A Quiet Exceptional Depravity By Michael Coolen

* Featured Image: “The Good Book Says” By Rollin Jewett

A Quite Exceptional Depravity

By Michael Coolen

On March 4th, 2014, the popular and populist new Pope Francis strongly defended the Roman Catholic Church’s record on tackling sexual abuse by priests. When he proclaimed that “no-one else has done more to root out pedophilia than the Catholic Church,” I wanted to take him out to the back yard of the Domus Sanctae Marthae and slap him silly. His statement was, at best, disingenuous, and at worst, a lie of convenience to satisfy the more conservative clergy.

Of course, it would be difficult for me to get to the Pope. The Domus Sanctae Marthae isn’t exactly a fixer-upper. It’s a huge five-story building with 106 suites, 22 single rooms, and one simple apartment occupied by the Pope. And, since it doesn’t have a back yard, I’d probably have to slap him silly in his simple apartment which, by the way, is guarded 24/7 by two soldiers of the Pontifical Swiss Guard, the personal private army of every pope since 1506, making it the world’s oldest military unit in continuous operation.

Not willing to go to Vatican jail, I would have had to be satisfied to stand outside the gate of Saint Martha’s House, yelling insults at him in Latin.

Stultissime!” “You complete idiot!”

obodyNay??? How about Cardinal Law?”

By the time I yelled “obodyNay” (Pig Latin for “Nobody) at him, I’m sure to have been urged to move on by guards armed with machine guns and zero sense of humor.

In 2015, a year after Pope Francis’s “Nobody” proclamation, the film Spotlight won numerous awards, including an Oscar for Best Picture. It told the story of the Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team, which won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for its investigation into the widespread practice of child sex abuse by dozens of Catholic priests in the Boston Area. Bernard Francis Law was the archbishop who did his best to protect and hide these criminals.

Forty-two years before the release of the film (Spotlight) I had been a freshman at O’Dea High School in Seattle Washington. One of the teachers was Brother G.A. Kealy, for years known to students at O’Dea High School as ‘Feely Kealy’ and ‘Fingers Kealy.’
A few friends who were aware of my own experiences with sexual abuse by the Christian Brothers of Ireland urged me to join them to see the film, assuming I would experience…I’m not sure what they expected from me…catharsis, anger, revelation, new information?

After the film, we went to my friend Bob’s house for dinner. We had met when we were paired as roommates at Saint Edwards Catholic Seminary, where we both were studying to become parish priests. I had just graduated from high school. Bob had entered the seminary at age fourteen, just after grade school. Bob left the seminary a year before I did, but we ended up as roommates after I left. We had been close friends for over half a century.

After dinner, Bob, Maggie, Donna, Alex (another ex seminarian) and I adjourned to the living room. Bob handed me a beer and started the conversation.

“Did you know that Linehan was finally barred from the ministry?” he asked. “Yeah, I read that,” I replied. “About ten years ago.”

“Who is Linehan?” asked Donna, Bob’s girlfriend.

“David Linehan,” Alex chimed in, “was one of the priests at the seminary. He ran the choir, taught French, and was in general a creep. Older seminarians, warned the younger ones, especially 14-16, to steer clear of Linehan if possible.”

“It was Mike’s bad luck,” added Bob, laughing, “to have a good singing voice. I, on the other hand, had learned years before to cultivate intentionally the art singing off key.”

“After the seminary closed in the early 70s,” said Alex, “Linehan served at close to ten parishes over the next twenty years before he retired. It took another ten years for the Archbishop banned him from any ministry.”

“Banned him,” added Bob, “but didn’t defrock him. Fucker.”

“Linehan?” asked Maggie.

“No,” replied Alex. “The Archbishop.”

“Just like in the film we just saw,” Bob added.

“Yup,” I replied.

For the next few moments, we sat quietly. Maggie, a good friend since graduate school, finally broke the silence.

“What did you think of the film, Michael?”

“It was a powerful film, but nothing in the story was new to me,” I replied. “I already know more about the Boston case than the film depicts. Much, much more. And much, much worse.” Bob gave me a nod, encouraging me to tell my story.

Forty-two years before the release of the film, I had been a freshman at O’Dea High School in Seattle Washington. One of the teachers was Brother G.A. Kealy, for years known to students at O’Dea High School as ‘Feely Kealy’ and ‘Fingers Kealy.’ In the typing class he taught, he would come up from behind, nuzzle and embrace me, kiss me on the cheek, and fondle my breasts.

