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A personal story by "Michael" -- a survivor of clergy abuse

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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 presence. He is the one they worship. He bathes 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. They insisted 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.

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 lollypop. 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. 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 rid of my scars.

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) 1 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 devout Catholic, who attended Catholic school through my Masters 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.

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Helpful references:

  1. Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is "...the nation's largest, oldest and most active support group for women and men wounded by religious authority figures (priests, ministers, bishops, deacons, nuns and others).. [They]...are an independent and confidential organization, with no connections with the church or church officials." See: http://www.snapnetwork.org/
  2. "LAMPS is a nonprofit group of Catholic clergy, religious and people of the church working together to identify compromised leadership and replace it with leadership of integrity." See: http://www.lampsforhealing.org/  

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Originally posted: 2005-JUN-19
Latest update: 2005-JUN-19
Author: "Michael"

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