|ChrisOLeary.com > Sacrificed > The Smoking Gun|
I haven't watched the movie A Few Good Men in its entirety in quite a while, but it's one of those movies, like Notting Hill — just a girl, standing in front of a boy, mad dash, and all that which, by TOTAL coincidence, just came on as I'm writing this, and that I'm watching right now — such that, if you come across A Few Good Men, particularly when Colonel Jessep is on the stand, how do you NOT watch?
So, when A Few Good Men came on a few weeks ago, and I saw Jack Nicholson, who plays Colonel Jessep, on the stand, I HAD to watch.
At the center of A Few Good Men is a riddle that Tom Cruise's character, Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee, has to solve.
In real time, or nearly so.
During the course of a trial and, at times, in the courtroom.
Kaffee does so by identifying, and then digging into, a logical problem with Colonel Jessep's story.
Why the two orders?
Not just why the TWO orders, but why the SECOND order?
As a reminder, and according to Colonel Jessep, the FIRST order said that Private Santiago was not to be touched. The SECOND order transferred Santiago off the base.
As you may know, the scene before Colonel Jessep's soliloquy, and the final confrontation and admission, goes...
Kaffee: Colonel, I have just one more question before I call Airman O'Malley and Airman Rodriguez. If you gave an order that Santiago wasn't to be touched, and your orders are always followed, then why would Santiago be in danger? Why would it be necessary to transfer him off the base?
And off we go...
Jessep: You want answers?
But back to, "Why the two orders?"
For whatever reason, that scene, exchange, and question came to me when I was thinking about the Catholic Church and the sex abuse crisis.
And it struck me.
Why the two orders?
Specifically, why the SECOND order?
For the Catholic sex abuse crisis, as A Few Good Men.
Why didn't the Catholic Church act to address the problem of abusers in its midst?
That's the big question.
Why didn't it DO anything?
To PROTECT us?
I've already hinted at the contradiction posed by, on the one hand, the belief in the idea of the Ontological Change — the idea that church believed that ordination changed me, making the sex abuse crisis impossible — and, on the other hand, the existence of The Program, which managed abusers in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
And God knows what else.
But there's a second contradiction.
Another thing we've been told about the Catholic sex abuse crisis — another narrative that has been, and is still being, pushed — is that, it was the fault of the psychologists who ran the treatment facilities for "troubled" priests with "problems." IF ONLY they had done their jobs, and FIXED the troubled priests they had been given, or had told the bishops they COULDN'T be fixed, then the crisis could have been averted.
But here's what I don't get.
Why The Program?
The Program, which had abusers going into and out of Mary Queen of Peace, back to back to back. Which seemed to have been put in place to MANAGE abusers.
Which EVIDENCED knowledge of the existence and crimes of those abusers. Going back to the 1970s. In the Archdiocese of St. Louis, at least. And which is revealed by the Smoking Gun.
Why The Program, if the hierarchy of the Catholic Church believed in the Ontological Change?
Why The Program, if the hierarchy of the Catholic Church thought therapy worked?
Rather, the existence of The Program suggests that, by the 1970s, at least, the Archdiocese of St. Louis did NOT believe in the idea of the Ontological Change and did NOT believe abusers could be treated.
Maybe they did earlier, in the 1950s and/or the 1960s.
But not by the 1970s.
Which is when and why they put The Program in place.
Back to A Few Good Men.
If Private Santiago was safe, because an order had been issued stating that he was not to be touched, and orders are always followed, then there was no need to transfer him off the base.
Similarly, in the case of the Catholic sex abuse crisis, in St. Louis at least, if the Archdiocese believed that priests posed no threat to children, either or both because of the Ontological Change and/or the efficacy of the Treatment Programs, then why the NEED for The Program?
The Program which was an implicit recognition of a perceived threat.
Which is why only one abuser priest at a time was allowed at MQP.
And, the big question is, a threat to whom?
Or the CHURCH?
Did they EVER care about children?
And, holy crap, why IMMEDIATELY put my abuser, Fr. LeRoy Valentine, INTO The Program? Why send him to both Immacolata and MQP, two of the parishes IN The Program?
BEFORE he had — supposedly, per the narrative — done anything.
Unless Valentine had ALREADY done something in either the minor or major seminaries; the high school and college-level seminaries the Archdiocese of St. Louis ran at the time, in the 1970s.
And, if so, what if the purpose of The Program wasn't to help keep KIDS safe, by placing known abusers with experienced pastors who could counsel and manage them? As I originally thought. And hoped. Rather, what if the purpose of The Program was to keep the ABUSERS safe?
To protect the ABUSERS.
And the CHURCH.
By placing known abusers with powerful, experienced pastors, perhaps located in certain favorable municipalities, who could smooth things over with the municipal authorities, should one of their charges get in trouble.
Exactly as happened at the beginning of the movie SPOTLIGHT.
THAT would be a big enough threat to my friend the cardinal, the Archdiocese of St. Louis, and the Catholic Church, to necessitate the waging of a Smear Campaign against me and the rest of the Abuse of the Abused.
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, providing 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.
