Former student claims ‘monster’ abused him in Bronx high school, supports Child Victims Act

By Michael O’keeffe
New York Daily News
May 30, 2016

Kirk Balay, 45, holds a photo of his 18-year-old self as he stands in front of Cardinal Hayes High School on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx , where he only learned "blame, shame, fear and guilt.”

Brother John Justin O'Connor (left), the dean of discipline at Cardinal Hayes High School, "terrorized" Balay through abuse, he claims. Father John O'Keefe (right), the school's former guidance counselor, protected O'Connor. Balay believes that he too was an abuser.

He was the dean of discipline, and Kirk Balay remembers how he would always be lurking as students got off the train on their way to Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx.

Brother John Justin O’Connor, a large, heavyset friar, was on the prowl for any behavior — shouting, cursing, horsing around — he deemed worthy of punishment.

For Balay, who seemed to run afoul of O’Connor at least once a week throughout the fall of 1985 and into 1986, discipline often consisted of being sexually and physically abused.

Sometimes O’Connor had him stand facing a classroom wall for two or three hours with two dozen other disciplined students, Balay said.

More frequently, he would bring Balay to his office, where he would beat and molest him.

“It started out with him groping my buttocks as he paddled me and it evolved into him trying to rip my clothes off as he fondled himself,” said Balay, 45, who claims he first received “jug” — “justice under God” — from O’Connor about three weeks into his freshman year.

“He terrorized me. I would go to school sweating and panicking every day. The only thing I learned in that institution was blame, shame, fear and guilt.”

Balay said he received about $50,000 from the Irish Christian Brothers, O’Connor’s order, after it filed for bankruptcy in 2011 in the wake of sex and physical abuse allegations. The North American branch agreed to pay $16.5 million to Balay and more than 400 other men and women who say they were abused by members of the order.

Balay also wants Cardinal Hayes and the Archdiocese of New York to answer for the abuse he suffered as a student, but he is unable to have his day in court because the state’s statute of limitations bars sexual abuse victims from pursuing civil litigation or criminal charges after their 23rd birthday.

He said he supports passage of the Child Victims Act, which would eliminate the statute of limitations for child sex abuse cases and open a one-year window for past victims to file lawsuits against predators and the institutions that protect them.

“It is not fair that this monster is free and able to continue doing what he did to me and others,” Balay said. “What would help me move forward is making Cardinal Hayes and this terrorist O’Connor accountable for destroying people’s lives.”

Balay said he has struggled with depression, anxiety and intimacy issues as a result of his sexual abuse. He began drinking vodka and orange juice in high school to numb himself.

Balay said he told his mother about the abuse. His mother met with a Cardinal Hayes guidance counselor, Father John O’Keefe.

“My mother says O’Keefe told her that I and other students who had accused O’Connor of abuse were liars and con artists — and my mother believed him,” Balay said. “When your own parents don’t believe you, where do you go?”

Balay says he now believes O’Keefe was covering up for O’Connor because he, too, was a sexual predator. Timothy Cardinal Dolan suspended O’Keefe, then the pastor of St. Margaret of Antioch in Pearl River, Rockland County, in December after a lawyer representing a man who says the priest abused him in the early 1980s contacted the archdiocese.

O’Connor and O’Keefe could not be reached for comment. An attorney for the Irish Christian Brothers, Anthony Dougherty, did not return several calls from the Daily News.

Cardinal Hayes referred The News to archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling, who said church officials were aware of the allegations about O’Connor and had reported them to the prosecutors.


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