Where Was St. Francis Catholic Church When Victims of Sex Abuse Needed Their Support?
May 24, 2018
On May 8, 2018, William Kerr, a former Sunday school teacher and member of the Knights of Columbus at St. Francis Catholic Church, was sentenced in Staunton Circuit Court to 17 years and 11 months for maliciously sexually abusing children within the congregation for over 2 decades.
The victims submitted Victim Impact Statements and one of the victims courageously took the stand to give a verbal statement. They all described how the trauma from the abuse had negatively impacted their lives. Although most of them have had years of therapy to cope with the trauma, their lives will never be the same. Someone who they knew and trusted had sexually abused them. Someone who was highly respected within the church had robbed them of their youth. Among the people who came to the sentencing hearing was another member of the Knights of Columbus and who is also well known and respected at the church. He took the stand in support of the defendant. Who was there from the church in support of the victims?
As a former parishioner of St. Francis and longtime victim advocate, I find it absolutely appalling that from all appearances no one in a position of authority from the church has reached out to any of the many victims during this ordeal to show their support. Instead, a leading member of the church stepped into the void created by the church’s public silence and supported the man who sexually assaulted innocent children from their own congregation. The church that should have made these girls feel protected let them down in a horrendous way. At the very minimum, St. Francis needs to explore what happened in order to avoid a terrible breakdown such as this from occurring in the future. As with any sexual assault victim, their privacy and confidentiality must be respected and protected; however, one would want to believe that someone from the church would have attempted to initiate contact or had a representative at the hearing to not only learn the facts but more importantly to support the victims.