Disgraceful

Earlier this week, Joi messaged me to call my attention to the article in New York magazine concerning Lawrence Lessig, John Hardwicke, and their experiences at the American Boychoir School — and the lawsuit that they’re conducting. It’s harrowing reading for any sentient human being, but all the more so for our family, since we used to live in Princeton, and our boys went to summer camp at ABS (and Nate was heavily recruited to join the regular Boychoir School program). We know people who’ve worked there, and who’ve worked closely with the ABS administration. (Si’s perspective on these reports appears on his blog, and Joi follows up with a blog post today.)

I don’t know the specifics of any of the case material, haven’t reviewed any of the evidence. Still, many sources and many individual stories make a weighty testimony against ABS and the way it was administered — especially if one has formed a positive assessment of the probity of any of the witnesses, as I have of Prof. Lessig. I’m sickened by the abuse (and by knowing one of those who endured it), by the proximity of that abuse to our family (it would have been easy to push Nate into the program despite his hesitancy), by the systemic effects that ensue from the sickness of a few. I’m disheartened that the New Jersey Catholic Conference has lobbied for continuing charitable institutions’ immunity to liability for negligence (a stand of which the NJCC is evidently not proud enough to acknowledge on their website).

I don’t live in New Jersey, so I have no traction with legislators there, and I’m not a Roman Catholic, so I have no sway with the Catholic Conference, and I’m not a donor or alumnus of the Boychoir School — and I recognize the complexities of beneficent institutions caught up in the effects of misconduct by former employees — but hiding and resistance and evasion are not the way to anyone’s well-being in these circumstances. What doth it profit to preserve the institution’s life, at the cost of its soul?

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3 Responses to Disgraceful

  1. I am john hardwicke, the plaintiff in a lawsuit against the American Boychoir School where I and uncounted numbers of children were sexually abused by choir directors and staff members.

    You can read more about the American Boychoir and how it institutionalized sexual abuse over several decades at http://www.AmericanBoyschoir.com

    I want to thank Professor Lessig for his assistance as my attorney in this case. He is a fine and courageous individual.

    Please help us to clarify New Jersey’s Charitable Immunity Act which has been interpreted by the state’s courts to shield non profit organizations from all claims of negligence.

    E-mail Assemblyman Albio Sires who has refused to post Assembly Bill 2512. Urge him to post and pass A2512 to do away with Charitable Immunity in cases of child sexual abuse. Ask Mr. Sires to protect New Jersey’s children and help victims of sexual abuse find healing and closure.

    E-mail the assemblyman at asmsires@njleg.org

    Please feel free to re-post this message to as many web sites, blogs and bulletin boards as possible. Through your letters of support we hope to move Mr. Sires to action.

    You can read more about this legislation at http://www.FixTheLaw.org

  2. michael Iatesta says:

    [AKMA: I make no assertion concerning the veracity of these very serious allegations — they remain solely the comment-author’s responsibility.]

    Clergy Abuse Essay by a Survivor

    THE BEAST IS SILENT

    Alone in his room the priest would mastermind his hunt. He would examine his conscious as he looked in the mirror. He admires his body and hungers for it to be touched by a young boy’s hand. He is reminded of his vow of celibacy but knows it does not work for him or for most of his peers. Many of them share stories of their affairs with the outside world and the temptations they confront daily. Few, however, speak about “crossing the line” by submitting to their carnal desires. At the fortress nightly visitations by young boys are frequent and are masked as “vocational counseling.” The women gatekeepers bow their heads in disgrace, saying their rosary, as they silently watch these situations unfold. After many years of devotion, commitment and faith, these women are mystified by such actions. They dare not tell their husbands whose faiths are already shattered by what is written in the daily papers. The newspaper headlines shatter the myth that priests are infallible and remind us that they are sinners like us all.

