Priest's Letter of Apology

By Jennifer Kingsley
Star-Gazette (Elmira, NY)
June 9, 2002

WATKINS GLEN - More than three decades have passed since John Hayes was sexually abused during his altar boy training, and the Catholic church has never apologized.

"Victims of the predators have waited a very long time for that simple act from the church," said Hayes, who is Schuyler County's assistant district attorney.

One person, however, has apologized: John Gormley, the former priest who molested Hayes in 1966.

Gormley's letter arrived in the mail in March 1993, after a chance encounter with Hayes along Texas Hollow Road, near Odessa.

Hayes was riding in his sister's car, near Hayes' home, when the pair stopped for a motorist stuck in the snow. It was Gormley.

When Hayes recognized Gormley, he refused to get out of the car. Hayes' sister, Mary Hayes-O'Brien, helped Gormley instead.

Gormley wrote, "The chance encounter last week ... offers me the occasion to do something that I have not known how or when to do.

"I am ashamed, and truly sorry for the confusion, trauma and pain that this has caused you over the years. I fully understand and accept your reaction the other day," Gormley wrote.

Gormley also wrote that in 1972 he spent six months in residential therapeutic treatment in a psychiatric center in Hartford, Conn., in order to "deal with the pathology that gave rise to the behavior which was both sick and criminal."

In the letter, Gormley referred to the sexual abuse as a "gross violation of (Hayes') privacy, innocence, goodness, and parents' trust."

"I will carry the burden of my regret and shame to the grave," Gormley wrote. "I hope that this acknowledgment may serve to separate each of us more fully from the past and from each other, and help to bring some additional measure of healing and peace to both of us."


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