Photo Credits: New York Times
Gary Hayes, who was the first Catholic priest to speak openly about the sexual abuse he had suffered as a young person, passed away at age 66 from cancer. He has filed the first-ever lawsuit against Catholic officials and was an advocate for other survivors fighting for justice and truth. His actions had an enormous impact on Catholic Church and on the fight against sexual abuse in the Church, because he was a part of the Church itself.
In 1993 Hayes filed a lawsuit, with the help of attorney Steve Rubino, charging Catholic officials for racketeering. Hayes and two other boys were repeatedly molested by the Rev. Joseph McGarvey and the Rev. William O’Connell. They conspired to create a sex ring of children that could be sexually abused by the two priests and other priests, often taking the kids across state lines “for the express purpose of having forcible sexual contact” with them, the suit said, according to Religion News Service. He was under fire from the Catholic Church officials who were trying to prevent the truth to come out of the closet and they treated him viciously even long after he had settled his case. Anyway, Hayes kept his spirit and continued his fight against abuse in the Church with determination.
After he became a leader of The Linkup, a key advocacy group for survivors, he continued to point out hypocrisy of the church hierarchy and invited abuse survivors to speak about their problems and get help. People were educated through Hayes' interviews and speaches which enabled them to quckly see that the church's evolving policies were more about public relations and less about real reform. The Church was only trying to look good from the outside while on the inside abuse and molestation continued to exist.
Hayes passed away from cancer. But during his struggle with this evil disease the Catholic Church made one final move to rebuff him. Facing mounting medical costs, Hayes and his family made a plea for help to his former boss, Owensboro Bishop William Medley, and once again it was confirmed how the Church treated Hayes from his childhood till his older days. As Religion News Service reports, in a coldly bureaucratic letter, Medley claimed there was no “precedent” in helping a priest who’d voluntarily left after 18 years of service to the diocese. Hayes was abused by the Church in childhood and he had courage to fight abuse; but then he was also attacked and rejected by the Church in adulthood. His example shows how the Catholic Church treats its members who were brave enough to stand against abuse in the Church.