGHT investigations of the Archdiocese of Boston. Which led other papers to look at their own dioceses and archdioceses.
And, for some reason, the New York Times launched their coverage of the Catholic sex abuse crisis with a story from my own back yard.
A story entitled 2 Paths, No Easy Solution on Abusive Priests that ran on Sunday, March 3, 2002, and said, among other things, that Fr. Valentine had sexually abused three boys in 1982. That then prompted the local press to cover the story.
But, not being a regular reader of the New York Times, or even the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and knowing nothing about the SPOTLIGHT reports in Boston, this was all news to me.
As a result, everything I was learning in the late afternoon of Tuesday, March 5, 2002 came as a surprise.
Out of the blue.
It's hard to express how hearing it made me feel.
In large part, because I felt...
(Which, of course, is something, though I didn't know it at the time.)
Not mad or angry or scared or really anything.
There was mainly a lot of...
I was going to say "skepticism," but that's not quite right.
Rather, and as I think about it, the dominant emotion was probably confusion.
And some shock.
What in the world?
HOW in the world?
How could ANY of what they were saying be possible?
I mean, this was Fr. Valentine!
And he was a priest!
The coolest, kindest, most outgoing and friendliest and warmest priest in the world. A man who was NOT like the other priests. Where they were a bit cold, and always businesslike — distant — Fr. Valentine was always there with a hug for you whenever you saw him.
He was like an uncle to me.
But the super cool kind.
Or even an older cousin.
Yet part of me wondered...
Could it be true?
And, anyway, I wasn't having any problems so, even if it was true, it wasn't true for me.
But, given the significant amount of time I had spent with and around Fr. Valentine, including time alone with him, and knowing that I was one of his special guys, at the top of the hour I turned on the 5PM news.
KSDK reporter Ruth Ezell gave an overview of the story and summed up a press conference that one of the brothers who had been abused, and who was accusing Fr. Valentine of abuse, had held earlier that day. Then, after Ezell's report, the anchors asked anyone who might have any information to call Ezell at the station, the circuit attorney Jennifer Joyce, and the archdiocese.
I simply didn't know what to think.
It sounded IMPOSSIBLE.
But, given that Fr. Valentine and I had spent a LOT of time together when I was a kid, doing special stuff he didn't do with most of the other guys — because, he told me, they weren't nearly as mature and smart and trustworthy as me — I called all three numbers, offering to help.
To provide any information I could.
To be clear, I didn't know about ANYTHING bad.
But, if anybody knew anything about Fr. Valentine, it was me.
Not that I knew ANYTHING.
I mean, there was that one time in the car driving home from the Mud Cave, but...
I first left messages for the circuit attorney Jennifer Joyce and the archdiocese. I then talked to Ruth Ezell herself. After telling her what I remembered, which was almost exclusively positive, except for one at most odd and perhaps questionable memory, she asked me if I would speak on camera.
I don't remember what I said or why.
But, I mean, it was Fr. V, and he was a priest, and there was NO way, so...
And these were some of my most cherished memories...
Some of my BEST memories.
There was just NO way...
Simply put, there was no point in even considering it.
And, I mean, there WAS the Mud Cave trip which, as I think about the ride home in the car...
And Face To Face Confession and the hugs were kind of awkward...
They left me feeling...
But I again cut off the thought right then and there.
Because there was NO way.
It was IMPOSSIBLE.
There was no point in even CONSIDERING it.
And it's not that there was a root of plausibility or concern or anything. Instead, there was just...
The circuit attorney never called me back, but the next night, right after dinner, I received a call from the archdiocese.
It was my friend the cardinal.
And not the baseball kind.
And he remembered me!
He was a man I had known from my parish as a young priest, but he had since been promoted to auxiliary bishop.
And the buzz around the Catholic circles of St. Louis was that he was on his way to BIG things.
Bishop or archbishop.
Maybe even cardinal.
And maybe more?
Imagine if the first American Pope was from St. Louis. How awesome would that be?