    One priest in particular was not happy with this afternoon’s appointment. The boy was stocky about fifteen with red hair and freckles. He was asked if he would like a massage before the “vocational counseling” and he obediently but fearfully replied, “yes.” He stood before the priest and was directed to remove his clothes. Then with only his briefs on he was directed to the bed. He followed instructions and was given his “special” massage. However, he could not keep his mind off Michael, the boy he met last week. “He’s the one I want on the bed,” he thought to himself. “He’s the one I want to massage”. But the moment is now and the deed must be done. An hour passes and not a word was spoken. The young boy soon left in tears and the priest knelt by the bed for his afternoon prayers. “Bless me father for I have sinned….”

    After prayers the priest tells the reflection in mirror that he is a man of power and that his following worships him like those who followed Jesus. He even thought of how Jesus was tempted and that eased some of his guilt from his sexual rituals. He cried out to the mirror, “everyone keeps secrets.” However, this lasted only a few seconds as he was reminded of the worshippers anxiously awaiting his presence on the altar. His ego was stroked by how ecstatic they would get upon their sighting of his holiness. He loved the center of attention. He felt like a king on his throne. He would tell himself that they were there for him, and he was there to perform miracles. He held power over the weak, vulnerable and wounded. He was stronger then them. Without him their problems, illnesses, and hardships would remain unresolved. They believed by his mere touch the blind would once again see, the crippled walk, and those with cancer be cured. He doubted his very own intentions when it came to miracle working but the congregation believed and that’s all that counted. He communicated with God by keeping his desires of the flesh veiled behind his consciousness. He read from a prayer book constantly to keep his thoughts focused on holy words not on his secret desires. For some reason, the Bible scared him, and it would tremble in his hands. The prayer book was safer, more comforting, less powerful.

    He was a distinguished author of books and cassette recordings about healing, using them as bait to increase his selection of potential prey. He had set up a web site to increase his popularity and profit. He thought to himself “money for healing”. His admirers gathered by the thousands, feeding his ego and adding to his choice of captives. He wore a gold ring on his finger that symbolized that he was God’s servant. But deep down inside he believed he was no one’s servant. He would always take his ring off when he engaged in his secret activities found wrongful by man, the Church and God. Whenever he walked down the aisle he would say to himself, “They love me, look at them, how could I be of anyone’s harm. What would they do without me?” He also would take this opportunity to search for a lonesome stray soul that would require his intercession. His cage (trap) was empty, and it needed to be filled tonight at any cost. He paced around the room thinking how lucky he was to be in the position to have such a dedicated following. He said to himself, “No one will betray me; I’m greater than other priest; I have the power to heal. I have the power to cure!” With a twisted grin on his face, he said silently, It’s amazing what people believe when they are in such desperate need.” “Be glad you lowly ones; may your hearts be glad!”

    “I must leave now in case Michael decides to come early. I will ask him to be my alter boy,” said the priest. Michael mentioned he would be coming. This made the priest’s blood rush throughout his body that he could hardly prepare himself to leave. “By tonight I will have him all to myself, he will be mine,” he thought to himself. As the priest walked down the stairway he could smell the fresh batch of cookies prepared by the housekeeper. He could not resist. He bit into one and smiled. The sweetness reminded him of the taste of the child he was about to meet. The child’s sweat so clean and so sweet. His scent mingled with cologne given to the child as a passage to manhood. He thought, “with that scent I could easily find my sweet child amongst the crowds of New York City.” He kept whispering Michael’s name as if he would appear after a certain amount of repetitions. As he stepped outside, he noticed it was raining. He envisioned showering with Michael while exploring every part of his body. The priest gave himself permission to do such an act of cleansing because he was the master and Michael was his favorite boy. As the rain fell upon the umbrella, he longed to share this moment with Michael. Crossing puddles he could see his reflection and for a split second he thought, “Am I out of control?”

