In the early spring of 2016, I found myself both capable of and willing to write a letter to the school where I was abused, finally reporting what had happened to me throughout my senior year there. I started by making a bullet point list based on the guidelines I had been given years earlier by an attorney who was speaking with me pro-bono. I shared the initial list with my therapist and group, which was a very intimate and supportive experience. From that point, it took on a life of its own and became a draft letter and then a finished letter, ready to send in little more than a week. I ran it by the attorney, who helped me tweak it and suggested who I should send it to and to whom I should send a copy. At the time I had no idea what a trans-formative experience it would, and where it would lead me.
While working on this website, almost two years after sending the original letter, I was astounded at my earlier naiveté regarding the Catholic Church. I was apparently giving them the benefit of the doubt they did not deserve and have yet to earn. The moral bankruptcy of the church’s leadership in matters pertaining to the sexual abuse of those whose safety and welfare they were responsible for was not even on my radar.
My first clue should have been the one and only response I got to my disclosure letter. Even that was no more than a return receipt. My first follow-up letter elicited no reply at all. But shortly after I sent it, I got a much more compassionate letter from the Nassau County District Attorney’s Special Victims Bureau. It offered a personal meeting to discuss services that were available to me, or just to talk and be heard. I did end up going to Mineola and meeting with the Deputy Bureau Chief, Joseph LaRocca. He gave me more than an hour of his time and while we sat in his office he told me they had tracked down my abuser and learned he had died in 1991. He even gave me the cemetery plot where he was buried in case I might be able to get some closure with that information.
I waited about 6 weeks after sending my first before sending my second follow-up letter, but this time it was really just for my own closure. I guess I was starting to learn how they operated. Since then, my nearly two years of advocacy on behalf of the Child Victims Act in New York have opened my eyes to the calculated nature of the church’s cover-ups and lies. Combined with my own first-hand experience, the stories I’ve heard from so many other survivors have taught me a valuable lesson. Those who have had the misfortune to approach the Catholic Church in the hope of finding some compassion, rarely come away from those encounters with any shred of trust in the sincerity of that institution still intact.
When it comes to protecting their “good” name or the extraordinary wealth and holdings amassed over time, institutionally or individually, the concepts of compassion and charity fly right out the window.
Here are links to the actual letters: