|In Support of SB575
By David Lorenz
Testimony before the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Subcommittee
March 1, 2007
I am a practicing Catholic who is very dedicated to my faith, my religious heritage, and my Church. I am deeply involved in the operation of my Church and volunteer countless hours in helping my Catholic Community of Faith. I am a father of four children and have been married to my wife, Judy, for nearly 25 years. I am also a survivor of child rape that was committed at the hands of a priest in Kentucky. I will use the word rape because that is what it was. It was not child abuse – that sounds so antiseptic. When you hear the words child abuse throughout the rest of the other victims’ testimony, I want you to understand it for what it was – rape.
When I was almost 11 years old and nearing the end of my 6th grade at a grade school in Northern Kentucky, I was recruited to attend a college prep school by a priest, Earl Bierman, who was one of the most charismatic and likable priests that I had ever met in my young life. He was respected by all of the kids and respected by all of the parents. Over the course of the next few years, this priest who was the guidance counselor at the school, became friend and confidant to almost every student in this all male school. It was not uncommon to go see this priest if you were having trouble with your relationships or with your grade. During some of these counseling sessions that I had with him, he would often turn the topic to one of my personal sexual development and under the guise of this discussion would grope and touch me inappropriately. It is only now, as an adult, that I can look back and see how he was probing and grooming me and, as I have learned in later years, many of my fellow students for his dark purposes that none of us nor our parents were aware of. As I got older, it was not uncommon for me and many of my friends to gather at his house. It was also not uncommon for several of us to spend the night. It was during one of these sleep overs, following his farewell party, because he was being transferred out of the area, that he all-out assaulted and abused me and a friend of mine. When it happened, I couldn’t resist, I couldn’t fight back – I was paralyzed. My mind went numb and it all just happened. In some ways it was like it was happening to someone else but it was also happening to me. I couldn’t resist because I was raised to respect adults and teachers and do as I was told. This was especially true if the person was a priest – a holy man of God. Unfortunately, I learned too late that this was no holy man and I had been set up by him and the bishop.
I could explain how the feeling of shame and guilt were overwhelming for the next days and weeks and months. I kept this secret inside me. Afraid to tell anyone. Almost afraid to even let people see me because I was sure they would be able to tell that I had sex with a priest. I had no one and no where to turn. I buried this secret deep in the recesses of my mind – never forgotten but I learned to put it so deep in my head that it seemed it wasn’t hurting. I told only one person over the next 20 years – that was the other friend of mine who stayed over that same night and was also raped. I didn’t tell my parents. I was sure if they knew I would be ostracized or humiliated and I didn’t tell my wife. My secret was safe buried deep in my mind – except for the chronic insomnia and the bad temper. As I entered my 30’s, I felt like I wanted to tell someone but I honestly didn’t know how. How do you tell your wife something like this? How do you tell your parents? Luckily for me, my hand was forced at an early age. If you consider 34 an early age but it is early compared to most victims. In 1992, my perpetrator was exposed by someone else who had been raped by him. It wasn’t long before more and more victims came forward and it made quite a stir in the local press. I was told what was going on and knew it wouldn’t be long before my Mother asked me if it happened. I knew I couldn’t lie and so the truth came out and my the burden began to lift. My healing had finally begun, 20 years after the fact and only because I was forced into it. I think it would have been years longer if I had been left to my own initiative.
I could go on and on about all of the hurt that I went through but I want to focus on what has been revealed to me about the Church cover up and the Church’s inaction that lead to my being raped.
In 1993, a few months after I began healing, I went to see the bishop of the diocese. We had a frank discussion and I asked him what steps were being done to keep this from happening again. He informed (actually dismissed me but I was still naive) that this could not happen again because of the press coverage that was taking place there and all over the country (remember Porter). I asked him why so many kids had been raped and why the previous bishop had not done anything to stop it. He said that they were being misinformed by psychiatrists and they thought this priest was safe. I bought his story – skeptically, but I bought it.
Of course we all have heard of the horrors that occurred in Boston in 2002. Some of you may be familiar with stories from around the country – Philadelphia, LA, NH, Maine. This bishop was wrong – the problem was still going on despite the press coverage in 1992.
In 2004, a class action suit was filed in Kentucky on behalf of the victims in the diocese. As part of that legal action, the attorney was given access to the diocesan files. What he learned was the following:
Now you might say that this was only in Kentucky. But it has happened elsewhere. I would like to give you some of the results of investigations that have occurred. Church records have only been fully investigated by an independent source in 6 instances. Grand juries were convened to investigate the activities of Westchester County in New York, Suffolk County in NY, & Philadelphia PA. Attorney generals' investigation have occurred in Manchester NH, Boston MA, and Maine. I would like to summarize the common points of these investigations. [See the reports: Westchester, Suffolk, Philadelphia, Manchester, Boston, Maine.]
What does all of this indicate? When an independent investigation looks carefully at the records of the Church, in all cases they find excessive lying and cover up by Church officials. They find that the laws are insufficient to protect children and they come to an understanding that victims find it difficult to come forward. From the Philadelphia GJ report [Section IV, Legal Analysis and Recommendations, p. 70, PDF p. 12]:
Lest you think that the dioceses in Maryland have not participated in similar cover up, I would ask you to read p. 40 [PDF p. 12] of the Philadelphia GJ report. This is from the section entitled Overview of the Cover-Up by Archdiocese Officials:
The neighboring diocese that they are referring to is none other than the archdiocese of Washington DC. Without even trying, the GJ in Philadelphia discovered that DC was participating in the cover-up. From this one statement, it seems to me that it would be hard to give credence to anything the archdiocese has to say on this matter. They have been shown to cover up.
Copyright © David Lorenz 2007.
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