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The Second Beginning, 2009

May 1, 2009

This blog will chronicle one person’s experience with reporting an abusive priest to church authorities. My experience involves Jesuits and multiple Jesuit institutions, not bishops. I don’t think my experience is unique. I’m only writing so that I can understand it.

I had thought this story was over six years ago. I thought when I was found credible in 2003 and the Jesuit was removed from ministry by his Jesuit provincial that I was finished with investigations, with dealing with Jesuit institutions, with all the hassles, obstacles, trauma and pointed silence. My experience had actually ended with some nice touches, like lunch with the province’s investigator who I had only dealt with on the phone. I was in his city, St. Louis, for a conference hosted by SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, and my bishop had paid my way, and the Jesuit who investigated invited me to lunch.

The Jesuit province entered into a legal agreement with many conditions, including that the Jesuit abuser cannot be involved in ministry, cannot teach or counsel, can’t be alone with women, etc. It was an exhausting experience, getting to that agreement, I realized when it was over. I was totally worn out. Life eventually, painfully slowly, moved on.

But it’s not over.

Last Saturday I googled the Jesuit abuser’s name and found that the Jesuits failed to honor the legal agreement we had made six years ago, failing to supervise him. Up came a link to Fordham, where the Jesuit abuser had taught a class in psychology of religion in September 2008. Teaching, when he was prohibited from teaching. And he was a thousand miles away from where I was told he was living under very strict supervision. Was he chaperoned on this trip to New York City?

Last Saturday, the first person I told about this shocking discovery was the person in authority, this Jesuit’s provincial, Timothy McMahon, SJ, the head of the Missouri province of Jesuits. Wasn’t that the right first step — tell the person most responsible for the Jesuit abuser? When there’s a fire, you call the fire department, right? When there’s a car wreck, you call a tow truck or police. When there’s an abusive Jesuit breaking rules, you tell his provincial.

But Fr. McMahon has been silent for the past week, not even acknowledging my efforts to communicate. Stone cold silent and non-responsive.

I contacted more people later that day including a Jesuit friend, a clergy abuse survivor who also dealt with Fr. McMahon, and advocates for abuse survivors. I heard back from every single one of those people.

But I did not hear back from the perp’s boss, Tim McMahon, the one who has been responsible for the legal agreement his predecessor, Frank Reale, made six years ago. That’s a key thing about Jesuits: the next provincial has to enforce/supervise agreements made by the prior provincials. They KNOW that.

So this story I thought was over is really only beginning again with a new chapter: the era of broken agreements about abusive priests. The same old church story of not keeping promises about abusers.

Last time, 2003, the province found credible that I was abused by a Jesuit priest, Daniel C. O’Connell, SJ. This time, 2009, I have to report the failed province leadership, the ones who failed to keep the province’s agreement.

This blog was born from this week’s experience, the transition into starting over again, but mostly from the silence of the Jesuit leader who failed.

I need to understand what happened in the past and where I am going with this experience. If you can tolerate some jumping around, looking backward while going forward, I welcome your companionship on this blog wherever we end up! I need to fill the silence. I just can’t stand this silence. Thanks for joining me.


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