One of the things I’ve been saying a lot over the past year or so is that if you’re gay and Catholic (or in another Christian church with a relevantly-similar sexual ethic) it is good to reach a point where you are grateful to be gay. You will probably need to work to get there. Your education in the faith will not have encouraged you to think this way and will likely have discouraged you. And yet coming to a place of gratitude will almost certainly help you resist despair and trust in God’s tender love for you.
I just wrote an unnecessarily-long email to somebody who was asking me what this might look like. In order to answer her question I just listed some of my own reasons for gratitude. This is not a comprehensive list even of my own reasons, and it’s unlikely that every item will be relevant to every gay person seeking to practice our Faith. But I hope this list will help others reflect on what they’re grateful for in their experience of being gay. These are experiences in which we can see truth and beauty; they aren’t things God does to us in order to trap us or punish us or trick us into doing bad stuff.
Okay, so, an incomplete list of reasons to be grateful that I am a big ol’ lesbian, in the order that I thought of them:
# Women are beautiful! It’s always good to notice beauty and be grateful for it. I and some other gay Christians I know have found it really nourishes our faith, our trust in God, when we thank God for the beauty of other people when we notice it. He has given us the chance to see this.
# Similarly I’ll sometimes have that inexplicable chemistry where you just notice more good things about a person, where you’re attracted to her and she has a kind of special glow. This isn’t necessarily about physical beauty in an obvious way, although lol that doesn’t hurt, but even when I wouldn’t ordinarily consider a woman unusually pretty I’ve sometimes found myself sort of humming in her presence, like a struck tuning fork. And that makes me see her good qualities with an unusual intensity. I notice her in a way I don’t always notice others. And I think God wishes us to respond to one another with this awe and delight. I’m not sure I’d call this “sexual attraction,” I think sex is only one part of it or one possibility for how it’s expressed, but it is some kind of attraction and I definitely have it more with women than with men. Straight people can also have this chemistry with people of the same sex, and come up with unwieldy terms like “girl crush” or “bromance,” but I think it is more common for gay people for fairly obvious reasons.
# I do think both being gay and being celibate have led me to put more effort into my friendships, and I have really strong and sustaining friendships as a result. This is especially true of friendships with women, but also just friendships in general; since I know that friendship will likely be the kind of relationship with others that I experience most deeply, I’ve really tried to learn how to be a good friend, and friendships have been, I think, “sanctifying” for me in much the same way that people say marriage can be.
# I’ve really loved like 95% of the people I’ve met because of being publicly gay and Christian. You get to meet other gay Christians, and they are great!
# Nowadays being gay in the Church is a marginalizing experience. I don’t think it needs to be this way, but since it is this way now, I can be grateful for the chance to see the Church from the margins, where Jesus is always present in a special way. And I think to some extent it has helped me have solidarity and compassion for others who really struggle or are mistreated in the Church. Respectability is often bad for the soul.
# Similarly, if people know you’re gay and therefore in their minds “weird,” they often share their own stories of feeling out of place in the Church, and that’s a great blessing. I ended up editing an anthology of writing about staying Catholic after being harmed in the Church, even though my own experience has been really gentle, just because so many people would come up to me and share such painful experiences and such heartbreaking testimonies of faith in God in spite of suffering. Being a trustworthy recipient of those stories is priceless.
# You’re kind of forced to discover aspects of the Catholic faith which are now neglected. I’ve been amazed to learn about the way same-sex love and friendship are honored in Scripture, which nobody taught me when I was becoming Catholic! I’ve been able to discover that friendship used to be much more central to people’s ordinary lives than it is today, when we feel like the only “real” form of love between adults is marriage. I’ve learned about alternative forms of kinship and communal life, from super traditional stuff like godparenthood as kinship to newer things like intentional community. And I doubt I would have even tried learning about celibacy if I didn’t have to, whereas now I see celibacy as countercultural (always good, lol) and a way of life which can offer deep intimacy with God.
# Nowadays I mostly think about being gay as offering opportunities for love rather than temptation to sin, but even the aspects of temptation can be offered to God and used by Him to make us more humble. Any temptation, no matter how we end up responding to it, can remind us of our total dependence on God. And it can equally remind us that He loves us in our weakness. We don’t need to be somehow temptation-free or perfect for Him to cherish us.
# Celibacy is a pointed reminder that all our sexual longings are in some way preparations for or images of our longing for God. He is the complete fulfillment of a longing which even the best marriage fulfills only incompletely. (This may be why there’s no marriage in Heaven, although lol I don’t pretend to know exactly why God does things.)
