Sins of the Fathers
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"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.
Archdiocese of St. Louis Mass of Reparation

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.

Then another.

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 crisis.

And the atmosphere is...

Fraught.

Tortured.

Absurd.

I'm a survivor of the Catholic sex abuse crisis.

At. The. Mass. Of. Reparation.

For the Catholic sex abuse crisis.

Of children.

Like me.

And I'm being ignored.

Exactly as the picture shows.

It's insane.

Maddening.

Crazy-making.

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.

Just standing there, holding two pictures.
Fr. LeRoy Valentine

Pictures of me.

And some of my classmates.

And my abuser.

Our abuser?

A priest.
Father LeRoy Valentine

And I'm completely alone.

Again.

And worse.

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 Basilica.

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 existence.

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.

Playing while the adults go about their dark business.

What the (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.

Idiot...

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...

Shocked.

Appalled.

Grieving.

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...

Out in the open.

With the scene crawling with the press.

At the Mass of Reparation.

For the Catholic sex abuse crisis.

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.

Of consequence.

Of accountability.

And I'm done trying to be brave in the face of it. Not any more. Instead, I'm reduced to just trying to survive.

Again.

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.

And me.

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 me.

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 talk to, or even acknowledge the existence of, a survivor?

Priests!

Cowards.

All of them.

And, perhaps, worse.
Mass of Reparation

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.

He 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 of priests.

To take his position at the end of the procession.

Now the archbishop's 40 feet from me. And getting closer.

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.

Like me.

And I'm left there, all alone.

Shunned.

Discarded.

SACRIFICED.

Again.

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 priests.

Well, not JUST the priests.

Instead, he was trying to capture the moment.

The whole thing.

And he did.

So well.

Not just the moment, but the vibe.

The quiet, screaming tension.

The callous indifference.

The hypocrisy.

And, duh, the way to do that is not from behind me, as an amateur like me would.

But from in front.

Through it.

Through them.

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.

Quiet.

Sad.

Stunned.

But resolved.

And I can't get over the faces of the priests as they stand there.

Maybe 30 feet from me. Indifferent. Ignoring me. Refusing to look at me.

Afraid to?

Not that it matters.

It was unspeakably callous and cowardly, regardless.

As for what it says?

Means?

Discernment, y'all.

Who is such a scene — a scene of callous indifference, directed at a survivor — more likely to serve? To please?

Delight?

Jesus Christ?

Or the other guy?