Sunday, June 24, 2018

Coping With The Burden of Clergy Sexual Abuse as an Adult. Becoming A Survivor.

The following is a continuation of someof the things that I shared with Bishop LaValley in his office onMarch 8th 2018. It is also an accounting of what has happened to me and my family since that meeting

After the night I ran from Worczaks car, I avoided him as much as possible. We were never alone again. I finished grade school at Holy Family and moved on to catholic high school at Immaculate Heart Central. I had a difficult time in school and received average and below average grades in all my subjects. A classmate of mine, Joe once said that I lacked self confidence, and he thought I was capable of much more. {Later, I discovered he was right}.

I graduated from high school in 1978 and attended a 2 year SUNY college at Canton ATC. I found myself sitting in my advisers office. He looked confused, saying he did not know how I made it this far. Because from his assessment I was only reading on a 6th grade level. I found myself in a crash course of remedial reading. Navigating through college became easier and over time my grades improved dramatically.

It was my second year at Canton, when a friend of mine Eddie urged me to attend mass at the Newman Center. He said that the priest, Fr. Paul was the coolest person. Eddie knew I was a non practicing catholic and thought this was just what I needed. Eddie cared about everyone. Neither one of us knew what was coming next. I never paid attention, nor did I make any connections. After all it had been years... I purposely avoided mass but arrived just as it was ending, hopefully just in time for refreshments. Eddie was a devout catholic and still the alter boy. He was smiling at me as he and another server proceeded up the aisle . The priest had his back to me and was talking to a student. Eddie tapped the priest on the shoulder and motioned for me to come meet him. The priest turned and without hesitation said “well if it isn't little jimmy cummings....... Eddie looked a little stunned …. Worczak reached out to shake my hand and I turned around and quickly left. Later, Eddie tracked me down and tried to get me to talk. No way.

I graduated from Canton ATC in spring of 1980 and transferred to Oswego State. After starting a new degree I graduated in 1985. I started my first teaching position at my old high school in the fall of 1985. { I should note, that in 1984 I did confide in a priest friend, Fr. Steve Gratto, [now deceased], that I was abused by a priest and again later in the '80's to a friend who would later become a priest.} Later in 1988 I started teaching in the NYS Department Of Corrections and Community Services and have been there to this date.

I started dating my soon to be wife Mary in 1990. We would marry in a civil ceremony in November 1992 and our son was born in February 1996. Mary and I both agreed to start attending mass more frequently and to raise our son as a Catholic. I never told Mary that I was abused by a priest, not until years later.

Our son was baptized in the Catholic church. As a family, we attended mass every Sunday and Holy day of obligation We all became very involved in our Catholic Community of St. Cyril. He received the sacraments of Penance and Communion.

We were all very Happy with our lives and our faith. And then on April 5th 2002 the memories of my sexual and emotional abuse surfaced and I started to lose my faith. At a social gathering I met up with 2 ladies that were friends of my parents and they also had children around my age. One of the ladies started talking about the Boston Priest Sexual Abuse Scandal, and we agreed on how bad it was. Then the conversation quickly turned to Fr. Worczak. Both ladies shared stories about how they had to intercede and tell Worczak to stay away from their children I returned home after talking with those 2 ladies about Worczak. Luckily our son was spending the night with a relative. My wife came home from work and found me sobbing. It took me most of the evening to tell her what had happened to me as a child. A secret I kept from her for over 12 years.

My wife convinced me that I had to tell someone about this. That same evening I called a priest friend who I taught with at IHC. I told him what I was going through and he said he would make some calls and get back to me. A few days later, I met with Monsignor Lawler and Father Morgan and told them about my encounters with Worczak.

On April 16th 2002 I had a Psychiatric Evaluation at the Northern New York Behavioral Health Associates under the care of Dr. Jeffrey Aronowitz M.D. Diagnosis was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. These sessions continued through March 2003.

