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Monday, August 29, 2011

A Priest Sexually Abuses Students 55 Years Ago. Is That A Story?

Victims of sexual abuse need to come forward.
On Saturday, August 27th, 2011, the Cleveland Plain Dealer ran a front page article about victims of sexual abuse, who were allegedly abused by a priest. The crimes were committed in or around 1956. Now, a dozen men are coming forward. Why did it take so long to come out? A priest sexually abuses students 55 years ago. Is that a story?

Normally, when a person is violated, they go to the authorities. If you've ever had your home robbed, you feel so violated, so taken advantage of - but you go to the authorities and deal with the insurance company. If you've ever been assaulted, you go to the authorities. If someone plows into your car and you are severely injured, charges are filed and you proceed from there.

With sexual abuse victims, they seem to blame themselves, and that shame causes them to stay in the shadows with their pain. However, at some point, shouldn't they come forward? If they hold on to it for years and years, then, to me, they seem to be victimizing themselves.

This story that ran in the Cleveland Plain Dealer started out with four or five men in their late 60's and early 70's saying they were sexually abused by a priest, and possibly more at a prominent Jesuit High School. The abuse occurred around 1956. It's been 55 years since the abuses took place. All of the priests are dead.

The principal of the school sent out 18,000 letters to alumni. So far, about a dozen men have come forward. But, like I said, these guys are all around 70 years old. Sexual abuse by priests has been in the news for going on 25 years. Couldn't these guys have come forward a decade or two ago?

I'm not trying to excuse the behavior of the priest (and possibly the others), but they're DEAD.

If someone stabbed me, I wouldn't wait 55 years to go to the police.

I understand the trapped feeling that victims of domestic violence endure. Fear keeps them in a prison. It can take years for them to break away from the horrors they face at home.

Children who are sexually abused are confused. It may take them years before they can talk about it or come forward. But grown adults who hang on to a personal violation for decades are making their own bed of pain. I'm not trying to be insensitive, I'm trying to be realistic.

To me, this article about the high school was pure tabloid journalism - "Ooooooh, another priest fondles some boys." It only served to put a black mark on a highly reputable school that provides an outstanding education and highly competitive sports programs. The priest(s) are DEAD. The "victims" are 70. The article, written by Michael O'Malley never mentioned how this alleged abuse affected these men. Did they have trouble finding work? Were their marriages a shambles? Did they develop deviant sexual behavior, which was brought on by the abuse? None of those questions were answered.

In Ohio, the Statute of Limitations for sex crimes is 20 years. Limitations vary by state. The range is from 6 to 20 years, with only a few having no limitations as to when a sex crime can be prosecuted.

So, is bringing up a 55 year old crime committed by dead people even worth writing about?

All the Plain Dealer did was slap on the front page a headline that included the words SEXUAL ABUSE and PRIEST in it. It's sensational and it probably sold papers. But was it a real headline? I bet there are some dead SS guards from the Nazi regime who sodomized women in France in 1946. Is that a headline story?

There are plenty of current cases of priest/student/parishioner sexual improprieties to write about. Enough stories where it has become a tired punchline for Jon Stewart on late night TV.

My big problem is not so much with the deviant priests as it is with the churches and the way they have handled these crimes. They are crimes. But the Catholic Church and other churches seem to be sheltered from the law. They shuffle the offenders from one parish to another or from one city to another. They aren't reprimanded or sanctioned or defrocked or hauled off to jail - they're reassigned with a fresh new crop of potential victims. THAT is the crime.

Sexual deviants are sick. They need help. But a religious authoritarian body is supposed to be logical and have providence and a sense of justice. The people at the top are the real criminals. The perpetrators are humans with serious problems.

Studies show that pedophilia amongst priests is no higher than the rate in the non-clerical population. But because priests are held to a higher standard this crime is more heinous. Is it?

To me, a parent that sexually abuses their children is far worse than any priest folding a child. A parent, whose number one responsibility is to protect their children is committing a far more serious crime than a priest.

A priest is a stranger. They happen to wear a collar. Priests are alcoholics, they're smokers, they have affairs, they abuse drugs, they're human - their improprieties are all common things in society. But a parent - that is a different story. You can remove a child from a priest or a church. But a parent can create that shadow that will keep their victims in the chains of pain for a lifetime. "It's our little secret." You don't have that kind of intimate shackle with a priest or any other authority figure who commits sexual abuse. Unless they're a politician - with them, if you tell, you could wind up dead.

After 55 years, all I can say is, "Tough. Sorry you went through that pain, but it's a bit late to start rattling your walker and making a stink out of it." YOU made yourself a victim for five decades.

I know that back in the 1950's, it was unthinkable to come out and accuse a priest of such a crime. But as I mentioned above, these crimes have been outed for a quarter century. I can't forgive the crime, but I really don't feel any compassion or sympathy for someone who sat on their pain for that long.

In the mental illness groups I attend, one of the tenets we are taught is that your mental health is your responsibility. You need to work on it. You need to accept it and seek treatment. If your life is a mess and you don't do anything to try to make it better, don't come running from the shuffle board court, dragging an oxygen tank with a grudge on your shoulder. And a responsible paper shouldn't write about it.

If victims don't seek help, what do you say? A priest sexually abuses students 55 years ago. Is that a story?

Related article:
I'm The Victim Of Another Crime - Nothing New For Me

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