Grooming the Congregation: An Open Letter to FUS (Pt. 2)

Grooming the Congregation: An Open Letter to FUS (Pt. 2) November 3, 2018

Earlier this week, NCR reported on Franciscan University of Steubenville’s (FUS) knowing cover up of Fr. Sam Tiesi’s sexual abuse of several female students during his time at the school – abuse knowlingly covered up by Fr. Michael Scanlan himself.  This follows a series of articles by Jenn Morson, investigating into how FUS has consistently mishandled cases of sexual assault on their campus.

Elizabeth Vermilyea, PhD is a nationally recognized Traumatic Stress Specialist.  As an alumna of Franciscan University of Steubenville (FUS), and in light of the continuing and unfolding fall out from the Catholic priest scandals including universities knowingly harboring priest abusers, she offers her words of counsel in the following open letter.  (To see part one, click here.)

What would you do if you became aware of sexual predation and exploitation by a (now deceased) person who was a beloved figure to many, a person of wit and charm, a person thought to be holy, a “man of god,” and yes, he was a priest?

Would you keep quiet? Would you tell the story to validate those he victimized?

And if you once loved him and held him in highest esteem, would you be able to release your narrative and accept the darker, certainly more disturbing narrative. Could you kill your sacred cow to give voice, support, and succor to his victims?

Could you let him go with the understanding that your pleasant experience may have been a calculated ruse to protect him from fallout should anyone speak up about his gross misconduct and betrayal of his office?

Or would you resist the facts and bury the truth under layers of denial born of horror? Would you diminish the acts because they threatened your sense of safety, your ability to trust yourself, your ability to trust your religion?

Would you alter the language to alter the reality? It’s not abuse, it’s improper behavior. It’s not abuse, she was old enough. It’s not abuse it’s poor boundaries. It’s not abuse… It’s not abuse… It’s not abuse because if it is, my world tilts on its axis, and I have to face my own existential crisis to move through this new awareness. No, that’s too hard…so, it’s not abuse.

Do you understand the power of a man acting in Persona Christi wields over others? I doubt most of those men are aware of it. He carries always with him the unspoken endorsement of Christ, of God, of the Holy Spirit in all he does. That power which the laity are indoctrinated to heed, trust and obey is never in abeyance. It cannot be put aside. So every act he undertakes bears the unspoken sanction of the divine. Every act.

Sam Teisi not only groomed his victims of whom there are 22 known, but he also groomed the entire campus. Everyone who had his attentions where there was no abuse or exploitation provided him with cover over those he did exploit…the vulnerable, the not-credible, the broken-hearted. He groomed us all. And by so doing he sowed seeds of doubt that are now bearing fruit in everyone who questions Karen’s story. The University knows of his abuse and has known for over thirty years. They opened a web portal for reporting about it. What more proof does a person need?

The story is a source of discomfort for some and of agony for others. You can diminish it by blaming the victim or the messenger. You can indulge in confirmation bias and reaction formation to keep yourself safe from the truth. You can, in fact, communicate to every victim in your sphere that should they come forward, you will be the arbiter of their experience. You will decide whether they were, in fact, abused, whether it was real, whether they deserve any real help.

Welcome to the world of complicity, because that is exactly what everyone who covered this up did.

Dr. Vermilyea’s Official SiteResources: Sidran ▪ AmazonBlog

Photo courtesy of FUS.

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  • Kevin Aldrich

    In addition to term abuse, which is what it is, why don’t we also call it what it is: mortal sin?

  • I think the term abuse is important here. Abuse can be prosecuted.

  • Gail Finke

    People who are successful abusers are usually very likeable people. That’s how they get away with it — their likeability is not necessarily a “ploy” or a “grooming,” in the sense of an elaborate trick that people could see through if they tried hard enough. It’s a pattern of behavior that makes little or no sense to the rest of us, because it is based on a warped way of thinking that we do not share. Nearly everyone who doesn’t know about or have experience with master manipulators – and even some of them — finds the successful abuser to be a wonderful person. Telling people who only saw this part of the man that they are complicit in his sins and crimes is is not helpful. The only people who covered up for him are people who actually knew what he did and covered it up. Not other people who did not know and found it hard to believe.

  • At one time I kept quiet. I was good friends with and even liked the priest.

    If I had to do it over again, I would tell, and tell loudly.

    The only way out is to stop being silent.

    The only way out is to Implement the Ritual of Degradation from the Book of Gomorrah.