As parents, Mary and I decided that nothing should change in our routine, which included our involvement in our Church with our son. A routine that I found increasingly difficult to maintain.

From the first week of April 2002 when I had my first meeting with Monsignor Lawler and Father Morgan, it took the Diocese of Ogdensburg ONE very LONG year to finally remove Worczak from ministry. I can not put into words what I was personally going through nor what my wife Mary was experiencing. Sometime in March or April 2003 Worczak was removed from ministry. Some sources say that he was removed in March, while others say that he celebrated his last mass on Easter Sunday April 20th 2003.

It became very clear to me that his removal from ministry was going to be kept a secret. Some of his parishioners thought he had retired, others had no idea, here one day, gone the next. In my mind, the ambiguity of his removal simply would not do. For the next few months I was tormented by what should be done. What could I do?

I contacted a reporter from a local media outlet. I met with him and shared what had happened to me and all the documentation that I had accumulated. It was imperative that I remain anonymous, because we were trying to raise our son as a Catholic and there were going to be people that would consider me an enemy of the Church if my identity were made known. On July 2nd 2003 my story was made public. And now everyone knew what happened to Worczak.

Most would think it all ends here, but it doesn't. We continued going to church as a family. Our son made his Confirmation April 2012. That was also the last mass I attended. My obligation as a Catholic parent was in my mind fulfilled. I would try to find an excuse to tell my son when he would ask why I could not go to church. Finally, I just told him I was tired of sitting in a church full of hypocrites. My wife's attendance at Mass has also diminished. With all that has happened her faith is not as strong as it once was.

6 years has passed since I stopped going to church. I still support my son, who is quite simply in love with what used to be mine, ours, but is now his church. Time does not heal all wounds but it gives you the room for burying the memories and the pain associated with them. My wife and I were coping quite nicely that is until February 21st, 2018. That is the day that I received the letter from Bishop LaValley describing the I.R.C.P. The Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program. That day changed my life, our lives.

At first I thought the letter was asking for money for the Bishops Fund, and I was about to throw it away. But the quality of the envelope felt different it seemed more formal. So I opened it and began to read. I could not believe what I was reading and for an instant thought it was a cruel joke. I kept saying “are you kidding me, I can not believe this.”

As I mentioned earlier, I met with Bishop LaValley on March 8th, a meeting that lasted an hour and a half. A meeting that was uncomfortable, embarrassing, and for the most part void of any true respect for me. It was a meeting that lacked sincerity. But I was allowed to tell my story. At the end of the meeting, the Bishop asked me “Jim, what will it take to bring you and Mary back to the church?” My reply “You could not possibly imagine what it would take.” The meeting ended with a well timed incoming phone call which the Bishop happily answered and I showed myself out the door.

I spent the next couple of days collecting everything I would need to fill out the I.R.C.P. Claim and mailed it. A week later I received confirmation of it's receipt and then started to wait till the deadline for all the claims to be submitted which was May 31st . It is a long time to wait for something that I never expected nor wanted.

On May 9th the North Country Public Radio interviewed Bishop Lavalley: asking him “Why Don't WeKnow The Names Of Former North Country Priests Who Face AllegationsOf Sex Crimes. Followed by another interview on May 10th by NCPR titled In Career Defined by the Priest Sex Abuse Scandal,Bishop LaValley Seeks a Path Forward.

Both of those interviews upset me to the point I had to do something. LaValley was trying to speak for the victims, people who had no voice. People who would have said, NO! Bishop LaValley you have it all wrong! You do not really understand what us victims experienced, what we live with every day. You do not get it because you do not want to soil your hands with the likes of us! That would all change. Very soon the victims were going to have a voice. I was going to be that voice.

