Fr. Gary Hayes, abuse survivor and victim advocate, 66

National Catholic Reporter

April 17, 2019

By Patricia Lefevere

In a week when Christians recall Jesus’ passion and death, the homilist at a funeral for Fr. Gary Hayes, a victim of clergy abuse, declared that “Jesus himself was a victim of sexual abuse.”

Fr. John Bambrick was referring to theologian Rocío Figueroa’s recently published study that followed a research project she did with theologian David Tombs called “When Did I See you Naked”?, a work that Hayes would have loved, said the homilist. Hayes died of cancer April 4. He was 66.

Support independent Catholic journalism. Subscribe to our print edition or become a member today.

Bambrick told assembled mourners that Figueroa had proven in her writing that Jesus had been sexually humiliated during his passion and crucifixion. He noted that three times in Gospel accounts of his ordeal, Jesus is forced to strip naked in front of cohorts of soldiers. Figueroa “makes the point that there are different forms of sexual abuse including sexual humiliation in the form of forced nudity, mockery, stripping, touching, sexual assault and other physical acts.”

The reality is that the Romans crucified people naked, including Jesus. “The problem is that the Church has never faced the reality of sexuality in a healthy way and if they are not able to also see the sexuality of Jesus, the sexuality of human beings, they are not able to see the perversion that is sexual abuse,” the homilist said, quoting Figuerosa.

Bambrick knew this kind of humiliation for a fact. He and Hayes had endured sexual assault as adolescents. The two men shared an unusual bond over decades. Both were priests who had been sexually abused by priests when they were teenagers. They confided to each other the details of their painful past. “My abuse was bad, but Gary’s was horrendous,” Bambrick told his family and friends. The fact that he survived it is a testament to his resiliency and the miracle of his life,” said Bambrick, who is pastor of St. Aloysius Church in Jackson, New Jersey. He is a member of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests and is a founding member of both Jordon’s Crossing and Catholic Whistleblowers. He is a board member of New Jersey Child Assault Prevention, and, in 2002, he testified before the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

When asked years before by reporters how he could become and remain a priest after he had been violated by two Catholic priests, Hayes replied: “God didn’t do this; man did.” Understanding the difference, Bambrick said, helped Hayes become a compassionate listener for the abused and troubled, a whistleblower and advocate for ridding the church of its abusive priests and a founder of support groups for priests who were abused as children by priests. Jordan’s Crossing and Victims of Clergy Abuse Linkup were two of the support networks Hayes and Bambrick worked on together.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.