Victims of abuse by Catholic priests suffer a unique type of PTSD. The trauma is in the past, but the stress and psychological pain are always there. It’s a unique type of PTSD because the victims didn’t see the abuse coming. To understand what children sexually abused by priests go through, talk to an adult survivor. Children are too shy and they don’t have the vocabulary.
Here is the testimony of Terry (not his real name):
“I was just 11 when I was an altar boy at a Catholic Church in St. Louis, Missouri. I lived in a poorer section of St. Louis, and eagerly accepted the affectionate hugs and the priest’s invitation to join a group of youths he took out on his motor yacht on the Mississippi. He carefully groomed me over the next few months. I was always among a group of other boys and adults he invited to accompany him of fun excursions for swimming, picnics, and great times.
“The abuse started during a group overnight trip. We were anchored off a river island when he joined me in the sleeping cabin on the stern of the boat. I was only 11 at the time, and was surprised and confused when he touched and masturbated me. The touching soon progressed to the time when we were alone at night on the boat weeks later. Long story short, the man raped me. I can’t think of that night without…Well, I just don’t like to talk about it.
“I was a psychological prisoner of that monster for seven years. Why didn’t I report him? To answer that you have to understand the control that adult priests exercise over children. It’s a combination of religious awe, mind control, fear of sin, and guilt. In the case of my abuser, he turned me against my parents. My father drank and my mother was suffered from mental illness. He also convinced me that it was my fault and that I was the one who had seduced him.
“The priest robbed me of my childhood. Homosexual promiscuity is something no prepubescent and adolescent boy should have to endure. Fortunately, as in the case of most child molesters, he cut me loose as I became a young adult.
“Along with lifelong stress, I have a special resentment for the Catholic Church. The priest’s colleagues knew that this priest was a child molester. I know this from a discussion with another priest. My abuser had moved from parish to parish until his flock became alarmed as he seemed to hug their children a bit too creepily.
“I only wish after all these years of guilt, stress and resentment, that I could have contacted a priest abuse lawyer. During those years when the Mass was still said in Latin, had I reported the priest, I might have been believed. However, the Church would undoubtedly have moved him to yet another parish.”
Terry is 76 now. He is retired and lives in Colorado with his wife of many years. His abuser died years ago, but not before he was finally arrested for child molestation. The Church’s lawyers apparently settled with the victim’s family, and the priest was moved elsewhere.
This blog is based on the personal experience of the writer.