Weight of years
A group of survivors of clergy sex abuse finds
that a millstone, used as an example by Jesus, may lighten
the burden of their suffering
November 21, 2003
by NANCY HAUGHT - Portland Oregonian
"It started here," says Bill Crane, laying the
worn leather Bible on the ottoman in front of his chair. A
ribbon marks Matthew 18:5-6, where he'd found the image of
The Gospel writer is quoting Jesus. "Whoever receives
one such child in my name receives me," he says to his
disciples. "But whoever causes one of these little ones
who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him to
have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned
in the depth of the sea."
As Crane read those words, he clung to the powerful image.
Not because he had caused another child to stumble, but because
a Catholic priest in the New Jersey diocese where Crane had
grown up had caused him to stumble, and keep on stumbling,
for more than 20 years.
Crane, of Clackamas, is a survivor of clergy sex abuse and
coordinator of the Oregon chapter of the Survivors Network
of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. Last month, as he reeled
from the news that his boyhood friend and fellow survivor,
James Thomas Kelly, had committed suicide, Crane turned to
the Bible for comfort and found the sobering symbol of transformation.
At Kelly's funeral, Crane talked to other mourners, many
of them SNAP members, about his idea.
"We need something tangible, a touch point to commemorate
all survivors, especially those who have taken their lives,"
he said. "The pain we all endure is a life-long process.
We don't want our story to be forgotten."
The response was overwhelming. Many of the 500 people at
the funeral agreed. The day after Crane returned to Oregon,
he visited a rock yard, looking for a stone that could be
chiseled into a millstone. He found a piece of black, columnar
basalt and got the recommendation of a sculptor. He pulled
up at the Milwaukie home of Mark McLean, whose work includes
a Korean War memorial at the Portland Air Base and columns
commemorating the Treaty Oak at the Museum at Warm Springs.
"I want a millstone," Crane said to McLean, who
was familiar with the biblical image. McLean asked a series
of questions before Crane decided to share his story and what
he hoped the monument would mean.
McLean set his other projects aside. In seven days, McLean
created the millstone. The 400-pound stone is 18 inches across
and 91/2 inches thick.
The flat surfaces are polished so that anyone who looks into
them will see his or her face reflected. The curved sides
are rough, to symbolize the harshness of Jesus' words, McLean
said. He also wanted viewers to think about how he had chipped
away at the millstone, much as Crane and other victims must
chip away at the pain that won't go away altogether.
On one side of the millstone, there are six swirling lines
because human beings were made on the sixth day of creation.
On the other side there are 12 swirling lines, representing
Jesus' 12 disciples.
A millstone itself is like a circle of life, McLean says,
one that can be used to ensure life or to end it. He drilled
three holes into the sides of the stone, one for each part
of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Crane consulted with his friend Toni Hartung, a landscape
designer. She created a 4-foot-square garden for the millstone
that can be assembled on the rectory grounds outside of St.
Joseph Catholic Church in Mendham, N.J., Crane and Kelly's
old parish. She envisions the stone, secured with a chain
to a low brick wall, surrounded by forget-me-nots, yellow
crocus, witch hazel and Helleborus niger, or Christmas roses.
Her plan is for there to be something growing or blooming
there at almost all times of the year.
She and McLean both said they thought long and hard about
the clergy abuse, how it had affected Crane and many others,
about how Crane had found a physical way to express his pain
and his hope for the future. Both felt honored to use their
talents to help him.
Now, however, Crane says it's time to send the millstone
on its way. Next week, he'll begin building a crate for it
and ship it back to the town in New Jersey where he says he
can never live again.
Crane is still collecting funds to offset the $5,000 cost
of the entire project, while people in Mendham are working
on preparing the site. So far, he's accepted large and small
donations from victims, families and attorneys.
He and McLean kept the scraps of stone and plan to make smaller
millstones to share with other survivors.
"This is not a symbol of judgment as much as a message
of accountability," Crane says. "Christ regards
his children highly, and we're wanting to reflect that."