Bronx Abuse Victim Recalls Horrors of Being Part of Pervy Priest's "Teen Club"
By Laura Dimon and Rich Schapiro
New York Daily News
October 27, 2017
|Jimmy Halpin is the latest priest abuse victim to step forward and reveal his childhood nightmares when he attended St. Raymond Boys School in the Bronx. (JAMES KEIVOM/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)|
Jimmy Halpin grew up an ace student who was so devoted to his Catholic faith that he slept on the floor the night before exams.
“So Jesus could sleep in the bed,” said Halpin, who attended the St. Raymond’s Boys School in the Bronx.
At the age of 15, the Rev. Joseph Theisen entered Halpin’s life.
It was summertime in the early 1980s and Theisen quickly took a liking to young Jimmy. After that, Halpin’s slide into tragedy did not take long.
By the fall, the spark inside him had been snuffed, replaced by a darkness that led to years of substance abuse.
“I’m not going to be in denial about this anymore,” Halpin, now 52 and a third-grade teacher in Harlem, told the Daily News. “I was practically a child and I did nothing wrong.”
Halpin is the latest priest abuse victim to step forward after collecting a settlement from the church’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program for victims.
Roughly 180 victims have received payouts since the program was launched late last year.
“It was one of the easiest things I’ve ever done,” Halpin said. “They went above and beyond.”
The church played a central role in Halpin’s childhood.
The youngest of four, Halpin’s father did work for St. Raymond’s cemetery and his mother led prayer groups.
“The priests were truly deities,” he said.
Theisen started lavishing attention on Halpin at a time when the teen, now a gay man, was confused over his own sexuality. The predatory priest rounded up a group of boys into what they called a “teen club.”
“He always liked us to wrestle,” Halpin recalled. “We always ended up wrestling, and he liked to take part in it.”
|Halpin said the predatory priest rounded up a group of boys into what was called a “teen club.” (JAMES KEIVOM/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)|
Theisen also liked to talk to the boys about sex. Soon, Halpin said, he was doing more than talking.
Theisen began inviting Halpin to the rectory alone. One day, the priest told Halpin that he seemed uptight and prodded the teen to take off his shirt and lay on the ground.
“He caressed my torso,” Halpin said. “It was weird. It was uncomfortable.”
Not long after, Theisen took things a step further.
“He took off his collar and shirt and laid on top of me,” Halpin said. “For lack of a better word, he dry-humped me.”
Theisen preyed upon Halpin one more time that summer, Halpin said. It happened after the priest drove the teen home. In the parked car, Halpin said, Theisen groped and massaged the boy’s genitals over his pants.
Theisen was later transferred to another parish in Rockland County, according to Halpin.
The abuse sent the teen into a drug and alcohol-fueled tailspin that spanned 15 years.
“There were some very dark years between 15 and 30,” said Halpin.
Now 23 years sober and the father of two daughters, he said he felt emboldened after reading an article documenting other reports of abuse against Theisen, who has since died.
“It validated what I thought I made up,” said Halpin, who was represented by lawyer Patrick Noaker from the group Lawyers Helping Survivors of Child Sex Abuse.
Halpin said he was pleased with his settlement — and thrilled with how quickly the Archdiocese acknowledged his case. Archdiocese spokesman Joe Zwilling said the program was “designed to help bring some measure of justice and peace to those who suffered abuse.”
“I’m glad to hear that the program seems to be fulfilling that mission,” he said, imploring other victims to come forward.