Abused Priests Shatter Code

By Bill Zajac
Republican [United States]
October 23, 2005

No one knows for sure how many priests have been sexually abused as minors or seminarians by other priests, but there are indications the percentage is significant.

No known studies have be done to determine exact figures, according to Richard Sipe, a psychotherapist, former priest and author of several books on clergy sexual abuse. However, his research indicates 10 percent of seminarians had been sexually active with priests or other seminarians during formation between 1960 and 1985.

Sipe said the code of silence among priests is so strong that it prevents many priests from being honest about the issue - even in a survey.

Others, like the Rev. Robert M. Hoatson of New Jersey, have experienced the clerical code of silence that dictates priests don't criticize other priests.

"The black and white line of silence is stronger among the clergy than the blue code of silence among police because at least they get to go home. We are enmeshed in it 24/7," Hoatson said.

Hoatson believes he was a target of retaliation by the church's hierarchy after he alleged he was a victim of clergy abuse and criticized the church's handling of the clergy abuse crisis.

The Rev. Paul E. Manship, who said two weeks ago he is leaving ministry at least temporarily as a result of alleged sexual abuse by a diocesan priest more than 20 years ago, is the third Springfield Diocesan priest in the past several years to accuse a clergy member.

Besides Manship, Kevin B. Sousa and the Rev. Bruce N. Teague have come forward in the past few years with allegations that they were abused as minors by parish priests.

Manship believes there are more in the diocese.

Sousa abruptly left the priesthood in 1995 to deal with the aftereffects of being abused.

Teague remains active as a priest, but has been working in Greater Boston since he began caring for his now deceased father there several years ago.

The Rev. Gary Hayes of Kentucky said priests risk personal and professional consequences for disclosing abuse.

Before Hayes was ordained in 1989, the Diocese of Camden, N.J., found his allegation of sexual abuse against a priest credible. Upon his ordination, Hayes was told by his bishop to find a job outside the diocese because it was an uncomfortable situation. Hayes' abuser was allowed to remain in ministry in the diocese.

"Can you believe they kept the molester?" Hayes said.

Many bishops are not supportive when priests come forward, said Hayes, who said he has encountered about 50 priests who said they were abused.

"When I first approached my bishop, at first he blew me off. Then, when I retained a lawyer, he became antagonistic toward me," Hayes said.

Hayes eventually found a job in Kentucky, where he was recently assigned to do ministry with abuse victims.

When Sousa went public with his allegations of abuse several years ago, another Springfield diocesan priest said, "What the hell did Kevin open his mouth for?"

Manship, on the other hand, said the Most Rev. Timothy A. McDonnell, bishop of the Springfield Diocese, has been compassionate with him.

Hoatson believes his failure to provide sexual favors to a particular superior resulted in the superior telling him that he would never have his dream job of becoming a principal of a Catholic high school.

"'I'm reserving those positions for those I like,' he said. "It was well known he liked homosexual brothers," said Hoatson, who was an Irish Christian Brother at the time.

Hoatson said clerical sexual politics is not uncommon.

Sousa said much of the culture of clergy remains shrouded in secrecy.

He alleged that when the Most Rev. Thomas L. Dupre was vicar general of the Springfield Diocese he repeatedly made inappropriate comments and sexually suggestive remarks that led Sousa to believe he was interested in having a sexual relationship with him. The remarks were made in work situations and at least at one private dinner shared by the two.

Before Dupre was named bishop, Sousa said Dupre called him and asked if he were to be named a bishop, "would it be a problem?" The implication was that certain conversations needed to remain secret or he wouldn't be able to accept the position, Sousa said.

Dupre made similar calls to the two men who in 2004 alleged he abused them as minors. Dupre resigned in 2004 amid the allegations.

Manship, Teague and Hoatson represent a growing number of clergy who are breaking the code of silence by publicly disclosing their stories and then looking for support among other priests who have been abused.

They have formed a support group called Jordan's Crossing, where they exchange e-mails, stories and ways to heal.

"We would like to get together at some point," Manship said.

Also, The Linkup, a national organization that offers help to all abuse victims, has reached out to clergy, including abusers.

"We have tried to understand the other side. They may offer something that helps us. One thing we know for certain is that most abusers were abused themselves," said Susan M. Archbald, director of The Linkup.

One of the most insightful documents on record by an abuser is a 246-page journal that was written during 12 years of therapy by the Rev. Louis E. Miller, who has been criminally charged with molesting 29 children.

Miller, who said he was abused himself, offered to leave the priesthood in 1961 after several molestation complaints, but then Archbishop John Floersh "said no and that I would be a good priest," Miller wrote.

"Two minutes of pleasure has possibly caused boys over 20 years of mental pain and anguish," Miller wrote.

Under secrecy to maintain victims' privacy, the first ever retreat specifically designed for clergy who are victims of clergy abuse was held this summer at The Farm in Kentucky. The Farm, which is a project of The Linkup, conducts retreats as long as a week for victims of abuse.

"We told our stories in a way they could be received given the context of our lives, which is unique. ... It was a healthy, psychologically and spiritually," Manship said.

Through Laura F. Reilly, then diocesan victims advocate, priests in the Springfield Diocese were invited to participate. They could have done so without identifying themselves as victims to the diocese.

Many abused priests say they have had to look outside the church for help, saying the church's response often lacks depth or sincerity.

"In one counseling session, I began talking about the abuse and the counselor said, 'You told me about that last week. Let's talk about something different this week,'" Hayes said.

Priests who pursued the priesthood after allegedly being abused by priests say they, like so many people, were unaware of the scope of abuse within the church when they were abused.

"Initially, I thought this was just an aberration. I thought my abuser must be the only one, that was until I met one of his friends," said Hayes, adding that he alleged abused by that priest also.

Victims of sexual abuse, regardless of whether they are clergy, should not look at themselves as victims, according to Raymond J. Coppola, a psychotherapist who works with abuse victims, including retreat participants at The Farm.

"A person cannot continually recycle the pain or he stops growing as a human being," said Coppola, who planned and participated in The Farm's retreat for abused priests.

"What is important is what you do with the abuse after it occurs. The challenge is to integrate it into your total self. Otherwise you end up paying rent in your head for it as you get stuck on hold," Coppola said.

Archbald said many abused priests are able to integrate it into their ministry and become more sensitive to the needs of others who are abused or marginalized.

"It is a paradox to possibly not resolve the abuse but accept it for what it is. Jesus set the ultimate example, when, on the cross, he said, 'Forgive them for they know not what they do.'"


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