Sins of the Father
The sexual torture finally ended in 1996, when Arthur graduated and made up a story he told the priest about contracting a venereal disease. But Father Charles found another way to control his favorite pupil — with money. Arthur said that what began as casual drug use with his priest was spiraling into addiction, first to coke and pills, then eventually to heroin.
Arthur broke up with Noelle and over the next several years seemed to be adrift, struggling with community college, wandering from one odd job to the next. The only constant in his life was the drugs, and though Father Charles had pledged a life of poverty, he managed to fund Arthur’s habit for years with envelopes of cash, sometimes thousands at a time, and checks in Arthur’s name, one of which was for $10,800. When Arthur needed a lift to a local bar where he’d score coke, Father Charles would take him. All of that money could have sent Arthur to rehab, but what if, in his cleansing, the boy exposed his molesters? By Arthur’s account, Father Charles kept him stoned and silent.
Living on his own helped Arthur hide the depth of his addiction from his parents, who thought their son was simply partying too hard. As their concern for Arthur’s health grew, so did their suspicions about the priest. Whenever Arthur was pressed for cash, he always found work thanks to Father Charles — odd jobs around the school or friary. When the family moved to South Jersey, Father Charles came to bless their home. Why was he still so interested in their son? One evening, Art Baselice paid a visit to the friary with that mystery in mind.
Father Charles led him into a dim, wood-paneled meeting room, where the air was thick and stale. “I asked him point-blank — ‘What is your relationship with Arthur?’” Art recalls. “‘Are you giving him money?’ He would never answer my question. And because of my upbringing, the way I’ve been conditioned that a priest is a representative of God, I never pursued it.”
Art knew how to interrogate, thanks to 13 years with the Philadelphia police. This man, though, was a priest — his priest. Art had been baptized, confirmed and married by men like Father Charles. In the spiritual chain of command, Father Charles stood at the top: “It was like asking God a question, and He doesn’t answer.”
Art set aside his role as inquisitor and again became a humble congregant. As he’d done so many times before, he asked Father Charles to offer him penance.
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” Art said. At the end of his confession, Father Charles said, “Say three Hail Marys for your lovely wife,” and granted him absolution.