|ChrisOLeary.com > Sacrificed > The Program|
May 18, 2021
Can't get past something.
I keep trying to work on the next episode of Sacrificed, which discusses the toll abuse takes on survivors and answers the question, "What's the big deal?"
However, I can't get past a question that popped into my head the day after I finished and published the previous two episodes...
A fact and reality and decision and question that's tortured me — TORMENTED me — for the past two weeks.
So I've decided to just go with it, trust that it's what I'm supposed to do, and create a short overview or executive summary episode. That focuses on, and adds to, the question that struck, and has stuck with, me over the past two weeks.
If this seems repetitive, and maybe even a bit obsessive, then welcome to the world, and into the mind, of a survivor.
In fact, one of the reasons I STARTED this podcast is to try to get this kind of stuff OUT of my head.
To put it down on paper.
And into words.
Where, and so, I can know it's been asked and written down and recorded.
And hopefully, maybe, possibly move on from it.
As I've established in the previous two episodes, by the 1970s, at least, my own Archdiocese of St. Louis had in place a program — THE Program — to counsel, manage and, I've come to suspect, PROTECT "troubled" priests who had "problems."
Who sexually abused children.
And the existence of The Program gives the lie to the narrative that the Archdiocese of St. Louis, and the Catholic Church, did everything they could to act on the knowledge they possessed, in order to protect children from sexual abuse.
They didn't REMOVE the abusers they identified. Instead, they put them into The Program.
And, in my case, and the case of my abuser, Fr. LeRoy Valentine, did even worse.
Raising a question I don't have the faintest idea how to get out of my head.
That awakens me in the middle of the night.
As it did again, last night.
If the Archdiocese of St. Louis knew enough about my abuser to IMMEDIATELY put him into The Program, right out of the seminary, THEN WHY DIDN'T THEY JUST EXPEL HIM?
Hell, why did they even ORDAIN him?!?
I've had to become my own investigative reporter.
For reasons that deserve, and I will give, at some point, their own investigation, the traditional media are unwilling — or unable — to touch my story.
The problem isn't the reporters.
It's higher up.
It's the editors, publishers, and owners.
Some of whom, I have to assume, are faithful Catholics who think they are helping and protecting their church. Or who, maybe, just don't want to take the risk of telling people what they don't want to hear.
And, to be clear, this includes the entirety of the mainstream St. Louis press...
And extends to multiple Attornies General of the State of Missouri. And, perhaps, also the FBI.
All of which begs the question.
What exactly has changed?
From the worst days of the Catholic sex abuse crisis?
Despite SPOTLIGHT and 2002 and the Dallas Charter and 2018 and the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report and Vos Estis Lux Mundi, the Pope's — supposed — bill of rights for survivors.
How I Got Here
So how did I come to the conclusion and knowledge that the Archdiocese of St. Louis had in place, in and by the 1970s, a program to manage abusers and send them to certain parishes?
My Dad's Words
When I was a kid, I once had a conversation with my dad in which I asked him about a certain priest at our parish, Immacolata in Richmond Heights, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis.
I think a priest who was perfectly nice; who I served for the first time I had to serve alone, and he was kind and encouraging.
But he was a little...
He talked oddly.
In an EXTREMELY affected manner.
Like you sometimes hear in the early rounds of American Idol.
My dad told me that the reason he was at Immacolata was because our pastor, Monsignor Cornelius Flavin, was good at working with "troubled" priests who had "problems." I didn't know what that meant, exactly, but I knew enough about counseling and therapy to assume that that was what my dad was referring to.
And that was a perfectly reasonable explanation for me.
Yet, for whatever reason, it stuck with me.
My Lawyers' Words
Then, when I met with my lawyers — I think in the Spring of 2014 — they told me that a NUMBER of problem priests had passed through Immacolata.
That, combined with what my dad had told me, when I was a kid, about how Monsignor Flavin was good at working with "troubled" priests got me wondering if there was something special about Monsignor Flavin.
And maybe Immacolata.
And what, exactly, did "troubled" mean?
What did it include?
That Flavin and/or Immacolata had a more than just coincidental connection to the sex abuse crisis in St. Louis.