I told my friends I was especially ashamed when he touched my breasts. Four few years earlier, I had been bedridden for eight months with rheumatic fever. I had overheard the doctor telling my parents that I was likely to die before I turned thirteen. I decided God hated me for some reason and wanted me to die. Determined not to die hungry, I gained over fifty pounds. After I recovered, kids made fun of my large breasts when I returned to elementary school.

The year after Kealy molested me, I grew three inches and lost fifty pounds. He never touched me again, but by then the damage he’d caused me was permanent. After high school, I entered a seminary to study to become a Catholic priest, hoping God would like me again. Three years later I left the seminary upon my conclusion that God was both a psychopath and a myth, and Christ had never existed. I saw no future for a priest who was an atheist.

He never touched me again, but by then the damage he’d caused me was permanent.”
Shame and body dysmorphia continued to plague me. As I grew into manhood, I weighed myself daily (sometimes twice), and checked on the size of my breasts in mirrors. As I became sexually active, I recoiled whenever a woman touched my breasts.

A few days after the 3rd birthday of my beautiful son Tristan in January 1989, I experienced a wave of love and anger and need to protect him from people like Kealy. I contacted the Archdiocese of Seattle to inform them of years of sexual molestation by Brother G.A. Kealy at O’Dea High School and the nearby Briscoe Memorial School for Boys. I told the archbishop that during his time at O’Dea, Brother Kealy became known as “Feely Kealy” among the students for his unwanted kissing, fondling, putting his hands down the front of students’ pants, and other perfidies.

Kealy molested hundreds of students both during and outside of class, with as many as a dozen such molestations occurring on any given school day.
Kealy molested hundreds of students both during and outside of class, with as many as a dozen such molestations occurring on any given school day. I told them that he should be sought out, reveal the names of boys he had molested, and be prosecuted, if possible, for his crimes. I urged them in numerous letters to seek out the victims and try to help them. More than ever, I did not wish that anything like this would happen to anyone as beautiful as my son because of my silence.

“Soon after I contacted the Archdiocese of Seattle in 1989,” I told my friends that night, “I received a letter saying that ‘it is not our affair,’ and that I should contact O’Dea. The authorities at O’Dea told me to contact the Brother Provincial in the Midwest. I corresponded with the Provincial several times, repeatedly asking that they interview Br. Kealy and get him to discuss his actions so that they could seek out and help his other victims.”

The response I received was that he was no longer in contact with children and that he would be made to “pray” over his actions. If any thought that these they were crimes entered their minds, it was quickly and quietly suppressed to protect Holy Mother Church. This theme that the molestations were “sins” to be handled in house is central to understanding one aspect of the Church’s slow response to sexual molestation by priests and other clergy.

“The three of us,” interjected Bob, “understand the responses of the Catholic hierarchy better than average.”

…generally, seminarians were both poorly and narrowly educated. Knowledge of theology and canon law were stressed over the sciences and humanities. Even Philosophy courses stressed Scholasticism and denounced Existentialism and Situation Ethics. There was one Truth, and it was a Catholic one.”
“Yes,” added Alex. “during my almost five years in a seminary studying to become a Catholic priest, I came to understand that, generally, seminarians were both poorly and narrowly educated. Knowledge of theology and canon law were stressed over the sciences and humanities. Even Philosophy courses stressed Scholasticism and denounced Existentialism and Situation Ethics. There was one Truth, and it was a Catholic one. This pathetic education, however, did not prevent seminarians from developing a sense of entitlement and privilege. They were the high priests of the Way, the Truth, and the Life. They were holy; to be respected and obeyed…by definition. While I was there, several of the eventual abusers and hierarchical enablers were also training to be priests. One of the guys in my class became a priest and served for decades before they were eventually convicted of child sex abuse.”

“You talking about Scully?” asked Bob with a knowing glance.

“I was not particularly shocked when I read about Dick,” I said. Of course we all three knew who he was talking about. “He was in my class, too.”

“What about him, Bob?” asked Donna. “You’ve never mentioned him.”

“Dick Scully was in our class at the seminary,” said Alex. “He continued on after the three of us had left, became a priest and served in Yakima for decades.”

“Picture this,” I added. “One Sunday in about 2004, Father M., a parish priest at St. Brendan’s in north Seattle, started his Sunday sermon by telling his parishioners that he was resigning from his post. The reason, he said, is that he recently filed a complaint with the archbishop, stating that years before he had been sexually molested by Father Richard Scully.”

“Whoa!” exclaimed Maggie. “A priest accused another priest? How did the parishioners take that?”