    He crosses the eerie castle’s walkway and heads to the church. The congregation is full and awaits their mighty self-appointed king. He’s thrilled that the church is filled. He prides himself on the number of people in attendance. It assures him that he is a good man and loved by many, and atoned by their mere prescense. He is the one they worship. He baths in their praises. Their singing and chanting gives him a rush of excitement. The congregation began speaking in tongues as the priest stood outside the vestibule. The two alter boys by his side were new to the parish and he thought perhaps one day new to his carnage of innocence. He thinks, “The collection offering will exceed my wildest expectation.” He knew that the money was not always used toward the church, especially when it was beyond the average collection. He acted independently from the other priest and most especially from the archdiocese. He was given a license to do what he wanted and that included child exploitation. He was unaccountable—responsible to no one but himself. He had succeeded in manipulating the system to work for him and not he for the system. He placed all other priests in a similar category, one that concealed secrets of the human soul. He was a proud man because of the battles he won with the archdiocese. He reported to no one but himself. The Church authorities set him free because it wanted to avoid trouble and conflict. They rationalized that he was bringing in enough crowds and money so let him be. However, they also knew he had a problem with his vow of celibacy because of previous incidents of which they had become aware. However, the Church authorities assumed he would be safer outside the walls of a parish. They insisted, however, that he attend a support group for priest with similar sexual proclivities. To this he conceded. Although he attended the support group, it was just for the sake of being counted. Even there he was conceited feeling above everyone in attendance. As it turned out, this priest had a previous record with the prosecutor’s office. Two other boys were once held in his power. How many more were unaccounted for?

    It was time—the performance began. The music was loud and instruments were joyfully playing. As he walk down the aisle, his eyes glazed around the congregation hoping to find the young boy he met several weeks ago. This boy seemed to have fallen into his trap, and he was confident that he would be at this service. Michael was young and innocent. The priest was able to hug him when they first met. When he hugged him he knew then Michael was the boy he yearned for. As the priest arrived at the alter he became distraught because Michael was not amongst the crowd. The priest felt like leaving instead of going ahead with the mass. The mass meant nothing now. He was actually tired of saying mass and plus he wanted to hunt Michael down. But this was the only reliable way to meet his prey, to feed his ego, and to satisfy his secret desires. He said to himself, “You have to go to the ocean if you want to catch the fish”. Was not it true that these services were more for solicitation purposes than prayer? It seemed that his appetite for young children had become insatiable over the years. It was coming to the point where it occupied his mind constantly. Even when performing the sacraments this passion to be with a child would take control, and he could hardly concentrate on what he was saying or doing. All he knew was his cage was empty. On his throne he eyed his audience but did not see his most important person. He said to himself, “He must come; I must have him tonight. I am hungry.”

    While the choir sang, the priest was calculating on how he would capture Michael’s attention if he arrives. He was a natural hunter and smiled at the thought of what easy prey suffering children were. He would think how he used his priestly trappings to fool innocent children. The hunt thrilled him. He became excited at the thought of taking advantage of the goodness of a child. He could not stop thinking about Michael, who was introduced to him by his cousin. He was grieving his father’s death. “He needs me,” thought the priest; “the boy’s wings have been broken.” “He came to me lost in tears.” He wanted his dad back and could not accept that his dad was dead. Since this boy is in search of a father figure, it will be an easy catch. “I’m what he needs,” said the priest. “I will find him and make him mine. It’s essential he show up tonight and if not I will call him. I must have him tonight. I’m hungry for him. I need to embrace him, smother him with my kisses, and make him mine. He should feel privileged that I have selected him to be my chosen one. No one must have him except me. I will get his phone number from his cousin if he does not show up”. Tonight will not pass without my arms around his gentle body.

