Skip to comments.Hope
Posted on 02/06/2005 7:06:21 PM PST by Land of the Irish
I stood there, rooted to the spot, stroking my sons hair, gently touching his cold face, gazing at my precious child. Eric, I thought, oh, Eric. Then I turned to walk down the church aisle as the funeral attendants closed the casket. Numb from shock, I joined the rest of my family, clutching my husbands hand tightly, feeling his arm caressing my shoulder.
Now, three years later, I am sitting at Erics computer, the one on which he typed his suicide note, painfully recalling the series of events that culminated in his death. Slowly, painstakingly, our family grapples with the awful truthour son was sexually abused at the age of twelve by our parish priest. How could this be? Sexual abuse happens to someone elses child, in someone elses family, not ours. Then reality hits.
My mind constantly reconstructs the details of Erics life; sifting and sorting through memories, wondering what clues I missed, what behavior I didnt understand at the time. Why, during high school, did he refuse to be confirmed? When I questioned him about his decision, he replied that he didnt even know if he believed in God. He could not receive this sacrament, he felt, unless he was making a heart-felt commitment. Why, the night of his junior-senior prom, did he drive for hours on the interstate, not arriving home until seven the next morning? Tearfully, he told us that he had wanted to keep driving forever. When asked what was troubling him, he couldnt tell us. I sensed he was in distress, but felt powerless. As he continued his junior year, he seemed better, so I relaxed, believing that this episode was one of many crises most adolescents go through.
Why, his junior year in college, did he wreck his car as he rounded a curve too fast, hitting some trees? I drove to meet Eric that morning, and we talked for hours in a park close by. Slowly, painfully, Eric revealed that he couldnt eat, couldnt sleep, that his life seemed out of control. Realizing he was suicidal, I immediately made him an appointment with a psychiatrist for evaluation. After being placed on an anti-depressant, Eric seemed confident and focused.
Shortly after this, he did a complete turnabout, embracing Catholicism fervently. Daily holy hours, weekly visits to a nursing home, teaching 5th grade CCD, writing to a prisoner in Texas, continuing his pro-life activities, attending a weekly Bible study group on campus, getting confirmedall these actions filled him with hope and enthusiasm. Easter weekend, he proudly announced to us that he wanted to become a priest. In my heart I knew he would be a good priest, caring, intelligent, and faithful to our Lords teachings. After graduation, he headed to the East coast as a candidate for a seminary program. He wrote letters telling of his feeling that this was truly where he belonged. The night before he was to fly home for a short visit, the director asked him to wait in a room, that he needed to talk to him. After waiting three hours, shortly before midnight, Eric was told that he was not being accepted, that he was to take everything with him the next day, and not to tell anyone there that he would not be returning.
On the way home from the airport, Eric stunned us by saying, They didnt want me. My heart lurched, my mind reeled, alternating between anger and disbelief. He was given no explanation, he said, but told us that God must want him somewhere else. Over the next few days, I watched as parishioners asked Eric where he would be studying for the priesthood. Bravely, he told each one, They didnt want me, leaving them puzzled and surprised. After Erics death, while going through a box containing his papers, I found a paper dated a few days before his departure from the seminary. At the top of a detailed set of notes in blue ink, he had his perpetrators name written in red. Evidently he had revealed his sexual abuse, leading to his rejection by the seminary. How much pain he must have gone through, finally confiding his painful secret, only to be turned away so callously. But he continued trusting in the Lord, continued teaching CCD, and making holy hours.
A few months later, Eric took a teaching position at a Catholic preparatory school two hundred miles from home. Fluent in Spanish, he taught English as a Second Language, Spanish, and religion. After over a year teaching, he had begun fasting, unknown to us, evidently trying to please God and to have a sense of control over his life. By the time we realized that Eric was in trouble physically and mentally, he weighed only about 170 pounds, far too thin for his 6 feet 8 inch height. Entering a hospital psychiatric unit, he attempted to combat his anorexic condition and battle with his psychotic depression. Asked if he had ever been sexually abused, he denied that he had. His psychiatrist was troubled by Erics illness, sensing that the root cause had yet to be discovered. Over a month later, Eric returned home, where we cajoled him to eat and to drink, as he had no desire to do so. Eventually, with medication, he grew stronger and healthier. For the next three years, he was a successful computer salesperson, receiving gratitude from his many customers for his courteous, professional help.
