For thousands of people, the memories came flooding back five yearsago when John Geoghan, a defrocked Boston priest, was accused of serialchild molestation. Geoghan's trial - he was convictedand imprisoned - shed light on one of the worst scandals in the historyof the Catholic Church. It also freed many victims of clergy sexualabuse from the bonds of silence.Today, the victims of clergy sexual abuse call themselves survivors. Among them are Chris McCafferty of St. Petersburg and Diane McKenzie ofPalm Harbor. He still embraces the church. She wants to but does notyet feel she can.
Chris McCafferty, 34
The priest's photograph in a newspaper brought it all back.
Therewas Robert Schaeufele denying accusations that he had abused youngboys. Chris McCafferty knew better. He had known Schaeufele when he wasa priest at Sacred Heart Church in Pinellas Park in the mid 1980s.
Hiswife noticed first. He was acting strangely, increasingly prone tonightmares that always had the same villain. He thought Father Bob wascoming to get him.
It had been years since Schaeufele abusedMcCafferty in the church's rectory. McCafferty hung out with the altarboys. The priest treated them to pizza, bowling and ice skating beforetaking them back to the rectory and molesting them.
McCafferty'sabuse began when he was 11. He struggles to recall when it ended. Hesays he spoke up to save other children from the same fate. He was apart of the case in 2003 that ultimately resulted in a 30-year prisonsentence for the former priest.
"At least a lot of these peopleare behind bars now," McCafferty said. "Imagine if these victims didn'tcome forward. How many other children would be hurt right now?"
McCaffertysays he lives with the scars of his abuse every day. Televisionprograms that depict violence against children set him off. So doDateline NBC programs about Internet predators and hints of abuse ofcongressional pages in Washington, D.C.
He tried to lobby theFlorida Legislature to open the statute of limitations on old cases,making way for investigations and lawsuits. But he left the building intears in mid testimony.
He suspects he will never get over his abuse, but he aims to put it behind him.
Sometimes,when he takes his daughter to Catholic School or slips into a pew atchurch, he feels the stares of fellow believers. The resentment ispalpable, he says. He's the guy that took the dirty laundry public.
ButMcCafferty has no regrets. He loves his church, his bishop and hisfaith. The actions of one bad priest haven't ruined his religion.
"At least I know I made change," he said. "It may not be enough, but it's a start."
Diane McKenzie, 55
Diane McKenzie wants her faith back. It hangs in the balance between broken promises and battered trust.
Forfive years, she has lobbied the Diocese of St. Petersburg to include aclergy abuse survivor on its Review Board, a body of lay people whohear sexual abuse claims and make recommendations to Bishop Robert N.Lynch.
Despite promises by Lynch to see that the board includes aclergy abuse survivor - McKenzie has the letters to prove it - the11-member body still does not have one. It's an omission McKenziecannot bear.
"For me, this is the litmus test," she says. "Ifthere's a survivor on this board, I will feel like I've come fullcircle, that we're all working together and that victims are viewed aspart of the healing process in the church and not part of the problem."
Reviewboard chairwoman Sue Brett says the board does include a victim ofsexual abuse and is open to adding a clergy abuse survivor. But theyneed the right person and plan to move at a speed and in a directionguided by the Holy Spirit, she said.
"None of this is going tohappen overnight," Brett said of the board, which operatesindependently of the bishop, though the diocesan attorney attends mostmeetings. "We have to allow the spirit to help us in finding what weneed in order to be as pastoral and as open as possible."
McKenzie'ssexual abuse dates back to the 1960s. She came forward seven years ago,two years before Boston and the deluge of victims.
She hadrepressed the memories for 34 years. After her son's wedding in 2000,the flashbacks started. There she was, serving as a junior sacristan atSt. Patrick's Catholic Church in Largo.
A Spanish priest, EmilioGarcia, began molesting McKenzie at 14. Two weeks after her 16thbirthday, Garcia invited her to the rectory to pick up a birthdaypresent. The secretary was out. Garcia advanced, raping her as sheturned her face toward the crucifix on the wall.
When McKenzieconfronted him more than 30 years later, Garcia admitted his abuse andwas removed from his post in the Diocese of Orlando and sent back toSpain.
Determined to heal and hold onto her religion, McKenzieremained faithful to church, sought therapy and attendeddiocese-sponsored support groups to understand clergy sexual abuse. Shepraises the church for the steps it has taken to help victims andchildren.
But she feels her diocese fails her and other victimsby not including the voice of someone who has suffered sexual abuse atthe hands of clergy on its review board.
She doubts she can go back to church until they do.
"Forthose of us who were hurt, the main thing they owe us in the future isto make sure that every possible, conceivable thing can be done to nothave this repeated," McKenzie said. "And one step in that direction isto have someone on that board."
Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Sherri Day can be reached at (813) 226-3405 or email@example.com.
Are you a survivor?
Since the clergy abuse scandal broke five years ago, thousands of victims have come forward to name their abusers and seek help.
- Therapists and academics suspect many survivors remain unknown.
-In the Diocese of St. Petersburg, victims may contact Marti Zeitz, thediocese's victim assistance minister, toll-free at 1-866-407-4505 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
-Victims may also contact the bay area chapter of the Survivors Networkof those Abused by Priests. Reach group leader Martha Jean Lorenzo at(813) 879-6290.