|ChrisOLeary.com > Sacrificed > This Nightmare|
Three years ago, on December 20, 2017, Cardinal Bernard Law, one of the central figures of the movie SPOTLIGHT, and the Catholic sex abuse crisis in the United States, died, setting off a chain of events that would put me, a survivor of the Catholic sex abuse crisis, out in front of the Cathedral Basilica at the Mass of Reparation for the Catholic sex abuse crisis, nine months later, on September 7, 2018.
Where I was ignored.
By all the priests in attendance.
The STUNNING indifference...
A show? Of loyalty?
And what else?
A willingness to (just) follow orders?
The priests were standing maybe 30 feet from me. And refused to look at me. Or even acknowledge my existence.
Much less my plight.
It was as bizarre and horrible and surreal as you might imagine.
The word "callous," brought to life.
And all the more disturbing because it was strangely, but indefinably familiar.
The pointed ignoring.
The SHOW of ignoring.
But, as with my original abuse, I survived it.
This time, with a photo that documents it.
CREDIT: Robert Cohen | St. Louis Post-Dispatch
That proves it happened.
And serves as the cover art for this podcast.
Bringing to life and, I hope, driving home, the first part of the problem; the treatment of far too many survivors of the Catholic sex abuse crisis.
What I call the abuse of the abused.
And the Pennsylvania grand jury report.
And VOS ESTIS.
New and different forms of abuse that, in many ways, are far worse than what those sick priests did to us.
Because it's so obviously and cynically — so diabolically — calculated.
And thus calls into question the sincerity and applicability of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Dallas Charter, the Assistance Coordinator promise, Protecting God's Children, and Vos Estis, the Pope's bill of rights for survivors.
All the talk.
And, in truth, empty promises.
Abided by countless acts of enabling under the guise of loyalty; a pernicious refusal to question the reality of things.
Starting with the priests of my archdiocese ignoring, and failing to give a second thought to, a man standing out in front of a church, holding two pictures.
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.
It's September 2018 and I'm standing out in front of the Cathedral Basilica. The New Cathedral. In the moments before the Mass of Reparation.
Just standing there.
And I'm completely alone.
CREDIT: Robert Cohen | St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Now the line is starting to move.
The next morning I open my computer and go to the paper's web site to see what they have to say about the mass. I immediately realize what the photographer was doing.
What was the big deal about the death of Cardinal Law?
How and why did it affect me so much, driving me to the steps of the Cathedral Basilica on that day in September 2018?
In the press release discussing Cardinal Law's death, released three years ago, and 40 years after one of my first incidents of abuse — and ignoring — the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said something, up front, in a place of prominence, that triggered the HELL out me.
"If you have been abused, or know of someone who has been abused, contact the local diocesan victims assistance coordinator..."
How is such a statement not a singularly good thing?
An example of how the Catholic Church is doing the right thing?
Because it's a lie.
And symptomatic of too much of the Catholic Church's response to survivors, the sex abuse crisis, and SPOTLIGHT, both the revelations and the movie.
As I discuss in detail in Assistance Coordinators and Other Lies, the first coherent writing I ever managed to do about my experience as a survivor, from 2011 to 2015 at least, and from 2002 to 2015 in truth — and since — I've tried to get help from the Catholic Church. In that time, I was never contacted by, put in touch with, or even told of the existence of — much less helped by — a Victims Assistance Coordinator.
I've received NOTHING in terms of help from my archdiocese.
Despite VOS ESTIS.
They refuse to honor the USCCB's Victim Assistance Coordinator promise.
When I tried to alert the USCCB to that fact, and tried to blow the whistle on my archdiocese — to let them know that my archdiocese wasn't honoring their promise — my archdiocese began a campaign of intimidation that would include making false allegations to local law enforcement and the FBI.
And was escalated into a public Smear Campaign.
All of which has made me wonder if it was done in order to protect someone.
My friend, the cardinal?
A suspicion that was strengthened when, in 2019, I met with, and told, my archbishop all of this. He did, and has done, nothing in response.
I've also told the Pope all this, given that he's the only person who can require that my archbishop do something.
I've written the Pope nine times — NINE TIMES — about the refusal of my archdiocese of abide by the promises the Pope made to survivors and the laity in Vos Estis Lux Mundi, his survivors bill of rights. Including via a letter hand-delivered by one of his top advisors.
And I've heard nothing in response.
So now I'm here, talking to you.
Trying to blow the whistle on my archdiocese.
And the Catholic Church.
And, if you have trouble believing what I say, I'd refer you to my treatment at the Mass of Reparation.
And the cover art of this podcast.
What about survivors?
If you follow me on Twitter, you'll see me tweet that weekly, at least.
I do so because it feels — because it's the reality — that survivors are, too often, forgotten. By the Catholic Church and its priests. And supporters. And enablers.