  • Not always. Legal abuse is only prosecutable if two conditions are met:
    1. There was no adult consent
    2. There is proof beyond shadow of doubt

    Morally, abuse exists in every act of fornication, in every act of sodomy. Morally, these acts cannot be consented to and thus are always abusive.

    But American law doesn’t see it that way- and so grooming a child to one day grow up and be abused when over the age of consent is perfectly legal.

  • TinnyWhistler

    ” Morally, these acts cannot be consented to ‘
    I’d be interested in if you defend this scripturally, though I suppose you’d have to start with how you define “consent” since I suspect it’s not quite the same as how most people do.

  • I do not defend it scripturally, I defend it logically. It’s the same reason that I’m generally against the fiscal liberty of capitalism, because the so-called consent involved is always based on lies and a lack of full information.

    Liberals always base their liberty on lying to themselves and others about the harm caused by their actions. All human action causes harm to others, the only way to have a society based in order and justice is to eliminate uncertainty caused by lying.

  • TinnyWhistler

    What would you advocate as a fully truthful system of justice?

  • Given today’s technology, a data based one. One without secrets, without privacy outside of one’s own restroom (and maybe not even then).

    Abuse and sin abound in silence and in a lack of knowledge. Train the children that sex is only for procreation and eliminate the lie of sex for recreation. Get rid of this romantic version of eros; most of the time the only purpose in it is seduction and grooming of new victims for abuse. Be honest, the biological purpose of sex is to have children- and if you don’t intend to have children, you shouldn’t be having sex. EVERY form of sex that is not procreative is abusive, because it is based in the essential lie that claims that procreation isn’t the purpose of sex.

    And before you ask all the stupid libertarian questions about this: YES, this means I believe people shouldn’t have sex past an age when their bodies can support 21 years of raising a child. That so-called “infertile” people should have sex only when intending to have a child. And that, of course, same-gender attraction and transgender dress up games are ridiculous waste of time and energy that only encourage and cause mental illness.

  • TinnyWhistler

    But data can be flawed and biased just like people can. Studies and science are conceptualized, designed, run, analyzed, and presented by people who are flawed and can inject their own biases into the data. Just look at how the young earth creationists treat geological information, as an extreme example.

    What data are you using as the basis of your assertion that 1) “romantic eros” should be eradicated and 2) “most of the time the only purpose in it is seduction and grooming of new victims for abuse”
    Are you simply arguing that by default, anyone who has recreational sex is either abusing or being abused? Because that’s circular. If not, what are you saying?

  • If you claim data is biased, then your problem is with God, not man, because it is God who provides data, not man.

    I’m talking the *atomic* data, not the “studies and science”. Studies and science are conclusions brought forward by only a subset of the data and are limited to finite human minds. We now have much better ways to handle unfiltered perception than mere reductionism.

    In every case, the romantic eros is all about the sex act, NEVER about the logical consequences of the act.

    And yes, since the biological purpose of sex is procreation- all recreational sex that does not intend procreation isn’t just abuse, but is fraud to the point of destroying consent. And sexual activity that does not have consent, is rape.

    And all philosophically true axioms are circular.

  • TinnyWhistler

    I was using data the way it’s commonly used in American English, my apologies for not first verifying that you meant something other than “the atomic data”

    I’m curious about what you mean by “the atomic data.” Could you please clarify?

    How do you propose that we base a justice system off of data not limited by finite human minds? What are the “much better ways” that you speak of?

    “In every case, the romantic eros is all about the sex act, NEVER about the logical consequences of the act.”
    What justification do you have for this claim? Can you back it up with something other than assertion? What does the “atomic data” have to say about this?

    “since the biological purpose of sex is procreation- all recreational sex that does not intend procreation isn’t just abuse, but is fraud to the point of destroying consent. ”
    Pretend I’m very, VERY dull and lay out how you got from A to B here. I’d like to see your logical argument. I’m also going to ask you to define consent.

  • And example from the automated driving world: The average automated car generates 2TB of sensor data every hour. That sensor data is atomic- you can’t reduce it down, it is the raw numbers coming from the sensor, not some rollup by some researcher.

    Let the machine learning rule. Remove human bias, and therefore human frailty, from the system.

    The biological purpose of sex is procreation. That is atomically true for every species that has two biological genders. Homosexuality doesn’t exist at that level. Attraction, doesn’t exist at that level. Only the RNA of the sperm and only the DNA of the egg combining to create a new human being.

    It isn’t that you’re very dull. It’s that your mind has been brainwashed with the lies of the sexual revolution that redefined consent away from sacramental marriage and into something new and different.

