First published in the New York Daily News
Bill Donohue, the highly-paid spokesman and alleged Catholic who spews venom every time he slithers out of the den of thieves, says the Child Victims Act “failed” to make it to the floor of the Assembly last week because it was “a sham” and an attempt to “rape” the church.
I say “alleged” Catholic because Donohue’s contempt for child sex victims has nothing whatsoever in common with the gospel of truth and justice preached by Pope Francis – or the teachings of Jesus. I trust you, the readers, to decide for yourselves whether Mr. Donohue’s blasphemy has reached new levels of demagoguery.
Let’s start with who really committed RAPE and who the real victims. As a former altar boy who awakened before daybreak to serve daily Mass and who takes immense pride in my Catholic education at Georgetown, I’d like to provide some needed moral instruction about rape. My rape began when I was a 10-year-old boy in Brooklyn and ended shortly before I turned 14. I can’t count how many times I was abused sexually over those four years – in classrooms, coat rooms, locker rooms, steam rooms, swimming pools, showers stalls. But I do remember feeling extremely frightened when Brother Romanus, the man who raped me, took me into a locked changing room at Washington Baths on the boardwalk at Coney Island. Not once, but many times.
I was afraid not just because of what I had experienced in the bathhouse, but because I had heard about an older boy from my school, Holy Name of Jesus, who had drowned at Coney Island while in Brother Romanus’ care. The boy had been 11 years old, just like me. I didn’t know all the specifics of the alleged “accident,” but what I did know terrified me into keeping silent. (Decades before gay rights, Washington Baths was not just a place where gay males could gather without fear of persecution; it was also a haven for prostitutes selling their services and pedophiles hiding their activities with children.)
Mr. Donohue, you go on to spin one of your favorite, shopworn lies: “If the statute of limitations were lifted on offenses involving the sexual abuse of minors … the big losers would be the poor. … When money is funneled from parishioners to lawyers, services to the needy suffer.”
We all know a cheap fear tactic when we see one. All of us who were victims are among those “big losers” and “the needy.” In fact, over the past few years as dioceses and religious orders across America have begun to assume their responsibility for evil acts perpetrated against children (and decades of cover-up), lapsed Catholics and those whose faith was shattered by those criminal revelations are slowly coming back. The brave leadership of Pope Francis is playing a key role as well. But unlike you, Mr. Donohue, the Pope has promised to right these wrongs of sex crimes against children. We take him at his word and will hold him to his promise.
Act with state legislators and Gov. Cuomo, I can tell you that your characterization of “failure” is false. Our movement to protect children from predators in all areas of life – schools, families, churches, synagogues, sports and entertainment – has only grown in numbers and strength. We will not stop until the civil and human rights of children in New York are protected, and justice has been realized.
It is also abhorrent, Mr. Donohue, that you smeared Assemblywoman Marge Markey as “the principal enemy of the Church.” Those of us who have worked closely with Markey over many years know her as a devout, deeply committed Catholic whose moral and political ethics are exemplary. When I was a college student at Georgetown, I served mass 4 to 5 nights a week for a renowned Jesuit priest and professor of theology. Markey would have been welcomed into our congregation with open arms. I hope parishioners across New York State will invite her to Mass and thank her for fighting corruption in high places.
Finally, Mr. Donohue, cut the crap of smearing the victims of heinous crimes and pretending to speak for all Catholics. No one I’ve met in this movement is trying to “stick it to Catholics.”
Instead, we’re trying to stop child sex predators wherever they are found. Tragically for New Yorkers, however, you are the one group that is fighting most vehemently to continue hiding your sordid secrets while robbing survivor-victims of justice.
In the end, Mr. Donohue, truth is what sets the world free. Not political spin. Not lies or fear tactics or all the phony ads money can buy. If you call our movement for child victims a “failure,” I promise you won’t have to wait very long to see what victory looks like. I learned long ago that after torture and crucifixion, resurrection comes. The Resurrection of Truth and Justice.
The truth is already here in our midst. We’re just waiting for you, the Cardinal, the bishops, and the legislators beholden to them to wake up and be blinded by the Light. Any day now.
Stephen Jimenez is a survivor of a serial sex abuse and an award-winning journalist and author. He can be reached at [email protected].