    GRIEVING CHILD

    I did not want to go, but my mother thought it would help me. She thought it would help me get over my father’s death. I was scared to tell her the truth. How I was scared of him and the way he looked at me. I did not want him to touch me this time. I hated how he smelled. “Why must I go, if I stop seeing him will I grow up abnormal”?. I will walk in late and sit in the back and perhaps he will not notice. Nervously, I walked in and he immediately spotted me. He interrupted the service and called out my name, and thought I now am trapped. I embarrassingly walk up to him, while the congregation gazed at me. He announced me to the congregation as his “little helper.” While everyone applauded, he gave me my prescription of hugs and a kiss on my neck. I became his third alter boy by default. His power over me was frightening. His power over me was hypnotic, and I was at his beckon call. I did not want the service to end because I feared what would transpire after his grand performance on stage. He watched my every move with his bloodcurdling eyes and would give me a smile when I glanced at him. After the mass he would wait until everyone left and would walk outside with me.

    The church was empty and alone. I found myself trapped by the priest. He would paralyze me with his words, making it difficult to leave. He insisted that he accompany me to outside despite my assuring him that I would be fine. He stated, “I would not want my prized boy getting into any trouble”. As I walked out with him, I looked up into the sky and noticed the moon and stars. I wanted so badly to have my father come down from the heavens and take this man away and to grab him only to drop him into the middle of the ocean. I wanted a set of wings so I could fly to heaven and be with my dad who left me a couple of years ago. I wanted to hold hands with my dad in a forest, listening to the soft sounds of nature. I wanted to be anywhere but where I was.

    As we walked outside the night winds arrived transforming the priest into a beast. His heartbeat would race and blood would rush as if he were a vampire on hunt, thirsty for fresh blood. He was hungry. And behold in front of him was his feast. It was as if he turned into an adolescent himself, where his entire body yearns to explore another’s sexual being. He had no boundaries. He concealed his vows in a locked drawer in his heart where no one would break his secret. At times he would fret at the thought of being caught, but his ego prevented him from stopping his ravenous hunt. He would sweat profusely knowing what he was doing was wrong. He would find himself losing control because the lure was too strong. He would lean against me on his car and mark me with kisses. I felt his body press upon mine. I could hear his breathing become more intense. I stood frozen and succumbed to this beast’s desires. He began to lick my neck as if I was sugar coated, a lolly-pop. He kissed me and asked if he could bring me to his castle. I was trembling and said, “not tonight.” I did not want to disrespect him but I was afraid of the cage. He would whisper in my ear, “I will love you even more tomorrow”. Tomorrow came and in his castle he would again lock his vows in his drawer and begin the ritual of sexual experimentation. I stood lifeless while he feasted upon my body. I was only thirteen.

    He was a hungry beast that fed on my innocence. He enjoyed watching me as I developed into a young man. He would fondle my private parts and steal from my virtue. He would wash me after racquetball while smiling, ignoring my tears. He protected his prey by isolating them from others. He trusted no body with me so he kept me captive in his cage. I was his special boy. I was left hungry for fatherly affection after my father died, so he kept me in a cage and fed me with kind words and praises. He chased away anyone who threatened our bond in fear that he would lose me. He alone held the key to the cage. I often tried to escape but feared the consequences. He was a monster with potent power that could destroy anything he touched. He had fangs that would draw the blood from my heart and drain my soul. He also had a large group of allies who would certainly spot me and bring me back to his majesty. They knew nothing about what lied inside of the castle. His paws scared me. I would shiver when he explored my body with them. As he explored my body I would freeze and fly away somewhere peaceful in the sky over the ocean. He would whisper in my ear that he loved me and that I needed a man’s love to grow up normal. The beast would lie on top of me, telling me it was normal and “o.k.” I thought to myself that this was all part of the healing process and abided by his wishes. When I cried he would say, “This is why you need more of this.” Sometimes I tried to break away but his control over me was too strong. His breath stunk with lies. His muscles gleamed with self-righteousness. His sweat was filled with a stench of treachery . He would smother me with kisses as if he were preparing a sacrificial rite of passage. I would freeze and allow it to happen giving up the essence of my heart and soul. As I said before, he was the hungry beast, and I was his fare. After his feeding, when he was sated, he would bring me to the cage and lock me in for protection. I was wary of his feedings of me. Confused, I would stand on my perch and think “is it my fault? Am I the one that’s making him hungry? I feel dirty. No one must find out about this.” He would walk away leaving me with memories of my day with the beast. I always feared for tomorrow. I was no longer a child he took that way from me. Not a day went by when I did not fear his presence over me. Sometimes I would hide under my covers and dream of a world outside the cage, without the beast.

