Pope Benedict left in his last writings, a request to be forgiven by all people he had harmed. His papacy was marked by numerous sexual abuse scandals of various cover-ups of priests who had molested vulnerable people. I know a few of those people whose lives were impacted by the church’s habitual pattern of merely transferring predatory priests to another parish. One of them was a high school boyfriend, whose life was devastated by Father Kelly from the small Catholic church on Santa Barbara’s Eastside. Unfortunately, my former boyfriend died a few years ago from the resulting disease of alcoholism, as he was groomed via alcohol provided by the pedophilic Father Kelly.
I recently ran across the September 6, 2007, Independent wherein my friend, in his usual strong-spirited demeanor, denied that his sexual abuse by Father Kelly was the sole reason for his troubles in life. I would like to present an educated, paraprofessional opinion based on my own very personal experience with him. He was always the first guy to jump into a fist fight as his underlying rage was usually exacerbated by the usual consumption of alcohol and our teenage social life. All of his friends knew that they could depend on him to “have their back” if any trouble came up from out-of-town lowriders as he drove a sleek tan-colored Impala that rode low and slow along the Eastside of Santa Barbara back in the days.
I worked in the jail as a drug and alcohol counselor, and that’s where I heard another victim of Father Kelly try to make light of his molestation by the priest. He had been in and out of jail and prison almost his entire life due to severe drug addiction, which is a very common reaction to survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
Just like so many other survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I too became a drug addict. Many people wonder how a girl from such a “good family” ended up in trouble due to drugs. My custodial parent threatened me essentially, screaming, “I could lose my job because of you!” I told them that other workers had kids who did drugs, hoping they would open the door to speak about the sexual molestation by their close relationship, but they just glared at me. I knew that I would end up in foster care if that parent had no job, as the other parent did not even like me. Drugs worked to numb out the horrendous betrayal, shame, and emotional pain for many years.
When my former boyfriend’s repressed memories of his sexual abuse erupted after seeing Father Kelly’s photo in a story on the TV news, he called me late one night as he knew he could trust me not to be judgmental of him. Another old friend had already gotten sober and had started the judicial case against the diocese going and that was what he had seen on the local news.
Oh, how I wish that he could have gotten sober, too, because he was such a big-hearted person with a hearty laugh who was a loyal husband to his wife, and a best friend to me and others. Our mutual friend is enjoying fatherhood to twins these days, yet his quote from that ’07 article tells the entire story as he pointed to his head: “It’s all still here.”
Pope Benedict now has to answer to his heavenly Father for whomever he did harm in this lifetime. I wish he had done more to protect vulnerable people during his reign.