# Celibacy almost always involves an element of sacrifice and suffering. I’m intentionally placing this last because I agree with those who say Catholics often put way too much emphasis on being gay as essentially, primarily “a cross” to be patiently borne. Again I think it just does not have to be as hard for gay people in the Church as it is, and I don’t want to romanticize our suffering or act like suffering is the best way to understand our sexuality. But we can be grateful for our suffering or sacrifices, by uniting them to Christ on the Cross and/or “offering them up” for other gay people, for those who persecute us, or for anybody we like. For some people this approach makes sense, for others it’s frustrating or depressing, but really none of the items in this list will make sense for every single gay Christian, so hey.
I think I have more stuff but this list is already too long! Your capacity for love is good, even if you struggle to find ways to express it. The fact that you share something important in common with other people, many of whom feel marginalized in the Church, is good even if it’s also complicated. If you were straight, or if you had no sexual desires at all, of course God would still make a way for you to serve Him and His people, but you’d be missing some experiences and possibilities which are open to you now. You’d gain certain things but lose others. The things you learn through being gay in the Church can help you be a good friend, a good Catholic, a good child of God.
“In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”
As an ordained minister and clinical social worker for over three decades, Bergenfield’s Pamela Pater-Ennis has grown all-too familiar with what she calls “religious trauma.”
Many of her clients have been abused by clergy, ostracized by religiously judgmental families, or rejected from their churches when they came out as gay, she recalled in a recent interview.
Faith is supposed to offer a sanctuary from suffering. But it can turn ugly, said Pater-Ennis, 62, who runs an interfaith counseling service with offices in Teaneck and Hoboken. Her mission, she said, is to help people “make sense of it when religion turns bad.”
Pater-Ennis, who was ordained in 1984 in the Reformed Church in America, a mainline Protestant denomination, said she’s both saddened and fascinated by the ways in which religion can cause pain. She recently launched Sanctuary Healing, an online spiritual coaching and therapy program to help clients address such trauma.
That followed the publication last year of “Out In the Pulpit,” her book chronicling the journeys of 13 lesbian clergy who have struggled to reconcile identities as Christians and lesbians. The book grew out of her angst as a straight ally, she said.
The women she profiled were heavily involved in their churches growing up but were shunned when they came out as gay, said Pater-Ennis. They grieved the loss and yearned to return to religious life, but first, they needed to reexamine their own spiritual identities, explore their pain, and find their way to a community where they could be accepted.
Eventually, all of them were ordained.
One of the women featured in the book is Ann Kansfield, now a minister in Brooklyn. During her teenage years, she struggled with suicidal thoughts as she came to the realization that she was gay. An internalized homophobia forced her to keep quiet about her sexual identity, Kansfield told Pater-Ennis.
In particular, she feared revealing her secret to members of the downtown Rochester, New York,church where her family worshipped. It was there that she had found refuge from bullying classmates who tormented her for acting and dressing differently from the other girls.
But at age 18, when Kansfield came out, she was pleasantly surprised by the warm reaction of members at her First Reformed Church. “The congregation loved me the way I was,” she recalled. Inspired by their faith and unconditional love, she decided to become a minister.
Yet after Kansfield studied in seminary for several years, the church declined to grant her ordination, she said.
Expelled from seminary
Other women in the book recounted similar roadblocks. Some were kicked out of churches and seminary programs; others still fear they will be stripped of their religious station. Many struggled for years with guilt over their sexual orientation.
“The issue of homosexuality in mainline Protestant churches is currently considered the most divisive and debated issue,” Pater-Ennis writes. “There appear to be existing attitudes within congregations that prevent the hiring of lesbian clergy. Many of the clergy who sexually identity as lesbians still found that they need to remain closeted to maintain their employment and their ordination status.”
Pater-Ennis has never served in a church but performs her ministry through her counseling service, she said. She’s also involved in Reformed Church leadership in Bergen and Hudson counties and at the Clinton Avenue Reformed Church in Bergenfield, where her husband, the Rev. Mark Ennis, is pastor.
Homosexuality has sparked fierce debates among denominations around the world. Passages in the Bible condemn the practice, which has historically been considered taboo by many houses of worship. The Catholic Church, for example, teaches that gay people must be treated with dignity and respect but that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered” since they “close the sexual act to the gift of life.”
But views have been shifting. A 2015 Pew Research Center survey of religious beliefs in the U.S. found that 54% of U.S. Christians say homosexuality should be accepted. An increasing number of churches across the country now conduct same-sex marriages and permit the ordination of gay and lesbian individuals.
Several Protestant denominations have been at the forefront. When the United Church of Christ ordained an openly gay man in 1972, it was called a first in the history of Christianity. The Evangelical Lutheran Church elected its first gay bishop in 2013, and the Presbyterian Church welcomed the first openly lesbian pastor in 2012.
But that doesn’t mean the path has been easy for all.
After studying at the New Brunswick Theological Seminary in New Jersey, Kansfield was informed that the Christian Reformed Church in North America wouldn’t grant her ordination because she was an open lesbian. She subsequently was ordained by the United Church of Christ in 2011.
