Here is Ron's powerful statement from the press conference on November 5th.
Thank you Jeff and Staff, Elin, Mike, Tim and the many unseen who work so hard for survivors.
Most people who know me know I am not afraid to speak the truth even when they don’t wish to hear it but need it. What I am going to share about my experience as a survivor of a priest’s sex abuse will be just that, truth. I am going to talk about the human effects of sexual abuse.
When I was abused by Fr. Grundhaus in Columbus Ohio, I did not know about homosexuality or the culture that exists within it. As a farm boy, I had not been exposed to anything like that. Not understanding what had happened to me affected me for the rest of my life. My understanding of fatherhood was shattered, a father figure in my life violated my innocence. I was suffering from a now, disordered believe that it was my shame for what happened. I could not talk about it. I have found through this ordeal that this is very common, silence. The average time for sexual abuse victims to report is between 15-25 years. Mine was nearly 40.
Now that I have come forward with what happened to me, I have been able to process events and behaviors in my life. After I was abused, my relationship with my father, which was somewhat strained, now became very confrontational. We could not get along. I didn’t hate him, but I didn’t love him as I should have. It affected our whole family, especially my mom who had to referee many times. It got much worse after my brother got killed in a tractor accident. After that accident Fr. Grundhaus became even more ingrained in our family. I still was not able to say anything to my parents. I started to drink alcohol in excess as a youth and this continued for many years, it almost cost me my marriage. I had disordered sexual experiences and abused myself. My self-esteem of who I was as a person, and my sexuality had been crushed although I did not know that at that time. I could not change my own children’s diapers. I always had this feeling I might enjoy touching their genitals- and was afraid I might abuse them. Not understanding the effects of my abuse prevented me from being the father I should have been.
Thank God I was able to reconcile with my father later in our lives. After we had both attended Teens Encounter Christ, TEC, retreats and came to understand God’s love for us as persons, we were able for the first time say I love you to each other. My wife and I continued to be involved in the TEC program for over 25 years. I know it saved our marriage as I was able to process some of the demons in my life although I still kept the abuse secret. I’m convinced God was preparing us as a couple to be able to stand together through this ordeal.
After the first press conference two and a half years ago, we received many cards and letters from people all over the country and from some foreign countries. Many of them expressed support and prayers for us, and I thank all of you. Many of the cards though had very personal letters with them telling me about abuse they had suffered at the hands of priests, fathers, brothers, boy scout leaders and others. These people had been scarred like I had been from the effects of sexual abuse. People would call me and tell me their story. As I would encounter people I would hear about abuse in their lives and how it affected them, it was never good. Many thanked me for bringing my abuse to a public platform as it gave them courage to start to deal with their own abuse, there was one thing all of them had to say. It affected them in profound ways and changed their lives, they had all been violated. They felt they had no voice. What was most distressing was the abusers had not been held accountable.
It didn’t take long for people who had been abused by a priest to come up to me and tell me their story. They were almost all the same. They were groomed by the priest, most of them were altar boys and the priest had become friends with the family. The survivors could not speak about the abuse till many years later, many times not till their parents were dead, like myself. Many were not believed by the diocese. I heard of parents who had reported the abuse to the Diocese only to be sent letters saying the matter is closed. When allegations were brought to the Chancery office- nothing happened. The priest was moved to another parish. In some cases, the priest was moved to another Diocese where they continued to abuse. Fr. Porter became famous in the Boston Diocese. The movie Spotlight used him as one of the examples in the movie. Fr. Robert Bester who was moved around the Diocese many times by Bishop Balke was moved to Alaska where he was caught on tape, demanding sex from a contractor looking for work. These guys were protected by those in charge. The abuse was covered up.
I had suffered abuse not knowing what I know now. As many of you know, the news of Cardinal McCarrick’s sexual abuse of seminarians and the subsequent cover up of homosexual activity by priests is causing many in the church shock. The faithful are having a hard time understanding what is going on. I don’t blame them, the dark secret and coverup of homosexual behavior has been under the radar for many years. Finally, the darkness of sin is being exposed. I lived with it for 48 years.
