Survivor Stories
Tom McDevitt

Abused by a priest, betrayed by the church, but buoyed by his family, Tom has chosen to hold the church accountable.

Moments after Tom had been cruelly molested by his parish priest, at the age of thirteen, he was lying in a bed in the rectory. He was split from his body, looking down at himself, lying in a fetal position in the bed, crying in pain and in terror. “I’m looking at me. I’m looking at Tommy and saying, “It’s okay Tommy. It’s not your fault. You didn’t ask for this.”

To the adult Tom, the source of that wise intervention remains a mystery. It took decades for Tom to accept the wisdom, but accept it he did. Despite the self-doubts that tormented him into adulthood, Tom and his wife, Elaine, have nurtured a lasting marriage and raised two beautiful children into adulthood.

Tom grew up in the embrace of the Catholic Church, priests and nuns scattered among his relatives. Even in the aftermath of the sexual abuse, the church remained a pillar of his life. He enrolled in a seminary and prepared himself for the priesthood.

But the church betrayed him. Repeatedly.

While at the seminary Tom disclosed what he had suffered as a child. The message he received: “No good could ever come of this if you tell anyone.”

Tom would hear those words repeatedly, from a diocesan psychologist and from bishops whose primary concern was protecting their institution rather than their parishioners.

For more than two decades, Tom beseeched and exhorted the church to do the right thing. To no avail. And so, in 2016 Tom contacted the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office. In contrast to the church, they responded to his email in minutes and they treated him with respect. Soon Tom found himself testifying to a Grand Jury.

The journey and the questions are not over. Among them: How does a man engage with his spirituality after he has been betrayed by the institution that was supposed to be his spiritual home?