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Personal Stories of Sex Abuse in the Catholic Church

Warning: This blog and its linked articles contain explicit stories of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

If you are a survivor of abuse at the hands of a member of the Catholic Church, you are not alone. Many survivors have come forward in the past few years to share their stories and seek justice. Whether or not you choose to share your story is entirely your decision, but if you choose to come forward with your experience, know that you are supported.

We’ve gathered a few personal stories of sex abuse in the Catholic Church to show you that it can happen to anyone, that it is not your fault, and that whatever you are feeling is completely normal.

Personal Stories of Sex Abuse in the Catholic Church

Mark Belenchia

An article posted to the Clarion Ledger shares the story of Mark Belenchia in Shelby, Mississippi. Mark was only twelve when his abuser, Haddican, moved to his town and began to work as a Catholic priest in the local church in 1968. Haddican seemed charming and down-to-earth, but in hindsight Belenchia says that Haddican was grooming him by hosting sleepovers and allowing Belenchia and other boys to drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes. 

Belenchia goes on to describe the abuse, saying that the timeframe is still “sometimes a blur.” He remembers that Haddican lured the boys into his bed and touched them. He described being “frozen, freezing, kind of out of body.” The abuse progressed to Haddican taking Belenchia’s hand and “placing it on his erect penis.” Mark’s abuse by Haddican took place over the course of three years. 

Read Mark Belenchia’s full story here.

Alicia Sample

As part of a 3-part series on abuse of Black children in the Catholic Church posted by The Final Call, Alicia Sample shared her story of abuse at the hands of a priest at the prestigious Catholic school she attended in Chicago. After the traumatic deaths of both her father and grandmother, the Sample family struggled to pay for tuition. In stepped Father Terrence Fitzmaurice, a seemingly kind man who offered to help pay for their tuition in exchange for the children doing jobs around campus. 

Both Alicia Sample, her brother Terrence, and their other siblings were all abused, assaulted, and tortured by Fitzmaurice for a period of 6 years. In addition, Fitzmaurice would bring in other people, such as priests-in-training or even other students, to abuse Sample as well. 

Alicia and Terrence lived in silence for decades. Alicia describes how she suffered from alcohol and drug abuse, eating disorders, and suicidal thinking. Terrence says, “My dreams were corrupted by the Church. I’m never going to be the same.” He went on to say that priests in the Church are “god-like figures,” white men protected by a “white institution.” His sister agrees. “Who is going to believe me over a priest?” she told the Final Call. “I’m just a young Black girl.”

Read the full story here.

Jim VanSickle

Jim VanSickle was 16 years old and attending Bradford Central Christian School in Pennsylvania when David Poulson, a young priest who had just been ordained in the Catholic Church, became his English teacher. VanSickle described himself as being “lost” after the death of his grandmother and his father falling ill. Poulson became his “spiritual leader.” In his story, published by the Washington Post, VanSickle recounts how Poulson would have dinner with him, take him to the movies, and tickle him. Even now, Poulson says, he has “some really strong conflicting feelings. It’s hard not to love the man that he was before he did what he did.”

Just before VanSickle’s high school graduation, he and Poulson took a trip together. In a run-down hotel, Poulson accosted VanSickle who was able to fight him off. VanSickle remembers feeling “terror and fear” from “the fact that it almost seemed like he had eight or nine arms versus the two that I’m using to get him off.” 

VanSickle took his story to Facebook, which he also uses as a platform to connect with other survivors of clergy abuse. Doing so, he says, helped him to understand why he had been “living under a cloud of anxiety and anger.” He now attends counseling, and his faith as a born-again Christian helps him cope with his painful memories. 

Read his full story here.

Tell Your Own Story

If you have been abused by a member of the Catholic Church, you are not alone, and your voice is powerful. Reach out to the Massey Law Firm in Scottsdale to get started on the process of filing a claim against your abuser. Call us at (602)-955-0055 or send us a message through our website.

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