Chapter Four: A Description of Six



I always wanted to be a priest; I was always in church. I guess I have “a calling,” a vocation. (Priest-perpetrator 1)


The therapists would ask the parish priests and they’d say, “Father’s fine.” They protected me. Everyone always protected me. No one wanted to “spill the beans” on Father. (Priest-perpetrator 6)


I have also learned humility in the face of the vulnerable, human, sinful side of all of us priests. I see a reflection of my own weakness and humanity in them. Though I deplore what they have done, my heart goes out to them in their now almost shattered dream of priesthood. (A Vicar for Priests)[154]

I. Introduction

The overall goal of this study is to gain an understanding of how the bishops interpreted the allegations of abuse by members of the clergy. To accomplish this goal, I use the organizational culture perspective, which, in the study, focuses on the clerical culture of the priesthood from 1970s to mid-1980s and I interviewed six priest-perpetrators. The analysis and interpretation of the interview data from these priest-perpetrators are presented to support the analysis and interpretation of the data from the bishops, which follow in the next chapter.[155]

While the six are not a representative sample of priest-perpetrators in the United States, they do share many characteris­tics in common. They are all ephebophiles, as are most of the priest-perpetrators (Gill 1995, 4-5; Robinson, Montana, and Thompson 1993; Rossetti and Lothstein 1990, 9-18; and Valcour 1990). Ephebophiles are sexually aroused by postpubescent youth such as altar boys, unlike pedophiles who are sexually aroused by prepubescent children (Feierman 1994).[156] Most of these priest-perpetrators have a high degree of fixation on their victims, a high amount of contact with them, and exhibit a high degree of social competence.[157] The number of victims of the priest-perpetrators in this study represent a fairly broad range from a single instance,   (P-P1), to dozens, (P-P6).

P-P1 is a young priest, ordained five years when he became involved in a relationship with a teenage boy, to which he pleaded nolo contendre. P-P2 is still a priest, but is incarcerated for moles­tation charges of teenage boys that he denies; he carries on a kind of underground ministry. P-P3 fits the abused-abuser syndrome; he was molested by a Scout master and he molested a half dozen teenage boys; he was incarcerated and released. P-P4 was charged with sexual molestation of one boy, to which he pleaded nolo contendre; he only wants a pension from the diocese in which he served for over ten years. P-P5, now deceased, was an alcoholic for many, many years. He fits a current popular view of the priest with the summer place who takes altar boys on trips, gives them money, and takes pornographic pictures of them. P-P6 fits the media image of an out-going priest who spends all his time with a gang of teenage boys, wrestles, fondles, and molests one after the other in a seemingly endless effort to gain sexual satisfaction.

The priest-perpetrators’ stories provide a base with which to understand the bishops’ interpretation of the priests’ offenses. Also they will help the reader can gain some understanding of the ecclesial culture in which they functioned.[158] For Schank (1990), “Storytelling and understanding are functionally the same thing” (24).

We need to tell someone a story that describes our experience because the process of creating the story also created that memory structure that will contain the gist of the story for the rest of your lives. (155, italics in original)

The common denominator in the priest-perpetrators’ stories is that they were “called” to be priests, and the majority of the time they were fulfilling that ministry. As horrible and tragic as their abusive behavior was, they perceived their actions as moral failings, sins that were forgiven by God. While being forgiven by the Church, not to mention victims, their families, parishioners, and society in general is definitely another matter, at the time of their offenses, they saw their sins are forgivable and not incompatible with being priests. Clearly views of the priests’ offenses have changed considerably. For example, in Slayer of the Soul (Rossetti 1990), essays on the legal and pastoral responses appear, but the issue of forgiveness is not addressed. In Restoring Trust, a collection of essays and articles put together by the Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse (1995), is an essay by a priest-perpetrator who kept his priestly faculties, that is he was not excardinated from the diocese. He was allowed to remain a priest in active, but restricted ministry.

This chapter presents data from the six priest-perpetrators. The major themes are (1) the priests’ understanding of the permanency of a vocation to the priesthood, (2) molestation and abuse as a moral failing, both of which are addressed in the next chapter, and (3) reassignment of priests who wish to return to active ministry[159] and/or receiving a pension.[160] For ease of presentation, I describe each of the six priest-perpetrators and incorporate these themes as they appeared in the interview data.

II. A Description of the Priest-Perpetrators

A. Priest-Perpetrator1 (P-P1)

P-P1 had been ordained just five years when he was accused of molesting a young man, a “first time” encounter.[161] He pleaded nolo contendre in a criminal suit to “keep it from being dragged out in the court.” The diocesan liaison person told him there was a 30% chance of reinstatement if he settled. He was “yanked out of the parish,” his faculties suspended, and “ ... never given a chance to say good-bye; never had a chance to explain things.” Three years later, he is still on “administrative leave,” a term that does not specifically exist in canon law, but is used by many dioceses.[162]

Prior to this incident, P-P1’s attitude toward the bishop was as his “boss.” He said in canon law, “it’s kind of parent-child relation­ship.” Previously, he said, “if the bishop said, “Jump off the roof,” I would have jumped. Now I’d look at him and say, “No way.”

