Man Abused by Baltimore Priest Speaks to WJZ

By Vic Carter
CBS 13 [Baltimore MD]
February 7, 2006

(WJZ) BALTIMORE A former Baltimore priest could go to jail for 15 years when he's sentenced Tuesday for sexual abuse. WJZ's Vic Carter sat down exclusively with Thomas Roberts, one of the priests victims--who suffered abuse for 17 years.

Roberts was 14 when his parents divorced, turning his world upside down. The Calvert Hall student sought counseling from Jeff Toohey, better known as "Father Jeff" to students. He was the man Roberts trusted most, standing as not only his counselor, but his confidant.

But when Roberts sought Toohey's help, Toohey became his abuser.

"And it was the second time that I stayed there that I was invited to stay in Father Jeff's room," Roberts tells Carter. "And that's when the first--that's when the abuse began."

At such a young age, Roberts didn't know what to do or who to turn to.

"I thought if I told, no one would believe me. I didn't know how my family would react," he admits. "I thought I'd be kicked out of school. And life at that point wasn't that great anyway, so I figured I'll just deal with this."

After he left Baltimore, Roberts kept the abuse a secret and decided to focus more on his career in journalism. In 2001, he moved to Atlanta and is now a main anchor for CNN Headline News.

Thomas lived with the burden of his secret for 17 years, only coming forward when his sister was planning to enroll her children in Catholic schools in Baltimore.

"You look at these small faces and you know they need to be taken care of, they need to be protected," he says. "I just felt that it was time for me to unburden myself and be done this, be done with secrets."

But that wasn't easy for Roberts. He found he couldn't talk about the abuse even in counseling. His family was devastated but their unconditional support pulled him through.

Roberts hopes to close this painful chapter in his life when Toohey is sentenced on Tuesday. The former priest apologized to Roberts after he plead guilty, but forgiveness does not come easily.

"I have to be able to one, forgive myself and in doing so, be able to forgive him as well. I don't know if I'm there yet though. I really don't know if I'm there yet," he says.

Toohey could be sentenced to a maximum of 15 years behind bars. The Baltimore archdiocese stripped Toohey of his faculties to function as a pastor and has asked the Vatican to defrock him.


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