Life Among Pedophile Priests, New Book by New Mexico Author-Activist, Hank Estrada

By Kay Ebeling
City of Angels
May 23, 2012

I've learned a bit about life in Catholic seminaries, which in the USA produced seven thousand pedophile priests in the last fifty years*, from the book "Unholy Communion: Lessons Learned from Life among Pedophiles, Predators, and Priests." As an 18 year old seminarian, New Mexico writer Hank Estrada found himself naked in bed with an older priest. The series of molestations, related in the book, led to Estrada abandoning his lifelong ambition to become a priest. Unholy Communion** left this reader seeing seminaries as environments where covert sexual activity is almost inevitable.

"On one occasion, Father John rubbed himself up against me so much that he climaxed right in his walking shorts. I eventually came to realize that Father John believed that as long as he did not physically expose himself or masturbate, he wasn't really engaging in a sexual act or breaking his celibacy vow." (From page 26)

Soon after Estrada joined the Western Province of the Claretian Missionary Order in Los Angeles, Father John Raab spotted him as an easy target.

The young seminarian was vulnerable, tormented by the experience of being regularly molested by his uncle as a child (some of which is described graphically in the book). Within weeks the priest has the seminarian in bed, which is also described vividly in the book.

Estrada may have had to abandon his life dream of becoming a priest, mainly because of the sexual abuse he experienced at the hands of Father John Raab, but he maintained a kind of freelance pastoring career, by founding "non-offending adult male survivors" groups in the 1980s.

Estrada made two attempts at forming local SNAP groups in Albuquerque, and established himself in a survivor community by attending seminars and conferences, both as a participant and as a speaker.

Currently he is developing an online support group for survivors at

Priests in training are cloistered in seminaries, at the same time they are pampered and treated to vacation jaunts, as Estrada describes in this scan from Unholy Communion, which is available for purchase at :

They go to retreats in secluded places where a hunky new recruit is in the unlocked room right across the hall- what else can you expect but development of deviant sexual behaviors. Seminary practices put post pubescent men in cloistered places where there is no other person for miles around but other young men trying to be celibate.

They live in close quarters, drink, eat, mingle, and discover that each of them is trying and failing to overcome a normal human sex drive.

The atmosphere of seminaries as described in Unholy Communion seems almost like it was set up to encourage secret gay sex and predatory activity, in a culture where suppressed instincts get expressed in deformed, outright depraved acts.

Everything Estrada went through is topical today with the gay marriage debate going on around the world. Nobody should have to resort to back street connections, and surreptitious sex acts, when what they want is a normal loving sexual relationship, whether in the priesthood or in ordinary life.

In Unholy Communion, Estrada comes part way out of the closet as a gay man in the 1980s, after leaving the seminary. He ends up entrapped in a "public exposure" charge and spends years in confused relationships.

Estrada spent years after leaving seminary trying to warn Church hierarchy as Father John continued to prey upon young men in seminary.

Letting priests live normal sex lives, including marriage to another man, would probably put an end to the confusion in seminary that led to the pedophile priest epidemic in the Catholic Church.

Estrada's life was derailed by the dishonesty of Catholic bishops, both in operating sexually charged seminaries for "celibate priests" and in continuing to criminalize and denounce homosexuality. Can Catholic bishops stop protecting their bank accounts and their newfound positions of power among neoconservative right wing politicians long enough to notice the dysfunction their religious sexual policies perpetuate?


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