    As I grew older I began to realize that I was too big for the cage. The world around me exposed me to realities of life that the beast had kept from me. The beast could no longer lock me in with a key, and he could only no longer trust my allegiance to him. However, as a free bird, I came to realize that the world was a lot bigger and the beast was a lot smaller. I knew I had to break away from the priest and become my own person. I was frightened because for many years the beast had conditioned me to think that the outside world was a bad place and that living in his cage would guarantee peace and solitude. Keeping me from feeling emotions that all humans must experience was his goal. But the cage was purely a trap preventing me from experiencing the real world for good and for bad. Out of the cage I learned that sex was not a sin or ugly but rather a pleasurable act between two consenting people. When I began to have sex in college the beast scolded me and told me I was sinning. He must have rationalized the sex he had with me as normal behavior. The priest was ruined when he finally came to the realization that he lost his pet. He became extremely jealous and desperate. He panicked and would try to entice me by offering his niece up as a potential date for me. I wanted nothing to do with it.

    Despite my liberation I was left with profound scars from years of imprisonment. The sexual and emotional torture I endured throughout the years left me with an empty soul and bleeding heart. This one man had done so much harm that I was not prepared as my peers to face the realities of this world. He blocked my access to God, corrupted my deepest belief system, tarnished my faith, mottled my trusted for others, and made it difficult for me to be intimate with others. I also developed poor self -image, low self -esteem, identity confusion, sexual confusion, early onset of depression with suicidal ideation, strong sense of guilt and shame over the experience, obsessive and compulsive rumination over the abuse and reoccurring flashbacks. I was hospitalized twice to treat these symptoms of abuse but remain hopeful one day I’ll be ridden my scars.

    FUTURE

    The only way to keep these beasts from ruining our children’s lives is to report them to church authorities and to tell your story to the public. My predator murdered my childhood, but I now have control over my own adulthood. No beast could take that away from me. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priest (SNAP) made it possible for me to come out to the public. I stood in front of the press not as a victim but as a survivor. I told my story and spoke his name, and I am now a free man. My heart and soul feel liberated that I have spoken the truth and have no secrets. My bitterness and anger has subsided and has transcended into a yearning to help others face their beasts. I am no longer under his spell. He now wears the scarlet letter, and I hope he uses this time to reflect on truth and self -examination around his secret life of abuse, betrayal and sin.

    As we all know these beasts run their own show. The church must do a better job with their investigation of these independent beasts. If not, more horror will occur, beasts will run wild and the last act will show victims failing to regain their lives and suffering their emotional, spiritual and financial loses. The church cannot afford any more bad reviews. What is needed now is a smash hit where the beasts are held accountable, victims are cared for, supported, and compensated for losses. The church should never ever again play the ugly role of the keeper of secrets. The real heroes are those empowered by reality to clean up the current stage and refresh itself with the church’s new and improved image of honesty and trust..

    Lastly, I regret haven fallen into the beast’s trap so early in life and remain troubled by how closely he remains protected under the powerful yet shameful wings of the Church’s hierarchy. Raised as a devote Catholic, who attended Catholic school through my Master’s of Arts, I am often reminded of a Bible story read to me by my fourth grade religion teacher. She would describe so tenderly how Jesus gathered his flock of lambs and made certain no one was left behind, especially those in pain and suffering. As a child I was comforted by her words. As an adult, however, I have come to a sad realization that the Church’s hierarchy does not call out to its lost and suffering lambs but instead silences them. For me SNAP helped to break the silence.