As long as P-P1 can stay a priest and perform priestly functions, he will be content. “I always wanted to be a priest; I was always in church. I guess I have “a calling,” a vocation.” His inap­propriate behavior was a moral failing, a temporary setback. He strongly feels that his behavior should not prohibit him from being a priest. Because his victim was a 16 year old teen, P-P1 does not see himself as a pedophile; technically he is not. Also, because the accusation was his first offense, he may have felt more confident that he would be reassigned. He said, “I read the evaluation from Johns Hopkins. It was OK; no problem with pedophilia or anything like that.” I think he was a bit naïve about his chances to be reinstated. In 1995, he said,

The liaison person for the diocese, the person who’s my contact between the Bishop and priests like me, said that there was a 30% chance I would be reinstated if I settled. I finally decided—for lots of reasons—to settle nolo contendre. In a way I regret it because it’s like say­ing, “I’m guilty,” but it seemed like the best thing to do. It would keep the case from being dragged out in court and being exposed to all the media. The newspapers had it half wrong as it was. So it’s settled and now I’m in a kind of limbo. I’m just here waiting for an assignment.

In 1998 he was still waiting for reassignment, living in a rectory with other priests accused of abuse and awaiting trial.

P-P1 isn’t interested in reading or studying. As the following dialogue indicates, he simply wants to remain a priest.

I: Has anyone spoken to you, put pressure on you to leave?

P-P:   Yes. Twice, the bishop said it. The first time, I was kind of knocked off my feet. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it.

I: What did he say?

P-P: Maybe you should leave and get married. The second time, I said, “It will never happen.”

Being a priest, at least nominally, would be sufficient.

P-P1 continued,

The hardest things are the little things. My name and picture were left out of the diocesan book, the one that comes out every year with all the priests’ pictures. I wasn’t invited to the diocesan priests’ day of recollec­tion. No lay people are there, just priests, and if anyone needs prayers, we do. I asked for the (diocesan paper). If I hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t have gotten that either. I asked to get the newsletter for priests that comes out monthly, otherwise I wouldn’t be getting that. After all, I’m still a priest.

P-P1 recognizes that his abusive actions mean adjustments must be made to his priestly ministry. But he was taught that sins are forgiven and as far as he is concerned, God has forgiven him; the Church hierarchy should forgive him as well. He admits he should not work with youth, but he sees hospital work and visiting the elderly as areas in which he can serve.

In spite of his determination to return to ministry, P-P1 is remarkably (and I think disturbingly) accepting of the fact that his seminary training ill-prepared him to face allegations of abuse. Since he had been ordained only five years when the allegations were made and three priests had been accused of abuse in his state, it seemed to me that at a minimum, a discussion of priests’ rights was warranted. He disagreed; he accepted that the goal of seminary training should be solely academic. The following dialogue indicates the narrowness of his vision, which Kennedy (1971) I think would assess as lack of integration and an ability to asses the true meaning and outcomes of actions.

When I asked how he felt about the Pope’s taking in married Anglican priests, he said, “I thought it was great. They became Catholics.” When I reminded him of the fact that they are married and our priests have to be celibate, he said, “Yea, well, there’s that too.”

P-P1’s association with the institutional Church seems close to what Etzioni (1975) describes as a calculative type of compli­ance, that is based on pragmatic acceptance of the organization for the achievement of personal, extra-organizational goals, as opposed to moral compliance, that is an acceptance of the moral significance of the organization and one’s place within it (108).

B. Priest-Perpetrator2 (P-P2)

Given the hierarchical and legislative structure of the Church, it is not surprising P-P2, a former pastor, is still a priest.[163] Given  P-P2’s personal conviction that he was falsely accused by a kid who’s “crazy,” he will not accept a plea, which is an admission of guilt, to gain his release. “I’d rather die right here.” He added,

My lawyer wanted me to say something bad about his father, but I wouldn’t. The kid is crazy. He has seen a psychiatrist for years. He’s an alcoholic. His mother is a saint to have put up with him. No, I wouldn’t say anything bad about them. They had to face enough. I used to take him to give her a rest. He’s a handful.

A very popular pastor, many parishioners were outraged when P-P2 was convicted of four life sentences for the rape of a boy (serving three concurrent life sentences with the fourth imposed and suspended by the judge). Parishioners from his former parish and priest friends send letters and some send money to help with his legal expenses.[164] “Sometimes I get so many letters, I have to come down mid-day and clear out my mailbox, so others can be added.” His continuing popularity can be interpreted as either or both of the following: a conviction that he did not commit the crime for which was accused and/or a willingness to forgive his sin and crime.

Technically P-P2 is “retired.” Because he is incarcerated, he cannot perform priestly functions, such as saying Mass or granting absolution.[165] However, he has a very active ministry. Correctional officers (COs) and inmates regard him as their priest, their “confessor.” He counsels inmates and COs.

The institutional Church is working for P-P2. He was appointed “an administrator after only 19 years; most have to wait 20 to 25 years.” What did it take to “survive” in a bureaucratic institution? He answered, “I’d say to be a “Yes Man.” Don’t rock the boat.” Being an institutional man has made him politically astute. He assesses well the dynamics of the racial and ethnic tensions that exist in prisons and does so without having spent too much time with either group. P-P2 said,

I’m careful. I don’t say anything. For example, someone asked me about an interfaith prayer group. I said, OK, but I wouldn’t run it. They wanted me to, but I said, No. You know why? The Black kids or the Muslims would rebel; they’d say the whites are running everything. So I join, but don’t lead anything. But they come to me—inmates and guards alike. They tell me their troubles. I mostly listen. They know they can trust me—they ask if they can. If a guard asked, I’d say none of your business.

I asked how he managed to be so savvy. He said, “I lived with Bishop (N) for seven years. I was prepared for this place. He was a good man, but the old school—demanded obedience.”

