by David F. Pierre, Jr.
Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.
Immediately, the author tells us that the damage of the sexual abuse crisis is incalculable. No discussion related to the topic of Catholic sex abuse can begin without first acknowledging the profound harm wrecked upon victims by criminal priests, John Genoghan, Gilbert Gauthe, Rudy Kos, Ronald Paquin… they are the names of men who never should have been admitted into a seminary not to mention the priesthood. Sex abuse committed by priests were foremost ruinous to the souls of the poor victims. And the damage to the Catholic Church will continue to reverberate for years. In the mid-1980s, victims began to come forward publicly with excruciating stores of sex abuse committed by priests and there is little question that the large majority of these cases were indeed true. Facts are undeniable.
Many decades later, however, there is a new narrative to be told in the “Catholic Church sex abuse story.” They are not the reports of angering sex abuse by priests. Rather, they are countless stories of fraud. Whereas the Church’s riches were once offered as a form of restitution to those who were so wounded by clergy, this same money has now become an opportunity for fraudsters, flimflammers, and troubled individuals to score a monetary settlement. This is a bold statement, but the aim of this book is to demonstrate just this.
When a man came forward in 2019 to accuse Diocese of Charleston Bishop Robert Guglielmone of sexually abusing him “between 20 and 30 times from 1975 to 1979” the man openly admitted to a family member that he made the whole thing up in order to score some money. “It’s worth a try,” he said. Many others have come to believe that there is nothing to lose in making an abuse claim against a priest and suing the Catholic Church. “It’s worth a try,” Indeed!
On a Monday morning in 2013, two young men, both in their early twenties, walked into the sacristy of St. Michael Archangel Church in South Chicago after morning Mass. One of the men approached a weak 73 year-old-priest and demanded money. He poked the priest in the forehead with his finger and threatened him physically. He then accompanied his threat with an ominous warning: “We’ll say you touched us, read the paper, they’ll believe us.” Those young men knew exactly what they were talking about when they said, “They’ll believe us.” Their words are perfectly indicative of the mindset that has taken hold over the last three decades. No matter how outlandish the claim, no matter how incredible the accusation, the media will dutifully report nearly all claims as if they are unquestionably true. And this important truth has had tragic repercussions.
In the wake of the 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report that made headlines around the world, a newspaper reporter in Florida relayed the astounding claim of a 66-year-old Pennsylvania woman that a priest “began molesting her when she was 9 years old and the abuse continued until she was in her 40s.” It was a remarkable accusation, for sure, that she was abused for over three decades. But the priest’s attorney emailed the reporter to politely inform her that if the Pennsylvania woman’s abuse had indeed started when she was 9 years old, the priest himself would have been only 16 year old and still in his sophomore and junior years at a high school in Queens, New York. Like so many others, the accuser was clearly a troubled person. A dozen years earlier she had accused a priest of raping her at gunpoint tow different times years apart. She had also accused this same priest of “ritual abuse” over a period of seven years at a seminary. The reporter replied to the attorney saying that she would “update” her story. She never did. Today when readers search for that priest’s name on the Internet, they will continue to read of this woman’s absurd claim as if it were true. This is such a powerful book to read as the issue of ‘fake news’ is prevalent in this area as well as others. The damage done takes place on both sides of the issue. Take a moment today to pray for the holiness and devotion to Christ of all priests.