It wasn’t long into my study of the sex abuse crisis in the Church that I realized that many or even most bishops customarily respond to a report about abuse 1) by feeling sorry for themselves that they have another mess on their hands; 2) by feeling sorry for the priest whose priesthood may be ruined; and 3) by trying to figure out how to get the victim to remain silent and go away. There is rarely, if ever, any true concern shown for the victim; sometimes counseling is offered but more often as a way to appease than to help the victim.
It can take decades for a victim even to begin to seek justice for the abuser. And most often it is done out of a concern to prevent the abuser from continuing to abuse. Victims long to put the abuse “behind them” (as much as that might be possible) and get on with their lives. They also need to face being triggered by reports of abuse similar to theirs and sometimes need to deal with reemergence in the news of their own case.
One such victim is Rachel Mastrogiacomo, who suffered devastating life consequences because of Satanic Ritual Sexual Abuse by former priest Jacob Bertrand of the diocese of San Diego. Bertrand ultimately confessed to abusing Mastrogiacomo and was convicted of ritual rape. The judge was very hesitant to consent to the “no jail time” agreement, but because Rachel became aware that some false narratives of the abuse would be introduced into trial she consented to extended probation for Bertrand. Bertrand’s admission of guilt became her priority.
Recently, Rachel learned that Bertrand, despite being a registered predatory offender, is a part of a Bible study in an evangelical church where he has contact with vulnerable individuals. That, of course, has terribly shaken her and has led her to consider what more she must do to protect the vulnerable. Clearly, the diocese of San Diego is not monitoring Bertrand for who knows what reason—indifference to abuse? Fear that Bertrand could expose more of the corruption in the diocese if he is reined in? I don’t know the reason, but can there be any good reason? Sadly, the least objectionable explanation would be neglect; but it would be criminal neglect.
What triggers Rachel now and provokes re-victimization is the promotion of Bishop McElroy from San Diego to the cardinalate, for he failed to act when she reported Bertrand to the diocese and is failing to protect the vulnerable from Bertrand.
Retelling Rachel’s full story would require a book. A rather full accounting of the abuse she experienced (although some of the most disturbing details are omitted) is available in an article on Crux. It is a must-read.
Here, I am interviewing Rachel about the absurdly difficult steps she needed to take to get some modicum of justice regarding her abuse, about the ongoing trauma she experiences from the mishandling of her case, and about the failure of the diocese to monitor convicted ex-priest Jacob Bertrand.
The story makes quite inexplicable the appointment of McElroy to the cardinalate for a Church that claims to care about victims….
The above comes from a much longer June 13 posting by moral theologian Janet Smith in Crisis magazine.