P-P2 is coping masterfully. He said, “Priests ask me what I miss and I tell them nothing. Clothes, nice house, food, material things—I can do without. They weren’t that important to me. I love the outdoors. I can honestly say, I feel free.” I believe him. Maybe it’s his pride and/or stubbornness, but he won’t let “them” beat him.

C. Priest-Perpetrator3 (P-P3)

P-P3 came from an abusive family.[166] Sexually abused and impregnated twice by her alcoholic stepfather, his mother had the stepfather put in jail only when she saw that he was going after the younger sisters (Anonymous 1990, 104).[167] As a young teen, he was sexually molested by a Scout leader, whom he describes in Slayer of the Soul as:

... the pied piper of us all. He was a wonderful man ... knew a lot ... had a lot of experiences through the Korean War. He was … artistic; he painted and did woodcraft and anything that a 12-year-old boy with a creative mind would love to get a hold of. I joined him.

He was a cultured person.... A lot of kids that I was friends with were his friends. I wanted to be with them and to be with him.

... When did he put his hands on me and I said, “Okay, you can do this with me.” I do not remember. I honestly do not remember. I guess I was so emotionally deprived and hungry for a man in my life I was not aware what was happening. ... When this guy showed interest in me, I went nuts. The relationship was very intoxicating.

... I felt uncomfortable about the behavior, especially the physical abuse. I came home sore. My testicles hurt; my penis hurt; and my chest hurt because he had been on top of me. I felt I desperately needed his attention in my life at this time. I felt held, acknowledged, stroked and supported. That seemed more important than the pain. (Anonymous 1990, 103)

P-P3, in turn, molested teen boys and one 10 year-old providing yet another example of the “cycle of abuse.”[168] His description of his first encounter with a sexually precocious boy is especially telling. He charges the boy with initiating the sexual behavior, but then P-P3 explodes. When the boy demonstrates fear and a desire to stop, P-P3 acknowledges his inability or unwilling­ness to respect the boy’s wishes.

I was in the swimming pool and he just started all this sexual stuff ... it tripped something; it pushed all my buttons. I got pretty sexually aggressive with him. It is one of the encounters that I can see in my mind and I feel so terrible about. I had no control and I was being very aggressive. Some months later, he wanted out ... I could not stop.

I think he realized that he turned on this fire in me and he did not know how to tell me to stop. I did not have enough wisdom or energy in me to know how to stop. We had sex. In retrospect, I can see it was a horrible scene. I think I did see a real fear in his eyes, a threat in his eyes, saying, “This is a bit too far out. I don’t like this any more.” He was 15 years old. I had a strong relationship with his family. (Anonymous 1990, 107)

This encounter is different from his description of his own abuse, which was more emotionally and psychologically pleasurable than it was painful.

P-P3 discusses the abuse he received and the abuse he perpetrated in terms of “permission.” Of his own abuse, he wrote, “When did he put his hands on me and I said, “Okay, you can do this with me.” And when he was abusing a boy, he wrote, “he did not know how to tell me to stop.”

In his essay, P-P3 describes the “mess” that was his life—he was angry, frustrated, alienated. Finally he took some action. First he went to a therapist who told him, he was “sitting on a neutron bomb” (Anonymous 1990, 108). Then he went to the families of the boys whom he was abusing, told them of his abuse, and urged them to seek therapy so the boys wouldn’t become like him—"a victim becoming a victimizer” (108). But he didn’t have a “visceral acceptance” of what he had done until sometime after speaking to the parents when he saw a “20/20” program on the abused-abuser cycle. Whatever blinded him to his own abusive behavior fell away. I asked P-P3 about the chronology of these two events. He told the parents about his abuse of their boys, but it was only after the “20/20” program that “it registered,” or as he wrote, “it broke my conscious reality” (109). P-P3 said that he said to himself, “This doesn’t fit. Here I am, a good person, hurting people whom I love. It doesn’t “square” with whom I am.”

P-P3’s explanation, as simplistic and cryptic as it may seem, reflects some of the complexity that surrounds abusive relation­ships. For whatever reasons, it seems that P-P3 did not truly know or understand that he was an abuser, even after he had confessed his abuse to the victims’ parents. Much less did he understand that he was not only an abuser, but he was abused and was part of three generations, at least, of the abused-abuser cycle of violence. The complexity of the abuse situation is reflected in his assessment of his relationship with his Scoutmaster. He describes the pain to his testicles, penis, and chest, and yet this is obliterated by a sense of being cared for, of being special to a significant other. It seems almost incomprehensible that when the Scoutmaster called him while he was in treatment, he writes, “That was before I knew that he was responsible for some of my behavior. He was partly responsible for where I was” (Anonymous 1995, 105). Another responsible party is his mother, but P-P3 told me, “Even to this day, she doesn’t recognize the connection between being abused and being an abuser. She refuses to accept the connection.”

The complexity of abuse is also reflected in his assessment of his years in the seminary.

There was a joke—priests shouldn’t fool around. It never dawned on me what they meant by that. I was näive in the seminary. But something was wrong. I was in therapy at the seminary and I was angry, but didn’t know why. There wasn’t much time in the curriculum to find out why. The therapist used to ask me why I was so upset. He never nailed it to sexual abuse.

The therapist’s inability to identify P-P3’s previous sexual abuse indicates a lack of understanding of the effects of sexual abuse. It is significant that the cause of his anger was not probed. I asked P-P3 if either he or the therapist understood that P-P3 was angry and he said no; both interpreted his anger as zeal.