“Not well,” I continued. “Father M. was beloved by all of them. Some started to cry when told them he was resigning because the archbishop did nothing about his complaint. When he mentioned that the Archbishop suggested that Father M. was a good priest but should undergo some psychological counseling, the church erupted in angry comments about the Archbishop.”

“Jesus Christ!” exclaimed Maggie.

“There’s more,” added Bob. “Mike and I were talking about it back then, and it turned out that around 1989 the Yakima Diocese settled two cases of sex abuse by Scully, then sent him to a facility in New Mexico that specialized in treating sexual offenders. After that, Scully took a job at some parish in Texas.”

“Time to break out the hard stuff,” yelled Donna. “Ain’t enough wine in the whole world to help me cope with all this information.”

We all laughed at her comment. She came back two minutes later with bottles of Scotch, Bourbon, Gin, Tonic, and a salad bowl full of ice. After we poured some healthy drinks, I continued my story.

“I spent several hours a night over the next fourteen years, conducting research on sexual abuse by members of the Christian Brothers of Ireland. Members of that order had staffed orphanages and high schools from Australia to Seattle to Hawaii to New York.”
“That’s what happened to me, actually. While I was attempting to keep my complaints “in house” for the sake of some of the brothers I admired, it was clear that the Christian Brothers followed a course of action they applied repeatedly around the world; they moved Brother Kealy yet again, this time back to his home in Ireland, where he died in 1996 in a lovely nursing home. When I learned about the transfer, I felt like sending them a postcard with “BIG FUCKING MISTAKE” written in capital letters on it. Instead, I began doing what I was really good at. Research. I spent several hours a night over the next fourteen years, conducting research on sexual abuse by members of the Christian Brothers of Ireland. Members of that order had staffed orphanages and high schools from Australia to Seattle to Hawaii to New York.”

“It used to piss me off when we were roommates at the seminary,” said Bob. “I would work a whole week on some paper, while all Mike did was research. Then, about four hours before it was due, he would sit down and type out his paper with no corrections, hand it in on time, and then get an A!” He smiled at me. “Asshole.”

“Yes, but I was a straight-A asshole,” I replied, playfully giving Bob the finger.

Everyone began laughing aloud, both in response to my comment and to relieve the tension of what we were talking about.

Then I told them how it became clear that all the brothers at O’Dea knew of Kealy’s pedophile activities. Even Bishop Gill was informed of Brother Kealy’s “problem” by both parents and staff. The late Brother Donnelly confided in another teacher that “Kealy had this problem back in Chicago.” In a separate e-mail to me, it was that confirmed that “Brother G.A. Kealy taught at Power in the 40s, where he also had this “problem” and was transferred out. Power High School, now the site of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York, is probably most famous for one of its later graduates, a basketball player named Lew Alcindor (who played basketball about the same time I was playing at O’Dea). He’s better known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

“One of boys had boarded with the O’Dea brothers because he lived far away, and his parents did not have enough money for tuition. Johnny’s experiences with Kealy were horrific. He recalled how on Friday nights, several of the brothers would get drunk and boast how they were going to drive out to Briscoe Orphanage to have some fun with the boys there.”
I was stunned to learn that, after numerous parent and teacher complaints continued to surface about “Feely” Kealy, the leader of the Seattle diocese, Bishop Thomas Edward Gill specifically told the principal of O’Dea in the early 1960s, to transfer Kealy.

“Brother Popish confirmed this in an e-mail he sent in response to one I wrote him,” I told my friends.

“Can I get some ice water?” I asked. “I’m starting to fade.”

Maggie jumped up, went to the kitchen, rattled some ice and water into a glass and brought it back.

“Thanks, sweetie,” I said after I drank some.

“In addition to background research,” I continued, “I wrote letters or sent e-mails to over three hundred former students of O’Dea, asking for any memories they might have of Keely. Dozens wrote back to me with comments of their own, describing their vile experiences with Brother Kealy and their own feels of rage that nothing was done about it. Some were so powerful, they’ve stayed in my memory ever since:

In my freshman year…he bent down and kissed me on the forehead which made me quite uncomfortable since the other guys saw it. That evening I told my dad and apparently, he and Mr. (last name not included to protect him) went up and talked to Bishop Gill about Kealy. Kealy was there for my sophomore year too, and taught us typing.”