Once more, however, his weight began to plummet. Fearing hospitalization, he attempted to regain control of his life by going back on his medication. Deeply troubled, he sobbed uncontrollably one night in our living room, his best friend beside him. He dreaded hospitalization, but we succeeded in getting him admitted for treatment. At a different hospital this time, he had the good fortune of having the same psychiatrist. She was convinced there was a missing link, that some unknown cause lay at the root of his illness.
Two days later, when Becky, Erics older sister, visited him in the ward, she told him that we hated his idea of God, a vengeful God Who could never be pleased. We viewed Him as a loving and merciful God. Asking him if he always felt that way about God, she was surprised at his answer, No, it all changed when I was twelve. Then he revealed his molestation but didnt wish to talk about it in detail. Becky consulted with his nurse, sensing that this revelation was crucial to her brothers recovery. Later, the nurse found Eric in his room, beating his head on the floor and against the sink. After putting him in full -body restraint, the staff heavily sedated him and placed him on suicide watch. A sexual-abuse therapist began sessions with Eric, and we were hopeful that healing could begin with his long-buried secret finally exposed. He returned home about six weeks later, eventually resumed his job, and decided to move in with a friend from work. A little more than eight months after he disclosed his sexual abuse, Eric left work one Friday with no explanation, sat on the porch of his friends house smoking a cigarette, and then sometime that afternoon placed a gun to his head. When his friend arrived home from work, he was faced with a nightmarish scene. The police could find no suicide note, but acting on a hunch, Erics friend went to his computer, searched among his files, and discovered one entitled Hope. Dated six days before his death, the note revealed Erics intense struggle to please God, yet always falling short of His expectations. With that, our handsome, intelligent, compassionate son was gone.
Now, three years later, I feel compelled to tell his story. As a grieving mother, I beseech those who read this to risk facing the true brutality of clergy sexual abuse. Abuse victims are all around usthey are our sons, daughters, grandchildren, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives, and friends. Please pray fervently that survivors may be treated with understanding, acceptance, and love. Let your diocese know how you feel about the clergy sexual abuse scandal. Be willing to support survivors in their difficult task of recovery. Hold diocesan church officials accountable for allowing perpetrators to continue molesting in parish after parish, excusing these actions by saying they received poor medical advice. First and foremost should come the needs and safety of children and adolescents. If our Church fails to safeguard our children, where is its moral credibility?
As agonizingly painful as this tragedy has been, we cherish every day we had with our son. If avoiding this pain would require never having had Eric in our lives, then I gladly embrace the pain for the honor of being Erics mother.
"If our Church fails to safeguard our children,
where is its moral credibility?"
It has reverted to the domestic church until the celestial housecleaning is completed.
By their fruits we know them.
| The floor of Hell is paved with the skulls of bad bishops.
--St. John Chrysostom
Bishop, Doctor of the Church, born at Antioch, c. 347
Very sad story. I can relate. As an young adolescent I was sexually abused by a homosexual after he got me drunk. Only by the Grace of God have I survived.
From wherever within the spectrum we dwell, we must cleanse to whatever degree possible, society in general and our Church in particular of this demonic tool (homosexuality) of the enemy.
Much of the abuse in Boston occurred in towns that bordered mine...it is hitting very close.
It may very well have been a grace. Glad you are back now. :-)
And if a parish isn't a safe haven, what place is?
If a pastor/priest is not to be trusted, who is?
If a priest's direct report boss (Bishop) cannot be approached with confidence to right a wrong and deal with a miscreant, who is?
If Rome cannot be contacted with verifiable information, to correct a local Ordinary and hold accountabilities, who can?
The answer, of course, is God, but without recourse in human intervention and support, the world is, indeed, a very cold and desolate place. Notwithstanding advice from the bible that tells us to place our trust in Him, and not in humankind, the world is where we must live and die. A valley of tears. May God have mercy on all those who come to Him for an embrace and may Mary's love comfort those who have been harmed and suffer deeply from the sins of this world.
Thanks AAA. Your kindness is much appreciated
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