  3. Michael Iatesta says:

    [AKMA: I make no assertion concerning the veracity of these very serious allegations — they remain solely the comment-author’s responsibility.]

    \My Story

    Gerald Ruane, a recently retired priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, parish priest, college professor, campus minister, chaplain, director of the Sacred Heart Institute of Healing, and a national charismatic healer is also a child sex offender. I was one of his victims.

    I was raised in Bloomfield, New Jersey, and received all of my education from Catholic institutions. I graduated from Sacred Heart Grammar School in Bloomfield, Immaculate Conception High School in Montclair, and received my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Seton Hall University in South Orange. I now reside in Westfield, New Jersey. I’m a human rights activist, and for the last decade have worked to fight the spread of HIV—AIDS around the world. Most recently, I have worked for the Centers for Disease Control’s Global AIDS Program. I am here to tell you my story and to inform you that I will be filing a civil law suit against the Archdiocese of Newark, Father Ruane and the Archbishop for years of emotional and psychological exploitation. I am fortunate to have attorney John Aretakis to represent me.

    In 1973, when I was eleven, my father was dying of cancer. Hoping for a cure, I was introduced to Father Ruane at a charismatic healing mass by my cousin who worked for him at Caldwell College between 1973 -1977. Unfortunately, my father succumbed to his illness and died in 1974. During the next year, I remained a vulnerable, depressed young boy who was desperately seeking comfort and solace from the ordeal of my father’s illness and death. In 1975, I was reacquainted with Father Ruane when he began his healing ministry. Instead of providing care, spiritual strength, and support to me, Gerald Ruane had his own corrupt self -interest in mind, which was neither priestly nor “fatherly.” Throughout the rest of my childhood, adolescent and young adulthood, Father Ruane subjected me to sexual, emotional, and psychological abuse. Father Ruane told me during our earliest encounters that, since I no longer had a father, I required “ten hugs a day by a man to grow up normal.” He also told me that I shouldn’t date or fantasize about sex with girls, that I shouldn’t go out with my friends who were outside the charismatic movement and that I should consider living in their House of Prayer, a Christian group home where prayer would be the focus of the day. At an early age he instructed me to provide the sacrament of healing and communion to the congregation. I knew this was wrong but felt he had a hypnotic spell over me making it difficult to say no to any of his wishes or advances.

    Throughout the years of 1975 – 1982, I would often be invited to visit Father Ruane at Caldwell College in Caldwell, Sacred Heart Church in Bloomfield, Our Lady of the Lakes Rectory in Verona and The Sacred Heart Institute of Healing in Caldwell. During these visitations for prayer and healing he would instruct the sister or rectory keeper to leave and would instruct that we were not to be disturbed for any reasons. Behind locked doors, I would be given my prescription of “hugs.” Eventually these hugs led to sexual touching. Father Ruane would instruct me to lie on the couch, and then he would lie on top of me, breathing hard, kissing me on my neck and lips, whispering in my ear, and fondling my genitals inside my pants, exploring every private area of my body. While in his room in the rectory, he would frequently ask me to take off my shirt and if I was comfortable my pants, so he could give me a massage that, inevitably, would once again lead to him on top of me engaging in the same behavior as in other times. This went on for all of my adolescent years. After leaving I was always in tears, feeling ugly and dirty, hoping I would die, so I wouldn’t have to face another visit with the priest.

    During this period of time, I was also invited to be Ruane’s racquetball partner. I didn’t like the game, but again I was under his spell and couldn’t say no. After these games, Father Ruane would insist that we shower together. I wanted to shower at home because I was a modest and insecure teenager. While in the shower, Ruane would always stare at me and compliment me with lewd comments and wash me, himself. All I could do was to stand, frozen. Afterwards, Father Ruane would ask me to place my hands on his head and pray for his forgiveness. I often felt shame and guilt after these showers and said so to Father Ruane. In reply to this, Father Ruane once wrote to me stating “…you’re much too hard on yourself; you should be much harder on me.”

