Abuse by priest 'takes your innocence, it takes your faith,' survivor says

By Nancy Eshelman
August 17, 2018

[with video]

Barry didn't sleep well Tuesday night. The release of the grand jury report on sexual abuse by priests stirred decades-old memories. The boat. The school bus that served as a cabin. Motel rooms. Swimming nude at the CYO while two priests watched.

Priests Francis A. Bach and Joseph M. Pease co-owned a boat they kept in Goldsboro. Beginning in the mid-60s, Barry (not his real name) went there several times with other boys from school.

Barry remembers the school bus contained cots. He was not abused there, but suspects others were.

His abuse would come later.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro pointed to Pease as a textbook example of the church's failure to deal with sexual predators by simply moving them around. He also was one of many priests sent to an internal treatment center in an attempt to cure him.

Bach, said Barry, was Pease's buddy.

Barry came in contact with the priests while attending parochial schools in Harrisburg. He attended St. Lawrence until fourth grade and then St. Patrick's at the cathedral.

Sometimes, he recalled, Bach would come into religion class and pull out all the boys. He would take them outside to clean up the area around the school. The priest would "reward" them by taking them over to the CYO building where they would strip and swim nude.

Barry suspects now that as Bach and Pease watched the swimmers, they were selecting their victims.

Like a good Catholic boy, Barry served as an altar boy and was involved in church music. Those sorts of activities made parents proud.

So when Bach asked if he could take Barry to Mount Carmel to visit the priest's mother, his parents were pleased that their son had earned such a special reward.

Several times the two made the trip. After they visited the priest's mother, they would head to a Holiday Inn, where Barry swam. Bach would take Barry out to dinner. When they returned to the room, Bach would fondle him.

As a child, Barry never told his parents. If the thought crossed his mind, he figured he wouldn't be believed.

"I don't even remember how many times it happened," Barry said. "It wasn't like every day because he had other kids."

His abuse ended, he said, early in high school. Bach took him to a new, bigger boat on the Chesapeake Bay. They had dinner. But back at the boat, Barry said, "Enough."

The abuse ended, but the memories haunted him.

That was around the time, Barry said, that he changed.

"I just started doing things I would have never done. I can't blame every mistake I made on the abuse, but I'm pretty damn sure my life has changed in ways it wouldn't have," he said. "It sends you down a path that you're not ready for."

A decade or so ago, when he was in his 50s, Barry, who still lives in the Harrisburg area, contacted the diocese and shared his story. He learned then he wasn't the first to report abuse by Bach.

The diocese offered Barry counseling. He didn't continue with it because he felt the counselor was more concerned about Barry's relationship with the church than he was with his well-being.

Although he said he has tried to swallow his anger, he knows it simmers under the surface.

"My biggest anger is that they did nothing to stop it," he said.

With the grand jury report, "I feel better that the names of the (abusers) are out there. I'm not happy that guilty people just walked - and not just the perpetrators.

"Somebody should be paying for this, not moneywise," he said. "It's a crime."

And a crime, he said, that should have no statute of limitations.

While any abuse is horrifying, abuse by a religious leader, Barry said, "not only takes your innocence, it takes your faith."

While Barry has lost faith in the church, he said his personal relationship with the Almighty remains intact. 

After 50 years of dealing with the fallout from his abuse, Barry has reached a conclusion: "My adult opinion is that any religion that gives God's power to humans, over humans, will fail. We do not possess the wisdom or self-control to own that kind of power."



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