I had a very meaningful conversation with my uncle on Labor Day. All this week, I've been reliving that talk, trying to examine my feelings about what he said.
Now, the title of this post is misleading. My uncle did not abuse me. However, he is connected to my story in many ways. My uncle is a priest. I have always admired him, and next to my dad, he is the most influential male role model in my life. He is what priests should be, not the sick individuals they are often thought of - of course, any sordid reputations about priests have been brought on by themselves. My uncle is the personification of faith, hope and love. I have only seen him mad once - in 1974 when I was buffing his car and doing my best to ruin the finish with my incompetence, but that's beside the point, which is my uncle is among the holiest of holy men.
I was abused on a camping trip to Colorado 32 years ago. The owner of the cabin (TR) was a long time friend of my uncle and that's how I got invited out there. Unfortunately my uncle's friend was also my abuser. One horrific memory I have of the event is the morning after the event, we had mass, and I had to give the kiss of peace to a guy who the night before had abused me. TR hugged me and whispered into my ear "You Can't tell anyone - no one will ever believe you." I believed him and kept my secret until February.
I know my abuser ended up getting caught, his wife divorced him, and ended up dying about 10 years ago. That's all I know. When my uncle found out the story, he ended the friendship, helped get the guy's wife an annulment, and got him excommunicated.
In May of this year, I told my uncle. He was stunned. He was also quite supportive and offered to help anyway he could, such as contact the archbishop or other resources available to survivors of priest abuse.
This weekend I saw my uncle again and we had some alone time. He wondered how I was doing and said he prayed for me all the time. He told me how courageous I was to keep it in all these years and not let it destroy me ( he doesn't know the whole story) I had a chance to ask him a few questions. I asked him, since he knew TR had been arrested and everything, if he had ever suspected TR had abused me or my brothers. My uncle said he never guessed and didn't think TR would sink so low as to abuse the nephews of a good friend. He said that TR is even more evil than he realized and only a real creep would do family members of a dear friend. I saw a tear in my uncle's eye as he said that. My uncle went on to say that he really paid the price for his crime, but that his real punishment would come in the hereafter. TR lost his job, his home and actually died in Europe, homeless. My uncle didn't express any sympathy for him. We think of the clergy always willing to forgive, but my uncle said nothing that could happen to him on earth would be sufficient punishment for what he did.
I've been thinking about that conversation. It's good to know that I have another supporter. I was just consoled by knowing that even clergy believe in punishment and vengeance. I'm feeling a little more at peace after speaking to my uncle. I'm feeling my past isn't swept under the rug but there are people out there who really care.