Given today’s high sensitivity to sexual abuse, such ignorance seems somewhat incomprehensible. However, in chapter five some bishops indicate that progress in this area is not as extensive as it may seem.

When P-P3’s abusive behavior became public, his case became highly politicized. Eventually he was arrested, charged with “abominable and detestable behavior against mankind, aggravated assault, and assault and battery” convicted, and imprisoned for 14 months (Anonymous 1990, 99, 108). After his release, he moved out of state, with the help of a priest-friend started again, changed his identity, became active in his local parish and lives an active Christian life. He went to therapy. and began his life as an ex-sex offender. Recently his life has become more complicated because of the passage of Megan’s Law.[169] He has had no instances of re-offending since his release from prison.[170]

Three points are significant to this study. First, P-P3’s essay underscores the view that this abuse was a “moral failing,” “a sin.” P-P3 wrote, “I would confess, repent and no sooner feel clean when I’d sin again” (Anonymous 1990, 109). While this statement may seem almost as unbelievable as the abuse, it links abuse to a moral failing in a way that may not be generally acceptable, but which is a part of Catholic theology. He discusses his relationship with God:

We always seemed to get through everything, but this was getting to be too much of an important issue. God did not seem to be buying my prayer. … So I told God that I would give up my days off and work at a soup kitchen until he did something. I went to the soup kitchen with the mother of one of the kids I was victimizing (108-109).

For better or for worse, abuse was seen by priests-abusers and priest-confessors as a forgivable offense.

Second, this moral failing was not seen as a sign that the man did not have a vocation to the priesthood. P-P3 said that after his release from prison, his friends told him to leave because of all the turmoil, but besides them no one else ever told him that he should reconsider being a priest. For P-P3 it is quite ironic. On the one hand, the sacrament of holy orders creates an invisible, permanent character on the priest.[171] “Ordination is also called consecration, for it is a setting apart and an investiture by Christ himself for his Church. The laying on of hands by the bishop, with the consecra­tory prayer, constitutes a visible sign of this ordination” (CCC: 538). In the Roman Catholic tradition, “Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders confer, in addition to grace, a sacramental character or “seal” ... This configuration to Christ and the Church, brought about by the Spirit, is indelible” (CCC: 1121, see also CCC: 1272 for “the indelible spiritual mark (character),” which no sin can erase.) In the case of P-P3, a dozen or so years later, he still wants to return to active ministry. The “active” ministry because he, like some other priests (in this study P-P1 and P-P4), although dismissed from their dioceses (cc: 291, 1718), never submitted a “rescript of laicization,” that is they are not laymen, but they cannot function as priests. Also, they are still bound by the laws of celibacy (cc: 292; Lynch 1985, 232). P-P3 says, “I’m part of the Anowium”.[172] A fellow priest called these priests “wounded warriors.” P-P3 said, “It’s a war, a spiritual war. We’re fighting for our priestly lives.”[173]

Third, P-P3’s case highlights the issue of reassignment. Restoration Manual: A Workbook for Restoring Fallen Ministers & Religious Leaders provides important information on how priests can be reassigned.[174] After twelve years of not re-offending, P-P3 is searching for a bishop to incardinate him into his diocese. “Being thrown out says there’s no hope for repair. Priests are men and have just as many problems as anyone else.[175] If the Church isn’t willing to deal with the human, and by human I mean vulnerable, then what is it doing?” If the Church’s canon (c: 291) on the insolubility of the priesthood is to stand, then it seems that canonically the Church has to apply it to priests who have abused children and adolescents, sought forgiveness, received therapy, and—all other things being equal—indicate a desire to return to active ministry.

D. Priest-Perpetrator4 (P-P4)

P-P4 entered the seminary at 12 years of age. He graduated from high school and completed three-quarters of the first of two years of college.[176] The seminary was run according “to the Council of Trent—strict rules, curfews, no dates.” P-P4 kept all the rules,[177] but he was not a good student, especially when studying philoso­phy, which was taught in Latin. He left that seminary, went to a religious order seminary, and flourished in a small, supportive environment. Not only what he learned, but also the manner in which the lessons were taught stayed with P-P4. “Affirmation goes a long way. I did well academically and graduated. I took the ideas with me—all that personal stuff, the personal interaction. I took it with me and used it when I worked with kids.” P-P4 was an only child and “feared kids,” so what he learned in the seminary, his assessment of it, and his subsequent assignments seem to dovetail. His first assignment was the cathedral, then two years in a parish, and finally to vocational director. P-P4’s whole life was centered on his assignment and the celebration of the liturgies at the cathedral. “My extracurricular was the liturgy.” P-P4’s description of his offense follows:

The Children’s Bureau (CB) officer told me that a family member had come forward with a child (a boy about 12 years old) and had accused me of sexually molesting him. The CB’s lawyer asked me, “Did you do it?” My lawyer told me not to answer. We didn’t know why I was there; we hadn’t had a chance to talk, so he said, “Don’t answer. We need to talk.”

The boy was underprivileged; I always felt especially sorry for the under-privileged. The mother was strug­gling; he didn’t have a father. I got him to come to CCD. I had a boat. ... I used to take the kids out on the boat. I taught over 300 boys how to water ski. After skiing, I always prepared hot dogs and food for them. He had complained about his shoulders aching. I had massaged them. I thought nothing of it; I certainly didn’t think of it as sexual abuse, which is what I was accused of.

