A Roman Catholic priest who was himself abused by a priest when he was a teenager has some advice for other victims: Talk, and keep talking until someone listens.
The Rev. Gary Hayes, who serves in a parish in Kentucky, said he was a high school freshman in New Jersey when he was sexually assaulted, again and again, by priests. He said the bishop did nothing after he reported it.
Hayes addressed about 150 people Wednesday night at the Woodfords Congregational Church in a lecture sponsored by Voice of the Faithful, a group formed to address sexual abuse by priests and work for changes in the church.
Abuse, he said, happens too often in our church. Too, too often. It has got to stop. You, you have got to do something. I am so glad that you are here tonight. There are kids out there like me that need your help.
Hayes is known nationally for being outspoken on the abuse issue. His bishop in Kentucky, he said, supports him.
But Mike Sweatt and Paul Kendrick, who are members of Voice of the Faithful in Maine, said Bishop Joseph Gerry of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland has rejected offers to work with them.
During his address, Hayes told of his religious upbringing in a devout family, told of always wanting to be a priest, told of the new priest who gave him alcohol and ultimately molested and threatened him.
He described, too, the failure of the church when he told the bishop in his hometown what had happened to him. Officials acknowledged to him that they knew the priest had been abusing children.
The bishop did not remove the priest, who abused more and eventually died in prison, after a 12-year-old boy told his parents of the abuse.
Others told Hayes to get over it.
â€œI donâ€™t have violent tendencies, he said, but when someone tells me to just get over it, I have to pray real hard. How do you get over this?