By Tony Hanson
Reflections On The Priest Abuse Trial – From May, 2012:
Testimony in the clergy abuse case has taken some very personal turns for me. Good Shepherd, my parish growing up, was the scene of some of the alleged abuse detailed in this trial. My parents met at a dance at Good Shepherd in the early 1930s. My brothers and sisters and I all went there, I was an altar boy. My dad helped lead the fundraising efforts to build the gym.
Some of the names in this case also are close to home.. .one of the priest assistants to the late Cardinal John Krol once dated my sister. Also, a Father Michael Picard, who tried to do the right thing by resisting placement of a problem priest and was punished for it, officiated at my wedding in 1982.
Then there is Monsignor Joseph Gausch, pastor at Good Shepherd from 1980 to 1992, Pastor Emeritus until it closed in 2004. He played a significant role in my marrying my wife, AND the evidence shows he was a vile, sick man, an admitted abuser of children, countless children.
Although Gausch was never charged, never reported to police, the church has found allegations against him credible. The evidence suggests he was a monster from the beginning…and his career, according to a grand jury was a “reign of terror.”
Ordained in 1945, he was in trouble almost immediately.
Sick letters written by him to another priest include the following excerpts: “Trick will be to appear interested in the game and not the players – there are some wows among them.” He continued, that “the latest obstacle to my spiritual advancement is a 14 year old 7th grader – not stupid but does not study, wretched home conditions, not a bad kid, attractive as anyone could ask – and sex has already made itself a nice place in his life — you can see the set up. I was going over town last Friday just as school was dismissing — his home is over there. He volunteered to walk over with me – a mile and a half.
And this excerpt from another letter about a boy: “It happened again. We’ve gotten through the wildfire stage and the thing has settled down into solid, wholesome friendship. He needs no idealizing — he’s got the goods — ‘Teddy’ has a grandma who though not sick is housebound and delights in my visits — you know the rest of the story. That’s the last place on today’s list — Teddy will be home from school by then. That, pal, is zeal … who cares for what” (emphasis in original).
And this one: “This afternoon Sister asked me if I would take some of the 8th grade boys to camp today. They are finished their exams and they are a job to keep in tow. I said yes … we always do, you know … She told me to take my pick … decision was based on anything but their qualities of soul, naturally. Kept the crowd small … purposefully. We worked for a while then lounged … that’s one name for it … for at least two solid hours … result: one more [sic] with a capital ‘M’. It is the closest approximation to an old fashioned roll that I have had in years … and the subject was oh so satisfactory and (this is what makes the story) willin’ … “Larry” (the hero of the above piece) plans to go to the lake on the annual trip, told me that in the middle of everything this afternoon. Have since been thinking of something. There are so many signed up and it is so difficult to get a place big enough to hold the mob. Sooooo, I am [sic] thinking, why not make two expeditions out of it. First, the official JHN jaunt, and the second I could use as one of my vacation weeks — just take the “overflow” the second week … a cozy five or six. Take a small cottage … and of course, the overflow being handpicked … with Larry heading the list…”
Father Gausch was sent away in 1948 to do penance for “perversion and homosexuality”. By the next year, he was back in ministry, and over the decades there were repeated allegations of abuse…and transfers….to unsuspecting parishes, including Good Shepherd, with unsuspecting, innocent children.
As assistant pastor at Saint Bridget’s in the mid-60s, Father Gausch allegedly began abusing a 12-year-old altar boy by fondling, but it quickly escalated to masturbation, oral sex, and attempted anal rape. According to a grand jury report, Fr. Gausch manipulated the victim by saying that if he were to reveal the abuse, he would not be believed because nobody would believe a “colored” boy.
At about that same time, I was an altar boy…at Good Shepherd.
In the 1970’s, according to the grand jury, there was another sexual assault. This time secret church archives reveal Gausch admitted it and was later transferred.
Jump ahead to the early 80’s. Monsignor Joseph Gausch was pastor at Good Shepherd from 1980 to 1992, Pastor Emeritus until it closed in 2004.
Monsignor Gausch was relatively new to Good Shepherd when I proposed to my girlfriend in 1982. My mother wasn’t happy about it and that is an understatement. You see, Martha was Lutheran. To my mom, a devout Catholic, that was unacceptable, and it led to several emotional, unforgettable confrontations. But Monsignor Gausch talked with my mom, told her it was okay, that Martha and I loved each other and he gave his blessing. She accepted it after Monsignor Gausch, this “man of God”, gave us his blessing and the wedding went a head (The evidence is clear it was this same status as “man of God, that allowed him and other predator priests to prey on children, who, in the vast majority of now known cases, felt unable to report the abuse to anyone, even their own parents).
What we didn’t know at the time, what no one in Good Shepherd knew at the time (although the Archdiocese was well aware), was that Gausch had allegedly abused boys through most of his then 35 year career. AND HE WAS ALLEGEDLY ABUSING AT LEAST ONE BOY IN THE GOOD SHEPHERD CHURCH AND RECTORY AT ABOUT THAT SAME TIME HE WAS COUNSELING MY MOTHER ON MY MARRIAGE.
My dad died suddenly in 1989. Monsignor Gausch said the mass, consoled and supported my mother through it. Then my mom passed away in 1999, the same year Gausch died and well before the allegations against him came to light. Years later, victims wrote that this man ruined my life, and I am sure God has made him pay for his crimes against children. A victim of another priest in this case testified he could not tell his devout parents at the time, in fact never told them, because he could not break their hearts.
My family felt kind of the same way about Gausch after the allegations came to light. We’re glad my mom never knew, it would have broken her heart…if she could even bring herself to consider it might be true.