Embattled Attorney General of Pennsylvania Kathleen Kane (D-Suspended) took a break this week from taking as many people down with her as possible to do Attorney General type things, suspended law license be damned. About a mile and a half from my front door, AG Kane spoke at the Blair County Convention Center and tore the local Catholic diocese to shreds.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane said Tuesday that hundreds of children were sexually abused by about 50 priests over more than 40 years in the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese, and some bishops attempted to cover up the crimes.
While a grand total of zero charges will be filed as a result of this investigation due to statute of limitation issues, the information contained in the report is worse than any prison sentence. This report has it all. Police collusion, Bishops wielding enough political power to chose police and fire chiefs, a standardized settlement list detailing how much “hush money” victims would get for each grope or thrust, and a Church so lost that it was fighting vicious legal battles against victims they knew full well had actually been abused by priests, calling them “liars” mercilessly and taking victory laps in the press after each rotten victory. The report contains at least 100 posts worth of information, and with no charges being able to be filed, I feel it is an ethical imperative to amplify some of this information, to make sure people don’t forget and to try and see how deep this rot runs through the Church.
But this is not that post. This is not any of those posts.
For those of you who do not know, I was sort of raised Catholic. To avoid telling the whole story again, until I was 11 or so I was raised as a totally lapsed Catholic. I knew who Jesus and Mary were, and I celebrated Christmas and Easter, but we never went to church or anything. God was just something that was, it wasn’t a huge part of your life. When I was 11, in some order my mother’s mother died and my mom was diagnosed with rather serious breast cancer. This combination was my mother’s “come to Jesus” moment and I suddenly found myself not only at church every Sunday, but expected to take the Sacraments and get Confirmed in time. While my mom found Jesus, I went in a differing direction. Having just seen my oldest sister convert to Judaism for her wedding, I was much less inclined to believe there was a particular “right” way to worship, especially after having avoided the indoctrination of youth so many of my friends experienced. I spent Sundays learning the arcane teachings of Cathol. I had to study to earn my first Communion and there was some that wanted me to join the First Communion class. See, not just anyone is supposed to eat the flesh of Jesus, then wash it down with some delicious fruit of the vein. You’re supposed to attend classes to learn the significance of ritualized cannibalism. The problem was one of age. I was 11 or 12, while the First Communion class was first or second graders. The decision was made to allow me to “test out” of the class. As long as I showed the parish priest that I had grasped the material, I would be permitted Communion and spared the embarrassment of joining a class full of 7 year olds.
My mother drove me to the church in the early afternoon. I know it was not on a Sunday, but my memory doesn’t help past that reconstructing a time frame. I thought I would meet the priest in the church, but was surprised when my mom dropped me off at the old dilapidated house just before the church’s driveway that served as the rectory. I remember her telling me to call her when I was ready to be picked up, and then she must have driven away, leaving me there. The inside of the house was dark, cluttered, and old. The knick-knacks brought to mind my grandparents house in the dead coal graveyard their town had become. It smelled a lot like their house as well. The old priest and I sat in a living room that my mind has decorated with a piano, with me sitting on its bench. We used an old copy of the Catholic Catechism and we spent 30 to 40 minutes talking about the Catholic faith. I could tell you how he would touch my arm while pointing out something in the book, or how he would rest a hand on my shoulder when making an important point, but both could be memories born in my mind rather than honest recollections. I do remember him inviting me to stop over anytime I had a question, or even if I just needed to talk. His door would always be open.
I remember that the visit upset me a great deal. No, not because he did anything improper towards me sexually, but rather the indoctrination aspect of it all. At 11 and 12, before I had suicide bombed any of my brain cells with idiotic teenage drug use, I was testing at genius IQ levels and loved listening to adults talk, let alone talk to them myself. I didn’t have the “from the cradle” brainwashing most of the kids he spoke with had experienced, which allowed me to understand as he tried to convince me of the reality of hellfire and the saving, simple truth of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. It sickened me and slammed the door to Christianity, a door that had previously been looking invitingly like the obvious choice, firmly shut for decades (until the 12 Steps found me sniffing around the rotting corpse of Christianity once again much later. But that as well is a different post.). My mother was struggling to work full time at a high stress job while suffer through seemingly endless courses of chemotherapy, treatment that only had a coin flips chance of succeeding. To prepare her for this fight, God saw fit to kill her mother as a “good luck” gift. It was the first time I thought “wait. how is this God omnibenevolent then? I didn’t understand that I had stumbled upon the problem of evil at that point, but I did realize that if this so-called God did in fact exist, that I could not worship it. It wasn’t deserving of worship.
I haven’t thought of that day in decades. When I examine the building blocks of my current world view, there are many days during high school that involve the church and have had a much greater lasting impact on me. Priests who would have a much stronger influence, considering the priest of this story passed away before my Confirmation classes began, making this time spent together the only time I was ever alone with him.
Today the Altoona Mirror printed some of the names of priests accused by the grand jury. Page A4.
I remember the house.
I remember my mom telling me to call when I was done.
I remember sitting across from Father Regis Myers. Alone.
If the existence of this story didn’t call it’s worth into so much question, this is when I would say “There but for the grace of God go I.”
I’m angry. I used to be angry at him and religion, for the indoctrination of children, for brain washing and for teaching the unforgivable concept of Hellfire. Now I’m angry for a different reason.
I’m angry at the Church for giving him access to children. I’m angry at my mother for leaving me alone with him, trusting him for no other reason than he pretends to talk to God. I’m angry at him because now I have his request that I become an altar boy after my communion in my head and no idea of his intentions. I’m angry at the police for the protection they gave these predators. I’m angry at the bishops for abusing their political power and at the mayor’s for allowing them to do it. I’m angry at the bishops for callously moving child abusers from parish to parish with no thoughts about the victims other than as a number on some pay out chart. Strangely enough, for someone who considers themselves an anti-theist, I’m angry at the embarrassment they brought to the priesthood. The priest I was confirmed by was a good man who does not deserve the shame this brings down on the whole priesthood.
I was not abused by Father Regis Myers.
Don’t thank anyone for that joyous outcome. No one stopped it. No one prevented it. I just hit the “please don’t sexually abuse me” lottery.
Yeah. I’m angry.