The Pain of Publicity

Mark Kennedy tells of the trials of going public about sexual abuse by Valley priests

"There's more to it than you know," she said.

Doris wasn't aware of the two incidences at the church.

But she did know about the incident in her house. Mark's older brother, Dominic, had walked in on Colleary fondling Mark.

Mark Kennedy (left) at age 12, with a nephew.
photo courtesy of Kennedy family
Mark Kennedy (left) at age 12, with a nephew.

Dominic told his mother. Enraged, Doris and her husband, Jack, went to Father O'Grady demanding that something be done about Patrick Colleary.

Nothing was done. Instead, Doris said, O'Grady told them they should keep quiet about the issue. And that they should not talk to Mark about the molestations to avoid "reinforcing it in the little guy's mind," Doris said O'Grady told them.

Doris and Jack went to Diocesan officials, who did nothing. Then they went to local police, whose investigation apparently entailed only asking Colleary if he had molested Mark. Police did not interview Mark or Dominic.

As Doris told her story to Mark, he became angry. He felt betrayed.

"It was upsetting to realize that all the adults in your life knew something awful had happened to you, but all of them failed to do anything about it," he said.

Then Doris angered Mark even further. She had read a column I wrote back in April about the Diocese's history of sheltering priests who were known to be trouble. Also angered by the bishop's claims that he had never shielded sexually deviant priests, Doris called me and told the story of how she and her husband had been told to keep silent about the molestation of one of their sons by their parish priest.

Over the following weeks, though, Mark's opinion changed on speaking publicly about what had happened to him. He realized that he had to stand up and fight.

"I was really mad at my mom at first for calling you," he said. "I know now that it has had some good results — that he's being investigated, that others are talking now — but it was extremely hard to deal with in the beginning.

"Imagine having this in your life," he said. "Every single person you know is going to know about this — friends, enemies, whatever. That fear of having this define me was overwhelming."

I wrote about Mark. The Republic then wrote about him. After a few weeks, he agreed to a short television interview.

His face was all over Phoenix.

His worst fears weren't realized. While he could tell that some friends and family members shied away from him, most congratulated him for his courage and offered heartfelt support.

Even strangers in the supermarket have approached him.

"It has only been positive," he said. "The people I know and love understand how tough this is, and they're being remarkably supportive."

Now Kennedy is just waiting to hear the results of the investigation by county prosecutors. He feels confident they have enough evidence to bring charges against Patrick Colleary.

Then Kennedy hopes to begin ridding himself of the anger he feels toward the church.

"I'm still at the point where I can't stop asking O'Brien and O'Grady and the police at the time: Where the hell was your sense of duty? What could possibly have been on your mind to do nothing?' Then to ship these guys off to whatever other parish without telling the people."

"It still seems beyond outrageous to me," he said.

"It seems absolutely criminal."

I couldn't agree more.

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