“I recall vividly his mortal sin behavior. There were two in my drafting class that are his victims. Roger (last name not included to protect him) and I believe…I think Don was his first name. Roger and I talked about Fingers Kealy at our last reunion, August 2001. I remember Kealy trying his crap on Mike (last name not included to protect him) and Mike pushed him away. He made Mike go to the hall where Kealy slapped him several times.”

“Greetings Mike, Brother Kealy, may he be long since rotten, as ever he was in life. I think the best suggestion I can give you is to contact Jack (last name not included to protect him) who was a year younger than us or his brother Jim who was in our class. Jack was expelled as a junior because he hit Kealy with a wooden setsquare while trying to defend his virtue in a Mechanical Drawing class. I personally witnessed Kealy slip his paw down a number of trousers and try to kiss and cuddle lots of unwilling boys. I always tried to keep as far away from him as possible. He was a slime ball of the premier variety and I’d like to piss on his grave.”

I was a student at O’Dea for the 1957/1958 school year and had Brother Kealy as an instructor for a mechanical drawing course. He would come around the class checking your work and would choose certain students that he would put his arm around you. I was one of the chosen, and he would massage our chests. The word from the senior students was, that if you rebuffed his feeling you up, he would downgrade you on the course. I didn’t want to find out if this was true or not, so I allowed him to continue doing it. I would not, however, go with him to the supply room. I didn’t want to be alone with him on the chance that he would try to go further with his advances.”

There are dozens more like the ones I just recalled.”

I grew silent for almost a minute after sharing the gist of these comments with my companions.

“What are you thinking right now?” asked Maggie.

I stared at my friends for a few more seconds before I answered.

“I became friends with so many of the victims, and we often cried together as we spoke about our experiences and those of others. One of boys had boarded with the O’Dea brothers because he lived far away, and his parents did not have enough money for tuition. Johnny’s experiences with Kealy were horrific. He recalled how on Friday nights, several of the brothers would get drunk and boast how they were going to drive out to Briscoe Orphanage to have some fun with the boys there.”

“Jesus fucking Christ!” whispered Alex.

“After Johnny graduated, he went off to play basketball at a small college. During that time, he began to seek comfort and release in drugs. He died a couple of years after I talked with him. He looked like he was eighty years old.”

“To Johnny,” I said, lifting my glass of water in the air before drinking some.

I suddenly realized that I had no desire to be an ex-Catholic, lapsed Catholic, or to be any kind of Catholic. The feeling was quite liberating.”
In the mid-1990s, I was lucky to find a minister/counselor who was experienced both in counseling former Catholic seminarians and people who had experienced trauma as an infant. Shortly after I was born, doctors feared my mother had tuberculosis, So I was sent off to live with a nurse friend. I lived with her for almost a year over the next two years, recoiling during visits home when I was handed to the woman who was not my ‘mother.’ I remember feeling tremendous sadness as I spoke with Jim about this.

I told him I didn’t know if I was sad because I was remembering how I felt at that time, or if I was just feeling empathy for the little boy who had to go through all that. “It’s both,” Jim replied. “And it will probably continue to crop up throughout your whole life. Trust and the violation of trust will be an issue you have to deal with off and on for the rest of your life.”

I went into the kitchen, added more ice and water, then sat down again.

“Have any of you ever considered killing someone?” I sipped a little water, waiting for comments that did not come.

“I’ve never told anyone this story, because I was afraid of what people would think of me. I don’t care so much any longer.

“A few years ago, I was on a trip to a conference in Victoria, Canada. I stopped at a rest area on the Hood Canal, got out of the car and started stretching. I suddenly realized that I had no desire to be an ex-Catholic, lapsed Catholic, or to be any kind of Catholic. The feeling was quite liberating.”

“When I began listing all the problems I had had in my life due to his molestation, I felt a rage building in me. I realized that if I were to encounter Brother Kealy again, I would kill him. I imagined meeting him on the third floor of O’Dea High School, I would knock him to the floor and kick him in the head and groin until he was unconscious. I’d pick him up [I’m 6’4” and weigh 250 pounds], and throw him down the stairs to the next landing. When I got to that landing, I would kick him again, then pick him up again and hurl him as far as I could down the twenty-two steps ending on the first floor.”

“When I began listing all the problems I had had in my life due to his molestation, I felt a rage building in me. I realized that if I were to encounter Brother Kealy again, I would kill him.”
My friends stared at me as I paused before finishing my thoughts.

“He would be dead by then. No matter. I would have dragged him down the hall, out of the front door, throw his body on the sidewalk, drag it to front door of the new basketball gym; the one dedicated to Bishop Gill, who did nothing to stop Kealy.”