Epitomized by my treatment at the Mass of Reparation for the sex abuse crisis, in September 2018, held mere weeks after the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, where I was ignored — shunned — by all the priests in attendance.
As captured by the picture that serves as the cover art for this podcast.
Why would my archdiocese and the Catholic Church do that?
HOW could they do that?
Treat a survivor in a way that might be Catholic, but is anything but Christian? And gives the lie to the promises of the Pope and the rest of the church?
In order to protect certain powerful, connected men.
And the church.
To conceal a crime.
And larger truth.
That some survivors — including myself — were simply thrown to the wolves.
The Catholic Church knew.
And did nothing.
Not only did they MANAGE my and our abusers, they PROTECTED them.
As for VOS ESTIS LUX MUNDI, Pope Francis' bill of rights for survivors, which was supposed to — finally — end the torment and ensure we're helped?
It's a sham.
A false hope.
A cruel taunt, directed at survivors.
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 us, first as children and then as adults — 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 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.
Because this is so important, let's recap what I've said so far.
What the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the Catholic Church have to hide.
And why they would feel the need to treat me as a threat. And, worse, like I don't exist.
First, and as I discuss at length in the previous episode, The Smoking Gun, my discovery of a document that I regard as proof of the existence of a program to manage, and only God knows what else, abusive priests, was prompted, in part, by my learning that there's a bishop, a member of the USCCB in good standing, who abused while he was a diocesan priest.
Who, I've been told, is paying off his victim.
That previously unimaginable level of depravity — INSIDE the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — convinced me that things might be FAR worse, and far more ORGANIZED, than I thought. And, when I dove back into the evidence, and looked into the service record of my abuser, Father LeRoy Valentine, I found it.
The Smoking Gun.
What's more, while looking into this, I was told of a SECOND now Catholic bishop who at least brought kids up to his room in the rectory. An activity which, in my case at least, was part of a process of Testing and Grooming. And, again in my case, sexual exploitation and abuse of a child that was witnessed by my friend the cardinal.
Second, when I was a kid, my dad told me that the pastor of Immacolata, Monsignor Cornelius Flavin, was good at working with "troubled" priests who had "problems." Which I had always assumed meant counseling and helping, but now...
Did that mean they were MANAGING abusers?
Or, God forbid, PROTECTING them?
Third, when I talked to my lawyers, THEY told me that a large number of abusers had gone THROUGH Immacolata.
That, combined with what my dad had told me, suggested that there was something special about Immacolata, our pastor, or both; that Immacolata played a special role in the Catholic sex abuse crisis in St. Louis.
Then, in late January 2020 I found the Smoking Gun, a document that made it clear that the same kind of thing had happened at ANOTHER parish, Mary Queen of Peace. And, coincidentally, or not, it happened in the heart of the years in which the Catholic sex abuse crisis was raging in the United States. In the mid to late 1970s and early 1980s. That suggested that at least TWO parishes were part of this effort or program related to the management of sexual abusers of children, turning the effort into a PROGRAM.
And, I should mention, it's relevant that I found this document on the web site of my parish, Mary Queen of Peace. Or, well, my former parish, given that everybody at MQP is shunning me. But, regardless of what I call it, the parish that is just a few hundred yards over my right shoulder, as I write this. The school all four of my kids attended, exposing them to what?
And to WHO?
It's hard for me to express how it makes me feel to know I moved from Immacolata, where I went to school and was abused, to MQP, where my abuser was sent, and on whose web site I discovered evidence for The Program.
Am I cursed?
As in the case of the movie SPOTLIGHT, when the reporter found an abuser in his neighborhood, it may be theoretical for you, but it's all VERY immediate for me.
And very motivating.
Especially since every day, on my morning walk, I pass by MQP.
The document I found was so devastating because it makes it clear that child sexual abusers, in the mid to late 1970s and early 1980s, were being MANAGED.
And management implies, because it requires, KNOWLEDGE.
And did nothing.
Nothing to protect KIDS.
Instead, they protected the CHURCH.
While the narrative the Catholic Church has pushed is that the reason they didn't do anything to remove abusers sooner was both/or because they didn't believe it was possible and because of bad advice they got from therapists, the Archdiocese of St. Louis, at least, had in place and up and running, by the mid to late 1970s, a program — THE Program — to counsel, manage, and only God knows what else abusers.
And it gets worse.
On July 20, 2018, director James Gunn, who helmed the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, among others, was fired for a number of tweets he had made, years ago.
That included a tweet from April 5, 2009, in which Gunn wrote...
I like it when little boys touch me in my silly place. Shhh!
Who the HELL jokes about pedophilia?
Knowing what I knew about St. Louis, the sex abuse crisis, and James Gunn — we went to the same high school and one of his brothers was a classmate of mine — I immediately suspected I might know the answer.
Who jokes about pedophilia?
Of one form or another.
Someone who may not have been abused themselves, but who was exposed to those who were.
And who, as a result — as a defense mechanism — might not know better than to joke about pedophilia.
Which, I know, sounds strange but, if you're a kid when something happens, you don't necessarily know better. And what you learn as a kid can stick with you, as a defense mechanism, at least, later on into life.
