Craig Martin, 46, was abused at age 11 by Fr. Joseph Heitzer, a priest at St. Peter's Church in Forest Lake, Minn. Mr. Martin is married. He and his wife Julie live with their three daughters in St. Cloud, Minn. He hopes to help others who have experienced sexual abuse and is seeking a degree in social work at St. Cloud State University.

[...] Gentlemen, I wanted so desperately to be heard. I wanted someone to listen to me. I wanted someone to help me. I wanted to break the silence and despair that was killing me. I wanted someone to hear my story.

I find it easier to tell my story using the name John Doe. I can revisit my pain and not hurt myself again. I found many different stories that have helped me to understand my suffering. I will share some of those today so others can be helped. [...]

A Sports Illustrated article from September 13, 1999 entitled "Every Parent's Nightmare," best describes why John was in a position to be hurt.

"While society has no trouble envisioning the violent molester and the child who is forced to submit to a sexual predator, many people are baffled by how adult seducers are able to get [kids] to go along with them voluntarily. These men seduce children, in this case boys, in exactly the same way that men and women have been seducing each other since the dawn of mankind. In other words, they flirt with them, laugh at their jokes, and shower them with attention, with gifts, with affection. They size up their weaknesses, their vulnerabilities, their needs. They will target the kids who are more vulnerable."

The most amazing part of when I allowed John to talk about his abuser was how this man offered kindness and love; how this man became John's best friend. John showed very little anger toward his abuser. I was amazed at who John directed his sorrow to. He directed his sorrow not at his abuser, but at his parents. John tells a story of how his abuser wants to take John fishing. The abuser asks John's parents if it is OK. John's parents thought it was a great idea for John to go on a fishing trip with this Catholic priest. John talks of how his relationship with his parents changed, how he no longer trusted them. He feels he is alone.

Mom and Dad, I am terribly sorry for how I have treated you. I now know that I only have love in my heart for both of you. [...]

John remembers the motel that night with the priest, but hardly anything else. John has no idea how he got home. It is only 35 years later that John is starting to remember that horrible night. [...]

John had become sexually active shortly after his abuse. John describes some very unhealthy attitudes toward women and admits to seeking out women in a predatory way. Alcohol also started to control John's life. It was many years before he finally sought help for alcoholism. Although sexual compulsivity and alcoholism had major effects on John, it was his need for self-esteem that kept him alive. John still admits today of having low self-esteem. John has shown symptoms of low self-esteem, depression, anger and the need to control. John has been able to survive, however, with the help of his wife, children and therapy.

Many times people like John Doe must reach a low point in their livs before they can ask for help. John found that the pain was so intense in his life that the fear of being retraumatized was less threatening. Through organizations such as SNAP [Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests] and other information resources, John has found out that he is not alone and has found ways to heal many different aspects of his life. Individual or group therapy is very important in John's life. Journaling is also a healthy way to confront the secrets of abuse as are 12-step programs, which John adheres to.

I feel that the Church has decided the rules and how the game is to be played. I feel that the Church has shown its need for power with the court cases involving people who have been hurt by clergy. This is where the conflict between Church and state exist. The Catholic Church hides behind its lawyers and legal rights. The Church also tries to avoid damages caused by its own clergy. Finally, the Church wants authority to heal its own members and then make payments as to what they feel is appropriate to John Doe.

The Church cannot wear both hats into the arena of sexual offenders and try to heal those who have been abused because of such actions. The Church must acknowledge the magnitude of damages. [...]

In regard to any financial settlements, I feel that it is vital for the Church and John Doe to avoid litigation. This scenario will only retraumatize John and cause additional conflict among members of the Church. These members are essential for stewardship and the funds needed to provide for the programs necessary to help all parties involved to recover. I would hope that a trust fund can be provided by the Church to establish the monies needed. An administrative board could handle these funds, with all concerned parties having access to the funds. A need basis account could be established for emergency situations. Establishment of this fund would extract some of the Church's power and show responsibility on the part of the Church.

In closing, I ask, "Can the Catholic Church respond in such a way to end harm caused by its employees?" I firmly believe it can. You see, I am John Doe. I have made progress in my recovery and the Church has played a role in that. It's with my personal experiences that I can understand the pain and suffering of all those involved. I'm committed to helping other John Does and to helping the Church in finding solutions to an enormous problem. I can only hope and pray that the Catholic Church will find the way to admit its wrongs, ask for forgiveness from every person from every walk of life, and help them successfully continue their journey.

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