“Whoa!” said Maggie. My other friends chuckled a little, knowing me as a very gentle, thoughtful man who’d never even been in a fight.

“I’m…not…kidding.” The look on my face silenced the chuckles. “I would have killed him without the slightest hesitation or regret, knowing I would go to jail, maybe be executed. I would have killed him. And as I stood in that rest area on the Hood Canal, that rage scared the shit out of me. I didn’t know I possessed the capacity for that kind of vengeance. That I was capable of violently killing a man without feeling an ounce of remorse absolutely terrified me.”

“The Christian Brothers were in possession of information regarding decades of Brother Kealy’s predations and told no one. After he died in 1994, Canon Law permitted them to destroy all the records.”
We sat quietly for a couple of minutes. About a minute into the silence that followed, Maggie and Bob came over and gave me a group hug.

After a minute or two, we separated.

“In the late 1970s,” I said, “Kealy was transferred back to O’Dea.

“No fucking way!” shouted Bob.

“Fucking way,” I replied. “The Christian Brothers were in possession of information regarding decades of Brother Kealy’s predations and told no one. After he died in 1994, Canon Law permitted them to destroy all the records.”

Maggie was looking straight into her lap. I could see she was weeping.

“I’m drunk and exhausted, guys,” I said. “If you’re still interested tomorrow, I’ll tell you more about my research and other films you should watch, too. Right now, I just need to go to bed.”

I slept very little. I rose at six the next morning. About a half hour later, Maggie joined me for coffee. She was very quiet and subdued, and we didn’t talk for several minutes.

“When I was twelve years old, I was raped in my bedroom by a friend of my father’s. He was a surgeon in the same practice. When I told my father, he responded ‘Jack is my friend. It was probably your fault.’”

Maggie began to tear up. “I’ve never told anyone else about it.”

We reached across the table to hold hands, and we didn’t talk until Bob and the others filtered into the kitchen, poured some coffee, and joined us. With a final squeeze, Maggie and I sat back, picked up our coffee cups, and I started to tell the group more about my research, beginning by naming one of the film I thought they should see.

“There’s a film called The Boys of St. Vincent. The story begins about a thousand miles north and east of Boston at another orphanage where the physical and sexual abuse of children occurred.”

The exposure began in February 1989 when a listener to a radio call-in program “Open Line” called in on and talked about a cover-up by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador into sexual and physical abuse at Mount Cashel Orphanage. One of the other listeners was a justice on the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador. Later in 1989, nine brothers and five lay faculty were charged with 88 cases of abuse. The publication of the book Unholy Orders: Tragedy at Mount Cashel, by journalist Michael Harris intensified the investigation, and there were more arrests and convictions of pedophiles at Mount Cashel.

In 1992 the National Film Board of Canada produced a two-part miniseries titled The Boys of St. Vincent. It told the story of years of sexual and physical abuse of numerous boys at Mount Cashel Orphanage by Brother Peter Lavin. Part One showed not only how good Catholic police officers covered up the abuse, but also how the hierarchy of the Catholic Church covered up the abuse and protected Peter Lavin and other Brothers. Part Two deals with the trial of the Brothers fifteen years later.

“Even the local good Catholic police officers played their part. When one of the boys escaped and told his story at the police station, they called Brother Lavin to come and get him. When the local Catholic hierarchy heard of it, they worked diligently to keep this story from becoming public, including asking that the police report itself be destroyed.”

“Fucking assholes!” shouted Donna.

“Centuries of fucking assholes,” I replied, before discussing into a longer account of the origins of systematic abuse at orphanages.

“As early as 1618,” I continued, England had established the practice of sending poor and/or orphaned children to settler colonies.”

“Some of the children were physically removed from loving parents and were told that their parents had either died or abandoned them. All were told they were headed to a paradise of “oranges and sunshine.”
The goal was not to provide them with loving homes and a bright future. Wealthy landowners in colonies like Canada and Virginia were in desperate need of laborers, and few business practices are cheaper than state-supported child slavery. The practice was finally banned in the mid-18th century, when legislators discovered that wealthy British merchants were making a killing, both financial and physical, on this despicable practice. Of course, this was about the time when the African slave trade was picking up speed, so the motivation of British do-gooders is murky at best.

Though reduced, the practice never went away completely. In 1869 an evangelical Scottish Quaker named Annie MacPherson established the Home Children program, designed to force poor and orphan children to migrate to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa. In the decades that followed, more than 100,000 children were sent overseas. Described as a benevolent program to help these poor children, it was basically a form of child slavery.

