Confessions of an Ex-Priest: How Catholic Seminary Forms Victims of Sexual Abuse and Perpetrators to Forgive
On Sunday night around midnight, in the small town of Woodburn, Ore., a 12-year-old boy ran down a street screaming for help. A man dressed only in his underwear pursued him. The boy saw a group of people standing in a driveway and screamed, "Help me, a guy is chasing me." The bystanders drove the boy to his sister's home, where he explained, "Father Angel touched me in my privates."
This sounds like a scene out of a film, but this is not fiction. This is information taken from the Woodburn police department's probable cause statement.
On Monday, Rev. Angel Armando Perez was arrested. He faces allegations of first-degree sexual abuse, furnishing alcohol to a minor, using a child in display of sexually explicit conduct, and driving under the influence.
Like me, Father Perez was ordained in 2002, when the Catholic hierarchy's cover-up of sexual abuse was on the front page of nearly every U.S. publication. We received the same seminary "formation," which is the word used to describe the intellectual, psychological and spiritual overhaul that men undergo as they are "formed" into healthy, celibate and obedient priests.
When we were ordained 10 years ago, new priests were under a great deal of pressure. The people in the pews needed hope that our generation would change the duplicitous and corrupt clerical culture that had been unmasked. We had been "formed" to say all the right things. ...
I marched up into the sanctuary and gazed at the upturned faces. They were the real Church, full of longing, willingness and trust. They deserved something more than what scandalous priests and bishops had shat upon them. My voice thundered through the speakers: "No matter what you're hearing in the press -- there's a lot of misinformation out there. Go to the source. Call seminary faculties. Talk to seminarians. The good men are still in the seminaries. And we are radically committed -- radically meaning we're gonna give our all to our vows, to our promises, and we are going to be the best priests that we can be. And live the mystery that we celebrate, which is the Lord's cross. We will turn over our weaknesses to the Lord so that he can make them into strengths."
The crowd leapt to their feet. My bones reverberated with an electric buzz that could only be the Holy Spirit. The foundation of St. Stephen's had never rumbled with such hope.
Over my shoulder, the priest, who had sexually assaulted me in the confessional during college and exploited me for two years after, clapped away. During the Mass, he'd said the homily. I hadn't wanted him anywhere near the celebration, but his absence would have raised questions. An unwritten tradition held that the pastor of the parish "honor" his priestly protégé by preaching at the special Mass. My Franciscan counselor had encouraged me to let my perpetrator preach, as an exercise in forgiveness and letting go.