He was calling because he had been asked by the archbishop to investigate the allegations against his friend and mine, Fr. Valentine.
He wanted to know what had happened, and had a note that I had called.
At the time, I thought it was a blessing that he was the one who called me back because I was comfortable with him because I knew him from back in the day and I knew that he knew the situation and all the players. He and Fr. Valentine had been at our parish together.
They overlapped for two years, living and working together.
Being younger, I didn't serve for him many times — he was a big deal even then, rating the premier mass times, and audiences, and the older servers, while younger guys like me served more for Fr. Valentine — but I had still gotten to know him over the years.
And he remembered me!
I don't remember exactly what I said, but it was something to the effect of...
"These things they're saying about Fr. Valentine, do you believe them? Are they true? COULD they be true?"
My friend the cardinal then asked me to tell him what I remembered and I proceeded to tell him about four sets of memories.
Face to Face Confession
The first set of memories involved confession, which we were required to go to at least every semester, if not every quarter. I wasn't a fan of the old school, Dark Scary Room style because, to me, it was exactly that. So I leapt at the chance to go to confession in one of the cry rooms. With Fr. Valentine, no less. Of course, Fr. V was EXTREMELY touchy and huggy, especially during confession. Sure his hugs went on for a LONG time, but my dad had decided hugging wasn't something men did, or should do. And it was better than the Dark Scary Room.
Risk & Pizza Party
The second set of memories involved a Risk and Pizza Party at the rectory that I've always remember as including RB, AM, TM, and me. It took place on a Saturday night in late Fall of fourth grade and I remember playing the board game Risk at the kitchen table in the rectory and laughing with the other guys, after eating pizza with the guys and Fr. Valentine. It was an exclusively positive memory — one of my favorite memories from childhood — but, in light of what was being said about Fr. Valentine, I couldn't help but wonder. And there was that fragmented memory of the TV room...
The third set of memories — which, as I write this, I blanked out on, and had trouble accessing for several minutes, which says something about its emotional weight — involved what I call and remember as Special Training; training sessions Fr. Valentine would hold for individual servers, in my case, at least, after the Summer, mid-week, 9AM Old People's Mass. In my case, this memory, like all of my questionable ones, took place right before the 4th of July. When my parents were out of town. After mass, it would be just Fr. V and me, in the back of the church, in the priests' side of the sacristy. He would teach me about how things worked back there and show me a few things — things he told me he probably shouldn't have, but that he knew I was mature enough to handle, and keep secret — including how to pray over and bless, and maybe even consecrate, the hosts that were to be used in the next day's mass.
Mud Cave Trip
The final set of memories involved a trip to a nearby Mud Cave that I assume was — that I've always remember as being — down I-44. Fr. Valentine took a couple of other guys, one of their dads, and me to caving right after Christmas in 7th grade. It's the trip this picture comes from.
While that memory was largely positive, it did involve the only thing that was even close to questionable. On the drive back, when Fr. V was driving and I was riding shotgun, and was napping, I suddenly woke up and turned and looked at Fr. Valentine. This wave of disgust passed over me. Revulsion. And fear. But it was so bizarre and so different than everything else I remembered about Father Valentine that I didn't know what to make of it.
Clean Bill of Health
And then, thank God, after I told him what I remembered, my friend the cardinal immediately gave me a clean bill of health.
He didn't even have to do any investigating or anything.
He just knew.
He told me that not only DID nothing happen, nothing COULD have happened.
It was simply impossible.
And, even better, he offered me a second opinion.
It turned out there was a woman, who was an independent psychologist, who he knew and who knew about this stuff and who they sometimes referred people to. He said he'd set up an appointment with her if I wanted to talk to her and run my memories past her.
I asked him to do so.
And, thank God, she also told me that my memories didn't mean anything.
That nothing happened.
She said, and I quote, that I was just "misinterpreting" Fr. Valentine's actions.
And his intentions.
So, with two clean bills of health, I just went on with my life, secure in the knowledge that nothing happened.
And then I got sick.
When faced with something big and potentially scary and disturbing, some people crawl into a bottle.
