My name is Chris O'Leary and I'm a survivor of the Catholic sex abuse crisis.
(Published with permission from Chris O'Leary)
October 28, 2021
Yesterday, I happened to hear my Senator from Missouri, Josh Hawley, grill United States Attorney General Merrick Garland about the handling of a parent's protest, to a school board, regarding the alleged sexual assault of a female student in a school bathroom, the alleged cover-up of that attack, and the Attorney General and his department's publication of a memo regarding the handling of those protests and protestors.
As a parent, and survivor of sexual abuse and assault, myself, I couldn't help but sympathize with the concerns, and heartbreak, of both a parent and a child, put in such a situation.
But, as Senator Hawley went on, and on, a thought struck me, "Where was that passion and intensity when I went to, then Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley for help in September 2018? As a result of his launching an investigation of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. When I was completely ignored by the Senator and repeatedly put off and blown off by his staff. I can only assume in what was, ultimately, a cynical attempt by Senator Hawley to help the Archdiocese of St. Louis cover up the past sexual abuse of children, Timothy Cardinal Dolan's knowledge of that abuse, and the present abuse of the abused by the Archdiocese of St. Louis."
As a result, it was more than a bit ironic -- rich -- to hear Senator Hawley harangue the Attorney General of the United States for his alleged failure to monitor, supervise, and inform himself of the actions of his staff, given that I had an all too similar experience with the Senator, and his staff when he was Attorney General of the State of Missouri.
My name is Chris O'Leary and I'm a survivor of the Catholic sex abuse crisis. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, at the Church of the Immacolata in Richmond Heights, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, I was sexually exploited, abused, and assaulted -- raped -- by a Catholic priest named Fr. LeRoy Valentine, abuse that was witnessed, at least in part, by then-Father and now Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York.
In late August 2018, in the aftermath of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, then Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley launched an investigation of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the Archdiocese in which my sexual abuse occurred, the prospect of which gave me the one thing that fuels and sustains every survivor: Hope.
But it was a false hope.
I literally BEGGED Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, and his staff, to talk to me, multiple times, over and over again, and increasingly desperately, yet the Senator and his staff ignored my pleas and me.
In late August or early September 2018, I submitted my contact information, and a high-level description of what happened to me, to Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley through the web form his office created. I also told all the other survivors I knew to do the same. And I waited. And nothing happened. So I re-submitted my information. And waited. And nothing happened. So I re-re-submitted my information. And waited. And nothing happened.
At no point was I, or any of the other survivors I know, ever contacted by Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, or his team, to be interviewed for his investigation of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
That was a problem because, among other things, I have in my possession information and documents that would have let the Attorney General and his office know whether the Archdiocese of St. Louis was being straight with them, or not; whether they were disclosing everything they needed to. That was a particular concern because the Attorney General didn't seek subpoena power for his investigation.
But it seemed Attorney General Hawley and his team didn't care.
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley's investigation of the Archdiocese of St. Louis was a sham. A Fraud. A false hope. A cruel taunt, directed at survivors.
And, perhaps, reflective of a systemic problem.
The current Attorney General of Missouri, Eric Schmitt, who, I should mention, is one of the Republican candidates for Senate, took over the "investigation" of the Archdiocese of St. Louis from now Senator Hawley and did little better. Yes I talked to Schmitt's team, twice. After I forced them to talk to me by notifying them of possible violations of federal law. However, shortly after the second meeting, in late July 2019, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt abruptly wrapped up the investigation of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, I can only assume because, in the second meeting, I told his team things -- about the Attorney General's own Archdiocese and Catholic Church? -- they didn't want to hear.
As a final insult, rather than face me, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt had his team throw me out of the room, and the building, in which the press conference announcing the results of the "investigation" of the Archdiocese of St. Louis was held and in which I was standing silently, in a corner, hoping to hear something that would give me hope. An action a videographer from local station KMOV filmed in its entirety.
As a fairly conservative person, I often vote Republican. However, as a survivor -- much less of the Catholic sex abuse crisis -- I cannot countenance the actions of Republicans like Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, or Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who would have voters believe they are friends of survivors. Who, when the cameras are rolling, are bulldogs locked on to the Truth, but who, when the cameras are off, when pressed, and behind the scenes, refuse to help survivors.
Emboldened, I can only assume, by the knowledge of the past actions and sexual misconduct of, or out of a desire to enable, former President Trump?
Regardless, it's well past time that politicians in general, and Republicans in particular, start taking seriously the CRIMES of sexual exploitation, abuse, and assault. Crimes I would hope the recent, excruciating, and incredibly courageous and compelling witness of the women and survivors of U.S.A. Gymnastics made all too salient.
As for Senator Hawley, in my Missouri, we have a saying. One that reflects a hard-won understanding that talk is cheap. One I've used previously and fearlessly, emboldened by Jesus Christ, with Pope Francis himself regarding the Catholic sex abuse crisis, and the Pope's failed response to survivors. One Senator Hawley's actions of yesterday brought to mind. Once again.
Show me, the people of Missouri, and the people of these United States that you get it, Senator Hawley. Actually. Finally. That you understand that the exploitation of survivors for political purposes and gain, as you did yesterday, and as you did while Attorney General of Missouri in 2018, is unconscionable and unacceptable.
Do the honorable thing.
I call on you to resign, Senator Hawley.
St. Louis, MO
ACCOMPANYING VIDEO STATEMENT (VIA FACEBOOK)
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