Man Says Memories of Sex Abuse by Ms Priest Were Repressed. Now He Remembers and Is Suing.
October 9, 2019
Today, the Catholic Diocese of Jackson, represented by Bishop Joseph Kopacz, released the names of priests, various clergy and diocesan leaders with credible allegations of abuse made against them. The list dates back to 1924. Tuesday, March 19, 2019. Sarah Warnock and Barbara Gauntt, Mississippi Clarion Ledger
When he was 12, Robert McGowen went to catechism class. His mother was Southern Baptist, but his father was Catholic, so he attended classes at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Hattiesburg.
It was the mid-1980s and his priest was the Rev. John Scanlon.
Some days, McGowen's dad would be late picking him up from class. When that happened, McGowen said, Scanlon would take him into the rectory. For 35 years, McGowen said he repressed the memories of what happened to him.
Now he can't forget.
His attorney, John Hawkins, believes McGowen's repressed memories of sexual abuse have delayed the statute of limitations. Under that unique approach, a civil suit was filed last month against Scanlon's estate, Church of Sacred Heart and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Biloxi, which the church falls under.
"In this case, the statute of limitation could not have started running against him until he was aware of the wrong that was done," Hawkins said.
'Does this feel good? Do you like this?'
Now 47 and living in Benton County, Arkansas, McGowen said the only thing he remembered for decades from catechism classes was being told "masturbation was considered self-abuse."
"For years, I always thought, 'Why is that sticking out in my mind?'" But the military veteran and county official pushed the question out of his head.
Then, one day late last year, he was sitting at his desk at work when a thought unexpectedly occurred to him.
"Something with you and Scanlon, something isn't right."
So, McGowen turned to the internet and searched the name of the church.
"When I did that it was literally like my heart was about to come out of my chest, it was beating so bad. All of sudden, I started remembering the abuse, coming back a little bit at a time."
In the civil lawsuit, McGowen says he was sexually abused by the priest from 1984 to 1985.
A spokesperson for the diocese could not be reached for comment. Hawkins said Monday the diocese has not yet responded to the suit.
After the realization in his office last December, McGowen started seeing a counselor. The memories continued to come back.
"I could see his face, and I could see and hear him saying, 'Does this feel good? Do you like this?'" McGowen told the Clarion Ledger.
While McGowen could see Scanlon's face in his mind, he decided to email the diocese and ask for a picture of the deceased priest to help his memory.
"When I opened the picture and saw it, I literally gagged," he said. "I thought I was going to vomit. That's how bad it affects me."