Catholic Church Has Much to Explain

By Helen Ubinas
Hartford Courant [Bridgeport CT]
November 1, 2005

I was driving out of Bridgeport when I turned a corner and saw the hulking presence of St. Augustine Cathedral and, I'm still not sure why, felt a sudden need to stop.

Maybe it was because my insides were still in knots after hearing Kevin Zile and Jim Hackett recall horrendous acts of betrayal at the hands of the Catholic church.

Maybe because after two hours of listening to the men talk about the torment visited upon them by priests they trusted, I was looking for some sort of explanation.

Explain to me how parish leaders sworn to protect their flock could have allowed their most vulnerable to be abused?

Explain to me how the same church that preaches morality could have turned its eyes and back on such behavior?

Explain to me, I naively thought, how God could have allowed something like this to happen?

They couldn't have been more different, these two men who came to their lawyers' offices on Lyon Terrace to talk about the $22 million dollar settlement the Archdiocese of Hartford agreed to pay to 43 people who say they were sexually abused by priests.

Kevin Zile's pain was palpable as he recollected being abused for years by the Rev. Thomas Glynn in the 1970s, starting when he was 13. Glynn would get him drunk, Zile said, and sodomize him. He spoke of years filled with alcoholism and drugs as he tried to erase the memories of what Glynn had done to him. He talked, almost with disappointment, of his three failed suicide attempts.

"I was a nurse," he said, tears running down his face. "I should have done it better."

And he talked of healing and moving on. But when he said Monday that it really wasn't over, you not only believed him, you wished you could take away some of his pain.

No one person should be burdened with this much agony, I thought. No one who has been through what Zile's been through should blame himself the way he does for the grief he put his family through. His wife watched him relive his nightmares in fitful sleeps. His daughters didn't understand what drove their father to block out the memories with booze.

"At least now we are receiving the help we deserve," he said. "But what about our spouses, our children and friends and family who have been forever negatively impacted by our abuse. Who will speak for them? Who will comfort and treat their pain?"

Who will comfort and treat yours? I thought.

On the table were pictures of the two men around the time of their abuse. Zile still wore a tie, just like he did in his photo. But that little boy, with the cute grin and chubby cheeks, was gone.

Jim Hackett, though, still resembled the 12-year-old altar boy in his picture. He still had that easy smile, that mischievous glint in his eye. He joked about the shirt he wore in the picture being all the rage in the '70s, when he was being abused. I wondered, is this what people mean when they talk of a child's resilience?

Hackett was contained as he described standing in his father's workshop, telling him about the abuse he suffered at the hands of Father Louis Paturzo. "Father Lou," who years later was elevated to hero's status for his work with Hartford youths.

That's what prompted his mother, Elizabeth, to write that anonymous letter in 1993. She had seen a story about the state police donating a van to Father Lou for his work, and knew.

"He was still hunting," she said Monday.

She wanted to tell the police everything then, she said, all that she and her husband had told their parish priest that went unheeded. She wanted to warn other mothers, to protect other sons. But first she had to protect her own. And she said, "It was Jimmy's secret to tell."

So now he and Zile are speaking out - in different ways, but for the same reason. Because as different as the men appeared Monday, they had one thing in common: A long time ago they were two little boys who were betrayed. And now they are two grown men digging deep to survive.

How is that possible, I thought, to suffer so much and still persevere?

I pulled on the church doors, but they were locked. I banged on them, and yelled for someone to come. But no one answered.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.