I never had a close relationship with my identical twin brother, Roy. As I think back on our early years in primary school, we were not competitive in the manner of trying to out-do each other in class or school activities. We were totally indifferent to each other. Roy had his group of friends and I had mine. His interests and mine rarely coincided.
He studied the cello and I began violin lessons, but shortly changed to taking art classes. Roy stayed with the cello, eventually becoming quite proficient and playing in the New Jersey Student Orchestra – and later in more prestigious orchestras.
(Meanwhile I was spending more and more time outdoors and becoming a “nature boy” putting together all sorts of collections of rocks, minerals, pressed flowers, animal skulls, sea shells, fossils, Indian arrowheads, etc.
When I took off for Latin America, Roy enrolled in a Catholic seminary to begin his training for the priesthood. Eventually he was ordained as a priest in the Jesuit order and was sent to many different parishes as a parish priest.
Later, after he got his Ph.D., Roy became a faculty member in various Jesuit colleges and universities. He was quite an intellectual, spoke several languages and travelled widely. He was known for his work in oceanography but also became well known for his work with alcoholics and prisoners in state correctional institutions.
I visited him while he was a member of the faculty at Fordham University in New York City. That is when he told me he was gay and had been abusive with students in the dorm he was supposedly supervising. He was later charged with rape of a 13 year old youth but, he told me, that the church already had to pay over a million dollars damages for an earlier abuse. I left New York with the intent of never having anything to do with him again. I was outraged with the Jesuits and the Catholic church for covering up his pedophilia
and moving him from parish to parish without alerting the new parish of his sickness. Ultimately the Jesuits sent him to a “rehabilitation” facility in Kansas (?) where he could do no further harm to young boys and where he finally died of liver disease due to his alcoholism.
Here is a letter I sent to Roy on January 8, 2004 that explains much of the relationship I had with him over the years. Public charges of sexual abuse were about to be leveled against him and the church moved him out of NY City for ‘rehabilitation.’
Thursday, January 08, 2004
Our phone conversation several days ago contained some surprises and then also met some expectations. Frankly, given the extent to which I was aware of your earlier life style, I was waiting for this to happen. The surprise was the name of the person involved, but not really even there.
You are in a deep mess and I feel sorry for you and wish you all the strength possible to face the not very pleasant future. You have a lot of talent and can still render the church and society a lot of good. I truly hope that you will have many opportunities and years ahead in which to do that. At the same time there is now a period of accounting for those earlier actions on your part that were not in the best interests of society, the individuals involved or the church you represent.
Mary Ann and I discussed your situation after we hung up. Given our sharing the womb, being identical twins, what made the difference in our lives that you went one way and I another? We will never know. All I know is that even in high school a lot of folk in Manasquan did not know that we were twins. They thought there was but one of us as we never hung around together, had a distinctly different group of friends and rarely, if ever, engaged in joint activities.
I, too, was deeply distressed by the violence and drunkenness at home. That was the reason I spent so much time out in the woods, camping, hiking, and on the road hitch-hiking around the ‘states and Canada. On finishing high school I was determined to flee the nest forever and took off for South America. You went to college on church scholarships and we rarely ever met again, intellectually or affectionately. We had as little to do with each other as young men as we had as kids in school. We were miles apart in more ways than one.
I felt one of the most liberating things I did as a youth was to leave the Roman Catholic Church. You, on the other hand, embraced it. I have a deep and abiding appreciation of the role of the spiritual in the lives of individuals and society but personally refuse to place my own sense of the spiritual in a box defined by another person. Mary Ann and I agreed that our children would be brought up Christian, but not in a fundamentalist faith. She and the boys are members of the First Congregational Church and I have no problem with that. It is a fairly liberal church. In fact it is open and affirming, accepting gay and lesbian members without judgment.
What contributed to the growing distance between us was your openly gay relationship with students of yours. I deeply felt this relationship was an abuse of the power you had as a priest, as an instructor and as an older person in a super/sub-ordinate relationship. To me it would be just as wrong whether it was a heterosexual or a homosexual relationship.
Do you recall telling me many years ago that the church had to pay over a million dollars damages to the family of a youth you had “damaged”? I, of course, was shocked. It was an open admission that both you and the church were aware of the damage that was resulting from your behavior. This information was just one more reason to keep the nation between us. I felt we had nothing in common any more except the fact we had been brought up as kids in the same family. Aside from that we were total strangers. I really wanted nothing more to do with you. One e-mail and one phone call per year seemed to be enough. I teasingly told my friends that we had agreed to divide up the nation. I would not go east of the Mississippi and you would not come west of it without giving timely warning to the other.
As years went by you “sobered up” and seemed to be on the road to personal and intellectual strengths, helping the needy in prisons, in abuse counseling and in conducting your retreats. I felt it was possible to meet you again in New York City as you seemingly eschewed your earlier behaviors. I thank you for your act of contrition on that occasion. It helped me to accept you, once again, as a brother. The problem is, as you are now finding out, the acts you engaged in as a younger priest are now coming home to roost. Merely saying “sorry” doesn’t resolve the issue. And there is no place to hide. As you told the kid with the marijuana joint, the decision was his to smoke it or not but he would have to live with the results of that decision the rest of his life. And so it is with you.
Our thoughts are with you as is our compassion. We are glad that you have friends and colleagues there who will help give you strength to face the consequences of your earlier actions. Hopefully, at the end of the road, there will be closure, for you and your accuser.
Peace be with you. With love, your brother,