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Dad is haunted by family friend's abuse of son

By Phillip O'Connor
© Of the Post-Dispatch
Monday, Nov. 15 2004

PIKE COUNTY, Mo. - Inside a tidy green-gray farm home near Corso, beneath a picture of the Crucifixion that hangs on a nearby wall, Paul Bange sits at his dining room table, letters, notes and newspapers stacked before him like evidence for a trial that will never take place.

He wears a ball cap, dark-lensed glasses and the straightforward, earnest look that seems a birthright for many of the stout, thick-shouldered men who eke a living from the soil. He begins to tell a visitor about what the priests at St. Thomas had done to his son, the pain it caused his family and the anger he felt toward the diocese leaders about how they handled the situation.

Every now and then he searches the pile for the piece of paper that backs an assertion. A few feet away, his wife, Linda, busies herself in the kitchen, and offers an occasional clarification or "that's right, honey."

Anger has consumed Bange, 59, since David, his oldest boy, approached him around the New Year's holiday of 1997 and told him that he had been abused for years by Father James P. McNally, a St. Thomas faculty member and close family friend.

McNally and his lawyer declined to comment for these stories.

In the months and years that followed, Paul Bange launched a one-man battle for answers, explanations and apologies from church leaders that he says have never come. When he visited the office of Jefferson City Bishop Michael F. McAuliffe to ask for counseling for his family, the bishop agreed, but asked that the father keep the incident quiet to avoid a scandal, Bange said.

"At that point in time, I didn't question that too much," Bange said. "My first concern was David and my family. My second thought was I wasn't going to go around and blab it anyway. That's not what you do."

McAuliffe, now in a nursing home, could not be reached for comment.

In letters to Bange and his wife in 1998, Bishop John R. Gaydos, who had replaced McAuliffe, told them that McNally had been sent for therapy and was in a treatment program for sexual compulsives. He also told them that he had met with seminary administrators to ensure the protection of students and would have his staff follow up on information about other potential victims.

Gaydos and other diocesan leaders never told St. Thomas parents about McNally and have continued to keep what happened a secret.

In the past year, Paul Bange has backed off his crusade, tired of the fight. 

"This is the first year I've kind of got back on track," said Bange, who spent years in therapy, received a diagnosis of depression and neglected his farming to pursue answers.

Linda Bange, 57, a devout convert who raised her six children in the church, no longer is as involved in church social activities and has little faith in church leaders.

Through it all, Paul Bange retained his bedrock faith in the Catholic religion as an institution. But he, too, lost his respect for the men who run it.

"They handle it like a corporation instead of as a religious institution, which I believe the Catholic church is," he said. "They listen to their lawyers. They figure out the best way to cover up and angle out.

". . . The only people who can fix it are the bishops themselves, and they've got to truly repent, go to the victims, go to the people in the church pews and open themselves up and bleed for the people like Christ bled on the cross for us. This is a faith-belief thing and until they do that, until they're actually able to be martyrs for the church, basically, it's not going to work."

Reporter Phillip O'Connor
E-mail: poconnor@post-dispatch.com
Phone: 314-340-8321