SNAP: Stories for Living

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 I first attended mass in the fall of 1972 at Saint Mary’s in the Spokane Valley. A friend of mine brought me. Well within weeks my brother and I were attending regularly.

   Larry introduced me to Father X and Father Y after mass in the gym during coffee hour.

   Before long we were going to classes to become Catholic so that we could serve Mass as Alter Boys. I was baptized by Father Y and began serving mass for both Fathers X and Y.

   Father Y started coming to our house to dinner and to just visit. Eventually he was picking us up to go play basketball at the school gym. In the winter months he would take us to Mount Saint Michaels to go swimming, on several of these trips he would ask us to skinny dip with him. We didn’t want to, we knew it was wrong and something adults would do, not teenage boys. He would swim up behind me and pull my swim trunks off and throw them to the side of the pool. I would have to get out naked to get them.

   Later in the summer of 1973 he started going to my Grandparents lake place at Bayview, again he would try to reach down my pants while in the water. He reached down my brother’s pants and squeezed so hard it made him cry. My stepmother saw Terry crying and asked what had happened; Terry told her what he had done. She defended Father Y and asked why he would say such a thing about a Priest. If it did happen it must have been an accident.

   We knew it didn’t help to tell or parents and we couldn’t tell our Priest so we said nothing.

   In the winter of 1973-74 I again went swimming and played basketball with Father Y, however I was very careful not to let him get close, he tried just like before but I would swim away from him so he would go after someone else.

   Early in the summer of 1974 Father Y asked to take us camping. I believe it was in June. The water was still very cold and we spent a lot of time around the campfire. The first night there, Father Y wanted to know how far we had gone with girls our age. I was fourteen and anything I would have told him would have been a lie. I was just going through puberty and really hadn’t had any experience with girls other than holding hands and maybe some kissing.

   The conversation went on and we wanted to know how far Father Y had gone with a woman, because of the whole celibacy issue. Looking back I’m sure he lied to us. He said that when he was on vacation he was free to do whatever he wanted and that he had sex with a woman in Canada.

   Then the conversation changed and he wanted to know how often we would get an erection. Larry said that he woke up every morning with one. Father Y smiled his sinister smile. After a while it was time to turn in for the night. We rolled out our sleeping bags. Father Y wanted Terry to sleep between him and the sidewall of the tent. Later that night I could hear Father Y whispering to Terry about masturbation and how every man masturbated. He was just showing him how.

   The next day the weather was nice so we spent the day messing around the campground.

   That evening was the same as the night before, a lot of talk about sex. This time it was my turn to sleep where Terry had slept the night before. I was terrified and didn’t know what to do. I rolled over with my back to him thinking he wouldn’t be able to get to me, I was wrong!!  It was awful!

   That was the last time I allowed myself to be alone with Father Y. The abuse of my brother continued.

   It wasn’t long after that camping trip that rumors around the parish started. By August he was gone. We all went to mass that Sunday Father Y was gone. My stepmother asked Father X where he was; He replied that he could not talk about it and walked away. I knew he must have been caught and I was glad to see him gone.

   It was a week or two later that we found out that he had been moved to Assumption Parish. Roxanne really cared for the man so we started driving from the Spokane valley all the way up to Indian Trail to attend mass.

   That August my brother and I attended a retreat at Mater Clare seminary. They had a gym with hardwood floors, much better than linoleum floors. I felt pretty safe there because we were sleeping in bunks lined up in a row. The girls were on one side and the boys on the other. It turns out I was safe however my brother was not that lucky. Father Y came to him that night and rolled him off his bunk and onto the floor was he molested him again. After that we stopped attending mass all together.

   Meanwhile I had started drinking and smoking pot, I think at first to dull the pain and later it became quite a habit. I would stand in front of a grocery store and ask people to buy me cheap wine. If I couldn’t get anyone to buy it I would shoplift it.

   My sophomore year at University High is to this day a total blur, I really hit bottom. My grades fell and I didn’t really care. I figured I could always drop out and get a job.

