Plaintiff Says Priest Was like 'Jesus Christ'
He Explains Why He Told No One for Years
By Don Lattin
San Francisco Chronicle
May 24, 1994
Looking back on it now, Don Hoard says it's easy to understand why he never told anyone about what Father Gary did to him on those dark summer nights at Camp St. Michael.
"To everyone there, he was God. Kids were competing for his attention," said Hoard, one of nine plaintiffs in a civil suit filed yesterday against the Rev. Gary Timmons and two other Bay Area priests.
"When you are 11 years old, this guy is Jesus Christ. It's hard to tell someone that Jesus Christ molested you."
Hoard, now a Petaluma resident and 31-year-old partner in an accounting firm, spoke in a recent interview about his visits in the summer of 1974 and 1975 at an isolated Roman Catholic camp outside the North Coast town of Leggett.
Groups of eight to 10 boys would leave the base camp, he said, for overnight hiking trips with Father Gary or one of the camp counselors.
"He (Timmons) put his sleeping bag next to mine, unzipped my bag and started to give me a back rub. I didn't think it was weird when it started happening," said Hoard, then 11 years old.
"He proceeded to fondle me from behind and in front, stroking me. He took my hands and rubbed them across his genitals to get me to masturbate him."
At the time, Hoard said, he knew what he was doing was wrong but had no real context to understand what was happening to him.
"I was afraid he had chosen me and I was being punished," he recalled. "I hadn't started my sexual life in the sixth grade. I didn't tell my parents. I was too embarrassed."
When his parents suggested that he return to the camp the next summer, Hoard said, he convinced himself that it would not happen again.
But it did, he said, this time in an equipment shed during a nighttime rainstorm.
"He did the same thing for a couple of hours," he said. "I was terrified beyond belief."
After that second summer, Hoard went on with his life, eventually graduating with honors from the University of California at Berkeley, marrying and having two children. But, he said, he was always "extremely hard on myself, feeling like I was this successful person over here, and this 11-year- old molested child over there."
"There has been this weight of carrying around a secret for 20 years," he said. "I kind of understand how a rape victim feels."
SHOW ON PEDOPHILE PRIESTS
Hoard said he did not tell anyone about the experience until he saw a television show about five years ago on pedophile priests and told his wife.
"We never talked about it again for another three years, when she wanted me to see a therapist," he said.
It was Hoard's therapist who suggested that they report the incident to the Sheriff's Department, the camp and Roman Catholic Bishop G. Patrick Ziemann of the Diocese of Santa Rosa. Repeated attempts to reach Timmons were unsuccessful.
Hoard said it was not easy for him to come forward and to join in the lawsuit.
"It's the most embarrassing thing in my life, but it's different now having children of my own," he said. "To imagine someone doing that to my daughter or son brings about a desire to see it stopped."
Hoard says he would like to personally confront Timmons today, "to express my anger to him as a 6 foot, 2 inch guy, not as an 11-year-old who was scared in the dark."
MONEY NOT ISSUE
"It's not that I want to get money from the church," he said. "If my integrity is questioned, I would donate the money to helping others deal with child abuse."
Hoard said the experience has stopped him from having anything to do with the Catholic Church. He was the first person in his family not to marry in the church and has not had either of his children baptized in the Catholic Church.
"By not having priests who can marry and live like normal human beings, they set themselves up for this," he said. "They put young men in a seminary and say you don't have any sexual urges. The only outlet they have are with other men, or boys at camp."
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