That Monsignor Flavin was responsible for COUNSELING these guys?
What confirmed for me that there was almost certainly something wrong with Immacolata was the firing of director James Gunn from Guardians of the Galaxy 3 in the middle of 2018, which coincided with a revisiting of the Catholic sex abuse crisis and the problem of pedophilia in general. As a result of Gunn's firing, certain things came out, and I learned about things Gunn had said in the past.
Including his exposure to someone we had in common.
Monsignor Russell J. Obmann.
Obmann was Gunn's pastor at St. Joe Manchester, where he provided certain boys with alcohol and pornography and then sexually abused some of them. And, after I graduated from Immacolata at the end of 8th grade, Obmann moved from St. Joe Manchester to Immacolata, my parish.
That move cemented in my mind the idea that there was something special — and sick — about Immacolata and that was BIGGER than just Monsignor Flavin.
Around the same time that I started to learn about James Gunn and my mutual connection in the form of Monsignor Obmann, I was contacted by a woman — The Wife — whose mother believed that The Wife's husband, and the mother's son in law, had been sexually abused.
By a man who, at the time, was a diocesan priest.
And is now a Catholic bishop.
Who has his own diocese and priests in his charge. And a responsibility and job to protect the children and people in his diocese.
A job he doesn't seem to be doing particularly well.
Not if you care about protecting children, and all lay Catholics, from unnecessary risks, at least.
Bishop X makes some VERY questionable decisions.
Has a habit of giving questionable people the benefit of the doubt.
And the presence of Bishop X in the hierarchy — much less the fact that he's STILL a member in good standing of the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops, despite my two-year effort to expose and help remove him, because of what The Wife told me, including that he sends them money — so thoroughly shook me that it led me to get up the nerve and the courage and to again start digging, despite my avowed intention to just move on.
One reason why the story of Bishop X hit me as hard as it did was because, just a few weeks prior, a high school classmate had told me a story about a DIFFERENT now Catholic bishop who had done something to him as a child.
He had taken him up to his room in the rectory.
Which is exactly what my abuser had done to me and others, as part of the grooming process.
So Bishop X was actually the SECOND Catholic bishop I had been told either certainly, or likely, was an abuser, in just a matter of weeks.
In just July of 2019.
And, to be clear, and for future reference — hopefully I'll be able to explain this at some point — there's something I'm not telling you about Bishop X.
Another connection to the story.
It's not critical to the story, but it helps add weight to what I saw and am saying.
But that's all I can say, at the moment.
The Smoking Gun
By January 2020, I'd accumulated enough, different pieces of evidence that, despite the fact that I was fighting migraines — as a result of a late August 2018 car accident — I knew I had to push through them.
There was something there.
And not just THERE, but HIDDEN.
It gelt like I was in a BATTLE.
With, I can only assume, Satan, working through the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the Catholic Church.
A battle that kept escalating.
However, I'd reached the point that each escalation, including the migraines, stopped driving me OFF the case but, instead, only further MOTIVATED me.
"We're on a mission from God," and all that.
And then, at the end of January 2020, I found it.
The Smoking Gun.
A document that shows that, by the 1970s, at least, the Archdiocese of St. Louis had gotten pretty good at identifying problem priests.
How else could they run three abusers, back to back to back, through my current parish, Mary Queen of Peace, WITHOUT knowing who and WHAT they were?
Management implies, because it requires, knowledge.
And how is it that my abuser, Fr. LeRoy Valentine went straight from the seminary into one parish in The Program, which was Immacolata, and his next assignment was also a parish in The Program?
How could they know to do that?
Put him into The Program straight out of the seminary?
I suspect there's a relevance to the allegations of the guy Fr. Valentine abused while still a deacon and before he was ordained...
In 1975 when (Father LeRoy Valentine) was still a deacon he tried to molest me while parked in front of my parents house (he was dropping me off after a CYC event). The story is longer and complicated but what is nagging now is the desire to say I’m sorry to those who were abused after me.