… By law the CB had to inform the authorities. The ADA was a woman and it was election time. She campaigned on “I’m going to catch a priest." I think a lot of things were happening at the same time. In addition to the political scene, the Bishops were being told by the lawyers, “You can’t cover this thing up."

It’s beyond the purview of this study to determine the extent of P-P4’s inappropriate behavior with adolescents. He admits to having a sexual addiction problem. Germane to this discussion are two issues: (1) priests receiving a pension and (2) the Church’s lack of forgiveness of priest-perpetrators.

Like many, many other ex-priests, for P-P4, the pension issue is a matter of justice.[178]

If I get to be destitute, I’m going to sit on his doorstep. In justice, they owe me something for my years of service. They take up the cause of the Blacks, the Hispanics, the Bosnians. They preach justice. Where are the Bishops? They have to answer to God. How they treated their fellow priests. Why are they only listening to civil lawyers? I’m a legal liability—that’s what the letter said. I’m not in a prison. I’m not a priest. They removed my title. When they wrote, they addressed it as Mr. (name), not Rev.

P-P’s 4 anger is palpable and I find it understandable. P-P4 is homosexual, which is fairly uncommon among ephebophiles (Rossetti 1990). He was an only child, had fairly underdeveloped people skills,[179] and yet he was assigned to be vocational director. Not once, but twice. His other assignment was at the chancery as liturgy “major domo,” which meant he was always with altar boys. His ministry to young adults is clearly not an excuse for sexually inappropriate behavior, but one can be a bit suspicious at the bishop’s refusal to grant him any kind of pension for his years in the ministry.

Without the pension, P-P4 will most probably live in poverty. He has not been able to translate into marketable skills the skills critical to the smooth running of liturgies at the Cathedral. He lives with his aging father and works for minimum wage at a low-skilled job.

Bitter? You bet I’m bitter. I’m cut off. My Bishop has cut me off. In eight years, (A) I can’t go back to my diocese, (B) no one from the diocese has contacted me, and (C) I don’t have a pension. Nothing, after all those years. I’m scooping up dog shit in a kennel. You know what the difference is now: for 20 years, I scooped up shit, now I scoop up dog’s shit and I get kissed for it.

P-P4’s assesses why the return to ministry is so difficult to address.

You know what I think the problem is, the problem about whether these guys, guys like me, can go back into the ministry. The Bishops want to hear, “they’re cured,” because they’re told by lawyers this is what’s necessary. They want the treatment guys to say, “they’re cured.” But the treatment guys won’t say that. They say, there’s no treatment for sexual addiction. All there is is control. The Bishops want a sign so they will know if Father is cured from his –ism, whatever –ism he has—alcoholism, sexual addiction-ism, Nazism. We will take him back, if ... But, no one will do this. No one will say, “he’s cured.”

The Bishops are under the influence of lawyers. They’re telling them what to do. The lawyers are telling them: Unless you get it signed on the dotted line, “he’s cured,” don’t (A) put him in your diocese, (B) any diocese, (C) let him deal with any people. He can function, but not in my parish. They can all live under some retired Bishop somewhere ...

Therapist James Gill, S.J., agrees with P-P4.

What the bishop will never hear from the treatment team is that the priest in their care has been “cured.” Most often, what will be reported to him is that the patient is “in recovery,” and that he will stay so (just as a suc­cessfully treated alcoholic is considered to remain) for the rest of his life. One of the implications of this message is that there will always be some chance that the sexual offender will revert to his former misbehavior, since the possibility of recidivism can never be completely ruled out. (1995, 1)

P-P4 is most critical of the Church’s lack of forgiveness.

They don’t know what reconciliation means. They take pot shots.... I know I can’t repay the victims. I’ve received God’s forgiveness, but I haven’t received forgiveness from the Church.

For over hundreds of years, we’ve put in our lives in Church’s hands. Risked all. We gave support and love. We should get forgiveness. We’re seen as a liability. In the letter I received, the Bishop said he had to protect the assets of the diocese. Translated that’s the diocese’s money is worth more than your life! The Bosnians, the blacks, the Hispanics. The lives of this one and that group. But the priest is disposable.

The bishop’s treatment of P-P4 seems mean-spirited. P-P4 described the letter he received from the bishop who was new to the diocese and not the one with whom he had worked for many years.

I’m not going to just fade into the background. The Church would be happy if I did. In the letter from my Bishop he said, “You should consider your civil conviction a death sentence as a priest.” Why so hateful? So cold? I’ve maintained this, I won’t be laicized. They say I should resign for the good of the Church, but I’m part of the Church. They’re stuck with me. How nasty can you be? To be thrown out? I won’t quit! If the Bishop could get me laicized, he would. Canonically—there are minimum requirements. Spiritually—it’s a matter of justice. Morally—at least set the minimum—a pension for my years of service. Then they can wash your hands of me. I may never win, but ...

In P-P4’s final remarks, he wondered why he had agreed to speak to me.

Even my father said, Where is this going? What good is this going to do? I’d love to see somebody stand up for priests.

The Bishop should be listening to his fellow priests. All they do is say should; you should do this, you should do that. As soon as anyone tells me I should, then I won’t. This is the way it should be. There’s got to be somebody to stand up for us priests.

P-P4’s priest-uncle, who has since died, had encouraged him to speak to me. He told P-P4, “If not for you, for someone else who might be helped.” This is reminiscent of the advocacy issue mentioned in chapter three.