As it has with me.
Something can't hurt you — not as much, at least — if you can joke about it.
Of so the thinking goes.
At least in the world of boys and men.
I contacted someone in Hollywood I know who, like James Gunn and I, went to the same Jesuit high school in St. Louis.
St. Louis University High school.
The high school where I was at least sexually exploited in the locker room freshman — and, now that I think about it, also sophomore — year.
I hadn't connected the stories I was hearing, at my class's informal, semi-annual reunion lunches, about the SLUH locker room to my own abuse by the Summer of 2018, but I knew what other people were saying — and joking about, but oddly, awkwardly — so I sent a message to this contact, wondering if Gunn had learned to joke about sexual abuse as a result of his time at SLUH.
Do you know James Gunn? He was a year ahead of me and I'm trying to figure out what happened to certain classmates '86 who people suspect were abused. I wonder if similar stuff was going on with Gunn's class '85. Don't know if there were any suspect guys left when you were there.
Who the hell jokes about pedophilia? How about someone who was exposed to it?
At their Catholic high school.
And — holy crap, what if — at their Catholic grade school?
What if James Gunn was a survivor of some form?
And what the hell does this have to do with anything? Other than being a Six Degrees of Separation story?
It turned out that, as James Gunn told his story, about what happened and why, over the next year or so, and explained why and how he came to joke about child sexual abuse, he mentioned a name.
A name I knew.
The name of the man who replaced Monsignor Cornelius Flavin at Immacolata.
Monsignor Russell J. Obmann.
To be clear, to my knowledge, nothing happened between Monsignor Obmann and me.
Nothing I can recall.
Monsignor Obmann came to Immacolata when I was in high school. I remember him well, but mainly from mass.
From before I could drive. And I started going to the mall, instead of church.
Because, for some reason, I just couldn't STAND to be in the Immacolata church.
Monsignor Obmann's big thing was that he wouldn't start mass until EVERYBODY was sitting down. That pretty much always came to a head, because teenagers liked to hang out by the back wall of the church, in the walkway that was behind the rows of pews, rather than sitting down. And Obmann would process in and, instead of taking his position on the elevated platform to the right (stage left), where the celebrant would stand, with altar boys flanking him, would instead go to the lectern on the left (stage right) and stand there and harangue people until they came forward and took a seat.
It was a strange flex, and VERY memorable.
Ok, but again, SO WHAT?
Why are director James Gunn and Monsignor Russell Obmann relevant to the story?
That's the So What.
The rotation of Monsignor Russell J. Obmann, from St. Joe Manchester to Immacolata in the early 1980s, suggests there was a THIRD parish involved in The Program.
Another parish, besides Immacolata and MQP, in The Program.
And also suggests the nature — the PURPOSE — of The Program.
So what was it about these three parishes that made them special?
Was it their PASTORS?
As I had initially assumed.
That they were good at working with — counseling, mentoring, and helping — "troubled" priest with "problems."
Or was it something else?
What was the PURPOSE of The Program?
Was the goal to help, treat, and counsel what I now know were abusers? As I believed when I heard my dad referred to "troubled" priests who had "problems?"
Was that Monsignor Flavin's job?
To serve as a mentor and counselor?
As I initially assumed.
Or was his job to manage them?
To keep an eye on them?
Or, good Lord, to PROTECT them?
Back to the opening scene of the movie SPOTLIGHT.
So you have Fr. John Geoghan sitting there in a police station, but in the break room and not a cell, while a monsignor or bishop talks to the mother of the children Geoghan abused, making it clear to her how important it is that she keep her mouth shut.
And, when that dark deed is done, they just walk out of the police station and get in a big, impressive car.
Geoghan goes scott free.
No booking. No fingerprints. No perp walk. And, certainly, no arraignment in front of a judge.
Yes, an Assistant District Attorney is there, but only to serve the church.
Not the people.
If that could happen in deeply Catholic Boston, could it also have happened in similarly deeply Catholic St. Louis? A city named after a Catholic saint, King Louis IX of France.
And, if so, why were certain parishes included in The Program?
What was it about the parishes in The Program that made them appropriate places to house "troubled" priests?
Was it their pastors?
Or their location?
St. Louis is organized fairly bizarrely. The city of St. Louis itself contains only a small — maybe a tenth — of the population of the metropolitan area. Many of the rest of the people who live in the Missouri side of St. Louis live in what's known as The County, a collection of ninety municipalities. many of which have their own mayors, boards of alderman, and fire departments.
And police departments.
What struck me just yesterday is the pipeline from those small, or even tiny, municipal police departments into the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
For instance, from what I understand, the head of security for the Archdiocese of St. Louis was previously with the Webster Groves police department. And Mary Queen of Peace, the second parish to which my abuser, Fr. Valentine, was sent, and a parish that was definitely in The Program — I know that because that's how I found about the existence of The Program — is located in Webster Groves.
So, I think it's safe to ask, were "troubled" priests like my abuser, Father LeRoy Valentine, and Monsignor Russell Obmann — who in 2019 was named as an abuser of children by the Archdiocese of St. Louis — sent to Immacolata because of some characteristic of the municipality?
