Victims Talk about Sexual Abuse

By Francis X. Fay Jr.
Downloaded January 18, 2003

Two men abused by Roman Catholic priests as boys told a Voice of the Faithful meeting Thursday night how that abuse had marred their lives.

David Cerulli, a 52-year-old sculptor now living in New York City, said the haunting images of his experiences had destroyed two marriages and placed him in extensive psychiatric counseling. Benjamin "Buddy" Cotton of Mendham, N.J., said his seduction by a parish priest had left him with so little sense of self that he has gone through alcoholism and drug addiction and spent time in jail.

Both men represent the 4,400-member Survivors Network of those abused by Priests (SNAP), Cerulli in the Metropolitan area and his birthplace of Allentown, Pa., Cotton the New Jersey SNAP chapter of which he is director. Both men received standing ovations from the 125 attending the meeting, and their comments elicited statements from three women in the audience who identified themselves as also suffering from priestly abuse.

Cerulli said he was 14 with aspirations for the priesthood when he was abused by his parish priest in Allentown.

"I won't shock you with the details, but it was everything one man can do to another sexually," he said. "The pain I suffered led me to contemplate suicide, caused a nervous breakdown and cost me my religion." Ten years passed before he had the composure to speak of the experience, he said.

"It isn't uncommon for victims to require 20 to 30 years before they can talk to someone about the experience," he said, noting the importance of having no limitation on the length of time in which such a crime can be prosecuted because it. He called for a national reporting system that tracks pedophile priests for acts that amount to "spiritual murder." Cotton, a 42-year-old recently released from prison, said he was a fatherless Southerner transplanted at a young age to New Jersey where his family of nine children had plenty of problems.

"The pastor realized I was on the fringe and that I would be one of the last to report him," Cotton said. "He enticed me first with alcohol and then with pornography and finally by telling me that the sexual feelings I was having in my 13-year-old body were a natural and healthy response which pleased God." The experience led Cotton into a life of alcohol, drugs and deviant sex.

Two women stood up during a question and answer period and noted their sexual harassment at the hands of priests, but most interesting was a statement by Author Eleanor Craig Green of Westport, who for the first time in public revealed her own and her brother's abuse at the hands of a priest 50 years ago.

"I want everyone to know that Father Eugene Baillot of Our Lady of Mercy Church in Watertown, Mass., abused both me and my brother after first having established himself as 'a darling' in the eyes of my family.

"My brother and I feel more strongly than words can convey that we need to find out whether any possible other victims ever dared to report Father Eugene Baillot." Green has requested such information from church authorities, but has yet to hear from them.

Joseph F. O'Callaghan of Norwalk, church historian and chairman of the local VOTF chapter, has sent a new letter to Bishop William E. Lori of the Bridgeport Diocese requesting a meeting, removal of the ban on use of church facilities for meetings, releases of all charges of sexual abuse made against diocesan clergy and more timely release of financial imformation with comparative information from prior years.

"It has been reported that the cost of the sexual abuse scandal in the diocese has cost between $12 and $15 million," he said.

"There is no escaping the fact that this is a time for reformation in the church and that right now we are in the most painful stage of that process." The Rev. Henry Yordon, pastor of the First Congregational Church in which the meetings have been held, was given a round of applause during his brief stop at the meeting.


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