The following is the testimony of David Lorenz before the Maryland State Judicial Proceedings Subcommittee in support of SB575, a Maryland state senate bill to reform the Statute of Limitations regarding the sexual abuse of children. This statements was given on March 1, 2007 in Annapolis, Maryland.
I am a practicing Catholic who is very dedicated to my faith, my religious heritage, and my Church. I am deeply involved in the operation of my Church and volunteer countless hours in helping my Catholic Community of Faith. I am a father of four children and have been married to my wife, Judy, for nearly 25 years. I am also a survivor of child rape that was committed at the hands of a priest in Kentucky. I will use the word rape because that is what it was. It was not child abuse – that sounds so antiseptic. I want you to understand it for what it was – rape.
When I was almost 11 years old and nearing the end of my 6th grade at a grade school in Northern Kentucky, I was recruited to attend a college prep school by a priest, Earl Bierman, who was one of the most charismatic and likable priests that I had ever met in my young life. He was respected by all of the kids and respected by all of the parents. Over the course of the next few years, this priest who was the guidance counselor at the school, became friend and confidant to almost every student in this all-male school. It was not uncommon to go see this priest if you were having trouble with your relationships or with your grades.
During some of these counseling sessions that I had with him, he would often turn the topic to one of my personal sexual development and, under the guise of this discussion, would grope and touch me inappropriately. It is only now, as an adult, that I can look back and see how he was probing and grooming me and, as I have learned in later years, many of my fellow students for his dark purposes that none of us nor our parents were aware of. As I got older, it was not uncommon for me and many of my friends to gather at his house. I was also not uncommon for several of us to spend the night.
It was during one of these sleep-overs, following his farewell party because he was being transferred out of the area, that he all-out assaulted and abused me and a friend of mine. When it happened, I couldn’t resist, I couldn’t fight back – I was paralyzed. My mind went numb and it all just happened. In some ways it was like it was happening to someone else but it was also happening to me. I couldn’t resist because I was raised to respect adults and teachers and do as I was told. This was especially true if the person was a priest – a holy man of God. Unfortunately, I learned too late that this was no holy man and I had been set up by him and the bishop.
I could explain how the feelings of shame and guilt were overwhelming for the next days and weeks and months. I kept this secret inside me. Afraid to tell anyone. Almost afraid to even let people see me because I was sure they would be able to tell that I had sex with a priest. I had no one and nowhere to turn. I buried this secret deep in the recesses of my mind – never forgotten but I learned to put it so deep in my head that it seemed it wasn’t hurting.
I told only one person over the next 20 years – that was the other friend of mine who stayed over that same night and was also raped. I didn’t tell my parents. I was sure if they knew I would be ostracized or humiliated and I didn’t tell my wife. My secret was safe buried – deep in my mind – except for the chronic insomnia and the bad temper.
As I entered my 30’s, I felt like I wanted to tell someone but I honestly didn’t know how. How do you tell your wife something like this? How do you tell your parents? Luckily for me, my hand was forced at an early age. If you consider 34 an early age but it was early compared to most victims.
In 1992, my perpetrator was exposed by someone else who had been raped by him. It wasn’t long before more and more victims came forward and it made quite a stir in the local press. I was told what was going on and knew it wouldn’t be long before my Mother asked me if it happened. I knew I couldn’t lie and so the truth came out and the burden began to lift. My healing had finally begun, 20 years after the fact, and only because I was forced into it. I think it would have been years longer if I had been left to my own initiative.
I could go on and on about all of the hurt that I went through but I want to focus on what has been revealed to me about the Church cover-up and the Church’s inaction that led to my being raped.
In 1993, a few months after I began healing, I went to see the bishop of the diocese. We had a frank discussion and I asked him what steps were being done to keep this from happening again. He informed me (actually dismissed me but I was still naive) that this could not happen again because of the press coverage that was taking place there and all over the country (remember Porter). I asked him why so many kids had been raped and why the previous bishop had not done anything to stop it. He said that they were being misinformed by psychiatrists and they thought this priest was safe. I bought his story – skeptically, but I bought it.
Of course we all have heard rumors of the horrors that occurred in Boston in 2002. Some of you may be familiar with stories from around the country – Philadelphia, LA, NH, Maine. This bishop was wrong – the problem was still going on despite the press coverage in 1992.
In 2004, a class action suit was filed in Kentucky on behalf of victims of the diocese. As a part that legal action, the attorney was given access to the diocesan files. What he learned was the following:
- Despite the bishop’s personal pledge to me, he still did not report sexual abuse (rape) cases to the police until 1997 when it became required by law. Maryland law gives an exemption to clergy for reporting sexual abuse cases.