There's also the line in the matrix — the spreadsheet of abusers and allegations that the Archdiocese of St. Louis produced in January 2014, under court order — that relates to an allegation which also dates back to Valentine's time in the seminary, and I assume refers to a SECOND person Valentine abused while in the seminary.
So, if Valentine abused TWO people while in minor and major seminaries, were there others?
Who the Archdiocese of St. Louis found out about at the time?
Leading them to put Valentine straight INTO The Program, out of the seminary?
The Big Question
And that's how I get to the big questions.
First, if the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the Catholic Church could identify and separate out priests who were abusers, running them through MQP, back to back to back, then why didn't they just expel them?
And, if you think the answer was that their either didn't BELIEVE they could be abusers, or were told by therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists that they were FIXED, then explain the treatment of my abuser, Father LeRoy Valentine.
Who was IMMEDIATELY, straight out of the seminary, put into The Program.
He started at Immacolata and then was moved to MQP, two of the three parishes in the program.
That I'm aware of.
If the Archdiocese of St. Louis knew enough to IMMEDIATELY put him into The Program, THEN WHY DIDN'T THEY JUST EXPEL HIM?
Two strikes and you're out.
When they involve the sexual abuse of children, at least.
And, remember, this was BEFORE the priest shortages. This was when the seminaries and rectories were FULL.
To have expelled my abuser, Fr. Valentine, would have only meant that Immacolata would have dropped from three priests to two.
What's the big deal?
My Friend the Cardinal
Which brings me back to Dave Glover's question...
So here's what I don't understand. If it's pretty common knowledge that this guy did it, why are you singled out as, "But I bet this kid's lying?"
Why single me out?
I suspect because of my friend the cardinal.
He was right in the middle of it.
Of The Program.
Which suggests that The Program, and my friend the cardinal's at least proximity to it, was the big deal; the something that needs to be hidden.
Regardless of the price.
And, if you doubt the seriousness — the PROBLEM of The Program — then why ELSE would the Archdiocese of St. Louis treat me as they have.
Especially in contrast with their treatment of other survivors. Other survivors of Fr. Valentine, in particular.
What's special about me?
WHEN I was abused?
And who it implicates?
If what happened, and when, at Immacolata and Mary Queen of Peace was truly no big deal — if there was no Program, and no reason to shield my friend the cardinal — then why would the Archdiocese of St. Louis wage a Smear Campaign against me, saying in the piece by Aisha Sultan in which I went public...
…when asked to comment on O’Leary’s account, “ The archdiocese’s record of Mr. O’Leary’s allegations are significantly different; however, due to a court order as well as our own ethical obligation, we are not at liberty to discuss Mr. O’Leary’s case.” Jones also said the information O’Leary shared initially changed multiple times by the time he broke off communication with the Office of Child and Youth Protection.
And, if what happened at Immacolata and Mary Queen of Peace, and when, was truly no big deal, they why would the Archdiocese of St. Louis lie to THE COURT, as they did in the matrix?
Why would they commit PERJURY?
By failing to disclose to the court all of the allegations that were made against Fr. LeRoy Valentine.
My allegation and one other.
If it was no big deal.
Again and again and again.
Around and around and around.
If the Archdiocese of St. Louis, and the Catholic Church, knew enough to put people like my abuser, Fr. LeRoy Valentine, into The Program, then why didn't they just expel them?
An excuse that's been put forward for the Catholic sex abuse crisis is that the church made an honest mistake in deciding to accept a few Bad Apple priests in order to make sure they got all the Good Apple priests. They HAD to do that, take that risk, because it's hard to distinguish between the Bad Apples and the Good Apples.
The problem is it's bullshit.
They KNEW who the Bad Apples were. They knew enough to run abusers through Immacolata and MQP. And to immediately put Valentine in The Program.
As the existence of the Smoking Gun, which revealed the existence of The Program, makes clear.
As does the cover-up.
The effort to hide the connection of me — and at least one other guy — and Immacolata and my friend the cardinal.
And, fundamentally, if the Archdiocese of St. Louis knew enough to TREAT Fr. Valentine specially — to IMMEDIATELY put him in The Program, right out of the seminary — THEN WHY DID THEY EVEN ORDAIN HIM?
