Church paying for 2 lives shattered by sexual abuse

Incidents occurred 40 years ago in Philadelphia area

March 17, 2002|By Christopher K. Hepp | Christopher K. Hepp,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

PHILADELPHIA - More than 40 years later, Joe Quarles says, he still remembers his confusion when the new parish priest in Frankford slid his hand down the back of Quarles' pants.

Quarles, now 52, says he was 9 years old and an altar boy at the time.

"I did not know what sex was yet, but I knew it didn't seem right," he said. What followed were a half-dozen years of sexual abuse, Quarles said.

John Quinn says he, too, felt trepidation when, as a young teenager, he was taken by a priest to an apartment on the Main Line.

"I didn't know what his intentions were," said Quinn, now 50. "He got me drunk. The room started spinning. ... He took my pants off and he sodomized me."

Unemployed

Both men say their experiences left them shattered and unable to maintain meaningful relationships. Both are unemployed today. Both have been paid thousands of dollars by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in recent years to cover therapy and other costs. In paying the money, the archdiocese denied legal liability, saying in letters to both men that the compensation was provided "out of charitable concern for your welfare."

Quarles and Quinn stepped forward separately to tell their stories after the archdiocese last month acknowledged that it had identified 35 priests who, over the last 50 years, had sexually abused minors.

Both men say they are angry that the church has not done more to publicly identify those priests and to compensate victims like themselves.

"What I went through was horrible," Quarles said. "I don't think there is a day that goes by that I don't think about it. I know there are a lot of good priests out there, but that doesn't make up for them hiding what these other priests did all these years."

Said Quinn: "I was an innocent little kid, and all of that was taken away from me by this priest. I'm 50 years old, but deep down inside of me is that little kid, still afraid, still hiding because of what this guy did to me."

Church's response

Asked about Quinn's and Quarles' accounts, Catherine L. Rossi, director of communications for the archdiocese, responded with the following e-mail: "We think it is inappropriate to comment on the circumstances of any individual who has been involved in an abusive situation. In accordance with our past practice and policy, we will continue to respond to the needs of victims for assistance in their recovery."

Quinn identified his main abuser as the Rev. Charles J. Siegele. Siegele, former pastor of St. Barnabas Roman Catholic Church in Southwest Philadelphia, died in 1989 at age 60.

Quarles said he was abused by the Rev. Francis Rogers, who now is 83 and lives at Villa St. Joseph, a retirement home for priests in Darby Township, Pa. Reached by telephone, Rogers acknowledged that he had had sexual relations with Quarles but denied they were as extensive or as early as Quarles contended.

"He was in eighth grade," Rogers said. "He made a comment once that he was 10. That is a lie.

"It may have happened but it was not as prolonged as he says it was," Rogers said. "Naturally, he was young and I was older, so I should have known better. I don't know why it has to come out now. I guess if it does some good, but I don't see how. It will just ruin my reputation."

Quarles, who now lives in West Hollywood, Calif., grew up in Frankford and attended St. Joachim Church.

Quarles' account

What follows is his account:

The abuse started shortly after he began serving Mass with Rogers.

Eventually, the priest began inviting him to visit his private apartment in the rectory.

"He would offer me alcohol and get me drunk," Quarles said. "I would wake up with no clothes on, not knowing what had happened."

Quarles did not tell anyone what was happening.

"In my family, you never said anything bad about a priest," he said. "I was scared. And I felt guilty, like I was doing something wrong."

Rogers kept inviting Quarles, and Quarles kept going. "He had this hold on me, because he was a priest and because of the alcohol," he said. "He got me to the point where I wanted the alcohol."

The priest took him to dinner at fancy restaurants and on weekend trips to New York to see Broadway plays.

"He treated me like a king in public," he said.

In the summer, Quarles said, Rogers would take him to a Shore house at Townsends Inlet, N.J.

"As soon as he would get there, he would start making drinks," Quarles said. Sexual abuse followed.

"I can still smell him, the smell of Tom Collins and the cologne he wore."

Said Quarles: "I remember he followed me back from the beach and he jumped me. ... He raped me. ... It was violent. He pulled my hair back, hurting me. ... While he was doing that, I looked to my left and the only thing I could see was the crucifix. I just kept looking at it."

Quarles said the abuse continued until he was 16.

`I just stopped going'

"I knew it was wrong, and one day I just stopped going to his place," he said. "He kept calling my house, asking for me. I think he was afraid I would tell someone."

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