Immediately after World War Two, thousands of children and orphans were rounded up and shipped off to Australia. Some of the children were physically removed from loving parents and were told that their parents had either died or abandoned them. All were told they were headed to a paradise of “oranges and sunshine.”

In 1987 a British social worker named Margaret Humphreys began an investigation into the systematic physical and sexual abuse of children who had forcibly been sent from England to other British colonies, particularly to Australia. Because of her research, two hundred former residents of Australian schools run by the Christian Brothers of Ireland filed suit in 1993. They stated that they were repeatedly raped and beaten by the brothers; often as part of sex rings at four Christian Brothers’ orphanages.

In 1994 Humphreys published a book concerning her research entitled Empty Cradles. It described her work, showing the obstacles she faced, including the reluctance of victims to discuss their experiences, denials, and threats against her by politicians and “good Catholic” citizens, and stone-walling by the Christian Brothers of Ireland. The worst abuse took place at Bindoon, an orphanage about fifty miles outside of Perth.

Responding to the lawsuit in 1993, the Christian Brothers officially apologized to the child migrants and paid reparations totaling $2.5 million dollars to two hundred and fifty adults who had been abused at their institutions.

“Humphreys’ book,” I continued, “detailing the political obstacles, and threats on her life along with the crimes and abuse done to thousands of children by government and religious officials was depicted in the heartbreaking film Oranges and Sunshine. That’s another film you should really see. Even with all I’ve experienced and seen, the film broke my heart.”

In 1998 a parliamentary inquiry in Britain, recognized that hundreds, if not thousands of migrant children had been subjected to systematic physical and sexual abuse. The abuse detailed in the inquiry was so horrific that, in 1999 that government inquiry into these orphanages stated that

what happened at institutions run by the Christian Brothers in

            Western Australia was of ‘a quite exceptional depravity.’

By 1998, I had compiled a 126-page paper, documented with over two-hundred footnotes and an appendix with over fifty pages of photographs, letters, newspaper articles, etc. documenting abuse around the world. I titled it after the comments from the 1998 Parliamentary report on the abuse in Bindoon:

“A QUITE EXCEPTIONAL DEPRAVITY”

Decades of Sexual and Physical Abuse by the Christian Brothers of Ireland

At O’Dea High School and Briscoe Memorial School for Boys,

As well as in Ireland, Australia, Canada, and Elsewhere.

In April of 2002, as revelations of the systematic transferring of clergy who were sexual predators began to surface, I again contacted the Archdiocese of Seattle and the Christian Brothers to broach the topic of Brother Kealy. As a response, the Archdiocese of Seattle made a monumental mistake. They offered to pay for me to undertake some “pastoral counseling” with the goal of my being “reconciled” back into the Church.

For those unfamiliar with Catholic jargon, Confession is the act of admitting your sins to a priest in a confessional and receiving absolution and penance for your sins. At that time, Confession was also referred to as the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Somehow, they were so isolated in church ideology they didn’t realize they were, in effect, asking me to confess my sins and return to the fold of a deeply corrupt cult. It really pissed me off. So, in spring of 2003 I engaged a Portland attorney, the late Kelly Clark, to initiate a lawsuit against the Archdiocese and the Christian Brothers of Ireland.

In addition to the lawsuit, I went public with my allegations through an interview with Janet Tu, a staff reporter for the Seattle Times. The article caused quite a sensation, and I soon was contacted by other victims who not only thanked me but initiated their own lawsuits as well. The Archdiocese response to the article and my lawsuit was quick and decisive. I received a letter threatening to sue me for making false allegations. So I sent them a copy of A Quite Exceptional Depravity, along with all the footnotes and photos and the appendix documenting my allegations.

Not long after I sent my paper, the Archdiocese of Seattle and the Christian Brothers of Ireland settled the lawsuit with me. Despite the settlement, however, I was determined to continue my own efforts to expose abuse especially as other victims from O’Dea and Briscoe came forward with their own stories and lawsuits.

Pope Benedict’s hypocritical view on “sins inside the church” can best be documented by one of his first decisions. In 2006, he ordered Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legion of Christ, removed from active ministry.
Although sexual abuse by the clergy had been documented repeatedly with books and movies and documentaries, clergy at the highest level continued to deflect, deny, and continue business as usual, again trying to deal with these crimes as merely sins.