WHY DIDN'T THEY JUST CAN HIM?!?
If they knew enough to route Valentine INTO The Program, then they also knew enough to route him OUT of the priesthood.
But they didn't.
And I have to wonder if that irresponsible — at best — treatment of Fr. Valentine is the thing that's so threatening to my friend the cardinal. And is what's leading the Archdiocese of St. Louis to treat me like I don't even exist.
As they did at the September 2018 Mass of Reparation for the sex abuse crisis.
As was captured by the picture that serves as the cover art for this podcast.
One last point, prompted by the HUGE coincidence of the story of Australian pedophile priest — and likely sociopath — Fr. Peter Searson popping up in my timeline yesterday.
I've previously advanced the proposition that one thing that may have led the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to go easy on pedophile priests was a relative sense of familiarity.
The hierarchy knew the priests in question and didn't know the children who were abused.
So they treated their friends — their buddies — better than they treated strangers.
Even innocent children.
However, yesterday, coincidentally, as I was thinking about putting together this summary piece, I stumbled across a quote by Fr. Searson in which he said, quote...
I’m not worried about what the bishops might do to me, because of what I know about the bishops.
Because it suggests the presence of blackmail plots within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. And that might be relevant to my case?
As I've said, to the point of exhaustion, I don't understand how and why the Archdiocese of St. Louis could have ordained my abuser, Fr. LeRoy Valentine, given that they knew enough to IMMEDIATELY put him in The Program.
And then, yesterday, after reading the Searson quote, something my friend the cardinal told me in early March 2002 came back to me.
When I asked him if he believed what people were saying about Father Valentine — if it COULD be true — my friend the cardinal told me, and I quote...
I know Fr. Valentine well.
We were at the seminary together.
We lived and worked together at Immacolata.
I know Leroy Valentine didn't do any of the things he's being accused of.
I know he would never do anything to hurt a child.
What struck me, in light of the Peter Searson quote about his not fearing the bishops, because of what he KNEW about the bishops, is the line — and the FACT — that, quote...
We were at the seminary together.
We lived and worked together at Immacolata.
My friend the cardinal and my abuser, Fr. LeRoy Valentine, were only a year apart at the seminary. My friend the cardinal was ordained in 1976 and Father Valentine was ordained in 1977.
So they would have known each other.
As juniors and seniors in high school or college do.
So what could Fr. Valentine have come to know about my friend the cardinal that gave him "leverage?" Over him? Or someone else? That could keep the seminary from expelling him.
Information gained, perhaps, during the sacrament of confession?
Or simply, by living and studying in the seminary.
What if it was more than just friendship that led my friend the cardinal to not say anything about or against Father Valentine?
What if it was fear?
And I have no doubt that a sociopath like my abuser Fr. Valentine, would have no reluctance to use any leverage over another priest.
Given what he did to me.
If this seems implausible, given the whole Men of GOD thing, I'd give you the same advice that was given to me in a critical, but massively coincidental, conversation I had during my Senior year in college.
I was flying home from San Antonio to St. Louis but, instead of flying on el cheapo Southwest Airlines, as I did 99% of the time, I was instead flying TWA. At the time, I was also wrestling with my post-graduation plans; I was considering getting a second bachelor's degree in engineering.
But I wasn't sure that was the right move.
So imagine my surprise when, not only did I get bumped into First Class, but I ended up seated next to the Director of Design Engineering for McDonnell Douglas, one of the companies I hoped to work for.
Seizing the opportunity, I discussed with him my thoughts and dilemma. And he then gave me some great advice.
Don't romanticize it.
It turned out that, as a result of my reading, I had developed a sense of the profession that, by that time, was out of date. I wanted to be the Big Picture Guy — the Chief Designer — but that wasn't where the aerospace industry was or was heading.
And my advice to you regarding everything I've discovered and said in this piece, if you're having trouble believing what I've told you, because of the whole Men of GOD thing, is the same as what I was told...
Don't romanticize it.
The simple fact is that, at a minimum, the Catholic Church is able to provide a narcissist with everything they could possibly want.
And, for some, power.
And, as we know, power corrupts.
Priests equally as much as laypeople.