Survivors Network of
those Abused by Priests
Speech by Belinda Martinez, Minnesota
Voice of the Faithful Kick-off Meeting
Pax Christi Catholic Community
Eden Prairie, Minnesota
July 31, 2003
'Thank you for your kind invitation to speak with you this evening
as you consider becoming the 182nd chapter of the Voice of the Faithful.
It has become possible for me to share my story in fewer and fewer
sentences these days. I will do that this evening. I will also share
with you how my abuse by catholic clergy affected me, which is the
more dramatic story and I am able to do so with fewer words, fewer
tears, and a great deal of hope. These things come with time and
healing. Before I do either one of those things, let me begin with
I am fine. I am a survivor, but I do not want to give you the impression
that the impact of my abuse has faded. It is simply different. It
has changed over the years.
I buried my daughter yesterday. You may think me either very foolish
or very brave for attending this evening, but my presence has more
to do with sincere commitment to survivors. I knew my daughter was
going to die last week and when it became imminent, I phoned the
parish office of the church she and I had been attending to ask
for the pastor to anoint her. I followed the instructions on the
voice message and dialed another number. He refused. Make no mistake;
I am not implying that his response had anything to do with my history
of abuse. His is a larger problem of abject apathy for his responsibilities.
But I relate the story to you because when I went in search of another
priest who might be willing to make the middle of the night trip
to her hospital room to administer a sacrament, I felt forced to
explain to him why I was unwilling to summon the on-call chaplain,
and that has everything to do with my history of abuse. I can tell
my story, but I resent having been forced to tell it at a time that
was not of my choosing.
When I was a teenager, I was sexually abused by a priest in charge
of a youth retreat facility. I was repeatedly incapacitated with
medication and communion wine and abused in my sleep. This happened
over the course of a two-week stay. Fourteen years later, I was
sexually assaulted by a hospital chaplain the day after I had surgery.
I was still under the lingering affects of anesthesia, and on pain
medication as well. I had to protect my surgical sutures while he
ejaculated in my face.
I kept the details of the first abuses a secret and as a result
became hell-bent on self-destruction. I was a cutter. I was obsessed
with burning myself with acid. I poured acid in my eyes. I swallowed
thousands of pills. I have been in many emergency rooms throwing
up pills, and I have been intubated in many emergency rooms because
I refused to throw up the pills I swallowed. I have been locked
in the most secure unit of a maximum-security mental health facility
on the East Coast.
When I came forward with my abuse, I went to the archdiocese first.
My abusers were notified immediately of their removal, but I was
sent to speak with a bishop who was a good friend of one of the
priests who abused me. I found him arrogant and patronizing and
I was told to go home and consider what restitution meant and to
come back when I had any ideas.
Well, I never did go back. I hired an attorney instead. I sued
them and I agreed to a settlement one week before the trial was
to begin. I did so for several reasons: because the perpetrators
had been removed, because other victims had come forward, and I
got a written admission of guilt included in the language of my
settlement. So for the reporters in this room, my abuse was not
That's enough about my own personal experiences. There is more.
You should know there is always more, but I would like to move on
to discuss what our local group has been up to.
Here in Minnesota, our SNAP chapter has been meeting for just under
one year and I would like to highlight a few of our accomplishments:
1) MNSNAP has developed a resource library of more than 80 titles,
various periodicals, and other current literature.
2) MNSNAP, in conjunction with Survivors Network Minnesota, hosted
two survivor conferences in swift succession at the beginning of
this year. More than three hundred participants attended the events.
3) MNSNAP sent three of members to lead workshops at the first SNAP
National Assembly in St. Louis, in June.
4) MNSNAP members have been a visible force at the Minnesota State
Capitol as we worked to affect changes in our civil statute of limitations
relating to sexual abuse. Members have provided testimony when needed
and contacted our lawmakers individually.
5) MNSNAP members have fielded hundreds of phone calls and e-mails
from victims reaching out at the local level, statewide, and nationally.
As the survivor liaison, I have personally spoken with over 200
victims. When a newly identified victim calls me, it is my policy
to listen until they are done speaking. Generally, that means a
minimum of two hours. On Monday of this week when I was the busiest
with my daughter's funeral arrangements, I took six of those calls,
and then an hour with someone who is planning an upcoming radio
6) MNSNAP members have appeared on television and radio to discuss
the issues of sexual abuse.