Its police department? Its chief of police? Both?
If not its mayor?
That made abusers safe(r) there.
As in the movie SPOTLIGHT.
I'm certain that many people will NOT like that I'm asking that question, but I believe the existence of The Program makes it appropriate.
And I'll be damned if I don't try to find out.
I'm back from my morning walk.
Which, as I've mentioned, takes me past Mary Queen of Peace, my current-ish — they're shunning me, and I've haven't been to mass since Easter 2014, so my status is ambiguous — parish.
And, out in front of the school, I assume because of COVID-19, the entire 5th grade class is playing kickball on the lawn in front of the school.
The same age I was when I started serving and my abuse started to escalate. Beyond Testing and Grooming.
And it struck me, as I made my customary turn in front of the school, that there are two reasons why the James Gunn and Monsignor Obmann story is more than just a standard indulgent, self-important, St. Louis brush with greatness story.
First, there's the fact that James Gunn is completely open about the facts of the story. There shouldn't be any doubt about what Gunn is alleging, because he's said it out in the open, multiple times.
Second, and more importantly. there's the move of Obmann, an admitted abuser, from St. Joe Manchester to Immacolata, which — like Maya, the CIA analyst in Zero Dark Thirty, I'm going to SAY "suggests," but I'm THINKING "proves" — that what made Immacolata special isn't what I initially thought it was.
One theory I've advanced about what made Immacolata special was Monsignor Cornelius Flavin. That he was good at dealing with "troubled" priests with "problems." That he had some special set of counseling or similar skills, which is what my dad's comment to me suggested.
However, I've seen it alleged that Monsignor Flavin's brother, Bishop Glennon Flavin, was an abuser, something that might make Flavin sympathetic to the "plight" of abusers. Because his brother might himself have been an abuser, Flavin might have been more inclined to be more tolerant of abusers. Which might have been why he was put in charge of one of the two or three parishes to which abuser priests were routinely sent.
However, the moving of Monsignor Obmann to Immacolata calls that into question.
That the key factor was Monsignor Flavin.
Because Monsignor Obmann was also a monsignor.
So the reason Monsignor Obmann was sent to Immacolata could NOT have been so that he could be supervised by Monsignor Flavin.
Rather — and I simply do not believe it was a coincidence that Obmann, an admitted abuser, was sent to Immacolata — it must have been something about IMMACOLATA.
And the municipality in which it was located?
And what if Monsignor Flavin was at Immacolata for the same reason; because there was something about the municipality that made it the perfect location for a center for the "management" — and God knows what else — of abusive priests.
Which is why Monsignor Flavin was sent there.
And which is why Monsignor Obmann was sent there.
And which means that The Program was bigger than just the Archdiocese of St. Louis; it also likely involved some level of municipal government.
And, perhaps, law enforcement.
I've actually interacted with the police department of the municipality of Richmond Heights, which is the city in which Immacolata is located. I filed a police report with the Richmond Heights police department in January 2019, hoping to make it easier for the press to talk to me.
They were perfectly fine and professional, but I wonder if that was always the case.
What happened — what was going on — in Richmond Heights in the 1970s and 1980s to make it the perfect location for one of the centers of The Program?
The existence of The Program makes one thing terribly clear.
We were sacrificed.
They knew what was happening. They knew these guys were bad.
That they abused kids.
And, rather than EXPELLING them, the Catholic Church at best put together a program to try to MANAGE them. And was likely intended to PROTECT them.
And the church.
Rather than children.
Which, Oh God, it's just hitting me, right now, might explain the reaction of Monsignor Flavin to seeing me the last time I talked to him which, I think, was at St. Clement. Monsignor Flavin was SO happy to see me.
And something else.
Maybe even contrite?
I didn't understand it at the time — he was almost crying — but it obviously struck me and stuck with me.
Regardless of what exactly Monsignor Flavin's reaction meant, how did it feel to FIND OUT that we were sacrificed?
It was stunning.
And drove me to share how I felt with others. My friend and parents. Who didn't react as I hoped.
Think about it, a program to MANAGE child sexual abusers. And management implies, because it requires, KNOWLEDGE.
How do you move one abuser out, and another abuser in, without their overlapping, repeatedly, WITHOUT knowledge?
But, when I tweeted about it, I was greeted with silence. And, when I posted it on Facebook, I was greeted with silence. And, when I brought it up with my parents, I was greeted with silence.
It was maddening.
And a silence that, I can only assume — and hope — resulted from the core reason people find survivors so scary.
Because we make people question their faith.
Too many people — not all but, in my experience, the vast majority — seem to think that, or at least act as if they think that, if they really ENGAGE with the Catholic sex abuse crisis, and do anything beyond watching SPOTLIGHT, they will imperil their faith.
Which is ironic given what my abuse, and my digging into what happened and why and how, has done to my faith.
Which is to strengthen it.
How does that work?
It begins and ends with one thing.
People continually ask, "How could the sex abuse crisis have happened?" and I can't help but think, confused, "You know about Satan, right?"
