It is a terrible burden to carry – the realization that someone you trusted violated other children. I know this because tonight I learned that a third person in my life is being investigated for “inappropriate contact via Facebook with minor children.”
The second person was a Catholic Priest in my home parish of Holy Spirit in West Mifflin. His name was John Wellinger. He was moved, retired from “ministry” and the diocese settled a lawsuit with one victim. There are strong allegations that he molested at least 3 other young men, causing so much psychic pain that one of those young men shot and almost killed an innocent party. He then killed himself.
I believe this to be true. I remember enough of the adult chit chat that it fits together now – the family who went from being the center of the church to outcasts after Dad confronted Wellinger over his criminal behavior. And I have a friend who told me his own experiences and the fact that he sent a letter to then Bishop Bevilaqua. So the notion that the adults of the parish didn’t know is simply ludicrous. They knew there were allegations and as with many adults, the sided with the priest.
The third person is Father Dan Valentine, currently of St. James Parish in Sewickley. The thing that hurts my heart is that Father Dan was sent to replace Wellinger in the mid-1990’s when he was finally removed. Father Dan was there until 2006 – twenty years of one parish possibly always under the thumb of pedophiles? I feel numb. I liked Father Dan – he was smart, engaging and a very good sermonist. He converted, baptised and confirmed my Father during Easter about 8 years ago.
There’s a third person in my life who was a child molester. He may have assaulted adult women so its unknown if he was a pedophile. This person is dead. But those scars don’t heal easily.
I was not victimized (Thank God) by any of these means. But there is some survivor’s guilt if you must. And the awareness that I was vulnerable – like prey – because adults turned a blind eye to the situation. When Ledcat told me about Father Dan, I literally could not breathe – how could my life have THREE men like this? Or is likely that most of us have three or more contacts who are pedophiles and child molesters and don’t know it?
There’s a distant acquaintance we’ve seen interact with children in what we believe is inappropriate ways. We informed their parents about what we had observed and took away from those observations. It is my fervent prayer that we are dead wrong, but we are literally unable to do more than continue to observe and report.
I feel heartbroken tonight. Perhaps Father Dan will be exonerated but there seems to be no question that he was engaged in appropriate Facebook contact with a minor. That alone is sickening enough. One would simply expect a priest from a diocese rocked by allegations of cover-ups to know better than to use social media to chat with minors. So the question of judgment begins.
The irony of the church suing the President over birth control while yet another potential pedophile pops onto the radar is not lost on me. They think I cannot be trusted with my body.
They clearly cannot be trusted with anyone.