The recent revelation of Cardinal McCarrick’s removal from ministry due to the sexual abuse of a minor has stirred up many emotions for me. I dealt with Cardinal McCarrick personally regarding my abuse by an Archdiocesan priest, a priest Cardinal McCarrick promoted to serve by his side as his personal secretary, this long after I had already told an Archdiocesan bishop. Although I had heard rumors of the Cardinals penchant for young seminarians long after my meeting the revelation that he himself abused a minor has me wondering how many other known child molesting clergy has he protected?
I spent time reviewing the letters I had sent years ago to the Cardinal and other Church officials, the letters I received back from US Cardinals and the Papal Nuncio as well as the Vatican Secretary of State. I also spent time reading the many letters my abuser once wrote me. I have decided to again speak openly and candidly about the abuse I suffered and how my Church responded, actually failed to respond to the serious allegations of abuse my younger brother and I endured.
I do not at all relish speaking out about my personal life but I also know that as long as victims remain silent, institutions, such as our church, will not change. It is not my intent to tear down an institution or to drive believers from one’s faith. On the contrary, my hope is that we will have a safer, healthier church as well as educating the faithful about the true impact of sexual abuse of a child. We must stop blaming the victims while defending the predators. Only when we learn to speak openly with all transparency about sexual abuse, will others learn and understand the full impact such crimes have upon our society.
In most cases, we are not simply talking about a cleric with straying hands during a moment of weakness. Such predators are for more cunning and calculating. They will groom the victim and his/her family until he has ingratiated himself into the very fabric of the lives. Sometimes they will work at grooming for many months or even years, whatever it takes. So, to that end I am recounting just some of what my life was like as I tried to navigate my high school years, while dealing with a man I once admired and trusted. At first, his fatherly interest and attention to my own educational development clearly appeared healthy and welcome. That is until he introduced his need for sexual gratification, creating a great deal of confusion, mistrust, shame, guilt, lack of self-esteem and a desire for isolation, as would be the case for any child victim so groomed. It was a dramatic change in my normal outgoing personality which should have been a signal to other adults, something was amiss.
First, I would like to address some of the many comments I have read about why this problem exists in the priesthood. Some claim it is due to clergy with liberal leaning ethics, clergy who are more progressive or supporters of Vatican II vs the more conservative/orthodox clergy. Many squarely blame homosexual priests (of which there are many) in the priesthood. No, the sexual abuse of a child is about manipulation, power and control. Clericalism, the cast of clergy who believe they are “above reproach”. Those clergy who act as if they are here to be served by others, not to serve. I have come to know of many ultra-orthodox, conservative, squarely right leaning and liberal, far left clergymen who have abused children. Liberal vs conservative is not the issue or the cause.
Further, for those who simply believe that this crisis is strictly due to gay clergy, I again disagree. Certainly, in most cases, such abuse is a homosexual act but that doesn’t mean every gay man has a desire for sex with children. Not every gay cleric actively engaging in relationships with other male adults are molesting young children. If that were the case, then the Church indeed has much to fear for the number of gay clergy are far greater than anyone would suspect. To a much lesser degree there are those clerics who abused both boys and girls, and those who abused just girls. Those who are abusing children certainly have a stunted maturity, one in which the need to exude power over another, the introduction of sex to a child (post pubescent) clearly gives the offender, for at least some time, the power and control they so desperately seek.
We constantly hear these men aren’t pedophiles as the majority of victims are post pubescent. True, but one should not get caught up in this “red Herring”. Pedophile (an abuser attracted to pre-pubescent children) vs Ephebophile, (a predator attracted to post-pubescent children) both are minors, both have been exploited and used and in fact it takes a much more skilled predator (the grooming process) to introduce sex with a young teenage boy or girl as it would a pre-pubescent child. The harm done is significant and life long, life altering for either age group.
Lastly, I would like to point out that false accusations of sexual abuse are exceedingly rare, the John Jay Report the bishops themselves commissioned, found less than 2% of previous allegations from 1950 thru 2002 turned out to be false. That statistics lines up with the national findings of law enforcement, less then 2% of sexual abuse allegations against a minor turn out to be a false claim.
