Lowell's Gary Bergeron:
Clergy Sex-Abuse Survivor Shares His Story of 'Hope'
By Matt Murphy firstname.lastname@example.org
July 26, 2004
LOWELL In his first interview three years ago, after going public with news that he had been sexually abused by a Catholic priest in Lowell, Gary Bergeron cautioned a Sun reporter not to call him a victim.
"I hate that term," said Bergeron, 42, an outspoken "survivor" of the sexual-abuse scandal. "A victim is what I was for the last 30 years. I don't use that as a crutch anymore."
Bergeron is now publishing a book titled Don't Call Me a Victim detailing his life, his abuse and the process of fighting the Catholic Church that brought him to the steps of the Vatican and led to a landmark $85 million court settlement with the Boston Archdiocese.
Publishing the book himself under the name Arc Angel Publishing, Bergeron will release the 340-page memoir Sept. 9 a year to the day from when the archdiocese settled the civil suit with Bergeron and about 550 sexual-abuse survivors.
"I think the public will be interested in knowing what a couple of guys from Lowell accomplished," Bergeron said sitting down for an interview. "There's a lot of questions that still haven't been answered."
Bergeron, an altar boy at St. Michael Parish in Lowell, says he was repeatedly molested by the late Rev. Joseph Birmingham in the 1970s, when Bergeron was in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades at St. Michael's. The book explains the nature of sexual abuse without getting overtly graphic, he said.
"It's palatable," Bergeron said. "I got just enough in so that people will understand what happened."
Bergeron said he also reveals details of many of the behind-the-scenes meetings and late-night conversations survivors had with church officials leading up to the settlement and a public acknowledgment that the church had ignored allegations of sexual abuse. Included are 12 pages of church documents showing that the Boston Archdiocese was aware of Birmingham's abusive past as early as 1964, when Bergeron was 2 years old.
A percentage of the proceeds from book sales will be donated to the TRUST Foundation, set up by Bergeron for sexual-abuse survivors, the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, and the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.
Bergeron declined to specify the value of his portion of the settlement but writes in the book that he did not receive the maximum amount $300,000 nor did he receive special compensation for the public role he played in the lawsuit.
"It's not about the money. It never has been, and I actually used my settlement to set up my foundation," Bergeron said.
Bergeron said he found the process of writing the book therapeutic, drawing much of it from journal entries, but added that he faced "tremendous pressure" not to write it.
"Twenty-six publishers told me not to write it, but I had also had 2,600 people telling me I'd never meet (Cardinal Bernard Law) or go to the Vatican," Bergeron said.
While some publishers were unwilling to take on the Catholic Church, Bergeron said others wanted him to steer the book toward his abuse or toward his meeting with Vatican officials.
"They were interested in a book about condemning the Catholic Church, and that's not what this book is about. This book is about hope," he said.
More information about purchasing the book can be found on arcangelpublishing.com
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