the wrong man for the job
By Diogenes ( articles ) | Sep 07, 2005
Back in June 2002, at the Dallas bishops' meeting, abuse victim Michael Bland delivered an "impact statement" to the assembly. Molested as a youth by a Servite priest, he entered the Servites himself, got ordained, eventually denounced his abuser and left the order and the priesthood. Following are some excerpts from his statement:
Perhaps my priest perpetrator suffered from adolescent arrestment, narcissism, arrogance, sexual identity issues, depression or simply an ongoing lapse of judgement. The reality remains; he was an adult, a priest, and I was a minor. He sexually abused me. To the perpetrating priest's credit at least he admitted to sexually abusing me. ...
I remember him doing things to me that had never been done to me before. I did not know what to call it. He told me it was ok, it was part of growing up, it was normal. This left me confused questioning in my own mind how could this be? How could we do this? Does he think about it when he is saying mass? I wondered if he told anyone. I was confused. I was afraid. At the time, I told no one, but then again, I did not know how to talk about it or what to say. ...
After sending a letter to the perpetrator's superior, I was asked to come to Rome to meet with his superiors. I was told not to tell anyone of my "weekend trip" not family, friends, or the priests I lived with. I obeyed their request. After this meeting in Rome, I felt alone and isolated. ... Shortly after returning I was requested to meet with their attorney and answer some questions. I was also asked to partake in a reconciliation process with my perpetrator since we were both priests. I could not meet either of their requests. With the help of my therapist, I began thinking about myself and put my psychological, emotional, and spiritual well being first.
The perpetrator was Fr. John M. Huels, OSM, a prominent canonist, liturgist, and gay-rights activist, with plenty of damage to his credit in all three fields.
An August 7, 2002, article in the Washington Post by Alan Cooperman quotes a statement from the Archbishop of Ottawa, Marcel Gervais, saying that Huels had "announced his intention to leave the Servite order and seek laicization." I can't find a later indication as to whether the defrocking took place or not. Canada is not bound by the U.S. bishops' child protection charter, and Huels may have found some wiggle room. Layman or cleric, however, he'll be leading a seminar two weeks from now at the convention of the Canadian Canon Law Society.
A perceptive friend informs me that the book Empowerment for Ministry, written by the same John Huels, was on the recommended reading list for permanent deacons in the Washington, DC archdiocese last summer-- 2 years after the Dallas charter went into effect.
The Dallas norms do not require us to burn all books by priests who admit to sexual abuse. But should we be recommending those men as mentors?
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