- Prior to me ever meeting with Earl Bierman, he had been accused 50 times of abuse by other kids. In each instance, he was reassigned to a new parish and continued to interact with kids. I want to know what kind of incompetence or malice would take a man accused of abusing kids 50 times and make him a guidance counselor at an all-boys high school. At what point would anyone here realize that the ‘experts’ were wrong! I would hope most of you would come to that conclusion long before 50. And yet I was told it was because they just were ignorant about child molestation. This isn’t ignorance – this is purposeful and malevolent child endangerment.
Now you might say that this was only in Kentucky. But it has happened elsewhere. I would like to give you some of the results of investigations that have occurred. Church records have only been fully investigated by an independent source in 6 instances. Grand juries were convened to investigate the activities of Westchester County in New York, Suffolk County in NY, and Philadelphia PA. Attorney Generals’ investigations have occurred in Manchester NH, Boston MA, and Maine. [See the reports: Westchester, Suffolk, Philadelphia, Manchester, Boston, Maine on bishopaccountability.org.]
- Without exceptions, the sexual exploitation of children by the dioceses far exceeded anything reported publicly by those dioceses. The degree of depravity of the crimes and heinousness of the abuse make reading of the reports almost impossible by the average person because it makes you sick.
- In all 6 of these investigations, it was reported that the diocese covered up and reassigned priests who had been credibly accused of raping children.
- In all 6 cases, the dioceses failed to report this criminal activity to the authorities in order to protect these priests.
- In 5 out of 6, the diocese provided no follow up supervision to priests accused of child rape and who had received counseling/intervention and were returned to active ministry. The Suffold County GJ report made no mention of this.
- In 5 of 6 of the investigations, it is stated that further prosecution of individuals who were guilty of rape or supporting crimes, including bishops, was precluded because the SOL (Statute of Limitations) had run out. Westchester County made no mention of it.
- 5 out of 6 reports recommended that the law be changed so that clergy are not given an exemption to having to report child rape to authorities. At the present time, Maryland has such an exemption.
- In 4 of the 6 cases, the investigating body specifically mentions that the SOL should be increased or eliminated completely. For the 2 cases that didn’t mention it, the state of Maine had already extended their SOL and the Boston report implied that the SOL should be extended.
- In 2 cases they specifically mention creating a look back window for victims who have been locked out by a limited SOL. Rockville Centre specifically recommends it and the AG report from Maine indicates it would be useful but also concedes that the State constitution prohibits it. The constitution for the state of Maryland does not prohibit it.
What does all of this indicate? When an independent investigation looks carefully at the records of the Church, in all cases they find excessive lying and cover-up by Church officials. They find that the laws are insufficient to protect children and they come to an understanding that victims find it difficult to come forward. [From the Philadelphia GJ report Section IV, p. 70, PDF p12.]
“Powerful psychological forces often prevent child abuse victims from reporting the abuse until well into adulthood, if at all. Many victims feel that their abuse is their fault; many feel that they should not get their abusers in trouble; many are ashamed of their abuse; and many simply repress for decades any memories of the abuse. The harm that sexual abusers inflict on their child victims distinguishes crimes of sexual abuse of children from other crimes for which it is fair to impose a statute of limitation.
To maintain a statute of limitation for crimes involving the sexual abuse of children would be to reward abusers who choose children, the most defenseless victims. Because the harm inflicted by child sexual abuse is so deep and child victims are so vulnerable, the existence of any statute of limitations, however long, virtually ensures that some crimes will not be timely reported and too many abusers will never have to pay for their crimes. It is time to stop giving a pass to child abusers who count on the statute of limitations and the fears and immaturity of their victims to avoid criminal liability.”
Lest you think that the dioceses in Maryland have not participated in similar cover-up, I would ask you to read p. 40 [PDF p.12] of the Philadelphia GJ report. This is from the section titled Overview of the Cover-Up by Archdiocese Officials:
“Once in awhile, priests engage so publicly in abusive acts that their crimes could not be concealed – such as when police in Rockville, Maryland stopped Fr. Thomas Durkin – a Philadelphia priest who was visiting the area – in the middle of the night. At the time of the police encounter, the priest was chasing a half-dressed 16 year-old boy through the streets. The teenager had run from their shared bedroom to escape Fr. Durkin’s sexual advances. In that case, the archdiocese had to rely on the local diocese to intervene to keep the police from taking action.”
The neighboring diocese that they are referring to is none other than the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. Without even trying, the GJ in Philadelphia discovered that DC was participating in the cover-up. From this one statement, it seems to me that it would be hard to give credence to anything the archdiocese has to say on this matter. They have been shown to cover-up.