Back in March, a grand jury found that Pennsylvania’s Altoona-Johnstown Diocese was home to hundreds of molested children who were abused by Church leaders over several decades.
Brian Gergely, 46, was one of those victims when he was 10, and the incidents still traumatized him to the present day.
But there was a way for him to get justice — if not for himself, then for many others who were once in his position. The state Senate was about to pass a bill to reform the statute of limitations laws allowing future victims to sue their attackers without a built-in expiration date. The bill would have included a similar clause for past victims of abuse (at least until they turned 50)… but before a vote could take place, senators unanimously removed that latter part of House Bill 1947.
That meant Gergely was powerless to fight back against Monsignor Francis McCaa, the man who violated him decades earlier, and many other victims were also going to fall through the cracks.
It may have been the last straw for him.
On Friday, Gergely, 46, took his own life. He hanged himself. His father found him.
Former friend and school mate at Bishop Carroll Michele Gonsman said Gergely was certain to have looked at the measure as a last hope for other victims. Gonsman described him as a “tormented soul,” who in spite of going public with his abuse, never found peace and struggled throughout the years with drug and alcohol abuse.
“All he wanted was justice,” said Gonsman, herself a survivor of child sex abuse by a neighbor. “They decimated the bill and he struggled and struggled, and he killed himself.”
It’s such a tragic end to a tragic life.
In case you’re wondering, as I did, why anyone would oppose such a measure, here’s the short answer:
Opposition to the retroactive measure was mounted largely by the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, the insurance industry and several business lobby groups — all of which argued that the measure would be detrimental to their interests and singled them out unfairly.
I can’t figure out why anyone’s supposed to give a damn about their interests given that we’re talking about abuse victims who suffered at their hands.
If this legislation was anti-Catholic in any way, it’s only because the Catholic Church deserved it.
(Image via Shutterstock)