7) MNSNAP has been working on meeting with Archbishop Harry Flynn,
and though unsuccessful to date, will continue to approach his office
in the hope of beginning a collaborative dialogue between church
officials and those who have been hurt.
8) MNSNAP, like its affiliate chapters around the United States,
is focused on self-help and healing and will continue to do so.
For the next few moments, I would like to present what I call our
local Litany of Abuse. Keep I mind that what you will hear is only
a sampling of the phone calls I have fielded as the survivor liaison
and only a glimpse at what has occurred in this state.
Litany of Abuse
1) We have girls who have been abused by nuns.
2) We have men who were abused by nuns.
3) We have adult males who were abused in the seminaries (including
our St. Paul Seminary)
4) We have young children who were molested and/or abused in their
5) We have youth who were abused on church sponsored camping trips.
6) We have victims who were impregnated by their perpetrator priests.
7) We have babies born and babies lost and devious plots to try
to cover them up.
8) We have blind children who were abused in church run boarding
9) We have victims who contracted sexually transmitted diseases
from their perpetrator priests.
10) We have confirmed victims of suicide as a result of their sexual
abuse by clergy.
11) The Boys of Hector
12) The Women of the St. Paul Catholic Youth Center
13) The Children of Villa Maria Boarding School run by the Ursalines.
14) St. James and Shattuck in Faribault
15) Cretin High School
16) St. John's University
17) James Porter
18) Robert Kapoun (the Polka Padre)
19) Michael Kolar
20) Donald Rieder (recently sentenced)
21) Robert Thurner
22) Lee Krautkramer
23) Thomas Adamson
24) Gilbert Gustafson
25) Gilbert DeSutter
26) Gerald O'Keefe
27) William Wey
28) Visiting Missionaries
29) The Monks on Restriction at St. John's Abbey
30) John Busman
31) St. Cloud
36) Forest Lake
39) St. Paul
As you make your decision to form a VOTF chapter here in the Minneapolis/St.
Paul area, you might wonder how you can help survivors locally.
I have a rather lengthy list of suggestions which I will pass along
to your organizers, but I would like to highlight a few of them:
1) Go to snapnetwork.org and register so you can receive updates
that will help you with information regarding this very large issue.
2) Help us with you checkbook. Locally, we are having a fundraiser
and I have tickets to "Teddy Bear Appreciation Night at the
Saint Paul Saints." Or you can make a contribution that will
help us continue to expand our resource library for survivors, or
write a check that can be used to send some of our members to the
next national assembly to be held in Denver nest year.
3) Invite us to your microphones as you have so generously done
so this evening, and invite us to your pulpits. When we speak, we
heal. When we prepare our thought to share with others, we begin
to organize our healing.
4) Help us get SNAP meeting schedules and contact information in
all parish bulletins, on all church websites, in diocesan publications
and diocesan websites.
5) Rethink overnight requirements for youth activities in our parishes.
If you still find value in them, make absolutely certain there are
safeguards in place.
6) Accommodate survivors who wish to maintain their traditional
worship ties, but may struggle because a particular ritual is triggering.
Ask then how they can be made more comfortable. Anyone of you would
likely go out of their way to accommodate an alcoholic attending
a party in your home and would provide appropriate refreshments.
Please treat our members equally well when they attend our houses
7) If you want to discuss Article 5 of the Charter for the Protection
of Children and Young People, I have no problem with wanting to
restore the good name of someone who has been wrongly accused, but
please, please ask our hierarchy what they intend to do about restoring
the good names of all the victims who have brought them very credible
evidence, and have lost their good names in their homes, in their
families, in their communities and in their places of employment.
8) When you are looking for priests of integrity to support, judge
whether they have been as willing as survivors to put their reputations
on the line to speak out against evil. Ask them to know the histories
of their parishes and if a known abuser has served there, ask them
to visibly and actively seek out all who might have been hurt.
When I look out at this crowd of people before me this evening,
I see the concerned faces of people of faith. Hold on to that! But
most of all have hope!
We are not abandoned.
We are not alone.
That we can find the answers.
Everyday, when you pray,
We can heal the sorrows.
There is a Master plan.
That we can change tomorrows.
Everyday, when you pray,
Thank you for your kind attention this evening."
SEND E-MAIL TO: Belinda