I mean, these are Catholics. And The Exorcist. And Dante. And all that.
All the stuff that goes on and on about Satan.
And the elaborate backstories that have been crafted about Satan and Hell.
Who do you think was standing behind my friend the cardinal, when he saw my and our sexual exploitation and abuse, by Fr. Valentine, in the rectory in Immacolata? Who encouraged him to do nothing? Who reminded him what his silence could do for his career? How it would demonstrate that he was a team player?
Who would do that?
Who do you think was standing behind my abuser, Fr. LeRoy Valentine, when he was standing behind me, during the Special Training session that took place in the sacristy after the mid-Summer old people's mass? Who encouraged him to do what he was thinking? What he wanted to do? Who persuaded him, perhaps by telling him that it was no big deal?
Who would do that?
Who was working the crowd, on the day of the Mass of Reparation, whispering in the ears of the priests present, on the plaza, and even my Archbishop, reminding them to NOT look at me; how refusing to even look at them might benefit them.
Advance their careers.
Who would do that?
How is it that the guys who wrote This is the End could see and get all this, but the Catholic Church itself can't? How could that happen? Who could MAKE that happen?
No, not everything in the world is of Satan.
But many things are.
Many of the worst things.
But why don't people want to acknowledge Satan and his influence?
Besides the ones, like my friend the cardinal, who would deny him because they seem to have decided to heed him?
I can only assume, in part, it's because they feel the existence of Satan is just too much.
Nothing they can handle.
But I've watched The Exorcist and Constantine enough times to know that there are rules; limits to what Satan can do. And I know that what I've endured, while terrible, it limited. As a result, while the thought of continuing to go up against Satan scares the HELL out of me, it doesn't paralyze me.
Not any more.
And, I would hope, if I can acknowledge the existence of Satan, and take him on, then I can embolden you to do the same.
And it starts with facing what happened, head on.
Acknowledging that it happened.
The Program existed.
If you don't believe that, then do what I do — when Satan plants in my head the thought that maybe it's not what I think it is — and look again at the Smoking Gun.
And the last three lines.
The shuffles in 1978 and 1981.
That's management. And knowledge.
Because management REQUIRES knowledge.
Yes, it happened.
And who would NOT want you to look — to ponder — this list?
I don't think my friends and parents were OBEYING Satan when, when I told them I had found the Smoking Gun, which revealed the existence of The Program, but I do suspect they were under the INFLUENCE of Satan.
He was the one who was whispering in their ears, telling them, "Don't look at this. Not too closely. It might place your faith at risk." But, by doing so, he and they did just that.
Put their faith at risk.
And wounded me.
It's hard to describe how it felt to find something so critical, and to see everyone just blow it off.
To refuse to engage with it.
I don't know what my parents were thinking. I assume some, and maybe a lot, of it was guilt. I HOPE it was guilt.
And not indifference.
Guilt would be understandable.
But it's not the solution.
Or, at least, honoring that guilt isn't the solution.
Rather, I'd suggest, the solution is to acknowledge what and who you and we are up against and fighting it as I've learned to.
Drawing strength from the courage and love and example of Jesus Christ.
If HE can do what HE did, then I can do this.
The existence of The Program makes it clear that we were sacrificed, but/so has anything changed?
That's a question that the existence — and the refusal to confront and hold accountable, if not the protection of, Bishop X — calls into question.
Again, what happened?
And has anything changed?
Why would the Catholic Church ordain priests with known problems?
And not just expel them from the seminary?
The answer to that question could be as simple as they thought these men were called, BY GOD, to the priesthood, and who were they to question that call.
So has that attitude changed?
Assuming it wasn't just that simple, that the Catholic Church simply felt that it was in no position to reject men — even "troubled" men with "problems" — my experience as a student of W. Edwards Deming, the quality guru, may be relevant.
In sum, Deming taught that Quantity and Quality are in tension; when you prioritize production and numbers over all else, BAD things can and will happen.
But, where's the proof that the Catholic Church once — and perhaps still — prioritized numbers?
And why would the Catholic Church prioritize quantity over quality, when it comes to priests?
More Masses > More Grace.
"...by concelebrating a single Mass, the gift of grace is reduced, because “in more Masses the oblation of the sacrifice and therefore the effect of the sacrifice and of the sacrament is multiplied” (St. Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologiae also Pius XII, “Mediator Dei”).
In other words, more masses mean more grace.
Sarah then ups the stakes, saying...
It should be kept in mind that there is at least the serious possibility that, by forcing priests to concelebrate and thus reducing the number of Masses celebrated, there will be a decrease in the gift of grace given to the Church and to the world. If so, the spiritual damage would be incalculable.
Given that Sarah is an old school guy, that suggests that a pressure to say more masses — and thus the need to ordain more priests to say those masses — existed in the past.
And remains, in certain, more traditional and conservative, circles.
More Priests = More Prestige
While there may not have been monetary rewards associated, attaching prestige to the production of vocations is enough to drive behavior, especially when vocations can lead to promotions and increases in power.
I'm sure some would say that Catholic priests, and especially bishops, should be above such human temptations, and I would LIKE to agree, but the reality is they plainly weren't.