I crawl into a book.
Though there was a bottle nearby.
That's what I did in March 2002, despite talking to my friend the cardinal, and the psychologist he referred me to, and their both giving me a clean bill of health.
The book was Stephen J. Gould's opus "The Structure of Evolutionary Theory," which I purchased on March 18, 2002. I know the date, because I wrote the date on the inside cover.
And the bottle was there to help me sleep through the night. To keep from waking up in the middle of the night, sweating and confused.
How did the events of March, 2002, and my own personal SPOTLIGHT, leave me feeling?
At least as far as I could tell.
But, on the inside, but without my realizing it, I was disintegrating.
And that was terrifying.
Sure people were saying all these terrible things.
But about Fr. Valentine, so...
And my friend the cardinal and a psychologist who knew about these things had immediately — without even needing to do any investigating or digging into my memories — given me a clean bill of health.
But, even though I was perfectly fine, I IMMEDIATELY found it harder and harder to sleep through the night. And I had started drinking in order to try to be able to sleep.
One of the reasons why the revelations about Fr. Valentine didn't hit me harder was that I had had a baby just a few days prior in late February and, given the three other kids my wife and I already had, I was...
So I just put the Fr. Valentine stuff out of my mind.
The baby was born just a few weeks before Spring Break, so we weren't sure what we were going to do. To be able to do. Whether we were going to try to go somewhere or stay home. Disney was out of the question, but my parents had a condo in Florida and two empty rooms for us. So, given that the new baby was calm and quiet — she was and remains an anthropologist, trying to figure out the crazy, loud, dramatic family she was born into — we decided to drive to Florida and hang out at the pool and the beach for Spring Break.
Even though I had been given a clean bill of health, and had been assured by my friend the cardinal that nothing happened, I immediately started to show other signs of a problem.
More than just trouble sleeping.
I immediately became agitated.
I started yelling at the kids.
Not quite screaming.
In particular, I remember barking at my oldest, for some stupid reason, as we drove back home from that trip. Something that I recognized even at the time, immediately, in the instant — not just after, but of — doing it, as being totally inappropriate.
Out of proportion.
DEEPLY, regrettably shameful.
What the hell was happening to me?
Coming over me?
TAKING over me?
Behavior I feel an intense shame about to this day.
And I can easily recall, but prefer not to, another incident, in particular.
One that scared me.
And that torments me to this day.
Things that made me feel like I was going crazy.
Like I was losing control of myself.
I was CHANGING.
And I didn't know why.
Changes that, and as I only recently — as in the past few weeks — learned, my wife at the time noticed. And went to my mom with, for help.
Help trying to understand what was going on with me.
A story that, as I understand it, involves my now ex wife sitting on the sofa, holding the baby and crying, while my younger son cowered in the corner. Given the ages of my younger two, it had to have been in the Summer of 2002. Just a few months — maybe even just weeks — after I learned about the allegations against Fr. Valentine.
A scene that just devastates me.
Wracks me with guilt.
Smothers me in shame.
What was I doing to her, and to my kids, without even realizing, much less understanding, it?
It's all so horrible.
And which explains why, shortly afterwards, my parents started to press me to go to, and offered to help pay for, therapy.
I didn't see what they were talking, or were concerned, about, but others did.
The problem is that, even though I did go to therapy, because I had been given a clean bill of health by my friend the cardinal, and an independent therapist that he referred me to, it would be 10 years before I'd even begin to consider that any of it could be related to my experiences with Fr. Valentine. And another 10 years — to the moment I'm saying this — before I'd start to forgive myself.
REALIZE I need to forgive myself.
And to weep.
It's the title of this podcast.
And isn't just a word.
Instead, it's a fact.
The product of a revelation from exactly one year ago, today.
A REALIZATION about the Catholic sex abuse crisis and what happened to me and to us.
That it didn't just happen.
Rather, we were sacrificed.
I'll tell the story in full in a later episode, but the gist is that, one year ago, I was following up on, and trying to dig into, a story I had been told during the Summer of 2019.
