Joe Iacono wants to read the letters by himself so he can deal with the pain in private.
Jim Laarveld wants to be by his son's side when Keith Laarveld sees the files for the first time.
But Diana Houston laments that her son John took his life years before Tuesday's release of records that show how the Archdiocese of Chicago failed to protect him and other children from pedophile priests.
Those records — thousands of documents chronicling the archdiocese's response to sexual abuse allegations against 30 priests over the past half-century — stirred many emotions, especially for the victims of clergy sexual abuse who waged a nine-year battle to see this day come. For the first time, they could see what the church did and didn't do when they cried for help.
“It's just really hard,” said Houston, of southwest suburban Hometown, who puts some blame on the church for her son's suicide in 2002 when he was 33. “I was brought up Catholic, and priests are supposed to do no wrong. I just think it's horrible that they kept all this a secret for so long.”
Abused by Norbert Maday in the late 1970s at St. Bede the Venerable Catholic Church in Chicago, John Houston went on to serve as a Marine in the Gulf War, his mother said. But she said her son couldn't put his difficult past behind him, and self-medicated with alcohol and drugs.
While it's important for the public to know the truth and hold the church accountable, his mother said through tears, the memories of what happened remain painful.
Last weekend, Cardinal Francis George apologized to parishioners for unearthing that pain with the document release. The cache includes letters from clergy thought to be written in confidence, graphic details of alleged abuse and troubling revelations of the church's moral failings.
“It is not the Church we know or the Church we want to be,” the archdiocese said in a statement Tuesday.
Laarveld said his son Keith also has struggled to cope, but he added that his son welcomes the archdiocese's sudden transparency. Keith Laarveld, who was on a business trip Tuesday, has long sought confirmation that the church transferred his abuser and convicted sex offender, Vincent McCaffrey, from parish to parish despite previous allegations.
Letters in the file from 1987 indicate that after Hometown police received a report of McCaffrey's misconduct with an eighth-grader at Our Lady of Loretto Catholic Church, church leaders transferred McCaffrey to St. Joseph the Worker in Wheeling, where he allegedly molested Laarveld.
“It's going to hurt my son (to read),” Jim Laarveld said angrily. “Hopefully we can be with him when he looks at it. I don't want him to be alone. What happened to my son and all of these people was a crime, and they did nothing about it. … That probably hurts more than anything else.”
Laarveld, who still lives in Wheeling, said he considers himself a Christian — but no longer a practicing Catholic after what happened to his son.
Likewise, Iacono, 62, of Springfield, said although he was raised Catholic by an Italian immigrant father and first-generation Italian-American mother, he too will never return to the Catholic Church. Iacono said he was abused by the Rev. Thomas Kelly at St. John Vianney Catholic Church in northwest suburban Northlake.
“I never could imagine that the people that are in charge would choose the actions to protect the institution over the welfare of the children,” he said. “Now I've seen it. I've seen it repeatedly. I've seen that what they say holds very little truth, although they cling to it as though it's truth, and they know it's not. So they have no credibility with me whatsoever.”
At a news conference Tuesday, victims' attorneys Jeff Anderson and Marc Pearlman heaped praise on their clients, all of whom have pushed for the release of the documents as part of their court settlements with the archdiocese since 2005.
“Each of you have insisted as a part of any settlement, as a part of any resolution for your own healing and the protection of children that these documents be disclosed … and displayed so the past can be known,” Anderson said to the victims who attended the event. “So thank you, on behalf of ourselves and on behalf of those kids who are out there who will not be hurt because you had the courage to act and to demand and require. This is a great step, but what is settled is far from what we're shooting for.”
Angel Santiago, 47, of northwest suburban Wood Dale, said he told no one that Joseph Fitzharris abused him for three years at the former St. Francis Xavier Parish on Chicago's Southwest Side because his father worked as a handyman at the church. His father died in 2005, never knowing.
“I didn't want my dad to lose his job,” said Santiago, clutching the hand of his wife, Vanaessa.
“These files represent a lot for us as survivors,” Santiago told reporters. “For some of us, it's answers. For some, it's peace of mind. For some, it's wanting to know. For all of us, it's a start. It's a beginning, and the more we find … the stronger we get.”
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