My name is Stephanie McIntyre. I am a victim-survivor of clergy abuse in the Diocese of Buffalo. I have lived in the upstate of South Carolina for 20 yrs. For more than 30 years, I thought that my abuse was just an isolated, bizarre situation. My silence was guaranteed through threats and shame. Along with holding me on the ground and choking me into silence, I was warned that if I ever told anyone they would not believe me, that if I ever told a future husband about it, he would think I was dirty, damaged goods. He said priests are the closest thing to God. "Nobody will ever believe you over me."
Although I am far from strong enough to be an advocate and have only just begun my journey towards healing, this can't wait.
I am appearing publicly for the first time today because what I was told by the priest who abused me is true. People still tend to believe priests over victims, despite the enormity of the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church today. So when a priest like Fr. Jay Scott Newman uses his power and authority to publicly victim-shame and silence clergy abuse victims, his listeners readily adopt a negative opinion of the victims. Having no other information to go on, listeners repeat his character assassination of victims as if it is the end of the story.
In a scathing homily, Fr. Jay Scott Newman took it upon himself to do damage control for accused Bishop Guglielmone by maliciously defaming the victim in one breath and exonerating the bishop in the next. He pronounced that he was “morally certain that Bishop Guglielmone is an innocent man who has been falsely accused of a crime he did not commit.” Next, he assaulted the victim calling him someone who “sees an easy payday within reach”. The Diocese of Charleston pointed to this published homily as a "good source of public guidance or pastoral message".
In a published open letter linked in an article in the Greenville News, Fr. Newman declared that he had “supreme confidence that Bishop Guglielmone is innocent”. Furthermore, he slammed the victim again, casting aspersions on him and his claim by calling his accusation ludicrous, false, a grievous crime against justice and “made with cynical intent to extort money from the Church”.
I was sickened and distressed by Fr. Newman's reckless words. Words have power. Fr. Newman has the authority to turn words into nuclear missiles. When Fr. Newman shamed this victim, he shamed all victims. Shaming a victim silences the victim. Silencing victims prevents them from coming forward. The pain that a silenced and shamed victim carries makes survival itself a struggle. Silencing victims guarantees that abuse can and will continue in secret.
Who am I or any victim supposed to take a complaint to when the one man who has the authority to do anything about it is, himself, under canonical investigation for sexual abuse of a minor? It has become abundantly clear for victims that the Catholic hierarchy cannot be trusted. They are working closely with their legal counsel to protect the Church and its assets and victims are viewed as the enemy.
We are here today standing in solidarity with and defense of all victims of clergy abuse. We are here to remind Fr. Newman and the Catholic hierarchy that, in response to the sexual abuse crisis in the Church, Pope Francis issued an apostolic letter of guidance called Vos Estis Lux Mundi, which went into effect on June 1st, 2019. In that letter, under article 5, Pope Francis declared that “those who state that they have been harmed, together with their families, are to be treated with dignity and respect” and that their good name shall be protected. Calling the victim a cynical extortionist in search of an easy payday is unquestionably the complete opposite of what Pope Francis called for in Vos Estis.
The unintended consequence of Fr. Newman defending his bishop friend while committing calumny against the victim is that he has wounded all victims of abuse as well as the Church itself. When he shamed that victim from the pulpit, he also shamed the other 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men who are victims of sexual abuse, sitting in the pews in front of him.
A fellow ex-parishioner recently contacted me and shared that she is a victim of clergy sexual abuse. She said that she will never be able to come forward. She has been shamed into silence. I believe that for every person who comes forward about his or her abuse, there are at least two who cannot.
Is this what Fr. Newman wants? Does he want victims to just shut up and go away? Does he intend to reject Pope Francis' Vos Estis?
As dean of the upstate, Fr. Newman has a moral responsibility to lead Catholics in truth with Christ and to help prevent and protect victims from being shamed. Instead, he has sent the message to the more than half-million Catholics of South Carolina that victims of clergy abuse are liars who are looking to hit the jackpot with a false allegation.
The only thing worse than a member of the clergy who sexually abuses others is one who covers for and protects the abuser while attacking the victim, giving the abuser free reign to continue to devour the souls of the innocent.
On behalf of fellow victims and advocates, I would like to invite Fr. Newman to publicly retract his scandalous statements and to publicly apologize to Bishop Guglielmone’s alleged victim as well as all other victims and their families for the hurt he has caused them.
I am not angry at Fr. Newman. On the contrary, I respect him. But his words have caused grievous harm to victims and the Church, and for that I am very disappointed in him. Minimizing and covering-up this filth in the Church is only causing further damage. We need only look to my hometown of Buffalo, NY to see the real-time devastation. The same has already begun here in South Carolina. Unless clergy are willing to address it honestly this cancer will continue to grow here. Catholics in the pews have the right to know the truth.
Since Fr. Newman seems to speak for all clergy in the upstate and beyond, I hope and pray that he will accept our invitation to do what is right. To set a proper example for all who look to him for guidance. Right here, right now. This cannot wait.
Whether you are a victim, the spouse, friend or loved one of a victim, I want you to know that you are not alone. I believe you, you are loved, your story matters, and I will continue to speak for you as long as I am able.
Thank you for your time.