I had to do something first, I had to tell our son what had happened to me, why I no longer go to church, why I act peculiar around Christmas and other Holy Days. One evening an opportunity presented itself. I found the perfect time[if there is such a thing] to tell our 22 year old son the truth. I will admit that telling him was the most difficult thing I have ever had to do in my life. I was unsure if he would refuse to believe what I had to say, become angry, I simply had no idea.

But as it turned out, our son is remarkably strong and handled the truth very well. That was half the battle. The other half was telling my story, not anonymously but with full disclosure. On May 21st I met with a reporter from a media outlet and told her my story. It was published on May 23rd and now everyone could put at least one name, one face to the many survivors who suffered sexual, emotional and spiritual abuse.

Since that story was released I have heard from many people: Family, former classmates, friends and people I have never met. All offering words of support, wishing that I can find peace. What I am asking of them and you, stand up, be heard, demand the truth. Then rebuild the church, the way it was meant to be, not what it has become.

Jim Cummings

Thursday, June 21, 2018

My Sexual Abuse By A Priest The Beginning: Part One

Part Two of this story can be found by clicking this link

Part One is a misnomer as sexual abuse has a beginning but never has an end. But as in most accounts, all abuse starts with grooming the victim: 

I met with Bishop LaValley in his office at 3:15 on March 8, 2018.

My reason for our meeting was to explain that when I originally reported the sexual abuse at the hand of Fr. Paul Worczak I had only described its physical/sexual aspects. At the time, then Bishop Barbarito and Monsignor Lawler never asked about emotional, mental, or spiritual abuse. I never thought to address it because the focus then was on it's physical or sexual aspects. I feel that these were considered to be more “tangible”. Furthermore, in those early days I do not believe the church really cared what emotional scars I was experiencing throughout my life because of my abuser Worczak.

I started by telling Bishop LaValley about Worczak's introduction as a new priest during a mass at Holy Family Church in February 1970. Worczak spoke about ultra- brite tooth paste and it's sex appeal and other then taboo topics that were sure to shock the adults but catch the attention of the younger parishioners. At the end of mass Worczak was standing at the church entrance doing a meet and greet with parishioners. Instead of wearing the traditional chasuble and stole, he was wearing a full length mink coat. He greeted the adults but asked us younger parishioners to stay. He then made it a point to meet us all one by one. He was very gregarious and charismatic, something we had never seen in a priest before. I was 10 years old at the time.

As time went on, small groups of us were treated to ice cream, and trips to MacDonalds and other similar outings. The grouping of kids always seemed to fluctuate. But I soon realized that he had his favorites and I was among them. He invited us up to his room which was in the newer addition towards the back of the rectory. He had 5 foot column speakers and a huge stereo amp that would blow the windows out. It was there he introduced us to artists like Janis Joplin and T. Rex We were all mesmerized by this new breed of priest. Our church took on a new life as Worczak took control.

Worczak would at times get us to ignore certain kids because they had done “something” to make him mad or violated his trust. And we were all very happy to do his bidding. I would later find out what that “something” was.

Kids were not his only followers There was a core group of adults that “loved” Fr. Paul. Among them: The XXXXX'S, BBBBBB'S, MMMMM'S, MAMAMA'S, BBBBB'S, to name a few. He loved to play tennis and downhill ski and these were the adults that he would socialize with. All of them had children about my age. {On a side note, Mr MMMMM was a long time family court judge and prominent lawyer.} {As I noted in the March 15th 2003 document to the Diocese Of Ogdensburg. It was Mrs. EMMMMM and Mrs MMMM that I was speaking to on April 5th 2002 at a restaurant when Worczaks name came up and Mrs EMMMMM told me that years ago she had told Worczak to stay away from her son. Mrs MMMMM nodded in agreement.}

Worczak would always schedule me and a few others to be “his” altar boys at weekly masses. This would continue through 1970 into 1971. He would include “us” into all sorts of kid friendly social events including the creation of a Coffee House located in the basement of Holy family Church. It had a juke box and all sorts of vending games. This appealed to the older “teen” parishioners.