Leaders of the Reformed Church also suspended her father, Norman Kansfield, an ordained pastor who was president of the New Brunswick seminary, for performing his daughter’s marriage to Jennifer Aull in 2004. He was defrocked the following year, but reinstated in 2011.
Outcry over a wedding
“There was an outcry about our wedding which was definitely uncomfortable,” Ann Kansfield recalled. “My dad got fired for performing our wedding…. It was a great sadness for many in our denomination.”
Today, Kansfield is co-pastor with Aull at Greenpoint Church in Brooklyn, where they aim to reach out to the economically disadvantaged and create an inclusive space for all worshipers, she said. Kansfield, who started there in 2003, said she is working on social justice issues as well as running food ministries for the underprivileged.
The congregation “chose me to be their pastor knowing who they were getting” and gave her a home, “where I could be myself in spite of systemic homophobia that is present throughout society,” she said.
By 2015, Kansfield was sworn in as the first female and first openly lesbian chaplain in the history of the New York City Fire Department. She said she tries not to focus on prejudice that might be sparked by her identity.
“I’m sure there is a lot of sexism and homophobia out there but I tend to not look for it,” she said. “If you look for it, it’s very easy to find, and once you find it it can be disruptive and painful.”
Many who’ve experienced prejudice from within their religion subsequently shut the church out of their lives, said Pater-Ennis.
But the author urges survivors to seek counseling from a religious professional to work through those issues and then to return to some type of spiritual realm where “they can find their own inner peace.
“As humans, we crave community,” she said. “It’s in our DNA.”
The call came one warm night in June 2019. A young Polish priest referred to as “John Doe 1” in a federal lawsuit filed Monday knew it was his boss, Rev. Miroslaw Krol, and he knew that Krol was drunk. But he didn’t know the night would end with him driving an intoxicated Krol and another visiting priest to a motel to meet a male sex worker, and then, according to the suit, withdrawing cash from an ATM so Krol could pay him.
Krol is the chancellor and CEO of Orchard Lake Schools, an Oakland County campus that includes a private prep school, St. Mary’s; a seminary, and a Polish cultural center. A leading figure in the Detroit area’s Polish Catholic community, both Krol and the OLS leadership are named as defendants in a suit in which three men — including two priests — say Rev. Krol recruited them to Orchard Lake with the intent of sexually abusing them.
On Stateside, host April Baer talks to reporter Kate Wells about this story.
But when Krol’s abuse was repeatedly reported to Orchard Lake’s board of trustees — which includes the Most Rev. Allen H. Vigneron, Archbishop of the Detroit Archdiocese — these men say they were either forced to resign or were abruptly fired. Krol is currently on leave, according to a statement from Steve Gross, Chairman of the Board of Regents:
“In our judgment, these former employees of the Orchard Lake Schools who are asserting these claims while simultaneously seeking to remain anonymous have mischaracterized the circumstances surrounding their terminations. It is important to note all individuals named in the lawsuit are adults. These former employees bringing this employment action did not work with any minors, nor did their roles involve the
High School on our campus. We are confident that the facts, in this case, will prevail, that the legal process will determine their claims lack merit, and that we acted appropriately at all times.
As an institution, we have been and will continue to be fully committed to following the highest
standards for our students, faculty, and staff.”
“Father Krol denies all allegations of misconduct, and looks forward to being vindicated,” said attorney Roy Henley, who represents Krol, in an emailed statement Monday. “He has no other comment at this time, and accordingly respectfully declines your offer of an on-air interview.”
The public relations office for the Detroit Archdiocese did not respond to requests for comments or interviews.
Who is Rev. Miroslaw Krol?
Krol, a native of Poland, “brings significant money into the OLS organization and has deep ties to the Vatican by virtue of his friendship with Polish Cardinal [Stanislaw] Dziwisz, a former Secretary to Pope John Paul II,” according to the federal suit.
Krol initially studied at the SS. Cyril & Methodius Seminary at Orchard Lake. Located in West Bloomfield Township, it bills itself as “the only seminary in the United States dedicated to preparing foreign-born seminarians, primarily from Poland, to serve the Catholic Church in our country.”
Krol went on to complete his training in New Jersey, where he studied under and was ordained by the now-notorious former American Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick, who sexually abused minors and seminarians for decades.
“It is in this environment that Defendant Krol completed his religious training and spent much of his early years as a priest in Newark — where McCarrick was Archbishop. Indeed, Krol was ordained by McCarrick and, upon information and belief, witnessed in him many of the grooming tactics that Fr. Krol would later employ at OLS.”
In 2006, Kroll returned to Orchard Lake as dean and vice rector of the seminary. According to the complaint, rumors started that he was “engag[ing] in sexual activity with seminarians.”
