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?

3 thoughts on “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. [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