Priestly Misconduct Leaves Its Mark on Victims
Sarah Antonacci

State Journal-Register (Springfield, IL)
March 13, 2005

The pain Beth Ward's family began suffering nearly 28 years ago has never subsided.

It wasn't until the early 1990s when the Wards read in The State Journal-Register that some of Pat's classmates had been abused by the Rev. Joseph Havey, who had been a priest at St. Agnes Catholic Church, that it occurred to them their son may have been a victim, too.

He was.

The Wards have never recovered - not Beth, her husband or any of their other three children.

"The biggest thing that (sexual abuse by priests) does is destroy the child and the family. This child acts differently than his siblings, and you don't know why. The perpetrator is manipulating this child, and you have no knowledge of it," Ward said.

"We trusted this priest. A priest giving extra attention to your son was a great thing. We had (Havey) to our house for Sunday dinner. He said Mass there."

At the time, Ward's husband, also named Pat, was commissioner of public health and safety for the city of Springfield. Beth said Havey used that against her son.

"He would tell him, in recruiting little Pat for his sexual pleasures, that if Little Pat told anyone about what was going on, he would ruin his father's career, that they would believe a priest over him. (Little Pat) was about 10 years old. This went on even into high school. He threatened our child."

So it remains difficult for Beth Ward to believe that much has changed within the church, even though the Springfield diocese, along with the church nationally, has taken steps to try to ensure children's safety and to identify misconduct among priests.

"The whole Catholic church is tainted by this scandal," she said. "The church was protecting them."

The national scandal in the Catholic Church broke in 2002, when widespread reporting of crimes by priests against children made it clear that the church was facing a crisis. That summer, the bishops came up with what is known as the Dallas Charter, which requires zero tolerance for sexual abuse by priests.

According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the charter was meant to create a safe environment for children and young people, to provide healing and reconciliation for victims and survivors, and ensure prompt and effective responses to allegations.

The charter urges cooperation with civil authorities, establishes guidelines for disciplining offenders and provides a means of accountability by setting up the national Office of Child and Youth Protection, and a National Review Board.

"It basically said that someone who would do this is not fit for ministry," said Kathie Sass, spokeswoman for the Springfield Diocese. "The church realized there was a very grave problem, and they responded very quickly."

Locally, the problem of sexual abuse by priests began to be addressed in the mid-1990s after several cases came forward, including that of the Rev. Walter Weerts in Quincy, the Rev. Alvin Campbell in Morrisonville and Havey.

In 1994, the Springfield diocese developed a sexual misconduct policy that asked all church personnel to sign a statement certifying they'd never been convicted of a crime, required church personnel to report suspected sexual abuse to legal authorities and church officials, developed a committee to study allegations of abuse and stated that any clergy member who admits to or is found guilty of sexual misconduct would be removed from service.

The abuse committee, which is appointed by Bishop George Lucas, consists of seven diocesan residents, including a priest, a nun, an abuse survivor, abuse counselors and medical professionals.

"The (1994) policy made it quite clear the sexual abuse of minors was a crime and a sin," Sass said.

In November 2002, the Springfield diocese started a program called Protecting God's Children in which people within the diocese are trained to spot signs that a child is being abused, explains how children are lured by abusers and is designed to make sure children are not placed in dangerous situations. More than 12,000 people have taken the training.

In September 2003, the diocese also began conducting background checks of anyone dealing with children. To date, 10,545 people have been checked, including priests, deacons, teachers, volunteers and coaches.

Finally, last month, Lucas announced that the diocese had hired former U.S. Attorney Bill Roberts to investigate allegations of misconduct by clergy. He set up a toll-free number and e-mail address for people to report allegations and announced the formation of another committee that will review allegations. Lucas will also appoint members of that committee, though he has not yet done so.

Sass notes that the cases of abuse discovered so far in the Springfield diocese all occurred in the 1980s or before. She thinks tougher screening and psychological testing of prospective priests have helped reduce the number of flawed priests. In addition, sexual abuse is better understood.

"I think we know more about what causes it and the fact you really can't send someone away for treatment and hope for the best," she said. "Now we know that with pedophilia, you can't play games. There's a new attitude in the church."

But Beth Ward remembers the old church. She remembers that a fellow priest watched as Havey, who is no longer a priest, brought her learning-disabled, grade-school-age son up to his room, where Havey allegedly gave him sacramental wine and marijuana.

"The boards (the diocese has assembled) are a joke," she said. "As long as the bishop appoints them, they owe their alliance to him. I don't feel that's a productive way of helping the future children in the schools."

Sass said the bishop must appoint the board members.

"Who else would? The way the Catholic Church is structured, the bishop is ultimately responsible for the decisions made here," she said. "He's collaborative and works with people. The folks on the (sex abuse) review board are highly qualified, professional people."

Beth's son was one of 28 defendants who split a $3 million lawsuit settlement with the Springfield diocese last year. Her son and several of his St. Agnes classmates alleged in the suit that Havey provided them with pornography, drugs and alcohol during the late 1970s and early 1980s. They also said Havey instructed them to ritually abuse him.

"You can't erase what happened," Sass said, "but you try your best to make sure some healing takes place. Bishop Lucas feels strongly that we want to help one another, and an adversarial relationship in court is not the place for it."

Ward agreed that what happened can't be erased.

"He is still a mess," she said. "He is now almost 40 and just now being able to be truthful with us and not lie to us. He has spent his whole life telling us lie after lie after lie.

"What happened to him was horrible. He never wanted us to know about it. Just now he's learning that, whatever happens, we will be with him."

One of Havey's victims who was part of the $3 million settlement, a 38-year-old construction worker who did not want his name made public, said he views the legal agreement as typical of the church.

"They brush it underneath the carpet and hide it away," he said. "As long as they do, the problem will never be resolved."

The man said he believes the root of the problem is that priests must be celibate.

"As long as there is celibacy, and life will always be what it is today," he said, "the church will continue to cover up what happens."

Meanwhile, he lives with the consequences.

"I've had problems with drugs," he said. "It's affected my marriage. It's affected my family life. I've lost a lot of trust. It's made relationships hard because I trusted that priest and he would do things that got progressively worse.

"At 38, I'm still suffering. I will deal with it for the rest of my life."

The man doesn't attend Mass any longer. Neither does Beth Ward.

"I wouldn't go anymore into a Catholic church," Ward said. "I hate everything it represents."


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