“At least one young seminarian recruited from Poland during this time period is reported to have confided in both a local priest and in a Bishop in New Jersey that the sexual activity involving Krol at these parties was not always consensual. Upon information and belief, the Bishop told the seminarian that if he wanted to become a priest, he should not say anything further about the topic.”
Meanwhile, Krol was traveling to Poland to recruit young men, including those who allegedly “had failed out of seminary in Poland or who had issues with alcohol and sexual matters.” The suit accuses Krol of falsifying their academic transcripts to get them into Orchard Lake, where they were “alone and eager to revive their dreams of becoming a priest. They were vulnerable and largely dependent on Krol.”
In 2017, when Krol was being considered as a candidate for chancellor of Orchard Lake, “two priests who had worked with Krol at OLS in the past raised concerns with the OLS Board of Regents regarding Krol’s behavior…[and] rumored sexual misconduct when he had served as a Dean and Vice Rector,” the claim alleges.
“Despite these warnings about Krol, the OLS Board of Regents appointed him as Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer in 2017.”
John Doe 1: A young Polish priest
John Doe 1 first met Krol when he was a young seminary student in Poland, where Krol often came to recruit students to Michigan. Years later, the suit alleges Krol aggressively recruited Doe 1 to leave his role as a priest in a New Jersey parish to come work as vice chancellor of Orchard Lake, promising to pay for and arrange his green card.
But the green card never materialized. Instead, Krol began controlling every aspect of his life, according to the complaint: berating him, demanding he “be available at all times,” forcing him to cancel plans or return early from vacations. He also began inviting Doe 1 to his apartment for late-night meetings, where Krol “drank to excess.” One evening, the suit alleges, Krol pushed his hands down Doe 1’s pants and touched his penis. The next day Krol told him how much “fun” he’d had, and went on to make frequent references to the size of Doe 1’s penis.
“After he left, Krol spread false rumors that John Doe 1 was forced to leave OLS because he was gay. These statements were untrue and continue to harm John Doe 1 to this day.”
So when Krol called him that June night, asking Doe 1 to drive him and a visiting priest from Chicago to a bar, Doe 1 refused. But Krol, who was clearly intoxicated, threatened to get behind the wheel himself. Feeling trapped, Doe 1 agreed to give them a ride.
“When they got to the bar, John Doe 1 realized that it was a gay bar,” the complaint reads. “When they left, Fr. Krol directed John Doe 1 to another stop — which John Doe 1 soon realized was a motel. At the motel, a male sex worker, who Krol had apparently contacted through the internet, was waiting. It was apparent to John Doe 1 that the sex worker knew Fr. Krol.
“John Doe 1 remained in the car while the other priests went into the motel,” the complaint says. “At one point, the priests asked John Doe 1 to retrieve cash from an ATM, which John Doe 1 concluded was used to pay the sex worker. When they arrived back to Krol’s apartment that evening, John Doe 1 began to help Krol — who had fallen asleep in the back seat — out of the car. Krol threw his arms around John Doe 1’s neck and tried to hug him … and then started kissing him on the face and lips, trying to put his tongue in John Doe 1’s mouth. John Doe 1 pushed Krol away and told him to go home.”
Doe 1 didn’t know where to turn. He’d seen Krol use his power and influence to destroy the careers of other young priests he didn’t like, the complaint alleges, and feared he couldn’t leave Orchard Lake without angering Krol. Eventually, Doe 1 confided in his bishop in New Jersey, who is not named in the suit, but who told Doe 1 he had to leave.
“Ultimately, John Doe 1 decided to tell Krol that he had to leave for reasons related to his green card,” the suit says. “John Doe 1 left OLS in October 2019. After he left, Krol spread false rumors that John Doe 1 was forced to leave OLS because he was gay. These statements were untrue and continue to harm John Doe 1 to this day.”
John Doe 2: A classical musician from Chicago
At the same time Joan Doe 1 was trying to find a way out, his coworker was experiencing similar harassment and abuse by Krol, according to the complaint.
“John Doe 2” is not a priest. A Polish native and professional classical musician in Chicago, John Doe 2 was also recruited to Orchard Lake by Krol to take on a prominent position as director of the Polish Mission there.
Both he and Doe 1 were hired in 2018. And like Doe 1, John Doe 2 says Krol began making unwanted sexual advances soon after he started at Orchard Lake. On weekends, Doe 2 would drive back to Chicago to be with his wife and daughter. But that left four evenings a week when Krol knew he was on campus, Doe 2 says.
At first, Krol would invite Doe 2 to his apartment in the evenings, and invited him to “lay down” or “relax” in Kroll’s bed. Doe 2 says he made it clear to Krol that he wasn’t interested and left his apartment, but Krol became increasingly aggressive. Then came the text message, in Polish, warning Doe 2 that if he didn’t accept Krol’s invitation, his job would be on the line.