Almost all priest sexual abuse is committed by predator homosexuals. There are some cases of heterosexual abuse, but they are rare. What I have learned through all this is I was a victim of homosexual behavior. As I heard people tell me their stories and now what has been unfolded in international news is sad for the church. Many have left the church due to this criminal and sinful behavior and cover up. To the priests who have caused this. Shame on you.
I read a book a good friend gave me called “Goodbye Good Men” by Michael Rose. This book was published about the time the first sexual abuse scandal was being addressed in 2002. In the book, he explains what had happened to the seminaries. Since the 50’ a homosexual subculture had entered the seminaries and many of the rectors, spiritual directors and councilors, practiced and encouraged this behavior and expected it. Many of the applicants who applied to the seminary were not allowed in if they did not espouse that behavior. Many men that did get in the seminary and were later found out to not agree with the behavior were kicked out. Many who realized what was going on and who were pressured to conform, left. The ones who accepted this behavior and participated in it are now bishops and cardinals. The bishops knew what was going on and did nothing, many promoted this culture and sent these young men in harm’s way including in the Crookston Diocese. One of the seminaries mentioned in the book was Crosier Seminary in Onamia, MN. Both Msgrs. Grundhaus and Foltz attended this seminary. Another seminary mentioned was Mundelein where several Crookston priests were sent. Some good men survived these seminaries by finding a good priest and keeping a low profile. These are our faithful leaders now.
As you can see the priesthood was corrupted by sin. When is the last time you have heard of sexual sin from the pulpit? Its hard to speak about sin when you are living in it. Celibacy is promised at ordination. In any state of life, chastity is needed to keep one’s vocation holy. Married life requires chastity within the marriage, priesthood requires chastity within the vocation to remain holy. In either case, when one is unfaithful in chastity, the vocation suffers. In the case of the Church, the Church has suffered greatly as a result of lack of chastity to the detriment of the faithful. Homosexual predators have been allowed to be ordained and then when caught in abuse -it gets covered up. This is happening on a local, national and international level. It must end. All of you priests, bishops and cardinals who have forgotten your sacred vows and have allowed this behavior to continue, shame on you. Your actions have caused untold suffering to the survivors and the Church.
This case of my abuse is no different than anything in the national news- except it is close to home, happening right now in real time and involves people I know. I am a survivor. I spoke to many people who have had friends and family members who have been abused and suffered suicide. These were not survivors. Those of you who abused these people, shame on you. The callousness and the arrogance of those who receive reports and cover them up, force victims into silence and do nothing is disgraceful.
Bishop Heoppner and Vicar General Michael Foltz neglected their sacred duties as those in charge of sexual abuse. They neglected to carry out the rules set up by the Diocese and the USCCB. Instead they went back to the old playbook used before.
My wife was on the Diocesan pilgrimage to Denver to see Pope John Paul II. Fr. Foltz, Fr. Grundhaus and Fr. Larry Delany were the spiritual directors on the trip. While on that trip a young lady, a minor, reported inappropriate sexual behavior towards her by one of the adult male chaperones. The solution was making her, the victim, recant the allegation in front the group, thus solving the problem. When Msgr. Foltz learned of my abuse, what was done? Bishop Heoppner called me to his residence, hands me a paper he states was written Msgr. Foltz, and coerced me to recant my allegation by threatening my son’s priesthood, problem solved. Well it wasn’t.
Our first press conference was over two and a half long grueling years ago. In that press conference we stated we wanted to find and expose truth. I and many have stood by that promise. In our mediation I had two non-negotiables. The safety of my son and the release of all protected order depositions. The reason I stood firm was because I had read the depositions and saw the blatant lies and the misuse of trust and power these men had perpetrated. As I read them, I was sickened, as I hope you will be, at the dishonesty of these men. The depositions will speak for themselves. These men will be caught in their own lies. Shame on you. You have betrayed our Lord. Bishop Hoeppner was caught in a lie by his own notes and words as you will see. Msgr. Foltz and Bishop Hoeppner neglected to do their sacred duties and claims many times “I don’t recall” when asked about their knowledge of the facts. “I don’t recall” is also a lie when you know the truth and lie under oath. It is also a crime to lie under oath.
