SNAP Supporter & Donor Profile: Self-Empowerment: Michael Roberts
This profile was written by Patrick Price, Fundraising and Development Manager of SNAP, to honor our courageous and dedicated supporters and donors.
For more than a decade, beginning at age 17, Michael Roberts was mentally and emotionally dominated and sexual abused by a Catholic priest, whom I will refer to as “Fr. Gregory.” Michael’s trauma began at his high school in his hometown in Massachusetts. At first, Michael viewed the priest as a charismatic and caring man, almost a second father, who invited him to outings, events, and his residence. Fr. Gregory seemed to be a compassionate man who in time integrated himself deeply into Michael’s family. His parents loved and trusted the priest whom they regularly invited to family dinners and vacations. Yet, inside this man who beamed with love lurked a dark shadow, one that would eventually engulf Michael.
One day, the teenager was invited to visit Fr. Gregory at his rectory to supposedly watch movies. Upon his arrival, he was asked to sit on a chair and close his eyes. Once the priest had Michael open his eyes, he noticed that the room they were in was illuminated only by candlelight. Music was playing and there was a bottle of wine and food on a nearby table. Michael was stunned, apprehensive and unsure of what was to happen. After several glasses of wine, Fr. Gregory told Michael that he sexually preferred men and found him very attractive. The priest went on to talk to the teen about his “needs” and told him whatever happens between them he would not tell his parents. Positioning himself behind Michael, Fr. Gregory began giving him a shoulder message. Suddenly, the priest’s hands traveled downward onto his chest and then lower. At that point, Michael was molested. Sadly, he was repeatedly abused over the days, months, and years that followed.
Being gay himself, Michael struggled with the ordeal and the notion that his sexuality was contrary to Catholic beliefs. He feared that if he said anything about how he was being treated by Fr. Gregory that the revelation would destroy his family and their reputation in the community. And so, he remained silent. When Michael was ready to go to college, he left the area, hoping to get away from Fr. Gregory, but the priest continued to hound him with daily telephone calls.
Finally, Michael angrily told the priest that he had destroyed his self-esteem, abused him, controlled him, and ruined much of his life, and that he was left to wonder why that was done to him. The priest responded with “Because you let me.” After slamming down the phone, Michael had suicidal thoughts, so he checked himself into the psychiatric department of a hospital, where he received the victim-centered therapy needed to empower and liberate himself from the priest’s grasp.
Eventually, Michael went to the Auxiliary Bishop to file a complaint about Fr. Gregory, but his allegations were “brushed under the rug” and nothing was done to sanction the priest. Seeking some form of justice, he then hired a lawyer, which eventually led to a secret settlement for a small amount for compensation, as well as a non-disclosure agreement, all under heavy pressure from the Church and its well-established legal team.
Michael just recently published Behind Sacred Walls, guided by his sense of being silenced by the Church and the fact that justice was never achieved, while a crime was protected and the truth never told. The book is a non-fictional account of what he experienced throughout the emotional, mental, and sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of Fr. Gregory. Knowing that he is not alone in his ordeal of clergy sexual abuse, and admiring the work SNAP does for survivors and their families, Michael will be contributing 20% of his book sales to SNAP.