A story, very much like my own, but which took place at my CURRENT parish, not my FORMER parish. The parish to which my abuser was sent after he left the parish I grew up in.
In trying to trace the service history of a bishop who had abused a man, whose family I knew, while just a parish priest, I stumbled across a document.
And a mistake.
A document that named the priests who had been accused of abuse and who had served at my current parish.
But, what was different — and critical — about this document was that it didn't just list names.
It also listed dates.
The names of abusive priests and the dates they were there.
Dates that my archdiocese has very deliberately avoided putting together with names. For reasons that, up to that moment, weren't entirely clear.
What they did when they removed my abuser is, in the bulletins of the parishes at which he had served, they put his complete service history. Where he had served, when, and in what role.
But that changed in 2019.
When it produced its list of abusers with substantiated allegations over the Summer of 2019, my archdiocese released far less detail; only the name, date of ordination, and current status of priests with credible allegations
I didn't understand why, at the time.
What was the big deal?
About releasing more information?
But, as soon as I came across the short list of names and dates that my parish had put together, I realized what was going on; why my archdiocese was so reluctant to put together names and dates.
And that my parish had made a HUGE mistake.
There was a logic to my archdiocese's refusal to put together names and service dates.
Because it helped conceal a pattern.
A virtual smoking gun.
That just leaps from the page.
It parallels a scene in the movie SPOTLIGHT in which the reporters go through yearbooks and, but only with effort, begin to see the pattern.
But, in this case, it takes no effort.
What you could see in the list is that abusive priests were being MANAGED. And that's a big deal because management requires KNOWLEDGE.
Management that, more importantly, matched up with something my dad once told me about my parish and our pastor.
That he was good at working with "troubled" priests.
Just how troubled, I was to learn over the next few years.
Only too well.
I'm sure there are many who can't or won't believe me and us.
I've been tweeted at by them.
But they don't change anything.
I know what my archdiocese has admitted about my abuser. And what they haven't done to help me.
The fact is that what people WANT to believe — how they WANT the world to be — is irrelevant.
All we have is the world as it IS.
And the world, as it is, is full of survivors like me whose stories began — or, well, resumed — with the publication of the original SPOTLIGHT articles in January 2002. Who read one of those articles — or, in my case, a follow-on article in the New York Times, just a few weeks later, that was prompted by the original SPOTLIGHT investigation — and then went to our dioceses and archdioceses TO help.
And FOR help.
Help understanding our memories and what they meant.
And what had happened.
If and how and why that might be relevant to what, for too many of us, were the difficulties we were having in our lives.
If not their slow collapse.
Stuff that was already happening before the release of the SPOTLIGHT articles. But that, in my case as in most, we didn't understand was related.
Psychological problems. Marital problems. Financial problems.
Addictions. Divorce. Bankruptcy.
Already present or on the horizon.
And, in response to our going to our dioceses and archdioceses for help, we were instead manipulated.
Taken advantage of.
Not just lied to, but Gaslighted.
Told that, not only DIDN'T it happen, but it COULDN'T have happened.
Said by people we trusted.
From back in the day.
The fact is that, when we went to the Catholic Church for help, starting with figuring out what our memories meant and what had happened, in my and too many others' cases, we experienced only further, and far worse, forms of abuse.
What I call the Abuse of the Abused.
Levels of callous, if not depraved, indifference that provoked in me, and left me preoccupied with, a number of fundamental questions.
Questions I go over and over again.
Things I'm sure you've seen suggestions of.
Looping and looping and looping and looping and...
Questions that possess me, even forty years later. Such that there's no way I'm going to be able to (just) move on without trying to answer them.
First, SPOTLIGHT told us WHAT happened. But HOW and WHY did it happen?
And what's changed?
I ask that, and think it's relevant, because of the gaps in the accounting that are all too obvious to me as a survivor.
The questions that are NOT being asked.
That CAN'T be asked.
About, for instance, my friend the cardinal.
Why was he asked — ALLOWED?!? — to investigate a case in which he was involved?
