|Giving Hope — and Cash — to Clergy Abuse Victims
Unique Nonprofit Group Relies on Private Donations
By Jeff Diamant
Star-Ledger [Newark NJ]
May 4, 2007
In 1964, at age 13, Kevin Waldrip was molested by a Catholic priest in Newark. Two decades later the perpetrator, the Rev. Richard Galdon, was sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment after pleading guilty to sexually abusing several boys. He died in 2000.
But Waldrip says he has not been able to hold a steady job because of lingering psychological problems stemming from the abuse and ongoing issues with authority figures. Now 55, he lives in his car, sleeping in the back seat, in an Essex County town he doesn't want to name for fear of alerting police.
A lifeblood for him these days, he says, has been a nonprofit group called Rescue and Recovery International, which helps victims of clergy sex abuse and was started by a controversial Newark priest, the Rev. Robert Hoatson. Over the last 12 months, the organization, serving as a welfare agency of sorts, has given Waldrip nearly $1,500.
"I've gotten money for car insurance," Waldrip said this week. "I have a storage unit, and I haven't been able to make the payments on that occasionally, and they've helped me out with that ... There were times I didn't have anything to eat, and he was able to give me cash so I can buy some food."
Rescue and Recovery, which may be the only group established to financially help victims of clergy abuse, was founded by Hoatson in 2005. Since then, he has doled out $50,000 from donations either as direct aid or for counseling services to about 100 people who say they were molested as children by Catholic clergy.
Now it is getting fundraising help from a dozen people, most of them current and former parishioners of the Church of St. Joseph in Mendham. Decades ago, that parish was home to the Rev. James Hanley, who molested at least a dozen boys while pastor there. The goal is to raise $160,000 for an annual budget for the group, which is changing its name to Road to Recovery.
"We're still close to several people in that parish ... that have been through this," said Peter Mahoney, one of the key fundraisers. "This is one way I can be of some assistance."
The cadre of fundraisers consists of people still upset with the clergy sex abuse scandal that erupted in 2002, which revealed that many bishops across the United States had shielded abusive priests from law enforcement or even moved them from church to church without informing parishioners.
"I've been a lifelong Catholic and I have watched with some degree of stress what has evolved with the abuse," said Diana Brown, of Mendham, who is one of the fundraisers. "For a long time, probably more than two or three years, I have prayed silently for the victims of abuse, and thinking to myself that my skills really are not very useful to them."
But earlier this year, she said, she was approached by Mahoney and Monsignor Kenneth Lasch, a retired priest who for years worked at St. Joseph and led the parish through the immediate aftermath of the scandal. The two asked Brown and her husband if they would help raise money for Hoatson's group.
"I thought, 'Oh my heavens, my prayers have been answered,'" she said.
David Clohessy, national director for the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, said that while some state chapters of the lay reform group Voice of the Faithful have helped victims financially on an ad hoc basis, Road to Recovery appears to be the only organization established just to provide financial assistance to abuse victims.
"They're doing something that the Catholic bishops and many Catholic parishes should have done long ago and should be doing now," Clohessy said.
Lasch, 70, and Hoatson, 55, have been vocal in that same belief. While dioceses have collectively paid many victims hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements, Lasch and Hoatson say many victims have fallen through the cracks.
"Not every victim of sexual abuse is poor," Lasch said. "But (to be molested by a priest) is a life-altering experience, and the recovery is lifelong."
Hoatson says he was a victim of clergy sex abuse, though not as a child. While a young adult with the Congregation of Christian Brothers, he says, he was molested over eight years by superiors and peers in the religious order.
"This kind of abuse is so unique and so different than all other kinds of abuse," Hoatson said. "In my experience, people who've been abused by clergy have tended to be more ... psychologically damaged than other people because they feel God abused them, and therefore (they feel) they are totally and absolutely bad."
Hoatson, a Newark archdiocese priest since 1997, has long had a troubled relationship with the church hierarchy. He has been in a public dispute with the archdiocese for starting Rescue and Recovery without church permission. And in December 2005 he was placed on administrative leave — unable to present himself as a priest — shortly after suing the archdiocese.
Among other things, his lawsuit contends he was improperly removed from his position as a church schools director at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Orange in 2003.
Hoatson, who remains on administrative leave, contends he was fired for publicly criticizing American bishops for cover-ups related to the clergy sex scandal. Archdiocese officials say they removed him because of concerns about his management, his relationship with the school finance committee, and because he had, at one point, asked to be removed.
The small group of fundraisers for Rescue and Recovery have not taken sides in the lawsuit, Lasch said. "They haven't taken a stand on his lawsuit because they're not attorneys and not privy to the details of that lawsuit."
Jeff Diamant may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (973) 392-1547.
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