And reality is what matters.
A Few Bad Apples
In the paper, McCarthy mentions a priest and psychologist-psychiatrist named Reverend Thomas Verner Moore and who, in the 1936...
...found that priests had higher rates of schizophrenia, paranoia, manic-depression, and alcoholism than the general male patient population in mental hospitals. Moore hypothesized that the priesthood might attract people with psychological problems.
Basically, going back to the 1930s, and before, and due to the psychological and psychiatric awakening of the early 20th century, there were people within the Catholic Church who were starting to understand, and grapple with, the fact that the same trends that were present in the general public were also present in the church.
And might even be accentuated.
Priests were people, too.
Men, and not supermen.
And might even be especially vulnerable, despite what people might want to believe.
Then, in the early 1960s, things started to get scary. For example, McAllister and Veldt...
(R)eported with surprise that fifteen percent of their sample had received a clinical diagnosis as sociopaths...
Unfortunately, that didn't seem to create the sense of urgency that, I hope, the use of a word like "sociopath" would today.
Again, quoting Tom McCarthy...
By the late 1960s then, psychologists who assessed candidates for the priesthood had a portrait of the typical candidate and understood some ways in which he differed from the population as a whole. A large number of candidates had difficulty in interpersonal relationships with people their own age and showed signs of arrested psychosexual development. A much smaller (although disconcertingly large) number of candidates (and priests treated at Seton) showed some evidence of being sociopaths...
Worse, at the same time the recognition of the problem of sociopathy in the priesthood was developing, what I can only guess was a denial of the problem — if not something worse — was simultaneously taking place...
A much smaller (although disconcertingly large) number of candidates (and priests treated at Seton) showed some evidence of being sociopaths, although the evidence for this diagnosis was open to several interpretations, including a positive one suggesting that priests had the moral backbone to stand apart from common social norms.
How do you just blow off sociopathy?
Though, and I don't know exactly what the phrase...
...moral backbone to stand apart from common social norms.
...means but, at best, it seems to reflect a mythologization of priests.
Or were they trying to say that sociopathy is a FEATURE and not a bug? Something that would endow a priest with the ability to, for example, swim against the tide of popular culture?
An idea I still see in play today and, sadly, increasingly.
All at what price?
Worse, there developed an idea that the gains outweighed the costs, if there even was any consideration of costs...
(V)ocation directors understood the limitations of psychological assessment, so generally they ran the risk of accepting a few bad apples in order to get all of the good ones. McCarthy, who recommended against the admission of about 40-50 percent of candidates, noticed that dioceses and institutes accepted about 80 percent.
I don't even know what to do with the phrase...
...they ran the risk of accepting a few bad apples in order to get all of the good ones.
Of course, and to one of my prior points, concerns about the harm those few "bad apples" could do seemed to disappear in the face of the desire to please one's superiors...
In looking at the ACPA and the National Guild of Catholic Psychiatrists, one is struck by how hard both groups worked to serve – and impress – the hierarchy.
Finally, and more generally, to one question McCarthy asks...
Why minors? Why males?
...and that I see coming up constantly in the present, he does a good job of answering the, "Why minors," question. As in my case, minors were abused, at least in part, because they are less likely to understand what is happening.
Or to do anything about it.
As for why so many victims were males, a fact that people take advantage of to bash The Gays, what I'm not sure people understand is that, in the 1970s at my parish, at least, THERE WERE NO ALTAR GIRLS. Girls simply weren't allowed in the places where boys were abused.
That isn't to say that girls weren't abused. A classmate was. In the woods by the crossing guard.
But not by a priest.
Kids Are Resilient
Back to the critically important and, in my opinion, incredibly callous statement that Catholic vocations directors...
...ran the risk of accepting a few bad apples in order to get all of the good ones.
...I don't know exactly how that was rationalized, but a couple of things come to mind.
First, there's the idea that kids are resilient, something I've said myself. However, I've never thought that what can be said about kids' bones and bodies can also be true of their brains. Doesn't everyone know, by now, that brain injuries, for instance, even in kids, are a BIG deal?
But, could it be that — like the utterly insane, horrific idea that black people don't feel physical or emotional pain in the same way that white people do, an idea that took root during, and I assume was used to rationalize away the horrors of, slavery — this is a similarly self-serving assumption?
Second, there's something one of my psychologists, who happened to be a Catholic, would tell me over and over again...
They just don't get it.
Apparently, ordinary people have difficulty understanding the magnitude of the consequences of childhood psychological trauma. Maybe they can understand depression, because it's relatively common, but Anxiety, PTSD, and Complex-PTSD are so beyond the experience of ordinary people that they have a hard time understanding what it can do to you.
Which, I guess, is why many people believe abuse is no big deal?
Or don't — can't — understand why people would think abuse is a no big deal.
And think it's not necessary to help survivors.
In persona Christi
To the point about there being known sociopaths in the priesthood, I've been told that my abuser was clearly a narcissist.
He was at least entitled and lazy.
If not a sociopath.
