“Mary’s” real identify was Francis Cardinal Spellman. The yr was 1967, and he was Archbishop of the diocese of New York. An intimate of popes going back to Pope Pius XII, whom he had befriended when he was Archbishop Eugenio Pacelli in the 1920’s and serving as Papal Nuncio in the Vatican, Spellman was the most powerful Catholic determine in the United States, and one of the most powerful in the world.
This text first appeared in Salon.
The groping occurred in his personal quarters behind St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan in the presence of two West Level cadets and one Monsignor who was launched to us as the Cardinal’s “personal assistant.”
I was a junior at West Point, and one of the editors of the cadet journal, The Pointer. Cadets have been allowed solely two weekend leaves every semester in these days, and what they referred to as a “weekend leave” consisted of being allowed to go away the campus on the Hudson from midday on Saturday until 6 p.m. on Sunday, so it wasn’t a “weekend” at all.
One of the issues cadets did to compensate for this lack of free time away from the Academy was to participate in what was referred to as “club activity,” as a result of cadet clubs have been permitted to take trips away from the academy to pursue “activities” associated to their objective. The Pointer was thought-about such a club. So was the “Culture Club,” shaped by a couple of classmates in my company for the objective of availing ourselves of the tradition in close by New York City. The Tradition Club would take trips to New York to attend the ballet and opera on Friday and Saturday nights. The remaining of the time in the city was our own, which we spent pursuing members of the reverse sex, whose members in these days have been nowhere to be seen among the all-male corps of cadets.
Cadets working on the employees of The Pointer might take what have been referred to as “trip sections” to sell advertisements, or in my case to interview individuals for articles for the magazine. A couple of of us have been on the lookout for an excuse to go right down to the city, so I racked my brain considering of who I might interview for a Pointer article. Abruptly it got here to me. Cardinal Spellman! He was scheduled to obtain the excessive honor of the Thayer Award from West Level later that yr, so there was a good cause to write down a piece about him. The trick was getting him to comply with an interview.
Luckily, I knew that he and my grandfather, Common Lucian Okay. Truscott Jr., had been acquainted during the conflict. Spellman had been named by the Vatican as Apostolic Vicar of the United States in 1939, and my grandfather had advised me that Spellman had accompanied him throughout the landing at Anzio, Italy in 1944, and that that they had stayed in contact afterwards.
I sent Spellman a letter asking for an interview for The Pointer, understanding that he would recognize my identify, and positive sufficient, his assistant received proper back to me, and we arrange a date in April. We traveled to the city in our Gown Gray uniforms and showed up at the cardinal’s personal residence in the late afternoon on a Friday. With me was a classmate who was one of The Pointer’s photographers, and a second man who was scheduled to make sales calls later that day and the subsequent to sell advertisements for the journal.
We have been led into a sitting room with windows overlooking Madison Avenue. Spellman, a diminutive, fleshy square-faced man sporting wire-rimmed spectacles was seated in a nook of the room. His assistant the monsignor showed me to a chair subsequent to him. I took my seat and received out my pen and notebook and started the interview, but before I might even ask my first query, Spellman put his hand on my thigh and started shifting it towards my crotch. He was nearly to succeed in my personal elements when the monsignor, who was standing behind him, reached over his shoulder and grabbed his wrist and put his hand again in his lap. “Now, now, eminence,” the monsignor whispered to Spellman.
I had no concept what to do. I was afraid I might be punished or even accused of mendacity if I reported Spellman to the authorities at West Point. I mean, he was Cardinal Spellman! He was the army vicar of the United States! I was panicked that if I stood up and left, I wouldn’t get the interview I wanted for my story. I had bought the story and the New York trip to the officer in charge of The Pointer on the foundation of writing a profile of Spellman prematurely of the Thayer Award ceremony. I was dumbstruck. I simply sat there, frozen.
All of a sudden the cardinal opened the drawer in the aspect desk subsequent to him and took out a gold-plated tie clasp emblazoned with some type of Catholic symbol and handed it to me. Dumbfounded, I put the tie clasp in my pocket, took pen in hand, and resumed the interview. I received off a couple of questions and was scribbling down his answer once I felt his hand sliding up my leg again. Similar factor. The monsignor grabbed his wrist and put his hand again in his lap with a whispered “come now, your eminence.” Cardinal Spellman opened the drawer once more, and this time he handed me a gold-plated key chain depicting St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
He did it again and again, and I simply stored asking questions and recording his solutions like nothing happened. I left the cardinal’s residence that day carrying a couple of tie clasps, three key chains, and a couple of gold-plated tie tacks.