E. Priest-Perpetrator5 (P-P5)

P-P5 was an alcoholic priest (Fichter 1977, 1982; Crosby 1991). For many years he lived an out-of-control life in spite of numerous stays at treatment centers for alcoholism.[180] He pleaded nolo contendre to charges of sexual abuse of a minor and his case was settled out of court. P-P5 was into pornography, and after he left the diocese,[181] he worked as a freelance school photographer, was arrested, and sent to a treatment center for sexually dangerous persons, which is where I located him.

The most striking aspect of P-P5’s situation is the apparent abandonment that he experienced when the allegations of abuse were circulating. He writes, he

... had virtually no contact with my ordinary, (name), or any of his predecessors. I had been told nothing of any suspicion or of any complaints the chancery may have received about my ministry or conduct. I would have been more than willing to talk with the Bishop and even undergo treatment if he requested it.

For years he, like many functioning alcoholics, experienced relative freedom. If he did his job—said Mass—he was “let alone.” P-P5 was friendly with his bishop. According to the mother of one of his victims, the bishop often stayed with P-P5, especially on the eve of July fourth.[182]

Striking then is the way the bishop chose to handle his case. His assessment of being abandoned when he was about to be arrested seems accurate.

On the evening of the day I was first arrested in the fall of 1985, the Auxiliary Bishop (name) appeared at the door of the rectory with a prepared letter of resignation (from the parish) for me to sign. When I asked where the Bishop was, he simply said that he was busy. Thinking that I would see him at a later date I signed the letter and then was told that I had to be out of the rectory by the next day.

His abandonment reveals the complexity of the legal issue surrounding allegations of abuse by a member of the clergy. The diocesan lawyers are used for the diocese. P-P 5 had to get his own lawyers. He continued,

The diocese offered no legal assistance or even housing accommodation. Had I not had a caring family I would have been left stranded as a virtually homeless person.

My feeling that evening was one of complete abandon­ment by my Ordinary. I truly felt like a leper that the bishop didn’t want to approach. It was obvious that he worked through the Auxiliary who at times showed his embarrassment.

P-P5’s case is complicated by his excessive drinking. I think that once he was caught for his sexual abuse, he then acknowledged his addiction to alcohol. He wrote,

My family discretely monitored me and I knew they were worried because I was drinking more than I should have. Just before Labor Day my brother-in-law called and suggested we have lunch. He was honest and told me that he had contacted my nephew, a doctor at (name) in (city name). He in turn set up an appointment with the Chief of Psychiatry at (name), a Jesuit priest, (name). After lunch I drove to the hospital and spent an hour and a half with him. He was very sympathetic and told me of a friend in the Washington area, a psychiatrist and medical doctor, Mike Peterson, who specialized in cases such as mine and, in fact, founded Saint Luke Institute, a small (32) resident center for the clergy.

When P-P5 wrote “in cases such as mine” I think he was referring as much to the allegations of sexual abuse as to his alcoholism. When P-P5’s priestly world closed in on him, his family, not the diocese, facilitated his rehabilitation efforts by paying for travel and treatment expenses.[183] Even more telling is the response described next. Father Peterson greeted him “very cordially,” but said something to him that “hurt very deeply.” P-P5 wrote,

When he read of my case in Time magazine, he immediately called my diocese and offered the services of St. Luke’s. He was told that “they were not interested and would take care of it themselves.” He never said to whom he talked but I’m sure so important a call would have been referred to the bishop, even by the Chancellor. Fr. Mike also added that my Bishop should be sent to St. Luke’s.

That information confirmed my suspicion that the bishop wanted nothing to do with me.

I have never spoken to the bishop from before my arrest to this day. I must say that (name, auxiliary) was very supportive to the extent that he could.

Six years ago, when I was writing about this subject for a course, I interviewed a priest-friend who worked in the chancery of this priest’s diocese. P-P5 had finished at St. Luke’s, but he had not returned to the diocese. I asked where he was, and the priest said that the bishop didn’t know. Given his condition, an alcoholic abuser, it seemed, at the minimum, irresponsible to just release him. But members of the diocesan hierarchy, of which my friend was one, were thankful that P-P5 was out of their jurisdiction. They wanted no part of him. No thought was given to those whom he might abuse, which is exactly what occurred. One of the findings of this study is that most attempts to “cover-up” the incidences of clergy abuse were to protect the institution of the Church, and not, as many might have assumed, to protect the priests. With the exception of P-P6, the priest-perpetrators felt that the institutional Church and the institution of the priesthood were being preserved, but not the individual priests.

F. Priest-Perpetrator6 (P-P6)

P-P6 represent a kind of “worst case” scenario of a priest-perpetrator. He was well liked by the parishioners and close to most of the families, especially those with children. He was very athletic, “never drank,” and loved to play with the kids.

The people would say things like, Father is just like the kids. He’s kind of immature; he’s like a kid himself. He’s always with kids. The parishioners took it for granted; I was always with them. Wrestling with them, taking them on trips.

I was always an athlete. Even here, I’m 60 years old and I can hold my own against these young guys. The Hispanics--I can beat them. I probably can’t beat them at a running game, too old, but I can shoot from either hand, so ...

Because of the electro-shock treatment he received in the 1970s, he does not have a clear memory of the many incidences of the abuse of which he was accused and convicted. He recalls buildings—the rectory and the schools in the two areas where he was stationed—but “no faces.” His father and a priest friend helped “restore” some of his memory by driving him through towns where he lived and where the abuse took place. P-P6 said,

I’m going to be honest with you, I’m in therapy and it’s all been in the papers, so I have nothing to hide. But I know some things aren’t true. I’m not trying to excuse myself—what I did was terrible—but I know some of the things I could never do. Penetration, for instance. Even now, the thought of it repels me. And girls. I’d never touch a girl. I liked boys—young boys. If a boy walks by, even now, boy! You know? (He jerks his arm and clenched fist in an upward movement.)

