Saturday, 27 April 2013
HELEN: In the 70’s for a long time we had heard rumors but since they did not involve our family, we did not get involved. My husband and I held the priest in such high regard.
In early September 1997, I went to a prayer meeting and as a group we were discussing bringing adorations and the rosary to the church. All the women there said they did not like the priest Norman Goodman. One of the women said, “I won’t talk to him because he abused my child.” A second woman said, “I thought mine was the only one.”
I walked out of the meeting. “This was supposed to be a prayer meeting and since you are evidently going to gossip, I’m leaving.” I came home and my entire family went to the country club to have a birthday dinner for our youngest son, Lance. Larry asked how my meeting went and I told him what the women were saying.
Lance went ballistic. “How dare you, how dare you tell those women not to keep talking, what right do you have to try to control this situation?” I was very upset with him for embarrassing me in public. I left and walked home. Later I told him never to do that again. That’s when I noticed a tear start to fall from his face.
LARRY: At the country club after Lance and Helen left. I asked our other son, “Am I to assume with the reaction Lance has given us that something might have happened to him?” He said, “Well Dad, I think probably Lance has got an issue.”
I went to see Lance and said, “You don’t need to go to work today -- it’s your birthday. I’m going to the store and I’m going to talk to your mother. Is there something I should know?”
Lance said, “Not only did it happen to them, the same thing happened to me and every other young man. I know what he did to me was inappropriate, it was nothing major but it was very inappropriate. It has been kept a secret by everybody. Everybody knows the man has done this for years, to us altar boys and who knows who else.”
Once I got to the store, I pulled Helen aside. We went upstairs to our warehouse and I told her what Lance told me. Helen said, “I’ll be damned, I’m going to kill that priest.” I said, “Hold on, let’s discuss this.” Then Lance walked in. Suddenly it was a reality.
As a family we had to address this and support our son. This was an answer to a lot of questions we had about Lance and the way he reacted to certain things. Now the problem was how to deal with it. Helen wanted to go over and confront the priest on the spot, but Lance said, “Please don’t do this.”
I said, “Wait a minute, right now as a family we have to make a decision. If we go forward with this, which we are going to do because we could not live with ourselves if we did not, let it be known that from this day forward our lives, will never be the same in this community. We will go forward as a family, and whatever happens will happen.” I said to Helen, “You need to think a few minutes before you react.”
HELEN: I decided to go to the rectory. In Lincoln we had two rectories for the same church, because the priest lived alone. He would not let anybody live with him because of the things he had going on in the rectory.
At the second rectory there were two associate pastors living there and I went beating on that door. The priest I wanted to speak with was on the telephone and another priest from Indiana answered the door. This priest asked me if he could help me and I told him I would wait for the other priest. As I sat there everything became very uncomfortable. I said, “Maybe you can help me. I am considering going across the street and killing the son of the bitch over there. You better know what he is doing.”
These two priests decided to write out everything I was saying. They knew that this was going to end up in the hands of the lawyers which was the last thing our family wanted.
I went back and spoke to the other two mothers that had told me about the abuse. I told them, “We have to get to the Peoria Dioceses immediately. They are going to want to know they have a pedophile priest who is in charge of all these kids, and they are going to want to get rid of him immediately. So we will go over there and have a meeting to help them figure out how to deal with this.”
That was about the dumbest thing I could have ever said. They had hidden him there because he was a money man. He was making more money for the diocese out of his church than anyone else.
We started this process with John Myers1, the Bishop of Peoria. Today he is the Arch Bishop of Newark, New Jersey. They are dealing with the same problems in Newark as they are in Peoria. According to the newspapers he is still shuffling and hiding priests. The other persons involved were the Vicar General, Monsignor James Campbell who is now dead, and Monsignor Steven Rohlfs2, who is now head of formations in Emmetsburg, Maryland, training the seminarians. These three men did everything to let us know from the beginning, that they would discredit and ruin the lives of the young men that came forward. They would do the same to the parents.
Bishop John Myers even commented that he would eventually own two candy stores. We have two retail businesses, one in Peoria and the other in Lincoln, Illinois and he was saying he would own them unless we shut up.