And he was coddled by his superiors, who expected the nuns of Immacolata to serve him and the other priests (something I'm pretty sure the nuns, most of whom left their order, didn't know they were signing up for.)
Now imagine taking such a person is acting In persona Christi.
In the person of Christ.
That, in his role of priest, he acts as Christ and as God.
What will that do to a person?
Especially a sociopath?
It's a simple fact that the Catholic Church is myopic about abortion.
Such that they only seem to care about children before they are born.
And not after.
When they have been abused.
But it has occurred to me that it's possible that certain priests, at least, might have been ordained because they were reliably Pro-Life.
Because that was the focus.
The litmus test.
Much as troubled priests of another era were ordained, and tolerated, because they were reliably Anti-Communist.
So is that still a thing?
The Most Corrupting Thing...
I'm certain that not everything that happened was nefarious.
Some of it was simply human.
For example, and expanding on something Jonah Goldberg once said about journalism, I have come to believe...
The most corrupting thing
So how much of the abuse crisis, and the handling of it, was due to the fact that people knew the priests in question?
And not the victims.
In an article in the Boston Globe entitled "Documents show church long supported Geoghan" it's revealed...
After Geoghan was removed from a Dorchester parish in 1984 for abusing children, Dr. Robert W. Mullins called the episode "a rather unfortunate traumatic experience" - for Geoghan, not the children.
I have a hard time understanding how not knowing a person could cause one to disregard a situation of sexual abuse of a child, but it happened, over and over again.
In dozens of internal communications, obtained by the Globe under court order over the objections of the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, bishops and cardinals almost never mentioned that Geoghan had victims, although more than 130 people have since come forward charging they were abused. Their focus, instead, was on righting Geoghan and sending him on to another parish.
At times, the concern for Geoghan suggested by the documents turned to outright coddling. For instance, Geoghan was sent to Rome for a two-month sabbatical just after relatives of Geoghan victims met with Daily in August 1982 to demand that he be removed from the ministry.
So why did that happen?
And what has changed?
And why should anybody believe the Catholic Church when it says things have changed, yet I was shunned, in 2018, at the Mass of Reparation for the sex abuse crisis?
CREDIT: Robert Cohen | St. Louis Post-Dispatch
An event captured by the cover art for this podcast.
And, even today, at the Easter Vigil, and on Easter Sunday, my Archbishop won't LOOK at me.
Much less talk to me.
So what exactly has changed?
Then there's the word "scandal." Again quoting the Boston Globe...
That exception, the Globe reported on Jan. 6, occurred after Law sent Geoghan to the Weston parish in 1984. Three weeks later, Bishop John M. D'Arcy challenged the wisdom of the move in a letter to Law, saying he was worried that Geoghan might cause further scandal.
Specifically, the phrase...
...might cause further scandal.
...is a scary one, not just because it ignores the devastation that is done to the lives of innocent children, but because the Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church continues to positively OBSSESS about the problem of scandal.
So what exactly has changed?
Enabling by Catholic Psychologists
As a survivor who has received treatment from a very qualified and nice Catholic therapist, which devolved into Gaslighting because they simply couldn't believe that the bishops, archbishops, and even cardinals I was accusing could do what they did, I can see how the stories the Boston Globe recounted about Fr. John Geoghan could have happened. Quoting from the Globe...
Geoghan, in a 1980 letter to Medeiros after he was removed from St. Andrew's, told the cardinal that he was receiving "excellent care" from "two wonderful Catholic physicians," referring to Mullins and Brennan.
Both doctors also reported to the archdiocese in December 1984 that Geoghan was fit for the Weston assignment.
But in 1989, when Geoghan was hospitalized at the Institute of Living in Hartford, the psychiatrist who treated him for pedophilia was dismissive of Mullins's earlier treatment, according to the documents.
"The patient had been seeing an internist for his psychotherapist, which was more along the line of friendly paternal chats and not really psychotherapy," Dr. Robert F. Swords wrote to Banks. Mullins has been the Geoghan family physician for more than 40 years.
The simple fact is that faithful, remainer Catholics aren't in a position to accept what priests and their church did to survivors.
To them, it's simply not possible.
Which is why the church needs to provide survivors with money and allow them to find their own, ideally non-Catholic, therapists.
However, too often, when I look into what the church is doing, it involves therapy that is provided directly by the church.
At best, such therapy is highly problematic.
If not unethical.
At worst, it's just one more — perhaps subconscious — attempt at controlling and manipulating survivors.
I have come to believe the sex abuse crisis was fed by the idea that the Catholic Church was, and still is, the only TRUE, Legitimate Church of Jesus Christ.
And the arrogance it created and fed.
The monopoly mentality.
Where else are people going to go?
Besides the Catholic Church?
Which, as happens with monopolies, and a lack of competition, made the treatment of people a secondary concern.
Assuming it was a concern at all.
I'd suggest that such an effort to hold the Eucharist hostage — to manipulate people with the Eucharist — profanes the Eucharist.
However, I see no similar sentiment or awareness emerging in the Catholic Church.
The worst possible explanation of all for what happened, and why things aren't getting better, at least in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, comes from the world of organized crime.