I: You’d get an erection?

P-P: I’m being honest now. Yes. I know it’s awful, but that’s what I liked. I got a thrill. Sometimes they, the boys, didn’t even realize. When we wrestled and they rubbed their bodies up against mine, I got a thrill, a rush. But to them, they were just caught in a bear hug. I’m not saying it wasn’t awful, it was, but for me it was just pleasure. Pure pleasure. I never thought about them. I never thought about what I was doing to them. I didn’t think I was doing anything. I just liked the feeling.

In “Reflections of a Recovering Priest” (1995), the priest offender writes the same thing,

My victims were boys between the ages of twelve and fifteen. In the majority of cases, my behavior was masked by the pretense of wrestling. During these wrestling matches, I would arrange to either rub my genital area against the boys, or be able to in some seemingly casual fashion, brush against their genital area. At that time I didn’t believe that the boys would be aware that there was a sexual overtone to the wrestling. I suspect now, that in any number of cases they were aware to some degree or another that there was something wrong about the touch, even if they could not identify it as sexual. After my story became public, I presume that they were far more able to identify occasions on which sexualized touching took place. (1-2)

P-P6 admits to all that has been reported about him except a later accusation of abuse of a girl.

I told my therapists, if a girl “buck naked” walked by, I wouldn’t even notice. I’d look and turn away. Look, I’m in therapy, I admit what I did. And although I can’t remember everything I know what I could NOT have done. It’s too repugnant to me. Never a girl. Even my son said, “Dad, she didn’t even baby-sit for us then.” You know, some wanted to get in on the financial action. (rubs fingers together.) Sure, I might have put my arm on her, said, “How are you?” I had children of my own—and, my God, I’d never touch any of them. Never tempted. Never would. I have a daughter. That girl, the baby-sitter, heard what others said and said I was looking to get excited. I know myself. It wasn’t me. Not girls.

As stated above, these six priest-perpetrators are fairly typical of priest-perpetrators with whom the bishops in this study had to relate. Their understanding of why they and other bishops responded as they did is the subject of the next chapter.

III. Conclusions

The priest-perpetrators’ stories provide a limited, but informative view of life on the edge of the Church. As indicated, they seek forgiveness and ask for pardon. As enraging as this may seem, forgiveness is what the institutional church “is about.”

[154] Rev. Patrick O’Malley, Vicar for Priests, Archdiocese of Chicago (Restoring Trust, vol. II,4)

[155] As discussed in the methodology chapter, no attempt was made to “match” priest-perpetrators with the bishops who handled their cases, and vice-versa. But it is reasonable to assume that the cases to which the bishops responded were very similar to the cases of the priest-perpetrators discussed in this chapter.

[156] Some treatment centers make a distinction between rapists and molesters based on the age of the victims; that is, those under a certain age are called child molesters and those over a certain age are called rapists (Knight, Carter, and Prentky  1989; Knight, Prentky, Schneider, and Rosenberg 1983). The age for the division varies. The division between pedophiles and ephebophiles often is not made.

[157] See Knight, Carter, Prentky 1989, 5-7 (and other articles by Knight and Prentky) for a typology of child molesters and rapists, which uses degrees of fixation, of social competence, and of contact to assess the perpetrators. The data was compiled at the Massachusetts Treatment Center, Bridgewater, MA where Prentky was director of research.

[158]  For a more detailed story by a recovering priest-perpetrator, see “Reflections of a Recovering Priest,” Restoring Trust, volume II, (1995). 

[159] Pertains to three of the six priest-perpetrators. “Reassignment” is addressed briefly in Restoring Trust, vol. 1, 23-26. ( See also Griffin 1994, Lothstein 1991, and Paulson 1988; for a bishop’s negative response see Clark 1990.)

[160] Most of the priest-perpetrators spoke to me because they thought that I would give them an opportunity to tell “their story,” and a major portion of their story involved their desire: (1) to return to ministry and/or (2) to receive a pension.

[161] A one-time situation previously would have been settled out-of-court. The proliferation of cases in the state changed that strategy. P-P1 was quite adamant about his situation being a “one time” occurrence, but he admitted to having sexual addiction problems.

[162]  In Restoring Trust, vol. 1, policies from various dioceses do not have the term administrative leave, but  something similar, such as “relieve ... of ministerial duties” (4), or “When a priest is asked to take leave from his assignment ... (21). Canons 1717-1731 deal with the penal process, but “Such processes may be used only rarely” (Green 1985, 1023). Canon 1722 is applied if the bishop uses the penal procedure. 

[163] Book VII of the Code of Canon Law deals with Processes (cc: 1400-1752; Wrenn 1985, 945-1045). “Perhaps the largest amount of ecclesial decision-making concerns the administrative arena as distinct from the legislative, or lawmaking, sphere or the judicial conflict-resolution sphere” (Green 1985, 1029). In the Catholic Church, the administration of the churches is primarily in the hands of pastors and as such, they are treated differently by canon law.  Canons 1732 to 1752 deal specifically with procedures to remove and transfer pastors. See cc: 521, 528-530 for duties and cc: 522, 538 for irremovability.

[164] While he receives money, it was not enough to pay for his “high profile” lawyer. He had himself declared bankrupt and was assigned a court-appointed lawyer, who is just starting his law practice. However, P-P2 is far more pleased with him than his previous lawyer who seemed motivated by the attention to P-P’s case. Once that died down, the lawyer was no longer interested.