That said, this is a bit of my story:
I as well as my younger brother were sexually, abused by my parish priest Father Kenneth L. Martin of the Archdiocese of Newark, when I was about 13, but the grooming process began much earlier. I suspect my younger brother, was even younger when his abuse began.
I grew up in a large devout Catholic family who was very much involved in parish life, I aspired to become a priest from an early age and in fact spent two years in a college seminary program at a Salesian College, although I was part of the Franciscan Capuchin Fraternity that attended this college seminary program. What I experienced and witnessed in this seminary is another story, too much of the same.
My parish priest ingratiated himself into our family life beginning when I was in seventh grade. He spent many, many hours at my house several days a week. At first, he was like a father figure to me, directing my studies, giving me responsibilities and duties in the parish as well. He arranged a trip almost a year in advance to take me on a trip across the country on a train, we had bunk beds in a sleeper car, overnight he climbed into my bed and that’s when the sexual abuse began. I was confused as he explained I should relax as this is normal when two people love each other. He molested me almost daily during this trip and several times a week thereafter for the next 3 years. I began to withdraw and avoid spending time with him whenever possible. Staying after school getting involved in after school activities, he would not have it. That just made things worse. His physical violence at times was a means to control me as I tried to avoid his presence but he only became even more angry and controlling.
He gave me many gifts, the expensive designer brand clothes, jewelry, he took me on many trips, including a trip to Europe, (where in our Rome hotel he beat me because I took a bed in another room and didn’t plan to sleep with him, he got his way). On another occasion, angry at something I had said (not sure of who said it, my younger brother or I) I was too afraid to admit it was I, he took me and my younger brother to the basement where he stripped us of our clothing and beat our bare backsides with a belt buckle. He insisted I confess my sins to him, he always made me apologize for my actions, sitting in silence like a prisoner, he waited sometimes hours for my anger to subside until I would finally give in, apologize so he would let me leave. He constantly told me he could not go on living without me and I feared he would at some point take his own life and mine if I ever disclosed the abuse. On several occasions I absolutely feared for my life.
On just one such occasion, when I was 14, during the summer, my family traveled to Conneaut, Ohio to spend time with aunts, uncles and cousins on Lake Erie. I was thrilled at the thought of getting away from Father Martin, even if it was for just a few weeks. Well he decided he was coming along with us, I was very upset at even the thought. Once we arrived I immediately went off with cousins my age, we were gone for hours, running, fishing, swimming and having a great time.
When I returned to the house, my family was down on the beach below but not Father Martin, he was waiting for me, and in a fit of rage, dragged me into a van and drove off. Again, I was gone for hours. He was very upset that I was not spending time with him. He said he wanted to leave and drive home, we came upon a set of railroad tracks where trains often came through town, he stopped the van on those tracks, long enough to scare the hell out of me, but eventually he drove off and later stopped at a church, and insisted we go inside where we sat for quite some time, he waited and insisted I apologized to him. He pointed out a banner that hung above the altar which read “Things now hidden in darkness will be revealed in great light” I remember thinking how I only wished that were true. He insisted that was meant for me, and how I had to admit to him how badly I treat him at times, or my selfish lack of love. That, according to him is what I was hiding.
At 17 I left and moved away to attend a college seminary program with the Franciscan Capuchins.
What I experienced and witnessed in the seminary was more of the same, living with young men who were quite immature, petty and what I later came to understand as having a stunted psychosexual development, Certainly not all but way too many of my peers in the seminary particularly those who came to college from a high school seminary program. http://psychosexualhealth.blogspot.com/
After being away for only a few weeks Fr Martin, a diocesan priest, decided he was going to join the Franciscan Capuchin order, I was scared to death by this news and found out he had already begun the process.
