& Anne Higgins
Parents of a survivor from St. Anthony’s School, Capuchin junior seminary – grades 9-12
She said, “The question is not what can you do to help me, but what can you do to help your son because I think he is one of the victims.”
Every Friday I would stop by and we would have our half hour where I would bring Mike some goodies and pick up his laundry. He looked forward to those times. Toward the end of his sophomore year, I began asking Michael what was going on and he said, “Nothing.”
Michael’s behaviour became worse when he came home the summer between his sophomore and junior year. He became a black character, wearing chains and black clothes, acting very solemn. He slept with a baseball bat under his bed. I disposed of three switch blades. He carried one on him constantly and later I learned the reason for this. He would wake up between two and four o’clock in the morning and go for a walk. He would walk the dog during those hours and come back home to sleep. His sleep patterns were erratic. Things continued to get worse. In his sophomore year his friend transferred to another school and Michael wanted to leave as well. Ray was emphatic about him staying and finishing his year. We have guilt feelings about not allowing him to change schools.
After Michael finished his year he came home and finally transferred to another school. I said, “Maybe you should never have been at that seminary.”
We got a scribbled note saying, “I am at New House -- call this number.” All sorts of emotions went through me at the time: fear, anger. I walked into the conference room at New House and saw my son looking beaten down.
It had been a couple of years since this woman first spoke to me about the abuse.
He said, “No I’m not alright everything is shit.” Around that time two other victims had attempted suicide with cars. He had been out that night with a friend who left the seminary in his junior year. His friend was in bad shape and they had gone to the grounds of the seminary to visit the scene of the crime. One of the Friars came out and told them to leave immediately. This Friar knew they had both been talking to the Board of Inquiry.
Mike left and took the envelope away with him. No one has ever told me the content of the envelope but I know this incident was behind his need to carry a switchblade in case he was ever called back into that office. Mike has opened these issues and he has closed them. He told me recently he is keeping them closed. He finished his work at the University and moved to Colorado. He bought a piece of property and lived in the back woods. He dug his own trenches for his electrical, plumbing, septic tank and finished off a bachelor cabin. Developing this property was the most therapeutic thing he ever did. Ray went to help him and this was the beginning of their bonding. He has gone in and out of therapy, worked both as a probation officer and police officer in Colorado.
Spirituality is more natural now. I would make a wonderful traditional Navajo Others have invited me into their church but I have set my boundaries and I tell them I am not interested in pursuing another organized religion. They are all alike. This has offended some people but you have to take care of yourself.
To violate another’s trust is a great wrong. We sent our bright young boy away to high school at a Catholic seminary and got back a very angry, alcoholic, violent, streetwise young man.
Other members who went to mass at the seminary asked if they could go to the meeting, and the Franciscans agreed. This was their fatal mistake. At the meeting the parents spoke up as to what happened to their children and this put pressure on the Franciscans. They decided to have another meeting a month later. By this time it had grown into a full investigation. The head of the Franciscans said, “This is a surprise to us. If we had known we would have done something.”
A former rector of the seminary attended the next meeting and said the Provincial had sent a message, that he would come back in December and present a plan for an investigation. I said, “That is not soon enough.” What we wanted was for the Provincial to come and we would tell him what to do. We wanted some control over the situation. We had around twenty people come to the meetings and we drafted some plans. We had an outline of what we thought they should do. The result was an investigation by the Independent Board of Inquiry of St. Anthony’s Seminary. We presented this at the second meeting and the Franciscans took it back to the Provincial. The Provincial came to the third meeting and presented his plan which incorporated most of our demands. An investigation started in January 1993. The members of the Board of Inquiry were chosen jointly by the Franciscans and the greater community. The Board consisted of me -- a person from the greater community and a parent of a victim -- plus a lawyer, three therapists and a Franciscan from St. Louis, Missouri.
In November of 1993 we did release the report, at the same time the Grand Jury in Santa Barbara was deliberating an indictment against Michael Jackson. All the media from around the world, the TV stations, radio, newspapers were camped at the court house in Santa Barbara waiting for that indictment to come down. When they were informed the Board of Inquiry report was going to be released, they moved over and followed our story. We would have never have gotten the publicity we did if not for Michael Jackson. The Franciscans were furious. We made headline news around the world. The Provincial of the Franciscans told one of the other board members that if he was to do it over again he would not have Ray Higgins on the board and he would have become more personally involved.
I’ve always been a fighter. When something is not right then I try to right it. My original thought when I found out about the abuse was that I wanted to catch their attention so they would take care of things. I felt I was helping them. Then I found out I was not helping them and that they did not want any help.
Anne and I received therapy for a long time. If the victims hired a lawyer in order to receive a settlement the Franciscans ended the therapy. We were one of the few couples where this did not happen. They were afraid of us, because we got so much publicity. We stayed Catholic and went to church for about a year. Finally I came to the conclusion we were all brainwashed. I believe all Catholics are brainwashed from the cradle. The last time Anne and I went to mass was on Christmas Day in San Antonio, Texas. It turned out the pastor of this parish was a child molester.
In around 2000 I became a consultant for an attorney in Santa Barbara who had a case against the Franciscans. They were being snowed by the use of terminology, Canon Law. The law firm representing the Franciscans were making everything mysterious and hierarchal, using terminology to confuse them as to what the church structure of the church was. I was hired as a consultant for the other side. There was a statute of limitations stating that none of the perpetrators could be prosecuted. The lawsuit I consulted with was for a victim who was a younger man. I was able to assist the attorneys in cutting through the mysterious terminology and restrictions based on Canon Law. The client agreed to settle for 1.7 million dollars.
Parents need to support and believe their children. It is beyond me when parents do not support their children. If the child had an injury or disease they would support them but when it comes to a child that has been raped and sodomized by a priest, many parents cannot deal with it because of their own Catholic mind control.