"How could this be happening?
"Is it happening?
"Do they not see me?
"Do I even exist?"
These are the thoughts that come to,
take over, and crush me as I stand there.
A survivor of the Catholic sex abuse crisis.
Holding pictures of myself as a child.
With my abuser.
At the Mass of Reparation for the
Catholic sex abuse crisis.
And the priests arrayed
in front of me not only won't look at me. They've all —
quite literally — turned their backs to me.
Exactly as the picture shows.
And I'm ignored, shunned, confused — stunned —
my heart breaking. Tears welling up in my eyes, as I take
one deep, on the verge of sobbing, breath.
It's September 7, 2018 and I'm standing out in front
of the Cathedral Basilica. The New Cathedral. In the moments
before the Mass of Reparation.
For the Catholic sex abuse
And the atmosphere is...
I'm a survivor of the Catholic sex
At. The. Mass. Of. Reparation.
the Catholic sex abuse crisis.
And I'm being ignored.
Exactly as the picture
A real live survivor.
In the flesh.
Not protesting or demonstrating.
Rather, standing vigil.
Not saying a
word. Not speaking unless I'm spoken to.
standing there, holding two pictures.
Pictures of me.
And some of my classmates.
And my abuser.
And I'm completely alone.
A substantial portion of the priests of the archdiocese
— fifty, sixty, maybe more — are dressed in identical,
off-white robes and lined up, two by two, on the plaza in
front of, and the path that circles around, the Cathedral
In fact, the line of priests is so long it
stretches out to my left
and then wraps around the New Cathedral, ending out of sight,
somewhere along the West side of the building.
And, none of the priests will acknowledge my
In fact, they seem to be making a
point — if not a show? — of ignoring me.
And it's so contradictory, hypocritical, and
insane — so completely (screwed) up — that it
seems to have caught the eye of a photographer. And he thinks
he's Spider-Man and is climbing up on, and
angling himself out from, the stony facade of the cathedral.
Like a kid playing on a jungle gym.
while the adults go about their dark business.
(hell) is he doing? Now he's taking pictures of the priests. Why
isn't he behind me, capturing the scene in its entirety?
The quiet violence.
Ugh, my knees are locked out and my
legs are tightening up. Quads, Hamstrings, Calves, everything. And the
tension — and pain — is starting to flow up my lower back and
into my neck. And I'm just...
But not surprised.
I had a sense this might happen.
Because of what happened — what was said about me by my
Archdiocese — first in February and then in April of 2018. And what had happened
before in 2002 and 2011 and 2014.
But, still, to see it actually happen...
With the scene crawling with the press.
At the Mass of Reparation.
For the Catholic sex abuse
And the priests
of the Archdiocese of St. Louis are just standing there.
Milling around. Greeting each other.
Chatting. Shooting the breeze. Smiling. Laughing.
Completely, callously indifferent.
To the survivor
standing just feet from them.
Obviously, they have no
shame. No fear.
And I'm done trying to be brave in the face of it.
more. Instead, I'm reduced to just trying to survive.
It goes on for five minutes or so.
And, during that time, none of them — NOT ONE of
these priests of the Catholic Church — will even LOOK
at me. What's worse, when they do look in my direction —
as a priest I think I recognize from my (now former) parish,
MQP, turns in my direction — he looks out
over my head.
But not down.
Like I'm not there.
Like I don't exist.
But I know I exist.
I know SOME people can see me.
I've been standing there for 45 minutes or so,
and five people —
two groups of women — came up to me and said, "Hi."
And let me know they're thinking about me. And praying for
And the cop who is handling security also came over
to express his condolences and support.
But that's something the priests standing in front of me
wouldn't — couldn't? — do. Because they were ordered
not to? Or because they know it's not socially
acceptable? A career limiting move?
to, or even acknowledge the existence of, a survivor?
All of them.
And, perhaps, worse.
Now the line is starting to move.
I see the
archbishop who I've been looking out for, dressed in purple.
The same purple my abuser is wearing in the picture I'm
cradling in my left hand.
emerges from the left side of the center doors and walks down
the steps in front of me. At my 11 o'clock. Down past the line
To take his position at the end of the
Now the archbishop's 40 feet from me. And getting
And now he's crossing in front of me.
But he won't look at me.
NOBODY will look at me.
As the archbishop and the priests of the archdiocese
process into the New Cathedral. For the
Mass of Reparation. For the sexual abuse of children.
And I'm left there, all alone.
The next morning I open my computer and go to the
paper's web site to see what they have to say about
the mass. I immediately realize what the photographer was doing.
He wasn't photographing the
Well, not JUST the priests.
Instead, he was trying to capture the moment.
The whole thing.
And he did.
Not just the moment, but the vibe.
The callous indifference.
And, duh, the way to do that is not from behind me, as an
amateur like me would.
But from in front.
Because that angle shows all of
our faces, all at the same time.
Where they're looking.
And where they're NOT.
And my face as I stand vigil.
And I can't get over the faces of the priests as
they stand there.
Maybe 30 feet from me. Indifferent.
Refusing to look at me.
Not that it matters.
It was unspeakably callous and cowardly, regardless.
As for what it says?
Who is such a scene — a scene
of callous indifference, directed at a survivor — more
likely to serve? To please?
Or the other guy?