Just last week, and as I mentioned, in passing, in the previous episode, the news of the retirement of Marty Baron of the Washington Post, the man who, while with the Boston Globe, directed the SPOTLIGHT team to look at the Archdiocese of Boston, I saw something that again begs the question.
What about survivors?
The trigger was a comment by Fr. Tom Doyle — a priest who has long pressured the Catholic Church to take the sex abuse crisis seriously — to Marty Baron...
This nightmare would have gone on and on were it not for you [Marty Baron] and the Globe staff.
Here's the problem.
"This nightmare WOULD HAVE gone on and on?"
I'm sorry, but how is my treatment at the Mass of Reparation in 2018, and the sham that is the USCCB'S promise of victims assistance coordinators, not evidence that "This nightmare" is ANYTHING BUT a thing of the past?
I don't know much about Fr. Thomas P. Doyle, but what I see is an all too common narcissistic, church-centric, and clericalist view that thinks only of the church.
And ignores survivors.
This nightmare would have gone on and on were it not for you...
...are the words of someone whose only concern is the Catholic Church.
And not survivors.
I guess I should give Fr. Doyle the benefit of the doubt and assume he doesn't know about the Abuse of the Abused. What is being done to us — to survivors — still, despite all the talk. Despite the Dallas Charter, the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, and Vos Estis Lux Mundi, Pope Francis' bill of rights for survivors.
Just as I will give you the benefit of the doubt.
Up until the moment you listened to this episode, you didn't know.
But now you do.
Now you're aware of the reality of things.
The plight of survivors.
The persistance, for survivors at least, of "this nightmare."
If your deep, abiding faith in Jesus Christ doesn't affect how you treat people, I fear you've missed the point.
As my archdiocese, at least, has.
Why the disconnect? Between statements and actions?
And that Jesus guy?
And what does the treatment of survivors by my archdiocese say about the risks facing children?
Despite the Dallas Charter, the USCCB's promise of Assistance Coordinators, Protecting God's Children, and Vos Estis, the Pope's bill of rights for survivors?
Those are the questions that, quite literally, keep me up at night.
I'd suggest a clue to the answer can be found in what my archdiocese has to say about the concept of Reparation and how they interpret it in their actions and, in particular, their treatment of survivors...
In the Catholic tradition, to make Reparation means to offer to God an act of compensation, or making of amends, for one’s own sins or the sins of others against Christ.
That's the key phrase.
And helps to explain the problem.
My treatment at the Mass of Reparation. And before. And since.
The reason the priests and my archbishop ignored me at the Mass of Reparation — why they made it clear they weren't INTERESTED in me — was, at best, because they weren't THERE for me.
Or any survivor.
I was irrelevant.
As their callous indifference made all too clear.
Rather, they were there for God.
Because God matters.
And priests matter.
And survivors don't.
Actions speak louder than words.
And, if survivors don't matter — if the Catholic Church has no problem doing what it did and has done to me — then why should things be any different for any layperson?
Or any CHILD?
Notwithstanding all the talk.
That's THE question.
If my archdiocese can TREAT me as they have, first as an innocent child and now as an adult and a survivor, ignoring my suffering both then and now, how has anything changed?
And why won't they do the same to other laypeople?
Why should ANYONE believe things have changed?
You'd be a fool to believe anything has.
If the priests and archbishop of my archdiocese can IGNORE me as they did, at the Mass of Reparation, and before, when I was a child, then why won't they do the same to any layperson?
And how is what happened at the Mass of Reparation fundamentally different from what my friend the cardinal did to me and to us back in the day? How he ignored our abuse as children. And then ignored our suffering and plight and need as adults.
Ignoring is ignoring.
Indifference is indifference.
And REMAINS a clear problem.
Despite the Dallas Charter, the USCCB's promise of Assistance Coordinators, Protecting God's Children, and Vos Estis, the Pope's bill of rights for survivors.
As my treatment at the Mass of Reparation, and the cover art for this podcast, and the underlying photograph, make clear.
At the risk of repeating myself — or, more accurately, as the price of being a survivor — because the 11 year-old me, the part of me who is stuck, suspended in time, back there, isn't satisfied, I must ask again...
How is the priests and my archbishop ignoring me as a survivor, on the steps before the Mass of Reparation in 2018, any different than my friend the cardinal ignoring my and our abuse as children in 1977?
What's the DIFFERENCE between the indifference of my friend the cardinal when faced with my abuse as a child — and then DOING worse to me as an adult — and the indifference of the priests and my archbishop at the Mass of Reparation?
I can see none.
And I can't let it go.
Which, I now understand, is why my treatment at the Mass of Reparation was so devastating.
Does the Catholic Church think it exists in a world that transcends the material; that makes what happens in the material world irrelevant?