There was an out-of-body facet to the entire thing. It was like it was occurring to another person. There I was in this quite giant room behind St. Patrick’s Cathedral with two of my West Point buddies and this six-foot tall 30ish monsignor wanting on, and every time Spellman groped me, I assumed, certainly, this is the last time it is going to happen. I imply, there were three other individuals current! He’s going to return to his senses!
But he didn’t. He wasn’t a doddering previous senile fool, either. He answered my questions lucidly and even embellished his answers with lengthy, digressive stories. At one level, he recalled the first day of the Anzio invasion and went on about what a dashing figure my grandfather minimize in his leather-based jacket and cavalry driving breeches and white neck scarf, the colourful uniform he was well-known for sporting throughout the struggle. The monsignor didn’t say a word about the cardinal’s conduct when he escorted us out of the cardinal’s residence. No apology, no shrug of the shoulders, nothing.
Later, the three of us checked into the Statler Hilton and sat round and drank beer and laughed about it. The photographer made a number of footage displaying Spellman groping me. We couldn’t wait to get them developed and have one other yuk.
I have to say that I decided to inform this story with some trepidation for that actual purpose: because our response to Spellman’s groping was to deal with it like a joke. However whereas it might have seemed humorous to us 52 years ago, what we’ve discovered about sexual abuse by clergymen and bishops in the Catholic Church has proved that the informal groping by Cardinal Spellman that day was only a hint of what was happening and had been happening in the church definitely for many years, and maybe for hundreds of years.
Final Tuesday, Pope Francis deigned to acknowledge — in response to a question from a reporter on his official airplane, no less — that the church has lengthy recognized clergymen and bishops have sexually abused and raped nuns, typically forcing them to have abortions once they acquired pregnant. This newest admission of yet one more sexual scandal in the church got here after revelations over 30 years of sexual scandals stretching again many years. They embrace the vast ranging and many years lengthy scandal of pedophile clergymen abusing youngsters, and the abuse by clergymen of adult seminarians and members of their parishes. All of it has been recognized to the leaders of the church for decades and coated up by a systematic process of shifting offending clergymen around and intimidating victims into silence, or if needed, paying them off.
Once I moved to New York in 1970 and got here into contact with the archdiocese of New York working on stories about the church’s actual property, I heard from a number of clergymen I befriended that they still talked about Spellman in the New York church, and that his nickname for decades had been “Mary.” That a man as powerful as Cardinal Spellman can be given the feminine sobriquet “Mary” inside the church is all the evidence you want that his proclivities have been well-known by his fellow clergymen and bishops, and that incredibly, their reaction was to treat it like a joke.
Hell, the monsignor had been pre-stationed proper there behind him to insure Spellman didn’t, let’s consider, take issues too far with one of the visiting cadets! They knew what he was more likely to do. Spellman was at that time 77 and had been a priest for 51 years. There’s little doubt in my mind that if he was succesful of groping a West Point cadet in front of three witnesses in his residence at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, including a monsignor of his church, he had spent many of these years partaking in sexual abuse of other young males and maybe youngsters. “Mary,” indeed.
Sexual abuse within the Catholic Church is a joke not. Pope Francis has referred to as a “summit” of bishops in Rome later this month to discuss for the umpteenth time the drawback of sexual abuse by clergymen — this one is specifically targeted on the abuse of youngsters. He seems to be scrambling to carry together a church that’s dropping parishioners as fast as it is dropping a whole lot of tens of millions, if not billions in settlements with tens of hundreds of youngsters and adults abused by clergymen.
I wish I hadn’t laughed off my experience of being groped by Francis Cardinal Spellman. It appears clear now that sexual abuse by clergymen and bishops and even cardinals — the so-called “princes of the church — was already systemic, and that the church was engaged in, and continued to interact in what amounted to a legal enterprise by sanctioning sexual crimes and misdemeanors and not reporting offenders to regulation enforcement authorities. By staying silent about being groped by Cardinal Spellman, I feel like I contributed in some small measure to what came afterwards: 5 many years of sexual crimes by clergymen in the Catholic Church towards innocent victims.
I wasn’t an innocent victim. I was an grownup, a cadet at West Point, and I knew better. I’m sorry I didn’t rise up and report the man referred to as “Mary” for what he did.
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