When this started, strange things were taking place. We were followed wherever we went. We received harassing phone calls, and anybody helping us was being wiretapped. We were being watched, and they were trying to destroy us as business people.
Thousands upon thousands of dollars were spent trying to silence us. Once we knew they had private investigators on us we hired our own private investigator from Chicago. We started meeting people and uncovering how severe this situation is.
We started out with three young men and once it hit the newspaper it swelled immediately to thirteen. It went from three to thirteen men in a matter of days. Lance was the last one to get involved. He was asking for absolutely nothing -- he just wanted this exposed and the priest removed.
The legal team from the diocese started contacting Lance and asking what it would take to satisfy him. Lance said, “Why are you calling me? I don’t want anything, I want you to take care of your problem and leave me alone.” They kept bothering him, realizing our family had the biggest voice. They could not figure out why we did not hire a lawyer. We were not interested, we just wanted justice done. We wanted the Church to get rid of the perpetrators and start being accountable.
Accountability is all we wanted from anybody in the administrative level of the Catholic Church. This is what we still want today. Fifteen years later it is still not happening. They were trying to figure out the fastest way of pay everybody off. Finally Lance said, “I’m going to have to join the case.” He became number thirteen.
We did not play the legal game the way everybody wanted us to. We just kept going at them. We made a decision not to join any organization because we did not want any labels thrown at us. The first thing Bishop Myers said was that the whole thing had started because these young men belonged to a French organization called Roman Catholic Faithful3. These boys had no idea what Roman Catholic Faithful was.
This was when we made the decision not to belong to anything. This was our family going forward helping anybody we can possibly help. We became facilitators. We hooked this person with this person, and that was the key. We were given a lot of grace from God along with access to the computer and internet. With these tools everything started to unravel and once things started to come undone the stench was bad and the rats ran to the corners.
Now they don’t know how to get out of the corners, so the rats are still there in the form of the Catholic hierarchy.
Every diocese has problems. To this day the Peoria diocese is still moving these perverted priests from parish to parish. If you call the Peoria diocese and ask for information on a priest they will direct you to their legal team, but their legal team will never return your call. The Bishop, the Vicar Generals and their legal teams are knowingly harboring fugitives and pedophiles.
I feel the cover up is worse than the crime. The crime is done by a sick individual and the cover up is done by even sicker individuals.
We just kept going after Myers and Rohlfs. Six weeks after we made a report, Norman Goodman flees town. After thirty five years. They put it in the bulletin. They said it was because he loved his congregation so much he did not think he could go through having a retirement party. It was best for everybody if he just left, so there were no goodbyes. This immediately fanned the flames and everybody knew something was wrong.
The diocese sent the Vicar General, Steven Rohlfs here. Rohlfs had been an altar boy for Norman Goodman. He got up in front of the congregation and said Norman Goodman was leaving because of health issues. He wanted us to know they will never be able to find a priest half as good as this priest who dedicated thirty-five years of his life to Lincoln, Illinois. Later, he denied ever saying this.
He came back again and threw more fuel on the fire, telling us what a great guy Goodman was. I contacted him and told him our parish needs closure in regard to what happened. I told him, “You’ve got to be accountable for what you say from the altar to this parish.”
He said, “I can say anything I want to say. I was an altar boy under Norman Goodman and he was a little funny and he did kind of funny things, but I never took them as being sexual.” I asked him to repeat that and he said, “He did strange and odd things but I never thought they were anything perverted or sexual.”
I said, “I think you have said enough.” That was the end of our conversation.
The diocese got Rohlfs out of here and moved Myers to Newark, New Jersey. They were both moved up the ladder. They sent another bishop to the Peoria diocese and in eight weeks he got rid of eight priests. These priests were not defrocked but they removed their collars and asked them not to have a public ministry. Very few priests get laicized. Most are asked not to wear the collar or hold public masses.
