Abused by Priest Speaks Out: '... There Was This Blackness
over My Soul'
On the Kptv
January 28, 2014
EUGENE, OR (KPTV) -
She survived years of sex abuse at the hand of her
priest, prompting her to file a lawsuit against the Archdiocese
Carolee Horning has tried to remain out of the
spotlight throughout it all over the years, keeping the details
of what happened to her private.
But now, she's deciding to share her personal struggle
with FOX 12 as part of an investigative series shedding light on
the issue of child sex abuse in Oregon.
"I used to say, when I talked about him, there was
this blackness over my soul," Horning said.
For 20 years she kept his secret, manipulated by her
"It started when I was a teen. Nobody knew," she said.
"But you contribute to the problem when you shut it out. It's
happening to someone right now," said Horning.
As a child, Carolee Horning and her family spent every
Sunday at the St. John the Apostle Parish in Reedsport.
She considered it to be her safe haven, a sanctuary,
until it wasn't.
"All I remember is things fading," said Horning.
It started at age 13, the day she was introduced to
her new parish priest, Edward Altstock. He would soon find ways
to meet her in private and make her feel special.
"I have mixed emotions about, it you know. I cared
about him. He was my first crush," said Horning.
Praying on her vulnerability, she says Altstock would
sexually seduce and abuse her again and again, abuse that would
continue in the shadows of the church for years.
"For a long time, I pretended like it was no big deal,
I would tell people he was just a friend," she said.
Horning says Altstock lost interest in her as she got
older. Over time, the abuse and what she calls their
relationship faded. After that, Horning was afraid to speak out.
She continued to go to that small-town church with her
family for more than a decade, until what she calls divine
intervention in the form of a church bulletin.
"I picked it up, and I just saw it was an article
about how abuse only happened in the church hundreds of years
ago and not anymore," said Horning. "That's when the seed of
That fury she felt on that day prompted Carolee
Horning to take on her abuser and the Catholic Church head on.
She filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit against the Archdiocese
of Portland in 2011.
In the end, both sides settled on one condition, the
church publicly apologize.
"It was about making the church be accountable for
what they did," she said.
And so for the last time, Carolee Horning went to her
"I just remember my dad's hand on my knee and my mom
holding my hand," she said.
And before her friends and family, she listened as a
spokesperson for the archbishop delivered an apology for all of
the years of abuse she suffered.
The apology reads:
"Dear friends in Reedsport,
In March 2011, the Archdiocese of Portland
first received a report from Carolee Horning that she was
involved in an inappropriate, personal relationship with Father
Edward Altstock. That relationship began when she was under 18
years of age, and the relationship progressed to include sexual
behavior. Father Altstock was pastor of this parish from 1984
to 1986. Father Altstock was a friend of the Horning family and
took unfair advantage of the high regard in which the family
held him. He was a trusted pastor and he betrayed that trust.
Once again, I express my deep regret and sorrow to Ms. Horning,
and now apologize also to her family and anyone in this faith
community who was injured by Father Edward Altstock.
We cannot undo the past on my behalf,
however, those who assist me in these matters responded
promptly to Ms. Horning's report in ways that would facilitate
her healing. Our safe environment coordinator Kathy Shannon met
with Ms. Horning on hearing her story. We offered to provide
professional counseling for Ms. Horning and have been doing so.
Ms. Shannon also offered Ms. Horning pastoral assistance. When
I learned of this, I offered Ms. Horning my apology and sincere
regret for what happened and assured her that I would meet with
her if she wished. Ms. Horning has not yet done so, but my
offer remains open.
When Ms. Horning later filed the lawsuit
against the Archdiocese we prompted its early settlement
through mediation so that Ms. Horning could promptly put the
court case behind her. Along with these efforts and this
apology, come my sincere hope and prayer for the heeling of Ms.
Horning and all who may have been injured by the actions of
Father Altstock or any priest of this archdiocese.
May the God of peace and healing bless you
all, most reverend, John G Vlazny."
A lot has changed for Horning since that day in the
"I just can't explain how different I feel. I don't
blame myself anymore. It's huge, it's a wonderful feeling and
it's hard to put into words," said Horning.
Now unafraid of living, Horning has opened up her own
veterinary clinic in Eugene. She's in the process of buying her
own house, and takes joy in spending time with friends and
Horning has also written a book about her life titled
The Journal of My Broken Life.
She's hopeful, when for so many years she never
thought that to be possible, all because she refused to be
"All I can say is that if you are being abused, you
need to tell somebody, and you need to get help. It's not your
fault, no matter what you think or feel right now," said
The Archdiocese of Portland refused to comment further
on the lawsuit and referred FOX 12 to their initial apology.
As FOX 12 has looked into the issue of child sex
abuse, FOX 12 has uncovered a big trend happening in Oregon. It
both raises concerns, and gives some new hope for people
suffering as victims.