How Long Has This Been Going On? Ctd

A reader writes:

Thanks for publishing these. I feel more Catholic knowing we are fighting this.

Here's my story: In 1967, when I was 9, my devoutly Catholic family moved from a small Midwestern town to a small Massachusetts town. In the new town, on top of the culture shock of going from the plains to the coast, I felt a palpable tension in the working class parish that also had a convent and parochial school. Many of my classmates at St. Mary's school attended Mass at "St. Evan's" in the next town. St. Evan's was everything St. Mary's was not; it was newly built and progressive, and the St. Mary's parishioners seemed to resent it as if it were a rebuke. I thought it was because our parish was dying, and maybe it was. I always wished we could go to St. Evan's because our priests were either old and cranky, young and weird (the guy with the red silk-lined cape stood out), or wonderful and transferred soon, over the howls of the parishioners.

Years later I opened a Newsweek magazine and read the caption under a photograph of a man standing on some church steps. The church was St. Mary's and the story was about the sexual abuse of children in the parish by a priest named Father P. The time-frame of this abuse was the 1960's prior to 1967. I sadly realized the older siblings of some of my classmates must have been his victims. I wondered if it explained St. Evan's.

One of my dearest classmates at St. Mary's had been Billy, the youngest of

How Long Has This Been Going On? Ctd

A reader writes:

I am a (currently non-practicing) Catholic mother of two adult sons, both of whom were altar servers at our beloved church in Florida. The span of time during which they served was 1979 through 1997. During those years, we became close friends with several priests. My protestant husband even converted to Catholicism during those years. Even though my husband and I were very involved in volunteer positions in our parish and were considered quite devout, we were constantly on the alert for any hints of unusual priestly interest in our boys.

How Long Has This Been Going On? Ctd

A reader writes:

Seven of my eight years in parochial school came before the Vatican II reforms. Our pastor was a miserable, elderly alcoholic. One of the associates was also an alcoholic. Both men were so socially impaired, it's hard to believe that either had a friend in the world. If anyone, adults included, spoke to the pastor, it was with great trepidation because he was so unpleasant.

There was, however, a second associate, Fr. K, who was much beloved by students. He was the only priest to ever visit our classroom. We were always thrilled to see him when he would show up unannounced for a visit. He was warm, engaging and energetic–the only priest that parishioners could relate to. We had 50 kids in our class, about half were boys. Fr. K was in charge of the altar boys.

How Long Has This Been Going On? Ctd

Redo

A reader writes:

I've been struck by the sense of — well, futility, I guess — expressed by some of the older abuse victims in your reader comments, particularly when the abuse occurred prior to the last few decades.

My father once told me a similar story that's haunted me ever since.

How Long Has This Been Going On? Ctd

A reader writes:

The Dish seems to be the only place that is looking for our memories. 

I was a Catholic boy in the early 1960's in a small town in UpState N.Y.  A nice rural setting with lots of  open fields for a boy to grow up in. My memories from the age of six till twelve are for the most part wrapped around lazy summer days in the fields and cold snowy days of sledding.  Like all adults I gloss over the family problems, the worries of a small boy and the social problems of the day.

I do remember two Catholic Priests. One was a rather remarkable younger Priest who used to visit our house. He was not from our church and I always wondered why he was at our house. He once tried to bless me and I ran under the table and refused to come out. When he left the area he came over and gave me his dog, a wonderfully huge English Setter named Rocky who was my most cherished friend and guardian.

The other Priest was the one who scared you. He was the one who we boys whispered about and at the age of seven or eight the words were not as scary as the tone. No one wanted to be The Altar Boy (capitals reflect the sense we had of it). Such a hideous thing was forced on you by very religious parents.

How Long Has This Been Going On? Ctd

A reader writes:

Searching Google Books using euphemistic keywords like +cleric +corrupt reveals a centuries long history of rape and abuse within the Church, a history often celebrated by the Church itself, but as a lesson of overcoming temptations of the flesh. For example, consider the 12th century Christina of Markyate, a "young girl or adolescent" who after taking a vow of chastity, fled from an arranged marriage and sought protection from the Archbishop of York. Her story is told in John of Tynemouth's 13th century Latin manuscript Sanctilogium Angliae:

How Long Has This Been Going On? Ctd

A reader writes:

I found this on the web with no mention of its original source, but it seems to indicate that there were problems with child abuse as far back as the third century:

Saint Basil of Caesarea, the fourth century Church Father who wrote the principal rule of the monks of the East, establishes this: “The cleric or monk who molests youths or boys or is caught kissing or committing some turpitude, let him be whipped in public, deprived of his crown [tonsure] and, after having his head shaved, let his face be covered with spittle; and [let him be] bound in iron chains, condemned to six months in prison, reduced to eating rye bread once a day in the evening three times per week. After these six months living in a separate cell under the custody of a wise elder with great spiritual experience, let him be subjected to prayers, vigils and manual work, always under the guard of two spiritual brothers, without being allowed to have any relationship . . . with young people."

The punishment was old school, to say the least, but it also had the commonsense clause that the offender be kept away from young people thereafter.

Also, I recommend checking out The Silence of Sodom: Homosexuality in Modern Catholicism by Mark D. Jordan (University of Chicago Press, 2000), which explores the history of homosexuality in the church (as well as pederasty – the two have been conflated by the church so I suppose the study couldn't separate them). It's full of historical details like this:

How Long Has This Been Going On? Ctd

A reader writes:

A widely studied Spanish 16-century classic work of literature, Lazarillo de Tormes, was published anonymously in the 1550s and features as protagonist an errant boy who is taken in by various masters, priests and father figures. A short episode that  was later censored by the Inquisition in 1573 features Lazarillo with a Mercedarian priest/friar. The boy leaves him in a hurry, explaining mysteriously "…so for this and other reasons which I shall not mention, I left him (y por esto y por otras cosillas que no digo, salí dél)

In the academic article mentioned below the authors cite a popular saying from those years in Spain, the time of the Counter Reformation: "Cuando vieres a un fraile de la Merced, / arrima tu culo a la pared" i.e. "Whenever you see a Mercedarian priest, press your ass against the wall."