After fourteen years, Norman Goodman still comes back to this community a minimum of three times a week and drives around intimidating the young men. He never went to jail or had a criminal trial, even though there was a minor involved. The diocese did everything in their power to keep him out of jail. The State’s Attorneys were too scared to charge him criminally. A State’s Attorney told a group, “We all know he did it, it has been proven without a doubt he did it, but we’re not touching it. It’s not good for our careers.”
We hired a lawyer out of Springfield, Illinois, who had a reputation to take anything and everything.
Lance put together a case that was undeniable. When they went into mediation in Chicago they went against one of the top law firms in Chicago, forty-four lawyers sitting on one side of the table and two on the other. They had a mediator who was head of the law school at Duke University, and Bishop Myers. The first thing the Defense said to the survivors and their families was, “How dare you go against the Church?”
It is our Church and not only are we going against it, we are purifying it. We are doing what the Lord has asked everybody to do, purify His Church. It’s not their Church, it is our Church. Second, we were told that they would try to suggest the abuse was our fault, or it is morally the family’s fault. Somebody in the family is an alcoholic, or from a broken home, so all the guilt and blame point straight into that household.
In Dallas, Texas there was a Vicar General that said the age of sexual consent was six years old. Any child six years old and older knew what was happening and could have stopped it, if they wanted to, so it is considered to be consensual. I read this in the newspaper and I contacted the diocese to clarify this statement and they told me, “The man who said this is now retired.” I was provided with his phone number so I called him. I told him I wanted to confirm something that was just written in the newspapers that he had said.
On the phone he said, “That is absolutely factual. In the Catholic Church the age of consent is six years old. After six years old a child can make any decision he wants to.” This was truly his belief, and I don’t need to tell you what I called him.
The lawsuit was like David versus Goliath. There were over forty lawyers representing the Peoria diocese, all making over $400.00 an hour. There was Bishop Myers, Norman Goodman, the attorneys for the Peoria dioceses plus the Chicago and canonical lawyers.
That was in 1998, December 22nd and 23rd. The mediator offered Lance a scholarship at Duke University to become an attorney because he had out lawyered everybody sitting in that room. They brought in Norman Goodman and the youngest of his victims, who was in his mid-teens. He went to the washroom and Goodman, his perpetrator, walked in. The defense pulled every mental strategy they could.
Once we got beyond the mediation, the years that followed became more intense, because we would not stop. The Bishop kept saying, “What will make them stop, what more do they want, we mediated everything, what more do they want?” We just kept uncovering and uncovering, meeting the right people, and uncovering more.
From the mid 1990’s to mid 2000’s the Church lost control of the situation. They will never get back the respect and the control they once had. I believe Pope Benedict is trying to do everything he can; he is reaching out to social media. The Bishops are saying, “Don’t turn on your computer, if you get on the internet you are going to Hell.” The Holy Father is saying, “I’m going into social media.”
HELEN: People have asked me, “Do you think you have made a difference?” After fourteen years, I don’t see how that question can be asked by anybody who has been involved with these issues. We are nowhere near where we were in the 1970’s.
As parents we should have seen this. We didn’t know what we were looking for, but then in the 80’s and 90’s everything started coming out. In the beginning nobody knew what to do and everybody had to go with their gut reactions, some of which were right but some decisions were wrong. Very few families could get through this as a family unit; you have to trust each other 100%. You have to have more faith than you had when you started. It is not the same type of faith. People try to deny by closing their eyes and ears. It makes you uncomfortable but it also makes you a stronger person.
LARRY: We knew the day we decided to go forward, our lives would never be the same. We would never be looked at in this community in the same way. As weeks passed we were still going to church. We had always sat in the back pews but from that day forward we sat in the front. We walk to the front of the church every Sunday and sit where everybody in the church can look at us. We’ve been doing this for fourteen years.
When I go to church, I don’t focus on anybody else; I know some of the people look at us in anger and some with respect. Some people cannot look at us because they had children that were abused; they told their children not to say a word and they did not want to get involved. There are some new parishioners who do not know what happened at our church. The priest, one of the Bishop’s boys, does not think much of us. I told him we go to church every Sunday for the purpose of praying to the Lord. If it was not for what is in the tabernacle, the blood and bread of Jesus Christ, I would not be in church.
