Man Who Grew up in Va. Beach Speaks out about Abuse
By Bill Sizemore
August 7, 2012
|Paul Traub, 55, a farmer in Loudoun County, decided to go public with allegations that he was sexually abused by Catholic priests when he was a boy. The decision means he is risking the $60,000 he received in legal settlements that were made under the condition that he keep quiet. Traub sits for a portrait at his home in Lovettsville, Va., on Sunday, July 15, 2012. (Preston Gannaway | The Virginian-Pilot)|
For decades, Paul Traub bottled up memories of what happened to him as a child in Virginia Beach. Whenever he tried to talk about it, it seemed no one wanted to listen. He felt there was no place to turn.
Through all those years of silence, the anger inside him smoldered. The father of three sons saw two marriages crumble. Often, trying to dull the pain, he drank himself into a stupor.
His girlfriend of seven years, Kathleen Cleary, says Traub's struggle to deal with his emotions has affected their relationship, too.
"He told me about it on our second date," she said. "I wasn't prepared for how bad it's been."
Finally, Traub, who is now 55 and a farmer in Loudoun County, reached the boiling point. He decided he had to speak out - even if it meant risking the $60,000 he received in legal settlements under the condition that he keep quiet.
"I'm not going to live forever, and before I die, I want this to be known," he said. "The longer I thought about it, I just had to do something."
The son of a Navy officer, Traub grew up in the Kings Grant neighborhood of Virginia Beach, a few blocks from St. Nicholas Catholic Church, where he was an altar boy.
In the late 1960s, when he was 9 or 10 years old, he attended a Catholic summer camp in Caroline County. That's where the abuse began, he said: One of the counselors, a seminarian, approached Traub in the shower room, took him back to his cabin and molested him.
Not long after that, according to Traub, a parish priest at St. Nicholas began abusing him. The cleric was a frequent Sunday dinner guest at the family's house. Traub said he remembers an occasion when the priest gave him a drink of wine, took him upstairs to give him a bath and molested him in the tub. There were other instances of abuse, perhaps half a dozen over the course of a year, both at home and church, he said.
Neither of those allegations could ever be verified because Traub couldn't remember the alleged abusers' names.
That wasn't the case with the Rev. Martin Brady.
A Franciscan friar, Brady was headmaster from 1968 to 1972 at James Barry Robinson High School, a Catholic boys' boarding school in Norfolk. The facility closed as a school in 1977 and is now a treatment center for emotionally disturbed children.
Traub, a 1974 graduate of First Colonial High School, was never a student at Barry Robinson but encountered Brady on a regular basis when he said a weekly Mass at St. Nicholas.
The friar molested him perhaps a dozen times over the course of a year or more, Traub said, including one occasion when he took Traub on a week's vacation to Budd Lake, a resort in New Jersey. The two shared a room there.
Tall and tan, with a craggy face and piercing eyes, Traub does not speak easily of what he said happened to him.
Memories of abuse - which he said ranged from kissing and fondling to oral sex - are burned into his brain, Traub said: "It bothers me every day of my life."
At one point in his 30s, he checked himself into a psychiatric treatment center in search of help, but he found no respite.
In 2002, he decided to confront church authorities.
It was a long, arduous process, in part because there were multiple lines of responsibility.
Brady was a member of the Franciscan Friars, Third Order Regular, based in Hollidaysburg, Pa., which operated Barry Robinson School under contract with a local board of trustees. St. Nicholas, where Brady said Mass, is part of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond.
Over the course of four years, via emails, phone calls and personal visits, Traub told his story to all three entities. Two of them entered into confidential settlements with him - the Franciscans in 2003 and the Barry Robinson board in 2004.
Chuck McPhillips, president of the Barry Robinson board, was one of several board members who met with Traub. He said it was "as anguishing a discussion as I've ever been privy to."
Brady died in 2003, so there was no way to get his side of the story. But Traub seemed credible, McPhillips said.
"It was very clear to us that he had suffered and was in need of healing," he said. "To a man, we felt nothing but grief and compassion for him."
"If Father Brady had still been alive," McPhillips added, "we would have reported it to law enforcement."
The Franciscan Friars also took Traub's allegations seriously, said the Rev. Patrick Quinn, minister provincial of the religious order.
"Our policy is to work with anyone who comes forward who claims to be abused and to respond pastorally," Quinn said.
The Diocese of Richmond, however, steadfastly refused to acknowledge any liability.
Traub's younger brother Mark, who didn't hear his brother's story until he was an adult, became an advocate and intermediary for Paul Traub.
"When you go through something like that, it does something deep-seated to you," Mark Traub said. "They robbed him of his adolescence."
At one point in 2004, the two brothers met with two diocesan representatives in Richmond. The meeting was a few weeks before Bishop Francis DiLorenzo took over the diocese from Walter Sullivan, now bishop emeritus. It is unclear whether either bishop was made aware of Traub's allegations.
"They didn't take any responsibility," Mark Traub said. "For them to completely turn their back on it, to me, is unconscionable."
Diocesan attorney William Etherington didn't mince words in his final communication on the matter, a letter to Paul Traub in August 2006.