On April 19, 2005 Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger was chosen to be Pope Benedict XVI. Known as Papa Razzi by the paparazzi. Earlier in his career, Ratzinger had called the problem of sexual abuse by clergymen a “sin inside the church.” In addition to a pedophile priest being transferred to his diocese in Munich in 1980, it is quite likely that he was aware of thirty years of physical and sexual abuse in an international Bavarian choir directed by his older brother, Father Georg Ratzinger.

Pope Benedict’s hypocritical view on “sins inside the church” can best be documented by one of his first decisions. In 2006, he ordered Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legion of Christ, removed from active ministry. Not only had Degollado sexually molested hundreds of seminarians under his control for decades, he had six children with at least two women and had sexually abused two of his own children. Undoubtedly to hide the worst of Degollado’s crimes, a canonical trial was not held, deciding the pedophile priest was too old and in poor health. As his “punishment,” Benedict ordered Degollado “to conduct a reserved life of prayer and penance.” Apparently, that was easier to do in Jacksonville, Florida, where he died in 2008.

“Another real crook,” I said to my friends, “was Cardinal Bernard Law, Archbishop of Boston. He was the consummate villain of Spotlight.”

Law had had extensive knowledge of the abuses of dozens of pedophile priests. He even arranged for one priest to be moved from parish to parish, even though that priest was alleged to have raped or molested well over one hundred and thirty children!

By the time Law resigned in disgrace in 2002, 550 victims had been located and the Archdiocese of Boston paid out $85 million in lawsuits. In 2004, as pressure was building in Boston to have him arrested and indicted, Bernard Law was recalled to the Vatican by Pope John Paul II. The popular Polish prelate was himself possessed of a long and shameful reputation as denier of sex abuse among the clergy. He fought every attempt to bring abusers to justice, including efforts by American bishops to address the situation more aggressively. He assigned Law to a prestigious and comfortable position at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. John Paul spoke of the assignment as “an important step in the healing process.” Most commentators agree that it was primarily a ploy to remove Law from Boston, where he was likely to be arrested, tried, convicted, and sent to jail. John Paul himself should have been arrested, tried, and convicted for his complicity.

If a few miracles can be attributed to him over the next few years, John Paul can be declared a Saint. He should be listed as the Patron Saint of Pedophile Priests.
Instead, on May 1, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI (aka Papa Razzi), began the process of having Pope John declared a Saint. In a massive ceremony in St. Peter’s Square, he took the first step of having John Paul beatified. If a few miracles can be attributed to him over the next few years, John Paul can be declared a Saint. He should be listed as the Patron Saint of Pedophile Priests.

In January 2014 the Christian Brothers of Ireland paid out $16 million to over four hundred victims from Canada and the United States. That vile organization was bankrupt and many of its former members were in jail, In January 2016, ten years after I settled my lawsuit, twenty-five years after I first contacted the Archdiocese of Seattle about Brother Kealy, and over fifty years since I was molested, a bankruptcy court in New York finalized the end of that the Christian Brothers of Ireland.

When I learned of this, I smiled and pumped my fist for about thirty seconds. That was all. I’m not surprised I didn’t feel more. In part I was probably worn out, and in part I had dealt with PTSD aspects of my experience through counseling, writing, and communication. Perhaps my deepest response was one of satisfaction. I was aware of all the suffering young boys had experienced over many decades. One of the years, I had become friends with many of the Briscoe victims, and the eight to sixteen-year-old orphans and other boys who lived at Briscoe experienced abuse far more horrific than what I and others had experienced at O’Dea.

Two years after that, Pope Francis proclaimed that no-one else has done more to root out pedophilia than the Catholic Church.

Nobody?

Not long after Pope Francis’ claim, Father Georg Razzi, Papa Razzi’s older brother, was accused of sex abuse over a period of thirty years. In the middle of 2017, the Vatican witnessed sex abuse claims against Australian Cardinal George Bell, the Number 3 man in the Vatican.

In December 2017, after years of leading a comfortable and privileged exile in Rome, safe from Boston authorities, Cardinal Bernard Law died at age 86. His elaborate funeral proved yet again that the current Pope Francis is blind to sexual abuse by the clergy. At his funeral, Pope Francis blessed the coffin with holy water and incense and recited a ritual prayer commending Law’s soul to God.

May he be given a merciful judgment so that redeemed from death, freed from punishment, reconciled to the Father, carried in the arms of the Good Shepherd, he may deserve to enter fully into everlasting happiness in the company of the eternal King together with all the saints .

[including Saint John Paul II?]