    I slowly began to hate his hugs and touching more and more and tried to back away, but this proved difficult for a child who was raised to always obey and respect priests. I also believed he really loved me. Moreover, Father Ruane was very charismatic. He supposedly healed people, and was loved by many. His status nationwide made me question why I feared his closeness and affections while others would consider his touches a blessing and a privilege. I felt ungrateful for his love. At this time, I thought that if I confronted his actions, admitted to others or to myself that his behavior was wrong or motivated by a selfish sexual desire, it would mean that our relationship was based on a lie, and the declarations from him of love, friendship and support were meaningless. I couldn’t accept another loss of a relationship that despite its disturbing and abusive aspects had meant so much to me at the time of my father’s death.

    After college, when Father Ruane learned that I had started to date and have sexual relations with a girl, Father Ruane became very angry-he was jealous. He told me I was sinning and that I should leave her and come to live in their House of Prayer to avoid these temptations. Fortunately, my girlfriend helped me to realize how much control this priest had on me and for the first time I began to see things from another perspective. In 1986 I began to see a psychologist and was soon hospitalized at Carrier Clinic for major depression with suicidal ideation. After my hospitalization, I attended group therapy. With the group’s support realized I needed to confront Father Ruane. One night after meeting with group, I drove to this rectory and was greeted by the housekeeper. It was around 10 pm. I asked for Father Ruane, and she said he was in his room asleep, I told her it was an emergency and she reluctantly called him. When I saw him I began screaming at him. He told the housekeeper to leave and brought me to an adjacent room. I asked him if he had sexually abused me, and he repeatedly said no, then said, “I went too far because I fell in love with you.” I asked him if he was gay, and he repeatedly said no, and then said,” I might be, I’m not sure, I’m confused.” He told me someone in the church was counseling him and that he was also seeing a private therapist. He apologized for what he did over the years and admitted that he was ”out of control and crossed boundaries” and stated that he still loved me, I replied, “What you did to me was not love-you took advantage of me.”

    In 1992, I still had a lot of anger toward Father Ruane for what he did to me emotionally and physically. I remained depressed, was in great debt because of outstanding psychologist bills, hospital expenses and college tuition. My co-worker and closest friend advised that I needed to bring closure to what happened between Father Ruane and me. She explained that it was not helpful to be angry toward the church for the actions of one of its priest. She suggested I speak with another priest. My psychologist at the time happened to know of a priest in her parish that was sensitive to issues similar to mine. She said “the church at least owes you this much”. I was anxious at first because of my experiences with Father Ruane but she assured me that I would be safe with him. I met with Father McNulty, from the Blessed Sacrament Church in Roseland. After speaking with him, he echoed what everyone else said about the wrongdoings of Father Ruane but he also gave me some hope. I was surprised when he advised me to report Father Ruane to Church authorities. He told me that I needed to forgive both myself and the priest and that it might be helpful to talk with Father Ruane again now that some years had passed. Taking this advice, I found out where Father Ruane’s office was, called, and asked to see him. I explained that I was ready to forgive him, and he agreed to meet me.

    I met Father Ruane at his new West Caldwell office and told him I forgave him. He appeared cold and distant and simply said “I’m glad”. He asked me how I was doing and I told him that I was working in Newark on a Federal funded AIDS prevention project, I was in a solid relationship for several years and I was thinking about going back to church. He asked me if I was married since he saw no wedding ring and I said no. He then asked if I was having sex with this person and I replied yes and we were very happy and my family and friends loved and accepted us. He got out of his chair, went into the other office and came back with a book. He asked again if I was living and having sex outside of marriage and I replied I was. He then gave me book on sexual addictions and suggested I read it and perhaps think about attending a sexual addiction recovery support group given my history and current situation. I gave him back the book and told him, no thank-you and that he might benefit from reading it himself. As I left his office I asked if he had done to others what he had done to me, and he said, no. I drove home hoping he had told me the truth but remained skeptical, thinking that their were probably others like me whose trust he had betrayed. That was the last time I saw him.