   My parents separated that year and we moved to the south hill. There was about a month left of school and I thought at Ferris I might have a chance to straighten out and maybe hang with a better crowd. I recall the first day of school, my councilor pointed out a couple girls and relayed to me that they were trouble and I should avoid them. Well that same day I met them and we went out to the parking lot and got stoned.

   I partied the rest of my time at Ferris and graduated with a “C” average.     (I’m much smarter than that).

   The day our class went to SFCC for a college orientation I was caught in the boy’s room with a case of beer. I wanted to get a good buzz on before going. That was one of eleven times I was suspended from Ferris in two years.

   I moved from my parents three days after graduation, I got a job and never looked back.

   The alcohol and drug abuse got worse. I started trying all kinds of drugs and drank almost every night. I had many failed relationships. This went on until I was about twenty-eight years old. At that time I started dating my wife. We moved in together and while planning our wedding she informed me that before we married and had children I would have to stop smoking cigarettes, doing drugs and drinking so much. I first quit the pot and had several relapses before I finally quit. The cigarettes were the hardest of all. Then the drinking, I still miss the drinking.

   After we married we were looking for a family church. Kathy had attended a Catholic church while growing up and Saint Peters was within walking distance. I argued that the Catholic Church was too structured and the kids wouldn’t enjoy it. She disagreed. It was then that I told her what Father Y had done to me. She was stunned.

     Fast Forward to August 2002

   I got up and while reading the paper there was an article about Father Y. The state was investigating his Psychology practice. When I saw the picture of him a wave crashed over me like I had never felt before. The picture was from the 1970’s and looked just like he had when he molested me. I called to my wife to come look at the son of a bitch.

   My wife came home from work and told me her boss’s cousin had committed suicide. They didn’t have all the details. The next week she came home crying and told me it was time to do something about Father Y. Craig’s cousin killed himself because of what Father Y had done to him. I still visit Tim’s grave every August. I didn’t know him yet we shared a bond. I find it healing. The poor tortured soul had to leave this world. I hope he found a better place.

   At that time I had never revealed to anyone but my wife what had happened to me. (Other than my brother who was there.) I punched out from work, got in my truck and headed for home. At that time Mark Fuhrman had an afternoon talk show on KXLY AM radio. I tuned in and they were talking about Father Y and how he had been abusing kids for twenty years. Well my abuse happened close to thirty years earlier so I got home and called the program and told my story. This was something I couldn’t tell anyone and all the sudden I’m telling everyone in Spokane. I thought I better call my father and let him know before he heard it from someone else. It was very difficult to tell him.

   About a week later I called Craig about his cousin and asked if they had hired a lawyer to represent them. He put me in touch with Tim Kosnoff in Bellevue.

   Tim told me about a group forming called SNAP (survivor’s network for those abused by Priests.) I thought I’d give it a try. The meeting was being held at Providence Hall at a Catholic Hospital. I didn’t like the idea of meeting there but what the heck. I went to find the place, there were no signs so I thought I’d just go home and forget the whole thing. Something told me not to give up so easily. I went to the front desk of the hospital and asked were the SNAP meeting was. She didn’t know what I was talking about. So I quietly asked if she knew anything about the survivor’s network for those abused by Priests. I got a few glares from people standing by the desk and was told that she knew nothing about it. I thought now I can go home. I didn’t get off that easy. A man in the Parking lot asked if I knew anything about the SNAP meeting. I told him that I was there for the same reason. He said hey there’s a sign on that door over there. So we went to our first meeting together, His name was Tom.

    I went to this meeting because I thought I would have something in common with them, including my perpetrator. I was wrong; everyone there had a different Priest that had abused him or her. Wow! I couldn’t believe it. Looking back I’m so glad I went and stayed. The people I have met through SNAP will be life long friends.

   I suffer from depression and have been medicated for it for several years.   

   In the beginning of the lawsuit we were told by the Bishop that he would handle this with honesty, transparency and full accountability. Here we are five and a half years later. We still don’t have all the facts. There are files held by the diocese that will never see the light of day. I hope that if there is a God, (and I doubt that), that he will punish these people for what they did and what they failed to do.

Note: this story is from 2007. View other 2007 stories and 2007 voting results. View current stories.