I knew I had to speak out and decided to tell another priest who I knew to be Father Martins good friend from the seminary. Fr Bill Cramer. I was teaching CCD at his parish at that time and asked if we could talk one day. When I told him what Father Martin had done to me years earlier, Fr Bill turned white as a ghost and never spoke to me again. He avoided me at every turn. I later learned he himself had admitted to abusing 2 young brothers, had plead guilty, the Paterson Diocese said he voluntarily took a leave from ministry but Bishop Rodimer of Paterson allowed him to return to ministry as a hospital chaplain after he was “cleared” by a therapist.
My dad had been suffering from cancer. Father Martin was still close to my family at this time and spent many hours with my mom and dad as he was undergoing treatment for his cancer. When my dad passed away, it was my dad’s request that Father Martin be the main celebrant at his funeral. It was during my father’s funeral mass that he decided to openly chastise me during the homily for not ”loving” enough. I knew what that was about, just taking another jab at me for avoiding his presence.
In early 1983 after finishing my second year in the seminary (to which I never returned), I got up the nerve to tell the auxiliary bishop Jerome Pechillo of Newark about my past abuse and hoped he would get help for Father Ken Martin so he couldn’t harm other children. He did not treat me kindly. The bishop chastised me for referring to him as “Father”, instead of His Excellency, reminding me he was a bishop. He then said I was speaking out because I read an account in the local newspaper about another priest accused of abusing young boys, I knew nothing of what he was talking about at that time. He then said I was angry because my dad had recently died.
He sent me to the Newark Vicar of priests (Father Frank McNulty) to tell him everything, he explained he was a psychotherapist, he was not. The priest who had abused me by now had moved on to my younger brother. They never removed him from our parish, that is, not until Archbishop McCarrick became the Archbishop of Newark and promoted him to serve as his personal secretary, that’s right he was promoted.
After trying to go on with my life and forget about all that had happened, some years later my younger brother began to disclose his abuse (1996), my family, wanted answers, they didn’t know that I too was abused. I was married by this time with the first of my 3 children. Having been in the seminary and acquainted with many clergy, my family pressed me to reach out. They still had no idea (at least none I was aware of, but they may have had their own suspicions) that I too was abused.
I met with several priests including the new Vicar of Newark Paul Bootkoski, he was compassionate at the time and promised to arrange a meeting with Archbishop McCarrick, needless to say almost a year later and no meeting. I had made repeated requests which fell on deaf ears. Archdiocesan lawyers said they had immunity by virtue of the Charitable Immunity laws and the Statute of Limitations in NJ. They repeatedly requested a confidentiality agreement which made me very angry.
I then sent a certified letter to our Archbishop explaining how I am sickened by the total lack of a pastoral response and demanded a meeting indicating that if he failed to meet with me I would have no choice but to take my case to the press. He called me shortly after receiving my letter to arrange a meeting.
I met with then Archbishop McCarrick and the new Bishop elect of the Metuchen Diocese Paul Bootkoski (he was McCarrick’s Vicar of Priests in Newark). The Archbishop told me he had never met with a clergy abuse victim before and that I helped him understand the suffering such abuse causes. I asked to be allowed to speak with other priests and seminarians to tell my story and the harm which is done when children are sexually abused. He said that would be arranged and the Bishop would reach out to me. I also explained my anger at repeatedly being asked for confidentiality, I would be no different than Judas excepting pieces of silver had I chosen to be silent. This I promised would never happen. He promised this man would not have access to children. It wasn’t long at all before I realized none of this was true, not a single promise kept. A week after our meeting I was again asked for confidentiality. Not long after I saw the Archbishop along with Father Martin surrounded by children at a local hospital pictured in the Diocesan paper. The Archbishop and the Archdiocese never reported him to police until after McCarrick left for Washington a few years later.
In my frustration and knowing I had AGAIN been ignored and misled I wrote every US Cardinal and the Vatican Secretary of State (in 1998) about these incidents and the fact that Archbishop McCarrick had promoted a known offender well after I had already informed the Archdiocese. Several Cardinals responded including Cardinals Law, Mahoney, Cook, Stafford and the Vatican so, THEY KNEW.