His own possible — and I know actual — misdeeds.
And then there's the fact that he's raised his profile, of late.
After years of laying low.
Now he's emboldened.
Because he knows he got away with it?
That even the New York Times won't investigate him?
As I know they won't.
And, then there's the Pope.
The fact that he hasn't kept the promises he made in Vos Estis Lux Mundi, his survivors' bill of rights.
And why won't people TALK about the Pope's failure to enforce Vos Estis?
Where are the one year later articles that people like to write?
Why are people enabling the Pope?
And, how can kids be safer when there's so much enabling going on? Still. By the press and the laity and even law enforcement.
Multiple state attorneys general.
And one now U.S. senator.
And the FBI.
And how can kids be safer when there's so little accountability? When guys like my friend the cardinal, who saw and turned a blind eye to my and our sexual exploitation, if not abuse, feel free to run for Pope.
And, most fundamentally, if the Catholic Church can justify and rationalize treating survivors the way it does — STILL — what does that say about the safety of children?
And, finally, what am I supposed to do with, and how am I supposed to process, a document that to me is a Smoking Gun? A document that says it didn't just happen.
That it wasn't just bad luck.
Rather, we were sacrificed.
Thrown to the wolves.
And that sacrifice has now happened to me and, I can only assume, to us, not just once, but twice.
First as children.
And then, again, as adults.
What am I supposed to do with that?
And, what am I supposed to do with the image on the cover of this podcast?
The incident it memorializes.
And the callous indifference and hypocrisy it revealed.
Is something real if it doesn't have a name? If there isn't a word to describe it?
That's a question that keeps running through my head.
And, when I think about possible words to describe, or analogues for, what happened to me and to us, the word "Holocaust" keeps coming to mind.
As in, the sex abuse crisis is the Catholic Holocaust.
I don't say that lightly, especially on this International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
I know it’s shocking to compare the extermination of six million Jews in death camps to anything, but how many millions of Catholics had our childhoods exterminated?
With equal callousness.
A fact that is still being covered up.
How many of us, exactly? Nobody knows. Well, maybe the church knows, but...
And that's precisely the problem.
For those of you who find that comparison offensive, I agree.
I'm not sure that's the right term.
Because it's not STRONG enough.
Calling what happened to me and to us the Catholic Holocaust, or saying it was A Catholic Holocaust, in some ways UNDERSTATES the problem.
First, if you're worried about counting bodies, understand that this isn't Jaws or Lethal Weapon; we're not comparing scars, trying to outdo each other. There's no prize for first place.
Bad is bad.
Second, and again, do you know how many guys are dead, in total? As a result? I don't. But I do know of three guys who are dead as a result of having been abused.
And how many others like them are out there?
And, when bodies — not to mention impacted, compromised, devastated, or even ruined lives — start piling up, the Holocaust can't help but come to mind.
The Jewish faith also has something to say about the matter of magnitudes.
Whoever saves one life
And vice versa.
As for why and how the Catholic Holocaust could be WORSE than the Jewish Holocaust, my argument starts with one fact.
We did it to ourselves.
When it comes to the Catholic sex abuse crisis, while the abuse of the abused is being ENABLED by outside entities, the actions are being DONE by Catholics to Catholics.
Which brings up Nuremberg.
And the process of De-Nazification.
To its credit, though of course it was aided by the U.S. and the other Allies, post-war Germany went through a process in which the worst of the Nazis were identified and, at least, tried and imprisoned.
And many were executed.
But where's the equivalent of Nuremberg and the process of De-Nazification — or South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission — for the Catholic Church?
And the sex abuse crisis?
And don't give me the February 2019 sex abuse summit in the Vatican. I know all too well, from personal experience, that the product of the summit — Pope Francis' survivors' bill of rights, Vos Estis Lux Mundi — is a sham.
A cruel taunt directed at survivors.
Which is a story for another episode.
The fact is that the Catholic sex abuse crisis was a horror of huge, but still largely unknown magnitude.