Many gangs operate on the basis of Blood In; the only way to become a full-fledged member of the gang is to commit a crime.
That way, the other members of the gang know they have something on you that they can use to influence your behavior and ensure your compliance.
I have wondered many times if the presence — the admission — Bishop X, and people like him, into the hierarchy of the Catholic Church was done for similar reasons; because of the crimes he committed, that are known to certain members of the hierarchy because of the sacrament of Confession, Bishop X was seen as someone who could be manipulated.
If that doesn't sound to you like Jesus Christ, and more like the other guy, I'd STRONGLY agree.
The big question is what exactly a hierarchy composed of Abusers, Blind-Eyers and Disregarders, and Abusers Profiteers — men like my friend the cardinal — is capable of?
What are they capable of doing?
And NOT doing?
Who are they capable of protecting?
What "mistakes" of judgment might they make?
What red flags might they ignore?
Will they fail to take sexual abuse seriously? Impede investigations?
Run interference for abusers?
Those are the thoughts that literally keep me up at night — that kept me up for three hours last night — and are driving me to do everything in my power to expose what's going on in, and try to help to cleanse, the Catholic Church.
Completely, this time.
All the way to the top.
Wherever that may be.
So, back to Bishop X.
I've laid out many possible explanations for why the Catholic sex abuse crisis may have happened, and why what was so obviously happening wasn't addressed by the church itself.
However, there's one more topic, and explanation, I need to discuss.
One definition of Clericalism I've seen, and like, because it cuts, is...
excessive devotion to the institutional aspects of an organized religion, usually over and against the religion's own beliefs or faith.
And that last part...
...over and against the religion's own beliefs or faith.
...really gets me.
That goes to — lies behind — my frequent comment...
Despite the whole Jesus thing.
DESPITE all the talk of the Catholic Church being the one true church of Jesus Christ — or, perhaps, BECAUSE of it — the hierarchy continues to act in a way that might be CATHOLIC.
But is anything but CHRISTIAN.
And who could be behind that?
And, yes, it's that simple.
Another definition of Clericalism that I find relevant is...
Clericalism is a disordered attitude toward clergy, an excessive deference and an assumption of their moral superiority.
In particular, it's the phrase...
...an excessive deference...
...that resonates with me.
Especially this week. And today. As I write this.
Because of Bishop X.
When I was walking around, thinking about the case of Bishop X, and as I wrote this piece, the word "deference" was the exact one that kept popping into my mind.
Rather than curiosity.
But WHY the deference?
To bishops, at least.
Why not even INVESTIGATE Bishop X?
Much less promptly REMOVE him.
Before he can do any more damage.
Or is what Bishop X is doing — the way he's handling complaints of abuse — exactly what the church WANTS him to do?
So what then has CHANGED?
As I've mentioned, immediately upon learning about Bishop X, on top of what I had been told about Bishop Z just a few weeks previously, I sent an e-mail entitled...
Possible Abuse by Bishop (X) and Bishop (Z) in the 1980s
...to a number of contacts within the Catholic Church, including the USCCB, the Archdiocese of St. Louis, and the Papal Nuncio, the Pope's representative in the United States.
I know my e-mail was received and read by at least one person because, at 8:45 AM on August 1, 2019, I received the following e-mail...
I am acknowledging reception of your two emails received yesterday. Thank you for this.
However, coming up on two years later, Bishop X is still in office.
It would seem no audit has been performed.
No investigation was begun.
But why not?
Because Bishop X is doing his job? And nothing will be done about what happened in the past?
Besides covering it up?
So what then has changed?
It would seem to me, and to many Catholics, that the point of the past 20 years has been to learn from, and not repeat, the mistakes of the past. But, if the Catholic Church is STILL refusing to investigate claims of child sexual abuse, proven by a pattern of payments to a certain person, then what exactly has changed?
Why are bishops still being given the benefit of the doubt?
Because those bishops are doing their jobs? By paying off the people they abused as diocesan priests.
Protecting the church.
Whatever it takes.
Heading off scandal.
So what then has changed?
Perhaps the issue is that only the Pope has the authority to initiate the investigation of a bishop. If so, then what's taking so long?
Why the DEFERENCE?
The blind faith in one's buddy bishops?
The refusal to act?
To hold them accountable.
Despite what we've learned over the past 20 years.
But, perhaps, the Vatican has NOT learned? Or, at least, refuses to act on?
So what then has CHANGED?
The fact is that, given how my archdiocese has and still is treating me, and how the Pope and the Vatican have acted, when it comes to the misconduct of Bishop X, at least, you'd be a FOOL to think anything has changed.
That kids are safer.
I'll be damned if I'll allow what happened to me to happen to anyone else, so I will and must continue to point this out and ask these, seemingly un-askable, questions.
If Jesus Christ can do what he did, then I can do this.
Next time on Sacrificed, the toll.
What abuse does to survivors.
And our families.
A look at what my life is like as a survivor.
And what it's done to my kids and my relationship with them.
Finally, and again, 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 and videos that document what happened to me, including at the Easter Vigil and, I hope, help to prove my words and story.