If anyone bore responsibility for what happened, it was the Franciscans and the school trustees, not the diocese, he wrote: "The Diocese does not and will not accede to what appears to be nothing more than a demand for hush money."
In an interview, Etherington said Brady answered to his religious order, not the diocese. "Organizationally they're sort of parallel universes," he said. As for filling the pulpit at the parish church, that was something Brady did on a voluntary basis, Etherington said: "He was not a priest of the Diocese of Richmond."
Traub "tried to blackmail the diocese," Etherington said. "Basically, he said, 'I'm going to go public with this and you'll be embarrassed if you don't pay me some money.' I'm not a criminal lawyer, but I think that's illegal. I'd call it extortion....
"Something probably very awful happened to him, I don't know. But the diocese wasn't involved."
The Diocese of Richmond, which includes Hampton Roads, has played a relatively small role in the wave of sexual abuse allegations that has rocked the Catholic church over the past 10 years.
The church has acknowledged that, nationwide, more than 6,000 clerics have been plausibly accused of abusing more than 16,000 people.
A 2004 study commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reported that 19 of 420 priests who served in the Diocese of Richmond between 1950 and 2002 were found to have been involved in plausible abuse cases. Of those, 15 were diocesan priests and four were members of religious orders.
Traub's story, however, raises the question of how many more cases might have been brought to the attention of diocesan officials but never acknowledged.
More than a year before the diocese's final rejection of Traub's claim, Brady's name had entered the public record as an alleged pedophile.
In February 2005, The Associated Press reported that the Rev. John Nesbella, himself a Catholic priest in Pennsylvania, was suing his diocese, saying he had been abused as a teenager by Brady when the friar was a teacher at his high school.
Brady taught at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School in Ebensburg, Pa., from 1974 to 1981, after he left Norfolk.
In an interview with The Virginian-Pilot, Nesbella said he took his allegations to a review board in the Altoona-Johnstown diocese, but church officials refused to accept any responsibility.
"Basically they said it was my fault," he said. "Honest to God, they said it was my fault that that priest abused me - that I let him do it. And that was the end of it. I was flabbergasted. They said, 'You were 16 years old at the time. You knew what you were doing.'
"The bishop said to me, right out, 'You're not getting anything.' He had a little tantrum.... I remember those words: 'You're not getting anything.' And he left the office in a huff."
In a public statement at the time, Bishop Joseph Adamec said Nesbella's allegations were "next to impossible to confirm" because the accused cleric was dead.
Nesbella said representatives of Brady's order were at his hearing. But they made no
acknowledgment that the order had settled a similar allegation against Brady two years earlier.
"When I came forward, that must have been no surprise to them," Nesbella said. "And they didn't say a word about it."
Nesbella received no monetary settlement and ultimately was forced out of the priesthood over his allegations, he said.
In the end, he dropped his lawsuit. "I looked at all the difficulty it was going to cause me and what I could possibly gain from it, and emotionally I couldn't take it," he said.
Neither he nor Traub knew of the other's allegations until being informed by The Pilot.
"It saddens me," Nesbella said. "But I'm not surprised."
In 2002, as the wave of abuse allegations began washing over the church, Catholic leaders promised to respond vigorously and openly.
"Innocent victims and their families have suffered terribly," the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops declared in its Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. "In the past, secrecy has created an atmosphere that has inhibited the healing process and, in some cases, enabled sexually abusive behavior to be repeated. As bishops, we... take responsibility for dealing with this problem strongly, consistently, and effectively in the future."
A decade later, that pledge rings hollow, said Terry McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org, a clergy-abuse victims website.
"To the extent that the situation is better, that's because it was forced on them by others," he said. "It's certainly the case that fewer sex offenders are in ministry now than was the case, say, in 2000, because a lot of priests have been removed. They weren't removed because the bishops saw the light. They were removed because they were exposed by the press and by attorneys on behalf of victims."
The handling of Traub's allegations is troubling in several ways, McKiernan said.
For one thing, he said, the provisions in Traub's settlement agreements requiring him to keep the terms confidential violate the spirit of the 2002 bishops' charter, which renounced such provisions.
McKiernan also believes the Diocese of Richmond ducked its responsibility for Brady's behavior.
"If a religious order priest is working in a diocesan facility, be that a parish church, rectory or school, church law says the bishop is responsible," he said.
It's true the church has made structural changes aimed at curbing abuse, McKiernan said. For instance, nearly every diocese now has a review board to hear and investigate claims of molestation.
"It is a system of apparent responsibility and accountability. It looks good," he said. "But one of the big questions is, to what extent has this system that they've put into place meant that the behavior is changing?"
The Traub case, he said, "is a pretty interesting example of how the behavior, unfortunately, has not changed."
Going public with his allegations seems in some way a cathartic experience for Traub. He knows he is putting himself in legal jeopardy by breaking the confidentiality provisions in the settlement agreements, but he doesn't care. It's not about the money, he says.
He said he believes church officials should face criminal prosecution.
"They not only knew; they covered it up," he said. "They're just as guilty as the people that raped me."
Bill Sizemore, 757-446-2276, firstname.lastname@example.org