The Catholic Church Says No

What happens to someone sexually molested by a priest

There is no way out. Not in this life. That’s what I kept hearing. Again and again. Maybe this was worse, over time, worse even than what someone so important did to them. Afterward, their church offered them nothing. Their church simply said no.

Art was a Vietnam vet, he was in law enforcement for 38 years. His son was sexually abused by a priest, the principal of his school. Art went to the diocese. The only thing he cared about was his son, who they broke and he wanted fixed. They wanted his son to go away for $50,000, to sign off on never suing. Art’s son killed himself with a drug overdose.

[SIGNUP]Barbara turned on Channel 3 a few days ago, and there he was: the priest who molested her 45 years ago. His name is Joseph DiGregorio. She says she told Cardinal Regali about him in 2005. A review board recommended a “safety plan” for Father DiGregorio, which means he would be shielded from potential victims, then later decided there was “insufficient conclusive evidence” that he was a person who would do what Barbara said he did. She said that back when she was 16, DiGregorio kissed her, took her bra off, and lay on top of her in his car.

There are no restrictions on the father’s priestly duties, and there he was, on TV, and in the newspaper, calling what Barbara said made up.

Besides, DiGregorio told the Daily News, “We’re talking about something 45 years ago.”

On that, they’re in agreement. It was a long time ago. Now Barbara is a heavy woman in her seventh decade, with bad knees, and diabetes, and she apologizes in advance if she has to interrupt herself to sit down and have a Graham cracker. “I’m mad as hell!” she rumbles.

Art and Barbara spoke this past Sunday night at a public forum organized by SNAP—Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests—in the long and narrow Constitution Room, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown Philly.

David says he was sexually abused by a priest when he was 16, a priest who had been reported to his bishop 50 times and sent to New Mexico twice for treatment. “Putting kids in harm’s way,” David says, his voice rising, near tears over something that happened perhaps 30 years ago. “I want one question answered: What were they thinking?

They won’t say.

Kathy was sexually abused by a nun in 1968, in high school. The nun told her she should be a model. Kathy didn’t realize how much it messed up her life. She’s 56 now; she’s had a stroke. She eats and sleeps what happened to her, 43 years ago.

“I’ll never get over it until I see justice,” Kathy says. The nun is still teaching, and denies the whole thing.

A tall man in his 30s gets up and speaks. He was sexually abused by a priest as a teenager. He got the runaround when he went to his church and sought help. Then he called and said he was a nephew of John J. O’Connor, the New York cardinal. He is not a nephew of John J. O’Connor, but that got him a call back, and therapy and medications and traveling expenses. But not what he really wanted: Six more adolescents, he says, were abused by the same priest. “The last 20 years,” he says, “this has been very personal.” He wants the Catholic Church shut down.

All of them, Art and Barbara and David and Kathy and the tall man—and others who dare get up and speak—they’re all quietly raging, saying the same thing. Something awful happened to them, and the place where it came from, the place of love and kindness and God, will not even listen. And so the pain remains solely, utterly, theirs.