That night, Krol lunged at him, “leaping into his lap” and “kissing his neck and lips and trying to put his hands down John Doe 2’s pants,” the suit alleges. “Krol told John Doe 2 how much he wanted him and pled with him to have sex with him.” Doe 2 says he “pushed Krol away and left his apartment,” and tried to ignore Krol’s messages or schedule work meetings to conflict with Krol’s invitations.
Doe 2 says initially, he was in shock. Having been raised in Poland and with several members of his family serving as priests, Doe 2 had spent his life in the church community. He says he started to tell other members of the Orchard Lake community about what was happening. Some of them seemed shocked. But others told him they weren’t surprised.
“Krol told John Doe 2 how much he wanted him and pled with him to have sex with him.”
“I heard from some of them that there was gossip a long time ago going around about Father Krol, you know, being this or that,” John Doe 2 told Michigan Radio. “So I was shocked, like, ‘So there are people who heard about that already a long time ago, before I got to Orchard Lake, and didn’t do anything about it? Like, are you waiting for something really crazy to happen here on campus?’
“But some … people told me, ‘Well, oh my god, thank God! Because there was already gossip that you had a relationship with Father Kroll…. Thank God that you are straight, you are not the gay.’ Because that was what was the gossip, was that people were telling each other, ‘You know what? Maybe he’s his lover or having a relationship with him.’”
Doe 2 says eventually he just wanted to “forget” what had happened in Krol’s apartment, he says, “and move on and then focus on my job and my work. Hopefully nothing’s going to happen, because I sent the message [to Krol.] It’s kind of like, ‘Goodbye, thank you very much.’ And hopefully he will get it. And so I was hoping for that. But unfortunately, it got worse and worse and worse.”
Krol began luring Doe 2 to his apartment by pretending to have a heart attack or medical emergency, or saying they needed to talk about “future plans for the Polish Mission.”
“During the meeting, Krol had several drinks and at one point excused himself to go to the bathroom,” according to the suit. “When he returned, Krol sat next to John Doe 2, put his hand on John Doe 2’s leg, and began slowly moving it up his thigh. At the same time, Krol reached his other hand into his own pants and began to masturbate. Krol began asking John Doe 2 to have sex with him and telling John Doe 2 that he loved him. John Doe 2, as in the past, rejected Krol’s advance by moving Krol’s hand off his leg and leaving the apartment.”
It was a turning point. In January 2020, Doe 2 says he reported Krol’s sexual harassment to John Roland, a member of the OLS Board of Regents and Vice Chairman of the Polish Mission’s Board of Directors. Roland said he had to “disclose the information to the entire Board of Regents,” the complaint says, but the “other Board members chastised him — suggesting that Mr. Roland should have addressed this issue only with Krol. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Roland was removed from the OLS Board.”
Just a few weeks later, on January 15, 2020, the COO of Orchard Lake, Todd Covert, asked to talk with Doe 2 privately in his office.
“So he closed the door, and he said, ‘We need to talk about stuff. There is that person who reported to us, the board member [who] reported to us…. And I need to ask questions, and I want to talk to you about it. So are you OK [with that?]’
“I said ‘Yes, no problem.’ But I said, ‘Can I record the meeting?’ Because I was scared already, you know? And he said, ‘No, there is no reason. It’s only the two of us. So there is no reason for recording that meeting.’ And I told him, ‘You know what, I would really like to record that meeting. If not, then I can’t talk to you…. [If] there is nothing to hide, why not to record?’ So then finally he said yes.”
Doe 2 says he still has that recording, though his attorneys declined to provide it to Michigan Radio. But Doe 2 says he recounted Krol’s harassment and abuse over the previous year and half. And Covert seemed sympathetic, he says.
“He told me that he feels very bad for me, and they are going to take this very seriously. They are going to look into it, they are going to investigate, and that there is already investigation going on. And they’re going to get back to me with more staff, more details, more probably questions.”
Doe 2 says he returned home to Chicago that same day. Two days later, he opened his email to find a message from the vice Chaicman of the Board of Regents, asking Doe 2 to contact him about a “‘very urgent, very important issue.’”
“And then before I was able to respond to that email or contact him, I got another email” saying his contract with Orchard Lake and the Polish mission has been terminated. The email accused Doe 2 of “a variety of criminal and tortious conduct,” the suit alleges, including that Doe 2 had stolen or mismanaged money from the Polish mission.
Those allegations were “untrue,” the suit claims, and “had never been raised with Doe 2 previously, and was nowhere mentioned in his personnel file.” But he soon learned that Krol was publicly saying Doe 2 had been fired under a cloud of suspicion for misusing Orchard Lake funds.
In the close-knit, Midwestern Polish Catholic community, word spread fast, Doe 2 says. He started getting calls to his home in Chicago from friends who’d heard the rumors.