Meaning they can't be concerned with the problems of the world. Which are fleeting in the scheme of things, anyway?
Leaving survivors to be sexually exploited, abused, and assaulted — raped — as children.
And ignored, and worse, as adults.
As at the Mass of Reparation.
And another, more recent, and just as stunning and horrible, event.
Until that underlying attitude changes — that God and the spiritual world matters and the material world and people don't — nothing will change.
Especially for children.
Despite all the talk.
And knowing how little survivors, laypeople, and children matter to the Catholic Church — still, despite everything — is why moving on, for me at least, is far easier said than done.
Maybe I'm just being singled out?
Because of the involvement of my friend, the cardinal?
But, it doesn't make things any better.
Because that means Zero Tolerance is out the window; Zero Tolerance only applies as long as some set of secret conditions aren't met.
As long as some special, powerful person isn't involved, perhaps?
I don't know.
But the prospect of that should terrify any Catholic or parent or human being, regardless.
All you can do is hope that, should your child be abused, it isn't by, or even just around, some powerful, connected person. Because, in that case, they can't be helped.
So how exactly have things changed?
And, if you'll acknowledge that this WAS a problem but would have us believe it no longer is — that Vos Estis Lux Mundi, the Pope's bill of rights for survivors, fixed the problem — I'll point you to a few facts.
First, Vos Estis is being applied by the same bishops it is supposed to hold accountable. Second, Vos Estis has an expiration date.
Third, and most importantly, and again, I've written the Vatican and the Pope over and over again to let them know that my archdiocese refuses to honor the promises made to survivors in Vos Estis.
And I've been promised, by one of the Pope's senior advisors, that one of my letters was hand-delivered to, and placed on the desk of the Pope, cutting out anyone who might want to intercept, and hide from the Pope, such a message.
And, in a year and a half, I've heard NOTHING in response.
Despite SPOTLIGHT — both the articles and the movie — and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' promise of Victim Assistance Coordinators and the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report and Vos Estis, Pope Francis' bill of rights for survivors, nothing has changed for me.
And, I know, for many others.
I hope you see that as a problem.
Because, if the Catholic Church can do what it's done to me — the priests and archbishop of my archdiocese ignoring me as a survivor at the Mass of Reparation in 2018 just as my friend the cardinal ignored my abuse as a child, starting in 1977 — then what has changed?
And what else can they do?
What else can they rationalize and justify doing?
To innocent children, most of all?
That's the big question that lies at the heart of this podcast.
The one I must answer.
And, no, I don't have faith that the Catholic or secular press, or law enforcement — including my attorneys general and the FBI — can or will do what's necessary.
They're too scared of telling Catholics what they don't want to hear or my friend the cardinal and his fellow cardinals and bishops. You can see this in their coverage, which is full of questions that can't be asked, threads that can't be pulled, stories and lines of thought and questioning that die out prematurely, pulled punches, and other subtle omissions that are all too obvious to a survivor.
And then there's the flat out enabling.
The phony investigations of my archdiocese by law enforcement; refusals to investigate clear violations of the Mann Act by the FBI, for instance.
Yes, this preoccupies me.
Because I'll be damned if I allow what happened to me to happen to anyone else.
So here's the plan.
I have a HELL of a story to tell.
One people, both Catholics and others, need to know about because of all the lies and Gaslighting and enabling that's going on. And what has been, and is being done, both to me and others.
Despite SPOTLIGHT, the USCCB, and Vos Estis, the Pope's bill of rights for survivors, and everything.
I don't believe the Pope is an evil man. But he is a man. Just a man. And it's obvious to me that he's in a battle with Satan. And too many people either refuse to see or acknowledge this battle.
Instead, they are enabling the Pope.
Because they don't WANT it to be true.
But I refuse to do that.
Because that WANT is destroying survivors.
And our families.
And putting children at risk.
So, in this podcast, I'm going to tell my story in all of its EXCRUCIATING detail.
While pulling no punches; with no holds barred.
And, certainly, no enabling.
That's what it's going to take for things to get better.
And I'm going to ask and try to answer some very basic, and very important, questions about what happened and why and how.
Starting with how and why we were sacrificed and how my friend the cardinal could know — could SEE — it happening and not to do anything about it.
And benefit from that inaction.
And bring you along with me when I do.
So, who's on my list of who to ask questions?
My archdiocese. And my friend the cardinal. And the local press and politicians, who are covering things up for them.
And maybe the Pope.
It's not a perfect model, but Michael Moore's movie "Roger & Me" is one that keeps going around in my head. It's an example of a guy, with a story to tell, and a set of questions to ask, who was relentless. Who wouldn't stop until he was satisfied.
So, the elevator pitch for this podcast could be "SPOTLIGHT" meets "Roger & Me."
