Sunday, December 14, 2014
30 YEARS CONTINUED
In the previous post, it was noted that it may take many years for someone to speak about being sexually abused, especially if they were young at the time and especially if the molester was an authority figure.
But there is another reason, and it's probably the main reason. I experienced it myself.
In the 1970's, while painting a hallway in our parish rectory (I had been hired by the pastor), I overhead the pastor and another man I knew engage in a sexual conversation that made it obvious that the two of them were regularly seeing each other for sexual encounters.
While the relationship was homosexual, it wouldn't have mattered, one expects your priest and pastor to be faithful to his vows.
I recall how sick it made me feel. I froze in the hallway, daring not to move. The two were on the other side of the door. I found a way to quietly leave without being discovered.
I decided to tell my dad. Many parishioners had suspected that something was wrong with this other man. He was living next door to the church in a house that the church owned. It was discovered later that he was living there at the expense of the parish and was kept there in order for the two of them to have easy access to each other. It was also learned that the pastor, in addition to giving him a a free place to live at the expense of the church, was paying his boyfriend with parish funds.
The two were adults, so no one was being abused or molested, but I don't think I have to explain how harmful this relationship was to the church.
My dad and I decided that something needed to be done so we went to the chancery office in downtown Los Angeles. We asked to see the Archbishop. Upon learning of the nature of our visit, the receptionist showed us the door, the door out.
The Archbishop and my pastor had been classmates in the seminary, and while there was no love between them, the "boys" still took care of their own.
One might ask, well how does this consensual adult sexual relationship hurt you? It didn't. But it hurt my father. Unlike me, he didn't have the education and the mental tools to deal with the violation. He was seriously wounded, and his life, now lacking its most essential pillar, began to deteriorate. He stopped going to Mass, he became bitter, and when my brother was murdered he went into a decline that killed him as well, though it took him 30 more years to die.
Three days before he died a few months ago, he saw a priest for the first time since that fateful day at the Los Angeles chancery in the 1970's.
In the current case alleged by John Toves, it is very probable that the alleged victim's family was similarly stonewalled by church authorities if they ever tried to report the incident - and I am told they did. Today things are different, but back in the 70's and 80's, you got a "thank you we received your letter" and that's it.
At most, a perpetrator priest would be quietly moved to another parish, but a bishop..? They don't get moved, you do.
So while those who are trying desperately to discredit Toves for waiting so long, the real reason for the so-called failure to report, whether it is this incident or any other, is that - back then - there was no one to report to. In the church who do you go to? Well, the bishop - as my dad and I tried to do.
I don't know if the creators of the Concerned Catholics of Guam had this in mind when they started, but by virtue of their existence they now have created an alternative to the bishop for matters like these. They may not be set up to do it yet, but perhaps the greatest service they can do the church is to offer alternative recourse to those who have been abused by church authorities, and whose only recourse, till now, has been those same authorities.
And if John Toves did nothing else, he just showed us how that works. It doesn't.