Confessions of Priest Who Molested 17 Boys Released
June 2, 2012
[Robert Van Handel's Sexual History]
The lurid confessions of a priest who sexually abused young boys in his parish choir and the seminary offer a glimpse into one of the minds behind the massive sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church.
Former priest Robert Van Handel's 27-page sexual history, which he wrote for a psychologist between 1993 and 1994, details his history of abuse and fantasies of abusing boys age 8 to 11. The document was released as part of a settlement between the Franciscan order of priests and 25 abuse victims.
In the essay, Van Handel, now 65 and a registered sex offender in Santa Cruz County, describes wrestling, tickling and fondling young boys whom he invited to attend one-on-one choir practices, admits to molesting high school boys at a seminary where he taught, and says he took pictures of young boys wearing few clothes or showering.
"It was clearly my choir and the fulfillment of my fondest dreams," he wrote. "Now I understand that it was also a constant supply of attractive little boys."
He also described an encounter with another priest, while Van Handel was in seminary around high-school age, in which the priest molested him while he was in the infirmary.
"While I don't think it is of crucial importance in my life, it is curious that this is nearly the exact activity I would perform 10 to 15 years later," he wrote.
Van Handel's account of his own descent into pedophilia traces his shame and guilt growing up, learning about and trying not to think about sex, into young adulthood, where he bought porn magazines and became interested in naked children.
"I asked my best friend once if he saw anything 'special' in pictures of children. He said, 'no, not at all.' I began to realize that I was different. Sometimes I worried about this, but I thought that as long as it was just fantasy, there was no reason to panic," he wrote.
He progressed from reading about sex with boys to taking pictures of young boys and finally, when he took over directing a boys' choir, abusing boys.
Van Handel describes trying to speak to a Franciscan counselor about his actions twice in the early 70's, but said he was too vague for the counselor to understand what he was saying.
In 1992, Van Handel pleaded guilty to one count of lewd and lascivious behavior with a minor and served four years in prison, and another four years on parole.
The release of Van Handel's confessions is rare, even among the thousands of church abuse cases that have made it to the court system in the past 10 years, according to attorney Jeffrey Anderson, who has handled more than 2,000 church abuse cases.
Van Handel and his attorney, Robert "Skip" Howie, did not return calls from ABC News seeking comment.