Msgr. Grundhaus, I’m ashamed of you. Your blatant lies in your depositions would make your parents ashamed of you. You groomed yourself into my family and my parents thought of you as a son- not knowing what I was to ashamed to reveal to them, although my abuse was not my fault. You dishonored my parents trust. You dishonored your priesthood. You lied under oath. Your feeble excuse of your apology and your twisting the timeline is shameful. I pray for your soul. I pray for all the souls of the abusers and those who enable them and cover up for them. Some have asked why all the effort to cover up for Msgr. Grundhaus? The answer would be in his own words to me one time “I know where all the skeletons are buried.” Msgr. Grundhaus knows all the sins of many of the priests and must be protected.
This press conference is a beginning of an ending for many of the survivors. Although they have received some reparation for the harm done to them, it is not enough. One thing I have heard from all the survivors I have spoken to was they wanted the truth told, men held accountable and their beloved church healed. This is my desire and my mission. Our church needs to be purified and healed. Fr. Bob told me I may not have a deaconate of ordination but my diaconate, which means servant, will be but one of purification. I will continue to push for reform and expose the evil I have experienced.
When our youngest daughter was about 5 years old, she somehow broke a glass in her hand. Being the drama queen, she was, it was the end of the world. We put a bandage on the cut, and all was well. As the days went by the cut did not heal. We took her to the doctor, and he checked it out and said everything is fine. Every day there was still a bloody pussy stain in the bandage. One day she came up to me and showed me the end of her finger. In the cut there was a tiny piece of glass so small you could barely see it. I wiped it off with a tissue and reapplied a bandage. A few days later the finger was healed. The thing that was preventing healing was revealed and removed.
There is a huge problem in the church. Active homosexual activity by priests and the secrecy of this sin must be revealed, the coverups must end and The Holy Priesthood must be restored to what Jesus set it out to be. All priests are deacons first, servants to the people. Many have forgotten this and have made themselves kings.
By God’s grace most of the seminaries have been cleaned up and the young men going into seminary and being ordained are not experiencing this kind of behavior. They are being taught the truth about the faith and are Holy priests.
This is my hope and prayer for the Church I still love; even though I have been abused by men in the Church. Men have abused me, sexually and spiritually; my son was mistreated and had to move out of the Diocese, and my family has been through a lot with all of this. We have not lost our faith. Jesus ordained 12 men at the last supper knowing that one Bishop would betray him. This is still happening. My faith is not in men but in my savior Jesus Christ.
I want to thank the brave Priests who have stood by the truth and supported myself and our son through this terrible ordeal. They have been vilified, hauled into the Bishop’s office and threatened by Bishop Hoeppner and Msgr. Mike Foltz. They have been chastised by their brother priests who have buried their heads in the sand and do nothing to clean up the Diocese of sexual sin which is being committed and covered up. These brave Priests have kept their fidelity to their vows and have not wavered even under threats and persecution.
I want to thank Archbishop Hebda for having the courage to investigate Bishop Hoeppner’s activities. That investigation is proceeding, and we will know the outcome of that investigation soon.
My story is true despite what the powers to be spin. I was abused, I reported, I was told to be silent, I was coerced, I have been lied to and I gave up my Diaconate to tell the truth. Some say what did he have to gain by telling his story. I’m not smart enough to come up this story but it is true. All survivors’ stories need to be told and believed. It takes a lot of courage for people to come forward after many years of feeling guilty for something they were victims of. Praise God for their courage.
By getting the release of these depositions the devil loses and Jesus wins.
Last, I want to thank my wife of 44 years for standing by my side, my family and all those who have prayed for us through this ordeal.
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