Worczak could do a perfect impersonation of our Bishop Brzana. He would entertain us with his Bishop swearing and making sexual innuendos. It would have us all laughing hysterically. Warping us. Worczak disliked one of the other priests at the Parish. He would always refer to Fr. Shulkin as “Buckets”. Buckets said this or did that. One day, one of us asked him where the nick name came from. Worczak was happy to tell us...... Buckets because he is full of shit. Worczak had a cohort who was assigned to our parish, his name was Fr. Ray Wertman [now retired]. They both tormented Shulkin, to the point that he left and pursued a career elsewhere.{I phoned Wertman in 2002 to talk to him about Worczak. Wertman stated that he did not remember much from those days as he was drinking heavily. Wertman later stopped drinking and started a substance abuse treatment center CREDO}

In the fall of 1970 going into the winter and spring of 1971, Worczak “hired” me to clean his living quarters on a weekly basis. His quarters were littered with dirty cloths wadded papers etc and money, bills and coins all over the floor. The deal was, any money on the floor was mine. Sometimes I collected as much a $20 a week. {as I look back at my payment, I think I may have been baited}.

I lived on Winthrop St, the same street as Holy Family Church. I used to shoot hoops outside. Worczak would always toot the horn as he drove by in his Mercedes Benz. More often than not, he would pull over to say hi and talk. Sometimes he would say, hop in and lets go get and ice cream or want to go to the movies later....? He was always adamant about me getting permission from my dad first. My dad would always say yes, after all I was going to be in the best of company.

Other than a few other trivial events, this leads up to the description of the sexual abuse I endured from Worczak that is outlined in the March 15th 2003 document to the Diocese Of Ogdensburg. Immediately after my mother went to the rectory [after she found my soiled underware]. I discovered that I was now ostracized from Worczak and the other kids [that were still in his favor]. Never understanding fully, the why? That is, until I grew older.

The gap between this and the second instance lasted approximately until the Fall of 1971, probably late September or early October. During this time, Worczak would go out of his way to shun me. Making a point to take others out to do something fun while excluding me. The others went along with this, because they [used to be we] had done it to other kids so many times. With the mentality of an 11 year old, I was distraught, confused, hurt.... No more toots of the horn as he drove by my house. His car seemed to be always filled to capacity with kids, more so than before when I still “belonged”. This happened several times during the week and more frequently on the weekends. To me, the 11 year old, this was killing me. I never felt so alone in my life. I was an emotional wreck. During this time, my mother moved out of our house and I stayed with my dad. [They would later divorce]

Then one evening in the fall of '71 I was out playing hoops and Worczak drove by. It was dusk and I could see his brake lights as he stopped the car and backed up and stopped in front of my house. Tooted the horn, rolled down the passenger window and waved for me to come see him. I leaned against the passenger door. He greeted me and seemed to be his old self again. We talked for a little bit.... then he said, you are shivering, its cold out, get in [his car]. I did, he started to say that he missed me. I can not remember exactly what he said but the implication was that I had been punished enough and it was time for me to come back to him. I started to shake and cry, he then put his arm around me and drew me close. He whispered into my ear, you know I still love you don't you? It was then he placed his lips on mine and kissed me, then again but this time his tongue entered my mouth. I froze, panicked, I then pulled away from his arm toward the passenger door. When I grabbed the door handle he became very angry and said if you open that door, you will be out of my life forever. His change in mood from comforting to rage scared me and I flung the door open and ran to the house. I could hear the car wheels squeal and the passenger door slam shut as he sped away. I would see him occasionally but I avoided him as much as he avoided me.

Most but not all of this accounting was shared with Bishop LaValley. At the time of our meeting I found it difficult to keep my thoughts in order as the recounting of these events cause me stress and anxiety. I am sharing this documentation with the Bishop via e-mail. There are other topics that I shared with him but I will include them in a separate document.


James Cummings