    My cousin who now regrettably introduced me to Father Ruane has reported that, during the time she worked for him, she would be called very late in the evening to do non-relative work and work as the gate-keeper. While there, she witnessed numerous young men, some who had driven there, others who were to young to drive, request to see Father Ruane. These late night visitors varied from a single young man to several men. When my cousin asked about these late night visitations to his room, Father Ruane became infuriated and gawkily mentioned that the young men were coming to receive “vocational counseling.” My cousin quit her job because of his erratic behavior, angry outbursts, daunting male ego, and her having to be the custodian of secrets.

    In 2002, when the church scandal involving the sexual abuse of minors by the clergy was exposed in the media, I began to experience crying spells, flashbacks, and symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I’m l attending weekly therapy sessions with a psychiatrist, a psychologist, and a trauma specialist. Among the residual effects of my years of abuse by Father Ruane are difficulties with intimacy, major depression, an inability to trust, a corruption of my Christian beliefs, blocked access to God, loss of faith, low self esteem, identity confusion, panic attacks, PTSD episodes, suicidal ideation, dissociate flashbacks, debilitating triggers relating to abuse, sense of shame and guilt.

    For additional support, I have been attending meetings sponsored by the Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). One of the SNAP members happens to know Father Ruane, personally, and recently spoke with him about his retirement. She mentioned that he is planning on writing another book. For the sake of his own healing and for the sake of those he may have abused, I hope this book reflects truth and self-examination around his secret life involving abuse, betrayal, and sin. Another member also mention that he is having quite a “remarkable” house built down south Jersey and that she saw him co-presiding at a mass during Easter week despite the Archdiocese informing me that he can no longer function as a priest in any diocese. Do priest with whom Father Ruane co-presided over realize that they were on an altar with a pedophile? Another priest reported seeing Father Ruane in Rome being interviewed by a roving CNN reporter. He was presenting himself as a priest and was wearing priestly attire both banned by the Archdiocese. The question is who’s keeping an eye out on him? Does anyone really care? Are safeguards in place so priests like Father Ruane remain in compliance to their restrictions?

    More recently the New Jersey Prosecutor’s Office has reported two similar cases of sexual abuse, during the same time frame, citing Father Ruane as the offender. Furthermore, I am told that Father Ruane has undergone treatment at a group facility for priests exhibiting sexually deviant behavior. To my mind, this evidence indicates that his alleged sexual behavior has been a long-standing problem and that there may be many other victims out there who have yet to come forward. Despite my overwhelming fear, this is why I decided my story had to become public. Faced with these facts, the troubling question that remains unanswered is: Why has the Archdiocese of Newark given Father Gerald Ruane so much autonomy at the cost of other victims? I regret haven fallen into Father Ruane’s trap and remain trouble by how closely he remains protected under the powerful yet shameful wings of Archbishop Myers.

    I tell you my story as a testimonial that sexual abuse remains a huge problem in the church and in a desire that priests who violate the Church’s trust and injure vulnerable young people for their depraved self satisfaction should be held accountable, forced to receive treatment, and be removed from all of their ministerial duties so that the possibility of others being harmed is eliminated. I only hope that in the time it took for me to understand Father Ruane’s behavior for what it was: sexual abuse, there have not been others that have also been abused by him. Despite my own feelings of guilt for not speaking out sooner, it is Father Ruane who has sinned and who has committed a crime. I share this with you to demonstrate to others, as well as myself, that no one should have to keep such secrets. For I have come to realize, after a long hard road, that such secrets are kept at a great cost to those who keep them, as well as to those from whom they are kept. Thank you for your time.

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