Last evening, I had an experience Iíve been waiting for since 1987. Iím still reeling from it, trying to understand its significance. Itís going to reframe how I view my past and it will influence how I act in the future. It may change my life forever by changing the trajectory of my future.
Last night, my brother came into town on the eve of the big intrastate football game between the two major state universities. He stayed the night with my parents and my mom invited me over for dinner and drinks after I got off work. It was only in April that I told my story to my family, and this is the first time since then that the four of us have been together.
To understand the events of the evening, I need to explain my relationship with my brother. Heís the first born, and Iím the second, only 10 months behind him. (My dad was apparently really, really horny) He was the star. Iíve lived in his shadow my whole life. My dad would always introduce me as No 2 son. Teachers always would always comment that Iím nothing like my brother. He was the star football player. He spent two years in med school before becoming a priest. When he was in med school, all I heard was how he is so smart and I must be so proud of him. Now that heís a priest, he has God on his side, and nothing can beat that. Competition with him defined our relationship and I always seemed to end up on the losing end. I ended up a CSA victim, and he didnít. That cemented in my mind that he was the good kid and I was the bad kid, because there was no other reason in my mind to explain why he escaped such a fate, and I fell victim multiple times. In my mind, Iím sure heís headed to heaven, and me to hell. After all, with my history of CSA, ASA, SSA, acting out and random encounters with strange men, I never thought I was worthy of making it to heaven.
The definitive event between my brother and me happened in 1987. It had just hit the newspapers that Fr Bob (my first abuser) had been arrested for molesting young boys at several locations where he had served as a priest. It shocked the people in my parish, and many could not believe that such a nice priest could do such a thing. My mom asked me if Fr Bob had ever tried anything with me. I didnít have the strength to say yes, so I lied and said no. She even said she hoped the accusations werenít true. Of course, I knew they were. At the time, my brother was a seminarian and he made the comment that he needed to go out and visit Fr Bob and offer his support. I couldnít f***** * believe it. My brother was going to support this piece of s***. That was the end of our relationship. For 26 years, our relationship has been strained. I can barely stand to be in the same room with him. Iíve only tolerated his presence for the sake of my parents. Nevertheless, Iíve always wanted us to be close again, but I was losing hope it would ever happen.
After some wine and cocktails, the conversations turned to me. This really was a good opportunity for me. I could clear up a lot of personal issues, but also, I could question him as a priest, a representative of the church. He had a lot of questions, as to why two brothers who usually served mass together could end up with different fates. As we talked more, it was apparent the differences in how we saw Fr. Bob, and how he treated us. I said I really admired him, for Fr Bob was my favorite priest. My brother said he liked him, but he wasnít his favorite. I asked if Fr Bob ever joked around about wanting to de-pants him, like he did with me or if he showed him playboys or said he could teach him to masturbate. The answer was always no. It was really obvious how deliberate Fr Bobís grooming was and how he set out to separate me from my brother and wear down my defenses before going in for the kill. What I thought was positive attention was grooming me for abuse. I never stood a chance.
It was time to ask what has been on my mind for 26 years. I asked him why did he feel he needed to support Fr Bob? My brother said that at the time he was an idealistic seminarian. The paradigm of the time was that it was a moral failing, not a criminal act, and with prayer, repentance and penance, someone could turn his life around. My brother said he really felt that he could help. He believed he had some sort of power to bring about change and through prayer and support Fr Bob could be healed. That mindset existed throughout the hierarchy of the church and at all levels from parish priests to archbishops to cardinals, the belief was that through prayer, penance, and forgiveness, the abuser would stop the evil. When viewed through todayís paradigm, it is dead wrong, but for the time, it made sense. Also, the church was not operating in a vacuum, but it formulated this viewpoint with the assistance of those in the mental health field. As he was explaining this, I listened. I wasnít trying to ascertain right from wrong, but only trying to understand his explanation.
At this point, my brother apologized. He said he is really sorry that he said and did these things. If he knew then, what he knows now, he would have never gone out to visit. He would have sought criminal charges and jail time for Fr Bob. That apology changed everything. I finally felt validated and it was proof that what happened to me was real and it was wrong. Most importantly, it wasnít my fault.
What happened next surprised me. I took a deep breath and began to speak honestly and openly and I didnít hold back. I said who thought of the boys? Does anyone know the damage these priests caused? Does a Hail Mary or an Our Father make up for the hell these boys are living? Forgiveness is necessary, yes, but these priests need to pay for their sins. Itís the victims who need to do the forgiving, not fellow priests. Who looked out for the innocent boys during their abuse and after? Who is making sure that they are getting the help they need? Who will be their voice and make sure their story is told. Why did everyone rush to the aid of the priests to give them their support and turn their backs on the victims? They are the ones who need support. These priests lost all rights to support and assistance the very first time they molested some kid. They can go to hell for all I care. Someone needs to speak out for the boys. I said Iíve lived in hell for 40 years with the memories of this and there are countless thousands of boys just like me. I will never be the man I couldíve been and I am one of millions who can say the same thing. These boys need to be heard and they need to be helped. Itís time the church did something for them rather than protecting its image.
I didnít know whose voice was speaking as I said this. These were not conscious thoughts that I had ever had. They were coming from a place inside me that I didnít know existed. And when I was through, I was stunned. I didnít know where this came from. My brother was silent, my parents were silent, and then I began to cry. All this stuff had just come out. These were not pre-meditated thoughts that I had pondered, but it was raw emotion that got put into words as it came out. I really feel the spirit was guiding me as I said this, giving me strength as I spoke. That one moment could end up being a life changing point in time.
Iím trying to find the significance of all this today. I feel wiped out, like Iíve given it my all. In some regards, I feel at peace. I finally got answers to a question that has been bothering me for 26 years. More importantly, I really feel I gave support to my 11-year old self. I spoke for him and all heís been through. I stood up for him and finally protected him. I didnít abandon him, but welcomed him home.
I wish to thank all the guys here at MS for their support these last six months. Extra thanks go out to a few special guys who have gone out of their way to befriend me and offer me wisdom and guidance. You have helped me find the strength I needed to speak out for myself and for all those who arenít able to. I truly appreciate your kindness and empathy.