I know when I walk into the church I walk in truth, I want everybody in this church to remember why we are walking to the front. I will do this as long as I am alive and able to. I do not want anyone to ever forget why.
There have been other young people after the original thirteen came forward, and other settlements made by the Peoria diocese. We believe there are a minimum of over a hundred and fifty young men involved.
Our lawyer gathered sixty-six depositions of young men who said, “Oh yeah, it happened to me but I’m not going any further than this deposition, so leave me out of it. I will tell you my story but it will go no further.” When Goodman left here he was sixty-nine years old and had been at this parish for thirty five years. One of the questions asked of our son was: do you have any documentation that this has happened to you? He said, “It’s in the bulletin. When I was to serve as a server, my assignment was always printed in the bulletin. Every one of these men is documented in the archives of this church. ”
After that, they stopped printing the altar boys names and serving schedules and got rid of all the archives.
Goodman had access to the kids all day long because the church was attached to the school. He would pull them out of the classroom. When he first came to this community he was a Boy Scout leader and strange things have happened to every boy involved while he was overseeing those scout groups. This information comes to us from the lawyer who took the case.
Young men would come to our home and they would say, “So and so says nothing ever happened to him. The heck it didn’t! He and I were altar boys together and we both went through the same situation. Of course it happened to him, I saw it happen.”
This was the situation for many of the altar boys. It fanned out so far and wide over many years. They looked around the room and there was only thirteen here and they knew they had a total of sixty-six depositions. These men went out and tried to get others to come forward, they encouraged others to tell their story without using their names. They wanted to get the stories down so the lawyer could get the background information as to what happened over this time period.
The irony is before Goodman came to town there was another generation, and another priest molesting kids. This church became a melting pot for perpetrators. We started tracking some of the people we knew who had been here. At first we thought this is the only melting pot in the diocese but we went to another town and it was another melting pot. It appeared this diocese had certain areas where they sent their pedophile priests, and we uncovered six of them. Every time there was a problem that person went to one of these spots.
We need to get the Bishops locked away for hiding pedophile priests; they have to be made accountable.
We trust no one, now you have to earn our trust. We no longer call anyone Bishop, Cardinal, or Father, they have to earn that. I do not call John Myers “Bishop Myers” -- I do not think he deserves that title. Or George, Cardinal George. They have not lived up to the title of the position they are in.
A lot of money changes hands to get to these levels. The elevation should be from a spiritual contribution they have made. The good spiritual priests are out working everyday; they do not want these positions. All they want to do is shepherd their people and do the right job by helping them. You have two different groups in this diocese, the good old boys – the Bishop’s boys -- who get all the plums because they play the political game. And then you have the men who are the worker bees.
We had lawyers for a year. As parents we did not want to be involved in the lawsuit. It was debated and we said, “Absolutely not. They will try to place a gag order on whoever settles. They can no more gag us, then they can fly. We are going to talk and tell everything we need to tell till we die.”
I believe this situation has cost us personally well over one hundred thousand dollars of our own money. We have made trips to Rome to meet with canon lawyers, hired private investigators to assist these young men to come forward without hesitation, taken time off work, gone and helped survivors and taken them wherever they needed to go. People say survivors are taking money from the Church, but they don’t know what they are talking about. The money coming out of the Church goes to their lawyers. Few people realize these dioceses are insured.
How can you insure a priest or a diocese for pedophilia? It is the insurance money which pays the victims, not the diocese. Their lawyer fees are financially breaking the church.
After mediation, they finally settled the claim and the lawyer told the survivors, “You have a gag order. You can’t sell, tell, write or talk about this story again. If you do we are going to take a percentage of this settlement back.”
Lance said, “Go ahead and do that right now, because I’m talking, and you are not going to stop me from talking.” We were later contacted and told that a hit had been put out on our son.
We had to figure out how we were going to handle this. We were advised to go immediately to the media. Helen and Lance went to Peoria and got on television and did a news interview. They documented everything and some of the things that were happening to us stopped, because we told it on television. Lance made a local television commercial showing a priest in a playground and warning parents about child abuse.