“He talked badly about me in Poland, too,” Doe 2 says. “So people who knew me [for] many years, they contacted me, and they said, ‘There is something not correct. You are not that guy .’
“So it was very shocking. And I was sitting alone [at home] because I couldn’t, at the time, talk openly. I couldn’t let people know what was happening, really, behind the scenes…. He hurt my name that I built for years and years. And then I thought, what about my child, you know, if she hears some story later on, and it’s untrue?”
Doe broke down, sitting in his car in his garage, so that his daughter wouldn’t hear him while she was doing virtual school inside the family’s home. “I’m doing this for all the future victims. I don’t want anything like that to happen to anyone. But mostly for my daughter. I want to look in her eyes every day, and know that I did the right thing.”
“I was the guy who was victimized, and going through the trauma, and seeking for help and telling people ‘Listen, guys, help me. This is something not right. This is crazy stuff going on on this campus from the leader. This is what is happening to me as an employee.’ And they did nothing.”
Reports and retaliation
The third and final victim mentioned in the suit is not a formal plaintiff, but was witness to similar behavior by Krol. He, too, was a young Polish priest recruited by Kroll soon after John Doe 2 left Orchard Lake. He too says Krol sexually harassed him, and that when Doe 3 rejected him, Krol “began sending him torrents of abusive text messages, and blaming [him] for mistakes that he had not made.”
In December 2019, Doe 3 told Krol he would leave Orchard Lake when his contract ended the following June. Instead, Krol fired him in March. Doe 3 says he reported Krol “to church authorities by writing to the Archdiocese of Detroit in or around March of 2020.”
Soon after, a detective from the Michigan Attorney General’s office contacted Doe 3, and interviewed him. The same detective also reached out to Doe 1, who eventually agreed to disclose Krol’s abuse as well. According to the lawsuit, no one from Orchard Lake has reached out to either of the young priests about their complaints.
Then in August, lawyers for the two plaintiffs reached out to Orchard Lake’s leadership to formally report the allegations of sexual harassment. One month later, in September, Krol went on a popular Polish radio show, and accused both Doe 2 and Doe 3 of “misappropriating funds.” Doe 1 says Krol began contacting his friends and family members and making threatening statements. “Indeed, shortly after Krol learned of John Doe 1’s cooperation with legal counsel in this matter, parishioners in John Doe 1’s diocese began receiving anonymous and disparaging letters about John Doe 1,” the suit says.
“It’s so disappointing to me, both as an attorney and as a Catholic, to see a Church institution respond this way to really serious, credible claims from multiple people that have come forward,” says Jennifer Salvatore, an attorney for the plaintiffs. “And that’s really disappointing, because the world knows now how they’re supposed to respond. The law is really clear about how they’re supposed to respond, and the church knows how they’re supposed to respond. And time and again, they are not honoring their legal obligations or their moral obligations with respect to how these issues are being addressed. And to see it happen in 2019, 2020 in a Catholic Church entity is just tragic.”
A former Rapid City priest will serve 7.75 years in federal prison and owes more than $300,000 in restitution after being convicted of 65 felony financial crimes related to stealing donations from the diocese.
Marcin Garbacz “exploited his position as a priest” and “continues to play the victim,” prosecutor Benjamin Patterson said Monday at the federal courthouse in Rapid City.
Garbacz, 42, was sentenced after a jury convicted him of 50 counts of wire fraud, nine counts of money laundering, five counts of filing false tax returns, and one count of transporting stolen money between 2012 and 2018.
Garbacz apologized to parishioners, saying he unfairly harmed them while he was angry with the Diocese of Rapid City and the Catholic Church. Among other complaints, he said he was upset that church doctrine considers gay men like him “intrinsically disordered.”
Your crimes were serious, deliberate and show evidence of a “sophisticated criminal mind,” Judge Jeffrey Viken told Garbacz.
Viken said 4.75 years of the sentence is for the crimes related to stealing from the diocese while the remaining three years is for stealing from the IRS and American people by filing false tax returns. Viken also sentenced Garbacz to three years of supervised release once he’s completed his prison term.
Garbacz owes $258,696 to the diocese that will be equally divided among the three Rapid City churches he stole from, Viken said. He also owes $46,008 to the IRS for the tax crimes for a total of $304,704 in restitution.
“The diocese trusts in the judicial system and appreciates its dedication in making sure that justice is served in this case,” the diocese said in an emailed statement.
About a dozen community members and a half-dozen priests attended the hearing. None of them gave victim impact statements during the hearing and the priests declined interviews.
However, priests from the three victimized churches — the Cathedral, Saint Therese and Blessed Sacrament — submitted sealed victim impact statements to Viken. Father Michel Mulloy, the former diocesan administrator, sent a statement before the diocese announced this fall that he is under investigation after being accused of sexually abusing a child in the early 1980s.
Garbacz made an unusually long statement compared to other defendants who chose to speak during their sentencing hearing.