My abuser, Father Kenneth Martin after a review of Diocesan files mandated by the NJ Attorney General in 2002, was simply allowed to retire and is still a priest today. His ministry has been restricted. I was never informed of any of this, I learned that from a news report many years later. After leaving the priesthood in 2002, He was hired by the State of New Jersey and works for NJ transit and lives in a NJ shore town as a priest and a free man.
I then tried to find out if Fr Martin had ever been reported to law enforcement if indeed the Archdiocese was required to produce documents of all credible allegations of child abuse by clergy in the Archdiocese of Newark. I was told by a county sex crimes investigator, they were aware of my abuse, but the file had been lost, they only had a cover page which, in just a few lines summarized the extent of abuse Fr Martin perpetrated upon my brother and me. Not surprisingly the extent of abuse we endured was totally inaccurate and minimized, the frequency of the abuse, where it took place and how often was greatly understated.
Survivor, Advocate, NJ State Director of SNAP.
If you wish to see a listing of publicly accused clergy go to:
you can search by the clerics name (this database includes priests, deacons and nuns), diocese or state. It also has legal documents and records released by official state and government investigations as well as the John Jay reports commissioned by US Bishops on the extent, cause and context of child abuse by clergy.
Another website you may find helpful is Abuse Tracker, this is the largest archive of articles and information on clergy abuse worldwide, it is updated daily with new stories which are published throughout the world.
If you are the victim of clergy abuse or you know someone who is, you may want to visit the SNAP Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests where there is a wealth of information regarding this topic and information on where to go for support. http://www.snapnetwork.org/
If looking for resources for men or male sexual victimization, please be sure to visit: www.Malesurvivor.org Extensive listing of information, for example…how to choose a therapist, a large listing of books on sexual abuse and other resources. www.MaleSurvivor.org
Mark has been assisting survivors of sexual abuse since 1987, at first just listening and sharing with other survivors, so they would know they were not alone. In 1996 he was elected as an officer and member of the Board of Directors of MaleSurvivor.org. He has advocated for changes in state laws and successfully spear headed the elimination of Charitable Immunity Protections in New Jersey for institutions that failed to protect children from sexual predators. In October 2010 Mark was one of 29 National Experts (1 of only 5 men) invited to the White House for a 2 day round table discussion on sexual violence in America. Although several national changes were adopted from this collaboration, he is particularly proud of the role he played in the governments revision of the definition of rape to include offenses committed against boys and men. Just days later Mark was guest on the award-winning Oprah Winfrey Show, two-part series entitled “200 Men Abused as Children”. Mark travels the country speaking at colleges and Universities about sexual victimization. He has been invited to speak at Princeton, Columbia, Fordham, Rutgers, Delaware, Widener, Penn State, Syracuse, UCLA and Frazier Universities as well as many others.
Mark has appeared on NJN television’s Award Winning TV show “Due Process” regarding his successful efforts to repeal Charitable Immunity protections. He was an invited guest speaker on the Capitol Report with Steve Adabato and many radio talk shows discussing clergy sexual abuse. He has written various columns and Op-Eds as a guest writer for several publications and has participated in several films created specifically to educate law enforcement and justices regarding the proper handling of sexual abuse victims when they first disclose. He is also 1 of 3 men featured in our documentary “Boys and Men Healing”…..(add what you would like to say about the film here)
Mark has been recognized for his commitment to and work with sexual abuse survivors:
• November 2011 Honored by the Bergen County Rape Crisis Center for Outstanding Advocacy and Lifelong commitment to survivors
• December 2011 Honored by a joint legislative Resolution of the NJ State Senate and General Assembly for “compassionate efforts, meritorious service, leadership and commitment to assisting victims of sexual abuse and violence
• 2012 Recipient of the NJ CAP, Child Abuse Prevention Award
• Recognized by NJ Senator Menendez for his advocacy and assistance to victims of sexual abuse
• In 2016, recognized by the NJ State Attorney General awarded the first ever President Ronald Regan Award for his service to crime victims and advocacy on behalf of those survivors
Mark is happily married to his wife Geralyn and live in NJ with his three children.