And, if you repel at the comparison, the label of the "Catholic Holocaust," then I'd suggest you examine what you're feeling.
Is it righteous indignation?
As someone who has a PhD in shame, I know how powerful and dysfunctional shame can be.
How it can inhibit change.
But change is exactly what's needed in the Catholic Church.
If the Catholic Church is to continue on its mission of ever more perfectly living out the mandate given it by Jesus Christ.
Just now, I'm hit with the news that Marty Baron of the Washington Post who, while with the Boston Globe, directed the SPOTLIGHT team to look at the Archdiocese of Boston, is retiring.
As I've said, that was a noble cause.
A necessary effort.
However, I'm troubled by some of the reaction I'm seeing.
In particular, this comment by Fr. Thomas P. Doyle — who for years pressured the leaders of the Catholic Church to do the right thing — to Marty Baron rubs me raw.
This nightmare would have gone on and on were it not for you [Marty Baron] and the Globe staff.
Here's the problem.
The POINT of this podcast.
It's still VERY much going on, for survivors, at least.
While "this nightmare" might be over for the Catholic Church, it's ANYTHING but over for survivors. Despite the wishes, and efforts, of Fr. Tom Doyle.
There's the Abuse of the Abused; the treatment of survivors who press their dioceses and archdioceses for help.
The lies and the Smear Campaigns.
Which, I can only assume, I and we are subject to because our allegations threaten the reputation of certain powerful and connected men.
Men like my friend, the cardinal.
So how exactly have things changed?
How is "this nightmare" a thing of the past?
And why should the IMPLICATION that "this nightmare" is in the past reassure anyone?
What about survivors?
And, to that point, and worse yet, Vos Estis Lux Mundi, which was and still is being sold as a bill of rights for survivors, is a sham.
I know because I've tried to appeal my treatment by, and blow the whistle on, my archdiocese — for the Abuse of Abused, including a Smear Campaign, and worse — to the Vatican and the Pope using Vos Estis.
And I've heard nothing in response.
So tell me again how "this nightmare" is a thing of the past?
And why I should regard characterizations of "this nightmare" as being in the past as anything but the same toxic, church-centric, survivor ignoring, fundamentally un-Christian narcissism that got us to this point?
And brings Fr. Tom Doyle and Marty Baron's phrase "this nightmare" to life.
And into the present.
As in today.
And, I hope, drives home the plight of, and the reality for, survivors of the Catholic sex abuse crisis.
Despite all the talk.
Which is just that.
And a couple last things.
First, the music is an original composition by me. Something I came up with during my first Christmas back from college, 1986, when I was sensing, and trying to put into music — because I wasn't CLOSE to being able to put into words — how it felt to be back into St. Louis. After having escaped. From something.
As for what the big deal is about abuse and surviving and everything?
Here's an illustration.
It's Christmas Eve, 2020, as I write this, and I haven't talked to three of my kids since last Christmas.
Christmas of 2019.
I don't know why.
I don't know why they're shunning me. Just as EVERY member of my parish is shunning me.
It doesn't help that the Archdiocese of St. Louis has told everyone I'm lying. And worse. I assume in an effort to try to protect my friend the cardinal.
I also suspect my kids are mad at, or disappointed with, me for having gotten sick. For letting it affect to me.
Well, I don't know what to say.
I got sick.
It affected me.
Because I'm human.
Both my original abuse and now the abuse of the abused.
And the shunning.
All I CAN say is that this podcast is my attempt at fighting back.
And, by blowing the whistle, I hope to end it, once and for all.
Because, while the Catholic Church says it's so pro-family, abuse has consequences.
It destroys families.
As it's destroyed mine.
Then there's the Catholic Church's refusal to help survivors. And the lies told to convince people otherwise.
And the Abuse the Abused, which is so obviously of Satan.
It's all wrong, and needs to be called out.
All I can do is model for my kids what I believe Christ's true message is and purpose was and hope it inspires them — and you — to fight for what's right.
If Jesus Christ can do what He did, then you and I and we can do this.