The former schoolboys and altar boys preyed on by a Roman Catholic priest told of shattered faith and unquiet minds as they faced him Monday, all grown up and still shaking over the priest’s admitted abuse of decades ago.
A man identified only as “John” glared at the now-defrocked Vincent McCaffrey, 50, as he took the witness stand in federal court.
“I want to physically hurt him just like he physically and mentally hurt me,” said John, 40, who works in finance in Florida. “I just want you to know that, dude.”
The five accusers told similar tales of McCaffrey using his guitar-playing charm and his role as a deacon and “very cool” priest to insinuate himself into families and ingratiate himself with their sons. Then he molested them, often during rectory sleepovers, they said.
McCaffrey has never been formally charged with child sex abuse. Prosecutor Markus Funk is using the testimony to persuade U.S. District Judge John Darrah to slap him with a maximum sentence on child porn charges after investigators found 4,200 computer images at his home.
McCaffrey is accused of molesting about 50 victims between 1976 and 1990 in at least four parishes in Chicago and the suburbs: Our Lady Help of Christians on the West Side, Our Lady of Loretto in Hometown, St. Victor’s in Calumet City and St. Joseph the Worker in Wheeling. McCaffrey contends he only molested 12 or 14 victims, though he has admitted abusing the five who testified in court Monday, said defense attorney Thomas Royce.
Witnesses said McCaffrey used subtle acts of mental and physical manipulation.
“I remember being in the hot tub after playing racquetball and him holding me down, me coming up for air spouting water, and that was his way of intimidating us,” John said.
Once, John said, he was chased by McCaffrey. “As I ran down alleys, he’s hitting garbage cans with his Pinto,” John said.
The abuse destroyed his faith, John said, adding he hasn’t christened his infant daughter because of his anger.
The young man who testified about the most instances of abuse–“way over 200 times” choked up as he testified. “My life has been destroyed,” said “Kevin,” 30, as his weeping father looked on. “There’s really no purpose to live. The only time I feel alive is when I’m angry.”
McCaffrey testified that he has been in therapy for alcoholism or sex addiction since 1980.
“I deeply regret my harm and my hurt to everyone. I promise you my prayers every day of my life for the rest of my life.”
Sentencing is set for Jan. 6.