Old Cabin, New Allegations
By John Spragens
In the week since David Brown went public with his childhood story of rape at the hands of a Nashville Catholic priest 45 years ago, three victims have come forward to tell similar stories to leaders of a support network for victims of priest sex abuse. Meanwhile, officials at Camp Marymount, the Catholic summer camp where Brown alleges he was abused in November 1961, say that the cabin identified in the Scene last week as the site of Brown's rape did not exist in 1961.
Marymount director Tommy Hagey provided letters from two brothers with longtime connections to the camp. In the letters, the two men explain that old buildings were demolished and replaced: the cabin Brown visited with the Scene last month (see "Rape of Faith," June 30) was not built until 1967, so it seems that he was recalling an earlier building that was demolished around 1980. His request that the Diocese burn down the cabin in which he was raped, then, is a moot point.
Camp officials say they were "distressed" to learn of the allegations and say that there "are strong policies in place to protect children in our care." Furthermore, they note that Father Paul Haas, Brown's abuser, was not an agent of the camp when he raped the 15-year-old boy and that camp wasn't in session at the time of the alleged abuse.
"The allegations regarding the incident in 1961 are horrific, and Camp Marymount takes very seriously the inference of abuse of any nature on our property or elsewhere," Eric Dahlhauser, chairman of Camp Marymount's board, said in a statement to the Scene.
Brown concedes his memory is blurry and says that he told his son Jeff that he recalled the cabin sitting farther back than the one he entered recently. "I've been there twice in 44 years," Brown says, "and I blocked it out of my memory for a long time, so it's hard to remember all the details. But as far as Camp Marymount and what happened to me up there, there's no doubt about that. If the cabin's gone now, that's great, but that doesn't mean it never happened."
Meanwhile, another of Haas' victims came forward last week after seeing news coverage of a press conference Brown held outside the Diocese of Nashville's headquarters on Friday. This middle-aged victim, whose name the Scene has agreed to withhold, tells a hauntingly similar story to that of Brown. He went to Father Ryan High School at the same time Brown did and was raised in a similarly devout Catholic family—although his physically abusive father eventually moved out. Like Brown, he says he encountered Haas almost daily at school.
This victim says Haas used to take him downstairs to the darkroom—Haas was the yearbook sponsor—and force the boy to masturbate him manually. He says the abuse happened many times and took place at the priest's home, at school, at an abbey in Alabama and at Camp Marymount when camp was not in session. He says that when the molestation began, his grades dropped and he eventually left Father Ryan before enrolling at and subsequently dropping out of Hillsboro High School. He never got a high school diploma and works as a repairman to this day.
In the coming weeks, the man plans to speak out publicly—he has never told Diocesan officials what happened—and victim advocates suggest others will come forward too to get the proper treatment. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (www.rememberthesurvivors.com) is planning to hold a symposium July 16 at which victims will be able to talk with each other about their experiences with abuse.
The Diocese of Nashville, for its part, publicly apologized to David Brown last week through a spokesman. Diocesan spokesman Rick Musacchio says, "We have not had anybody come forward and make a contemporary report of sexual abuse in 20 years." But in ongoing litigation, two anonymous plaintiffs have filed a lawsuit against the church, alleging that the Diocese is liable in their molestation by former priest Edward McKeown. The McKeown case is set to go to trial early next year.