“I’m really sorry for what I did … I know that I violated their trust,” he said.
Garbacz said he harmed parishioners who donated to the church and those who could have been helped with the funds. He did not directly apologize to his fellow priests, the former bishop he served under or the diocese.
“I disagreed with the institution” and was treated as a “second-class citizen,” he said.
Garbacz said he was at odds with the Catholic Church over its teachings on same-sex attraction. He also said the diocese discouraged priests from showing any signs of weakness and gave them unrealistic and unclear goals.
“I felt I needed to leave the job,” he said of why he moved to Washington and started working at FedEx after completing a treatment program in St. Louis instead of returning to his priestly duties in Rapid City.
Garbacz said the steps former Bishop Robert Gruss said he needed to take to be un-suspended were unrealistic. He also said he realized he already lost credibility in the diocese and wanted to work on taking care of himself.
Garbacz said he wants to continue therapy and find a new career so he can pay his restitution.
“I can’t explain it away,” defense lawyer Jennifer Albertson said of her client’s crimes.
Albertson said Garbacz differed from many of her clients in that he had a good upbringing. However it was probably “psychologically damaging” to be gay while growing up in Poland and then becoming a Catholic priest, she said.
She said the diocese had questioned whether it was a good idea to bring Garbacz to the diocese but did not explain what she meant by that. The diocese did not immediately respond to a message about this.
Albertson said Garbacz ultimately committed a “crime of opportunity” since he had access to where the donations were stored and the diocese did a poor job accounting for the cash. It then “got out of control.”
She asked for a prison term that would let Garbacz return to work and pay restitution while he’s still young and healthy.
“Those people deserve that money back,” Albertson said of the parishioners who donated. “Those are the people he really hurt.”
Patterson asked for a seven-year sentence.
Monday was the first time Garbacz apologized and expressed that he knew he hurt people, Patterson said. He said Garbacz recently said he went to trial to show how the church was bad at tracking money and that the expensive items he bought — which included a $10,000 diamond ring, a grand piano and a Cadillac — were all used for church purposes.
“He can’t see past himself,” Patterson said.
He said Garbacz committed “multiple acts in multiple states,” caused parishioners to stop donating to the church, harmed priests who were his friends, and made the diocese lose credibility.
Garbacz’s crimes and concealment were complex, Patterson added. Among other acts, Garbacz repeatedly stole money, committed his thefts during the night, bought tamper proof bags, forged signatures, lied about how he paid for expensive items, made multiple deposits to avoid IRS suspicion, took out his money once he was caught and prepared to flee to Poland.
The fact that $40,000 of Garbacz’s stolen money remains missing shows how he covered up his crimes, Patterson said.
Garbacz will not be headed directly to prison because he’s now facing the separate indictment related to child sexual abuse.
He’s charged with possessing child porn between July 2011 and May 2019 and “engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place” by traveling to another country and having sexual conduct with a boy under the age of 18.
Garbacz used to work as a parish priest but became a teacher and chaplain at the Rapid City Catholic School System by July 2012, Patterson said during the trial. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.
Editor’s Note: Last autumn, Alexis Record and Tom Rastrelli appeared together in one of many blog posts here that commemorated The Clergy Project’s 1000 Member Milestone. I thought they were a good example of the variety of religious backgrounds that people who leave religion come from. Now they are back together in what I think is even a more interesting way – a former fundamentalist reviewing the memoir of a former Catholic priest. /Linda LaScola, Editor
First, with permission from the publisher, Alexis starts with excerpts from the prologue:
The Church needed something new. In January, the Boston Globe had exposed Cardinal Bernard Francis Law for covering up the sexual abuse of minors by priests. As the months before my ordination passed, a mounting number of bishops fell in shame. I doubted my calling. But the Church was different in Dubuque. My archbishop hadn’t harbored pedophiles. He’d turned them over to the police. He’d offered their victims support and healing. I would do the same.
After the archbishop completed the prayer, a priest lifted the deacon’s stole from my shoulder and replaced it with a priest’s stole. Over my head, he lowered a chasuble with gold-and-blue embroidery matching the archbishop’s. I crossed from the center of the sanctuary to the cathedra, the ornately carved oak throne where the archbishop sat. I knelt before him. From a crystal pitcher, he poured syrupy chrism–holy oil scented with balsam–over my upturned hands. Pressing his palms against mine, the archbishop smeared large crosses as he prayed: “The Father anointed Our Lord Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. May Jesus preserve you to sanctify the Christian people and to offer sacrifice to God.” He folded his glistening hands around mine. His dark eyes were absolution. I would sacrifice myself for him, for God.
Hands dripping with chrism, I stood, turned, and walked to my spot at the foot of the altar. I glanced at the front row into my parents’ eyes. They were crying, grinning. I smiled through tears. I was a priest.
