Childhood sexual grooming and abuse is not solely a Catholic Church story. It is pervasive throughout our society, as is increasingly apparent in the news: from families, to schools, to youth sports and organizations, and even elite national and Olympic athletics. In fact, for me it was a Boy Scout, and even a somewhat familial, story.
The recent news of the BSA filing for bankruptcy points to the enormity of the problem within and hit me harder than I expected with a ton of mixed emotions. I loved all aspects of the Boy Scout program in which I was involved from age 10 through 22. I am an Eagle Scout and have been to Philmont (affectionately considered a high adventure scouting paradise to those who have been there).
Kevin Gugliotta was my most trusted Scout leader, and like a brother to me, and he was ever present throughout my scouting experience. He also sexually abused and harassed me starting at the age of 16. As many in the community know he subsequently became a Catholic Priest and in a way my story morphed to also become a Catholic Church story. (In some ways it was always one since my Boy Scout Troop was charted by my Church, Saint Francis Xavier in Newark, where our weekly meetings also took place.
It has been a year since a new alleged victim of Kevin Gugliotta from St. Bartholomew’s in Scotch Plains came forward. With this in mind, I would like to share some beliefs and values that I hold, which drive my actions as a survivor and advocate, as well as some thoughts that I hope will move others in our community to action.
Since going public, especially recently, there have been some that have expressed concern and/or have made implications that I have turned away from God. In some ways I feel this is off point, as I do not think the belief in God (or lack thereof) is an indication of one’s capacity to do the right thing.
At the same time, I have not turned away from God. This is what I believe: that God is everywhere including inside each of us; and that we are all connected, and so what we do to each other we do to ourselves and to God; and that the most tangible interaction with God is through each other. I believe Christians find this echoed in some familiar tenets: the greatest commandment, the second like it, and whatsoever you do… I also believe others hold such values in their simple sense of connection to others and a faith in humanity. So this is what moved me in 2003 to warn the Archdiocese of Newark about Kevin Gugliotta, and last year to stand in support of the new alleged victim, any other victims of his in the shadows, and in fact the entire Saint Bartholomew’s and Scotch Plains community.
Additionally, I would like to add that the new alleged victim is one of you: a Scotch Plains community member; a parishioner of Saint Bartholomew’s; a son; perhaps a friend, a teammate, a classmate. From what I have learned, Saint Bartholomew’s is a parish not unlike my parish of Saint Francis Xavier in Newark where I grew up. That is to say there are many families who have been very active and involved with the parish for decades. The families are the life of the parish. Some families literally built the church.
Priests, Pastors, and even Bishops, however impactful, come and go. These strongest, most committed families remain throughout. There is a good chance that the new alleged victim is from a family that has been part of the Saint Bartholomew’s and Scotch Plains community long before, and will remain so long after Gugliotta, Paladino, McCormick, Myers and Tobin. He is one of yours more so than any of them. To be clear I do not stand against the Church, rather I hope for its healing, and hope only for truth, justice and accountability.
And, so I call on all of us as a community to not forget this is an unresolved situation, and to stand with the new alleged victim, any victims of Kevin in the shadows and indeed with each other.
Kevin is still free, living in Pennsylvania on probation following his prison term for his guilty plea to child pornography. The new alleged victim’s civil suit is still pending. There remains many unanswered questions about Kevin’s formation under Theodore McCarrick, what the Archdiocesan Review Board’s investigation in to my allegations entailed, how far the process went, and why Archbishop Myers made the decisions he did in regard to Kevin’s ministry and assignments.
If anyone in the community has ideas of doing something to come together in a show of support I would welcome the opportunity to participate in any activities and programs that support victims and work to make our Churches and organizations safer for all. I greatly appreciate all who join me in this effort in whatever way possible. We must stand together as a community to effect change. Should anyone wishes to speak to me personally please do not hesitate to reach out.
For more information you can visit my Facebook page: Michael Mautone: Survivor/Advocate.