[165] In prison, one’s professional status is removed so P-P2 can’t celebrate a public Mass. However, if given permission by the Bishop, he could say Mass privately using grape juice not wine, as do alcoholic priests. It seems mean-spirited that the Ordinary does not grant this request.

[166] Beyond the purview of this study, but an important aspect of abuse is the relationship between religion and child abuse. Capps (1992) discusses how religion and child abuse are “perfect together,” in that religion has been used to justify the physical abuse of children.  See, for example, Fugate’s (1980) What the Bible Says about  ... Child Training. Most radical of all is Schaberg’s (1987) book about the illegitimacy of Jesus. Schaberg argues that Mary was raped, most likely by a Roman soldier, and the virginal conception story was a later interpretation.  Matthew’s and Luke’s accept Jesus’ illegitimacy and use it to affirm how God could take a scandalous situation and use it to demonstrate the promise of hope and salvation for marginalized individuals and groups (Capps 1992, 1-14).

[167]  In Slayer of the Soul: Child Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church, Stephen J. Rossetti, ed, 99-111. Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Psalm, 1990.

[168] Cathy Widom has written extensively on the commonly used and widespread belief of the abused-abuser cycle of violence. Widom (1989b) concludes that substantial methodological problems exist and conclusions, especially of the long term effects of intergenerational violence, should be reviewed carefully. In a cohort study, Widom (1989b) concludes, “Early childhood victimization has demonstrable long-term consequences “the intergenerational transmission of violence is not inevitable” (164). The majority of abused or neglected children do not become adult abusers. See also Widom (1989a); Kaufman and Zigler (1987); Mandoki and Burkhart (1989); Dodge, Bates, and Pettit (1990); and Burgess, Hartman, and McCormack (1987). 

[169] The sex offender registration-community notification law, which has become known as Megan’s law, was passed initially in response to the 1994 slaying of 7-year-old Megan Kanka of Hamilton, NJ by a neighbor with a criminal record for sex offenses against children. Many states have passed some variation of this law. (According to Bly (August 1995), 43 states had enacted statutes that require offenders to register with a central registry agency or with the law enforcement agency in the community in which they will be living.... As early as 1996, at least 32 States had taken the additional step of enacting notification statutes that either make information about sex offenders available on request to individuals or organizations that authorize or require probation and parole departments, law enforcement agencies, or prosecutor offices to disseminate information about released offenders to the community at large” (Finn 1997, 1, italics in original).

[170] One of the reasons recidivism data is so unreliable is because it depends mainly on self-reporting.  In P-P3’s case, it does seem that his self-reports are accurate as he has kept in close contact with and has been monitored by his priest-friends.

[171]Ordination” means incorporation in an ordo,” that is in a body established by tradition in the Roman Catholic Church (CCC 1537). “Today the word “ordination” is reserved for the sacramental act which integrates a man into the order of bishops, presbyters, or deacons, and goes beyond ... for it confers a gift of the Holy Spirit that permits the exercise of a “sacred power” (sacra potestas) which can only come from Christ himself through his Church (CCC 1538, with ftnte. Lumen Gentium 10, italics in original). 

[172] The Anowium are part of the “Diaspora,” or the lost tribes of Israel. A group that also fits this description is CORPUS—Corps of Reserved Priests United for Service (Berry 1992 , 188).

[173] P-P3 thinks ex-priests should receive a pension, but he is hopeful that he will return to ministry and he will be able to “bridge” his service.

[174] Internet address: By Winning Edge Ministries: “Dedicated to helping take back what sin and Satan has stolen from the church!”

[175]  In the overview to the psychological study of priests, Kennedy (1971) writes, “priests are ordinary men and they can only react ... with their ordinary human powers” (3).  While “priests are psychologically similar to the general population of men, … (a) large portion of the priests in this cross-sectional sample has not developed to fill maturity” (6-7). See chapter two for a more detailed description of Kennedy’s book and chapter six for my assessment of the bishops’ response.

[176] The seminary schedule was  “six and six”: four years of high school and two years of college; then two more years of college and four more years of philosophy, the latter two of which are called the major seminary.

[177] P-P4 described a color-coded index card system in which the seminarians had to sign a card, cite the violation, and leave it at the rector’s office.  If he didn’t get enough cards, he’d get after the seminarians and their “guilt would get to us and we’d fill in those damned cards with all the colors.”

[178] Corps of Reserved Priests United for Service, or CORPUS as they are more commonly known has taken on the pension issue. One of the issues raised by the 7000 member group is that in a few dioceses, priest-perpetrators receive a pension. (Berry 1992, 188).

[179] Prentky, Knight, Rosenberg, and Lee’s (1989) “low social competence” on their MTC child molester typology.

[180] Because the interview with P-P5 took place through letters and he died while we were communicating with one another, I will incorporate some data from an interview with the mother of one of his victims.

[181] I do not know if he petitioned for a “rescript of laicization” (Lynch 1985, 232).

[182] My methodological “ground rules” prohibited me from checking facts about cases because the goal of this study is to gain an understanding of the participants’ understanding of this phenomenon.  However, I have included in this segment some data from the victim’s mother.

[183] At the diocese’s expense, P-P5 previously had gone for alcohol treatment. It’s equally possible that the family’s efforts to get him into alcohol rehabilitation were an effort to divert the attention from the allegations of abuse. In any case, the family stepped in to protect their