My life of mental anguish after a priestly assault
This article was written by a generous FFRF member who used a portion of his sexual-abuse settlement money to underwrite FFRF’s billboards and full-page ad pushing people to leave the Catholic Church. He wishes to remain anonymous.
At the tender age of 13, an event occurred that would change my life.
After serving mass as an altar boy for a wedding, I was in the sacristy getting ready to go home. One of the parish priests then pinned me against the cabinets and molested me. That was a frightening, life-altering and traumatic event. The mental anguish continues for me to this day.
Up until then, I had lived a relatively normal life. I was born and raised on the southwest side of Chicago and its suburbs. I was the fifth child of seven. My dad worked in construction, and my mom held many different jobs throughout her work life, mostly working second shift. That way, one of them would always be home when we were kids. I was fortunate I had great loving parents and never knew hunger. I always had a clean, loving home atmosphere.
I was raised as a Catholic, christened shortly after birth, made the sacraments, was an altar boy and attended Catholic grammar and high schools. However, other than losing touch with some friends, there is not a thing I miss about that experience.
But the trauma of that day all those years ago caused me to withdraw and isolate myself and my thoughts to the point where I told no one about my experience.
My mother and father died without ever knowing about the abuse I endured. In fact, as a 13-year-old, I took on an adult role of not sharing the news with anyone, largely to protect my parents.
Because I never told anyone about it, when my wife and I got married (she was raised Catholic, as well), I found myself standing in a church — haunted by memories of when I was molested during another wedding. (I felt that if we did not participate in a Catholic Church ceremony, it would raise too many questions, so I just did it.)
Eventually, I filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Chicago. After several years of legal wrangling, I reached a monetary settlement. But it felt good to get the abuse and the abuser documented. I also realized that much of the public either wasn’t aware of or didn’t care about the size, scope and magnitude of the abuse by Catholic priests.
You can imagine, ever since the abuse, I have viewed the whole church/God/priest thing in a very different way. I look at all religions with a large amount skepticism.
I chose not to go public with this because I am well aware of the power and the influence of the Catholic Church, that it can destroy people’s relationships and lives. It has the money, power and resources to re-victimize the victim. I owe it to my classmates who were also molested, but chose not to come out, to not expose their situations. I did not want to make it any harder on them than what they already endured.
After receiving the settlement from the Catholic Church, I wanted to use the money I received to try to expose religions for what they are: controlling and manipulative. In today’s society, there is still way too much religious influence in our laws and our society. In Illinois, the statute of limitations protects the predators! This needs to be removed. I also believe very strongly in the concept of separation of church and state.
So, I decided a good use of my settlement would be to have FFRF run an ad campaign against the Catholic Church. I want the public to challenge the validity of the church, I want to promote state/church separation, I want to promote FFRF and all the good work it does and finally, I want to acknowledge the number of religious people in prominent places within our government — i.e., state and federal justices who use their religious perspective and impose it on the rest of us.
Despite the horror of the abuse when I was 13, I have put together a good life. For the last 37 years, I was a union carpenter who was fortunate enough to have helped build the Chicago skyline and its surrounding infrastructure. I hope to continue with the most normal, healthy life I can and enjoy my retirement with my wife.