As long as it remains socially unacceptable for priests of the Catholic Church to talk to, listen to, and show support for, survivors, then children remain at risk.
And it is — remains — socially unacceptable for priests and seminarians to do so.
As my experience at the Mass of Reparation — and elsewhere, and more recently — makes clear.
I'm active on Twitter via my handle @ivandoesnot, trying to alert Catholics, and priests, to the plight of survivors.
To our treatment by our dioceses and archdioceses.
Despite the Dallas Charter, Protecting God's Children, the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, the Vatican sex abuse summit, and Vos Estis Lux Mundi, the Pope's bill of rights for survivors.
The most stunning part of the three years I've spent advocating for survivors on Twitter is the complete and utter indifference — and worse — I've faced at the hands of Catholic priests.
I don't know exactly what's going on, but I assume a lot of it is shame. Priests signed up to be part of this great, Christ-focused and driven organization and, instead, they've found themselves part of a group that refuses to do anything beyond the bare minimum.
That can't be fun.
But what I don't understand is the priests, starting with Father James Martin, and countless diocesan priests, who couldn't seem to care less about the plight of survivors.
Who, when I try to make them aware of my plight, and the plight of unknown numbers of other survivors, their only response is to repeat that they don't know anything about my situation.
And then mute me.
When they don't block me.
They refuse to educate themselves.
Because they've been told not to?
And what else?
Under whose authority? Following whose example?
Certainly not the authority and example of Jesus Christ.
Which begs the question of why priests are swearing oaths to, and following the orders, of men who so obviously aren't following the example of Jesus Christ.
That's what my dad used to tell me when in 8th grade, after my abuser left, and I finally started to experience some success as a result of that burden being lifted and would start to get a little too full of myself.
So let me take a step back and make something clear.
My name is Chris O'Leary and I'm a survivor of the Catholic sex abuse crisis. I was sexually exploited, abused, and assaulted — raped — by a priest in grade school. And then sexually exploited, and worse, at my Jesuit high school.
And I need help.
And my family needs help.
And my archdiocese won't do ANYTHING to help me.
The callous indifference of the Mass of Reparation was just a hint of what was to come.
My archdiocese continues the Abuse of the Abused; to subject me to a Smear Campaign, publicly accusing me of lying to them and the laity while refusing to acknowledge that it happened, publicly at least. And has falsely accused me of having made Terrorist Threats, an unconscionable thing to do to someone who is living with Complex-PTSD.
Despite Vos Estis Lux Mundi, the Pope's survivors bill of rights.
And despite my pleas to the Pope, one of which was hand-delivered to him.
And I know, for a fact, that I'm not the only one — not the only survivor — who's being put through this.
LITERALLY every time I try to (just) move on, someone calls me. Or texts me. Or DMs me.
And tells me a story.
Or the story of a friend. Or their husband. Or a sibling.
And I know that, if I speak up and out and advocate and fight for myself, I might be able to ensure that they get help, too.
And, good Lord, if the Catholic Church can rationalize and justify doing what it's doing to me as a survivor — the callous indifference of the Mass of Reparation, and before and since — after first sacrificing me and us as children, what else is possible?
When it comes to children, especially.
And, when I say we were sacrificed, I mean exactly that.
It didn't just happen.
It wasn't just bad luck.
Something nobody could have seen coming.
Rather, we were thrown to the wolves.
And I have proof.
Of the existence of a program to MANAGE — and maybe even PROTECT — rather than EXPEL, abusers in my archdiocese.
And what does all of that mean for the safety of children in today's Catholic Church?
As a father and a man and a human being, I find it simply intolerable that the Catholic Church would continue to put kids at risk in order to try to protect men like my friend the cardinal and the reputation of the church.
But that's what's happening.
So, no, I'm no hero.
I'd rather just think about innovation or baseball or ANYTHING but the Catholic sex abuse crisis.
But this is a job that needs doing.
A mystery that needs to be investigated.
People who, and misdeeds that, need to be exposed.
A callous indifference that needs to be revealed and reversed.
And I know that if Jesus Christ can do what He did — enter Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to a certain and KNOWN fate — then I can do this.
What I endured as a child, from 1977 to 1981.
And the fallout, and worse, in high school from 1982 to 1986. What it was like to try to overcome what I'd endured in grade school. Only to go from the frying pan into the fire.
And those few years when, without understanding what was going on, during which I managed to escape it.
Then a deeper look at the post-SPOTLIGHT years of 2002 through 2005.
And 2006 and 2007, when I so obviously, but without realizing it at the time, got sick.
And lost everything.
If you'd like to — or would rather — read what I have to say, go to chrisoleary dot com slash sacrificed. Those pieces also include photographs that document what happened to me and that, I hope, help to prove my words and story.