We called our insurance agents and told them if our business or homes should burn, if we were in an automobile accident or any other strange things happened to any of our family members, they should not take it at face value, since there were threats being made against us by people in our community.
Lance was driving a Chevy Blazer and he would take this vehicle to Peoria every day on the interstate going seventy to seventy five miles per hour. One day Larry was driving that vehicle on a side road at approximately twenty miles an hour and the left wheel fell off. We told another family who told us their son’s car left wheel fell off the same weekend he flipped his car. What are the chances having two families involved in the same lawsuit and two vehicles with their entire left front wheel coming off the car?
Sugar was put in their gas tanks. They lived in a rural area and many nights they would be followed home. It was frightening. We believed we were in danger. There was a lot of intimidation and threatening phone calls.
HELEN: Lightning hit a tree and sent a fireball into our house. The night before that fire, two priests had spent the night at the house. The day after the fire, Lance and I ran into Norman Goodman who said, “I told God to set your house on fire and so He did.”
Lance said, “No, God doesn’t work that way, your buddy is not God.”
I confronted Goodman at the post office. He became agitated and asked, “Why are you doing this to me? Did your Virgin tell you to do this to me, your precious little Virgin Mary; is she the one that told you to do this?”
I said, “No. The first innocent child you touched is the reason why this is happening to you.”
His eyes rolled back and his voice got very hoarse and he said, “Maybe they weren’t innocent.” That was Satan talking!
Today Norman Goodman lives in Pekin, Illinois across the street from a park and two blocks from a school. He still wears his Roman collar and goes to the nursing homes and solicits the elderly telling them he needs money. Goodman was raised a Methodist, became a Certified Public Accountant and then a priest. Where else do you have access to money and children, but the Roman Catholic Church?
Goodman regarded himself as God, he would leave notes saying, “Been here and missed you, sorry -- God.” He signed all his notes “God.” He did not respect his position, he loved the money and he was a money guru.
My advice to other families and survivors, you have to realize these men are nothing; you can’t get caught up with their titles, Father, Bishop or Cardinal. You are fighting against the perpetrator and the person who enabled them. Once we took away the title it is easier to fight. In the case we fought, there was a young man who is labeled schizophrenic, and he was the first one to tell his story to the lawyer. He said, “I will describe what Norman Goodman did to me.”
At that moment all the young men started calling him “Norman Goodman.” You remove all titles and the guilt goes away. As a mother you think you should know everything and as a father you think you should protect your son. Something like this becomes a blame game. “Why didn’t you see it?”
We heard about a young man who told his mother what Father Goodman did to him at Carroll Grade School. Goodman was fondling him and so on, and this mother said to her son: “Well, he is a lonely man and he probably just needs that, so just go ahead and let him do it.”
When the father heard about this, things at their dinner table got bad really quick. That Thanksgiving and Christmas, it was the topic of discussion in the community.
LARRY: We had a mailman who had five boys. He used to say “It’s all about the money.” I said, “What you need to think about are your five sons.” His response, "It didn’t happen to them.” I said, “You need to ask them.” I left it with him; to this day he puts his head down and runs.
Goodman abused two or three of that mailman’s sons.
Helen has young men many with different life problems come to her, they know our store is a safe house.
HELEN: The first thing I would advise new people who are coming forward regarding abuse is to get a hold of older people that have been through the process. This was invaluable to us.
Bishop Myers asked me, “How do you get your information and how do you know these things?” I said, “Oh, I pray to the power of the Holy Spirit,” and I told him perhaps he should do that.
Instead of turning and running from the Lord, bring Him closer because this is where you will get your knowledge and strength. There is only one way to get it and it is from God. The first reaction is to try to fight these men by yourself, but instead you have to embrace the Lord and let Him fight these characters.
Many people have asked me, “How can you keep going to church?” I respond, “How can you not, you need to go there now more than any other time, I do not need anything but what is in the tabernacle.”
