I was sexually abused as a teen by the N.J. priest arrested for child porn | Opinion
January 15, 2017
|The Rev. Kevin Gugliotta was arrested on child pornography charges in October. The photo at left was released by law enforcement. At right, he is seen in a portrait for the Archdiocese of Newark.|
I am the unnamed sex-abuse victim of Kevin Gugliotta, the poker-playing priest arrested on Oct. 29 on child pornography charges. mentioned in Mark Meuller's story in The Star-Ledger on Dec. 6.
The article made it clear that the Newark Archdiocese's statement was misleading if not an outright lie: "There are no allegations that he engaged in similar activities in New Jersey,"
In fact, before Gugliotta was ordained, he sexually assaulted and sexually harassed me when I was a teenager. In 2003 - nearly 15 years after I was abused - I came forward to the Archdiocesan Review Board. Archbishop John J. Myers relied on a technicality of canon law to excuse Gugliotta, since my allegations stemmed to years before he was ordained. Worse, the archbishop then assigned him to posts where he had supervision over children.
The church, under Myers, sat on these very serious allegations, right up until they knew the newspaper would shed light on it.
Today, I want to add insight how perpetrators of child sexual abuse take time to build a network of trust and confidence by cultivating love and respect in families and communities, such that their acts, when they come to light, seem unbelievable.
I also want to speak to the culture within the Catholic church that denies and hides the behavior of perpetrators - a culture that fails to protect children and young adults, condemning them to a lifetime of shame and secrecy from which it is very difficult, if not impossible in some cases, to recover.
After I came forward with my allegations, the Archdiocese leadership's response was to send me a brief letter stating that they found nothing to support my claims. They made no attempt to minister to me as a long-time parishioner. To this day, I remain incredulous about this decision and I cannot fathom it.
I'm speaking again because things need to change and they need to change now.
As archdioceses around the country and around the world continue to shield perpetrators of child sexual abuse, the youngest members of our society remain in danger. Priests like Gugliotta remain out there, gaining the trust and confidence of families while using them as a foundation to wreak irreparable damage on young people. Gugliotta is intelligent and talented. He is a self-taught musician. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical and industrial engineering; and he was gainfully employed as an engineer prior to entering the seminary.
He was charismatic, and he was always in the heat of organizing or running projects and events with the various groups in which he was involved. Gugliotta was a neighbor and a friend to my older brothers and sisters. He was my Boy Scout leader. He became a trusted friend and companion to all my family. As the abuse began to slowly occur, I had a sense of disbelief and denial, and my defenses were somewhat hindered by our apparent friendship.
I didn't know how to protect myself as the abuse occurred. Likewise, I do not fault my parents or any of my older siblings for not seeing or stopping the abuse. In my mind we were all his victims, as he violated our trust and took advantage of our sympathy, compassion and friendship. Gugliotta did many good things for me, and others, but it is difficult not to see this all as a part of a grooming process.
It was not until I removed myself from the situation that I could clearly see Gugliotta's actions for what they were. Even then it took time for me to come to terms with what happened. I deeply regret that I did not go public with this story in 2003, and I am truly sorry if this failed to keep others from harm.
I was a victim when I was a teenager -- and in some way I will always remain a victim until I move beyond this feeling.
To protect other victims, the cycle needs to stop. Perpetrators that the church has hidden for years and continues to protect need to be stopped. All the steps the church has taken to address this issue to this point appear to be just for show, and lack in any true compassion and concern.
A big cultural change is long overdue. My hope is that newly installed Cardinal Joseph Tobin will find the courage to lead the Archdiocese of Newark with progressive ideals -- and that the Vatican takes steps toward positive reform.
All options must be seriously considered, including the ordination of married people and women, the increased power of active laity in the church and increased tolerance for all people. It is time for all good priests to speak out against their colleagues who are hiding such behavior behind the cloth. And the statutes of limitations for such cases must be lengthened.