Less than two years later, I turned my back on the archbishop. This time, I held my tears. I rushed from his office into February’s darkness. The frigid night air burned my cheeks. In the corner of the icy parking lot, my black pickup offered refuge. My only private space, it was where I retreated to sing, talk on my phone, and cry–all the things a young priest didn’t want his pastor or cleaning lady to witness. I drove through blocks of Catholic neighborhoods, people who trusted the archbishop. Now, I had to obey his command by covering up sexual abuse.
On the north end of town, a boat ramp would provide easy access to the frozen Mississippi. My plan: drive until the ice buckled under the weight of the truck.
Confessions of a Gay Priest: A Memoir of Sex, Love, Abuse, and Scandal in the Catholic Seminary
By Alexis Record
For half a decade now I have been a Free Hugs Mom at our local Pride parade with Sunday Assembly San Diego. I become everyone’s mom despite age differences and embrace hundreds of people while making sure they’re drinking water and wearing sunscreen in the summer sun, you know, Mom concerns. Most importantly of all, I tell folks I’m proud of them. Most laugh or smile at my apron, some cry, and a few collapse into my arms as if a stranger’s acceptance might squeeze their fractured parts into some semblance of wholeness. As our group discussed doing an emotionally exhausting two-day Pride event this year, I was still recovering from finishing my tear-stained advanced copy of Tom Rastrelli’s book, Confessions of a Gay Priest: A Memoir of Sex, Love, Abuse, and Scandal in the Catholic Seminary. It solidified my resolve to love on those kids.
Recently it felt as if an additional child was in my home: young Tom Rastrelli. I poured my love and support into him as he navigated pure hell. “Oh baby,” I’d tell him as he doubled down on homophobic lessons and planted deeper roots into his own victimization, like a vulnerable plant choosing the darkest corner where growth was promised.
What makes Rastrelli’s story so compelling are his flourishes of detail. His experiences are incredibly visceral–a real strength of his writing–which in turn make the abuses he suffered that much more excruciating. Each page is pure beauty and heartbreak. I found myself unable to put it down, needing to know what happens next. Needing to know Tom would be okay.
Rastrelli excavates the darker parts of his theology and clerical experiences without being anti-Catholic. In fact, I was struck with the humanity of his fellow seminarians and priests. The religious boy’s club included drinking, swearing, smoking, sexism, and jokes about pedophilia as the topic of the day which would not look out of place among a group of men in any other part of society. These boys grow through spiritual practice into priests. They are portrayed with a fair hand, not as monsters, but as loving servants of congregants who become unwitting facilitators of abusive and inhumane doctrines. They encouraged counseling, but not from women who pointed out sexism within the system. They practiced forgiveness, but used it to sweep grievous abuses under the rug. They offered real friendship, but caused their friends to hate their sexualities. They were real people, good people, doing the best they could with the tools they had. It made me want to take my local priest out to coffee to see how he’s holding up.
I’ve never been Catholic. The closest I’ve come is years ago working as a priest’s sign language interpreter during Mass. I outed myself as protestant by signing each word of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” instead of crossing myself and as a result wasn’t asked back. Yet, I did not need to be completely familiar with all aspects of Catholic tradition to follow this story. Any conservative Christian will recognize, as I did, the strong desire to be lost in God’s presence, the pressure to cover up for the sins of godly men, and the deep self loathing after every masturbatory orgasm.
Rastrelli takes the reader on a unique journey most of the faithful never see. Like many of the other wide-eyed liberal students who loved the Church, he set out to affect change from within it only to be gradually and incessantly chiseled into the very shape of those hard beliefs he did not think reflected Christ. Seminarians during this process swallowed larger and larger boluses of cognitive dissonance until they were either consumed from within or vomited out of God’s presence. They were told not to make waves and not to confuse the faithful with their own doubts about the system. It was amazing to me just how so many good people became unwilling participants in facilitating horrific evils. Offering a holy profession for homosexual men who would never be allowed to have sex within the confines of that system and then laying all the blame for child predation upon the gays is just one of those evils.
The brutal parts of this story include the author’s homophobia recounted from his early years and directed selfward like a knife at his own throat, the sexual abuse the reader voyeuristically shares, and, almost worse, the excusing and minimizing of that abuse by the very men supposedly speaking and acting for God himself. Worshipping a tortured savior meant suffering throughout the story was almost always mistaken for love. Oh baby.
Silent no longer, Tom Rastrelli bravely reopens wounds and lays bare scars for all to see. His memoir is a breathtaking, priceless treasure–a bright light in the darkness. I’m proud to recommend it to believers and unbelievers alike. For victims of abuse, I suggest being gentle with yourself while reading. Also, drink some water, wear your sunblock, and avoid hazardous religious systems.
Confessions will be available April, 2020. Preorders available now, from Amazon.