I just hope people don’t lose their faith, their purpose in life. It is understandable these hurting individuals cannot go back into the actual building but they can still have God in their heart. They can have Him right next to them, where they need Him to be. Our son does not participate in church, he tells us, “I can’t go back into this church, and do the Sunday to Sunday stuff, but believe me I have a tremendous belief in the Lord.”
A year before the case broke; I had a huge religious experience. I was a cradle Catholic and thought I knew everything there was to know about Catholicism. I went on religious pilgrimages to Medjugorje in Bosnia, and what happened there deepened my relationship with the Lord. I spent a year gaining knowledge about my faith and I fell in love with my faith and in the Lord.
Looking back, if I had not solidified my relationship with God I would have been one of these people that left the church. It was this true spiritual happening that kept me going and doing pilgrimages, to France, Bosnia and to Pennsylvania. In Lourdes, France there was a third Fatima secret which was to be released in 1960 and the church prevented it from being released. It is my belief the third secret was the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.
When we started uncovering this scandal in Lincoln, Illinois, we found out the Bishop of Springfield is a perpetrator. They got rid of Bishop Ryan. Then it became Lincoln, Springfield, Belleville, Joliet, Chicago and St. Louis. We had the information regarding the sexual abuse between Chicago and St. Louis and we could tell you about every priest. Then Boston explodes, Dallas had already exploded, and everybody found out what an awful person Cardinal Law is, and it just went on and on and on, there was Mahoney, New Mexico, Mexico. Canada was ahead of us and Ireland exploded.
Strength is a key to tell the new people coming forward. Pick up the strength that you don’t know you have because you are going to need it. People are going to try to intimidate you; you are going to lose friends and family members. My brother wanted nothing to do with our family because we were harming his Church, and fourteen years later he still does not have anything to do with us. You are going to lose along the way but you are going to gain so much more than what you have lost.
We have two personal letters from Cardinal/Pope Ratzinger stating his recommendations, asking us not to stop and recommended Cardinal George to help us with this situation. Cardinal George has done nothing to help us. You can’t even get in for an appointment. I believe the Pope is surrounded by awful men, I don’t think he is in control of the Papacy and he is only a figurehead. Nobody knows what the outcome of this is except the Lord.
If uncovering and exposing this abuse is not the work of the Lord every one of us would have stopped a long time ago. Every one of us would have said it’s not worth it and backed away, we are stronger spiritually today than ever but it has taken a toll on my family. We believe in living by example.
One of the victims was asked, “What would it take to get these men back into the church.”
What he said was, “What you can do is what has not been done, get on the altar and tell the truth. Until this is done you will never have a prayer of getting most of these men to come back to the church.”
The irony of this is, in the mediation which took place in Chicago there was a contractual agreement with Bishop Myers and this group of men there would be an announcement from the altar and an apology would be made with full disclosure. The diocese never fulfilled this obligation, and to this day nobody has apologized. In private the Bishop said he was sorry to these men, but he has yet to get on the altar and apologize to the community and congregation. The diocese never wanted the congregation to know what truly happened, because of many other cases that would have come forward.
Larry went to confession in Rome and during the confession he told the priest we were not getting any results from the diocese. They were not being accountable for the abuse that has happened in our country. This priest said to him, “It will never happen; we will apologize for nothing.”
Larry told the priest, “This confession is over and I’m out of here.” He got up and left the confessional.
The original thirteen who came forward continue to have ups and downs in their lives. The diocese tried to say they were an organized group of men. They were all different ages ranging from fourteen to forty years old; some knew each other and others did not. Some were at school, college, others were working, some were married, and others were single or divorced. They all met for the first time at the hearing, they looked at each other and some said, “I thought I was the only one.”
We have a ten year old grandson, and as a parent or grandparent the first thing you say is, “If they harm one of mine, I will kill.” You want to, you plot it but you don’t do it. You have to put all your trust in God, because you cannot handle this on your own.
1 Bishop John Myers - http://www.rcan.org/archbish/jjm/jjm-bio.htm
2 Monsignor Steven Rohlfs - http://www.msmary.edu/presidents_office/university-officers/Msgr_Rohlfs.html
3 Roman Catholic Faithful - http://www.romancatholicfaith