One month later, and a week before I finished this essay, Pope Francis was visiting Chile. On the last day of his visit, demonstrations, fire-bombings, and other responses resulted after he angrily accused victims of sexual abuse of “slander.” He was infuriated by the attacks on Bishop Juan Barros, whom he had appointed in 2015. Barros was the protégé of Rev. Fernando Karadima, who was found guilty in 2011 for abusing dozens of minors over a decades-long period beginning in the 1980s.

When the victims accused Barros of covering up the crimes, Pope Francis accused the victims of calumny. This from the man who proclaimed, “no-one else has done more to root out pedophilia than the Catholic Church?”

Nobody? No, Frank. This ain’t over by a long shot.

***

Maggie died a few months ago from a rare cancer, about the time the “me, too” movement began. She lived in Pittsburgh, and I hadn’t seen her in four years, and I don’t know if she ever told anyone what she told me. I’m still processing her loss.

People often tell victims that “time heals all wounds,” or that “it was a long time ago, get over it,” or any other useless aphorisms celebrating the curative powers of Time.

Over a period of seven decades, I’ve concluded that Time does not exist, other than that thing measured by clocks. The word itself comes from the Latin word tempus which is directly related to the English word tempo.”

“The memories and consequences of my molestation will continue to exist in the perpetual Now of my Aevum until I cease to exist.”
There are a multitude of different tempos in life, slow ones when we are in pain, timeless ones during the first blush of love, fast ones as our children grow and leave us, endless ones as we watch a loved-one die. Time consists of a lot of different sequential tempos, all of which occur in the context my favorite Latin word, “aevum,” which can be thought of as the mean between what we think is Time and what we think is Eternity.

The memories and consequences of my molestation will continue to exist in the perpetual Now of my Aevum until I cease to exist. I am more at peace with it. I seem past the point where I would kill Brother Kealy. He’s done enough damage to me already without whatever killing him would have done to me. However, I still don’t like to look in mirrors. When I look in a mirror, I don’t see an award-winning writer, teacher, pianist, composer, actor. There’s no scholar who has published essays, analyses, received numerous Fulbright Fellowships, National Endowment for the Humanities awards, etc. There is no writer who has published poems, stories, etc. What I see I wrote about in a poem I wrote two years ago, at age 69:

always never how to behave in front of a mirror

Always wear black clothing when you stand in front of a mirror.
Never stand full front
Always stand in profile.
Never show your right profile
Always show the left profile which makes you look thinner.
Never look above your navel
Your upper body is revolting and soft and fat and disgusting and
that’s where Kealy fondled your breasts.

Always remove your clothes in another room.
Never pause when you walk past the mirror.
Always scrub every inch of your body to reduce your weight.
Never look in the mirror after you’ve taken a hot shower
Your upper body is revolting and soft and fat and disgusting and
that’s where the Kealy fondled your nipples.

Always run past the mirror when you’re finished.
Never look in the mirror because steam warps the mirror,
making you look twice as fat.
Always put on clean black underpants, undershirt, pants, and polo shirt
before you go back to comb your hair.
You can’t see your body, and it makes you look thinner.
If you start yelling at what a bloated fat miserable gluttonous out-of-control slob
you are when you look into a mirror, stop looking into the mirror.
Never and always never look at your body above the navel.
Your upper body is revolting and soft and fat and disgusting and
that’s where Kealy fondled your breasts…

I was 14. I’m now 71.

About

Michael Coolen is a pianist, composer, actor, performance artist, and writer living in Oregon. In addition to three Fulbright Fellowships and four National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships, he has won awards from the Oregon Poetry Association and the Oregon Writers Colony. His essay “Let Me Tell You How My Father Died” was awarded first prize in the 2017 national “Ageless Authors” competition. He’s been published in dozens of journals and online publications.
Also, a published composer, Michael's works have been performed around the world, including at Carnegie Hall, New England Conservatory of Music, Museum of Modern Art, and the Christie Gallery. Find him at www.michaelcoolen.com

About

Rollin Jewett is an award winning playwright, screenwriter, songwriter, author and poet. His screenwriting credits include “Laws of Deception” and “American Vampire”. His poems and short stories have been published in many magazines and anthologies and his plays have been performed all over the world. He is also an accomplished photographer whose work has been seen lately in The Tulane Review, The Sea Letter, Arkana Magazine, The Tishman Review, Meat for Tea and The Collection: Flash fiction for Flash Memory. Rollin lives in Holly Springs, NC, with his wife and son.

  1. wow, that was super powerful! what a fantastic article. thank you for this!

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