    Biological sex has as its purpose procreation, therefore the only valid form of sexual consent is the intent to procreate. This isn’t rocket science. It’s simply being truthful about the purpose of things.

    If you are trying to trick me and find an opening for the modern world, you won’t, because I reject the modern world.

  • TinnyWhistler

    The only data coming into the sensor is the data that a human 1) designed the sensor to be able to collect and 2) designed a system to record. Information collected and recorded by sensors and systems can be influenced by dozens of factors. Ignoring these factors or not accounting for them properly is the job of humans and can introduce bias.

    I spent a summer attempting to measure the efficiency of some sensors: what percentage of decay events would the sensors record? It was very easy to take data: We had counters plugged into the back of all of the sensors that were adjusted to iterate given a signal over a certain threshold. These counters fed into a computer and would generate a massive spreadsheet of information over the ~12 hour data collection periods.

    Making sure that data was useful was much, much harder. We took, in total, weeks of data that ultimately had to be thrown out because it the data actually collected wasn’t what we intended and needed to collect. A computer can’t magically account for everything that influences the numbers being fed to it. A computer can only do what it is told to do.

    If you’re interested, I can go into more detail on how even TB of data is useless if no one knows what it’s actually data OF.

    Machine learning is not free from human bias. Machine learning algorithms are created by humans and can thus be biased that way. The results can also be biased by what data is fed into them. I’d encourage you to do some research into how machine learning works and maybe even try it out yourself.

    Things can have more than one purpose. Diaphragms can support both speaking and breathing. Taste buds can provide warning of rotten or poisoned food as well as provide pleasure.
    “Homosexuality doesn’t exist at that level.”
    Are you saying that homosexual behavior in animals doesn’t exist? Because that’s just false.

    “Attraction, doesn’t exist at that level. ”
    How would you define attraction?

    ” redefined consent away from sacramental marriage and into something new and different.”
    Ok, so I’ll ask again, how would you define consent? Also, do you have a different word or phrase you’d like to use to describe the concept being described when most American English speakers use the word “consent”?

    I’m glad you think I’m not dull. Can you please still explain how you get from

    Premise: “Biological sex has as its purpose procreation”


    Conclusion: “all recreational sex that does not intend procreation isn’t just abuse, but is fraud to the point of destroying consent.”

    This logical argument is incomplete and I’m asking you to complete it for me so I don’t put words in your mouth.

    “Biological sex has as its purpose procreation, therefore the only valid form of sexual consent is the intent to procreate.”
    Again, that’s not a complete logical argument. Please help me fill in the gap.

    I’m trying to understand where you’re coming from. I find it’s easier to understand other people if we’re using the same definitions for words 😉

  • The wider variety of sensors you use, the less human bias is included in the output. ALL the factors are important in the data in the end, there’s no need to screen any of them out.

    ALL data is useful, including that from biased sensors.

    I see no gap in the statement:
    “Biological sex has as its purpose procreation, therefore the only valid form of sexual consent is the intent to procreate.”

    I’ve gone as far down as I choose to go with this argument. It isn’t my purpose to try to get you to understand where I am coming from, it’s my purpose to show lurkers that you are incapable of understanding where I am coming from (which in and of itself is an argument against a worldview that is based on rape).

  • TinnyWhistler

    If you don’t know what the bias is, you can’t account for it. That’s my point. When I talk about bias in data, I’m talking about factors that people don’t realize exist. That’s what a lot of our work was on that project: Figuring out what factors we hadn’t accounted for yet.

    Suppose I’m given data from an anemometer for a given location but I’m not told that the anemomter was positioned 2 feet from a busy road, 6 feet off the ground. I might try to use the data to draw conclusions about the local wind patterns, not realizing that the air movement from passing vehicles probably had more of an effect on the data than the weather did. I require a person to give me context for that data, including how exactly the sensor was positioned, otherwise I’d be using it in a deceitful way, assuming that it was measuring local wind.

    The logical structure of your argument is

    Premise: A is true.
    Conclusion: Therefore B is true

    That’s not a valid argument. Usually even the simplest arguments have some structure like:

    A is true.
    If A is true then B is true.
    Therefore B is true.

    That’s seriously just basic logic. Your argument is missing a premise, which is why I called it incomplete and asked for clarification rather than try to fill in the premise myself and risk putting words in your mouth.

    You’re correct, I can’t ever understand what you’re trying to say if you don’t explain it to me 🙂
    I can’t read minds, all I can do is politely ask questions.

    I’m sorry you’re not interested in talking any more, have a nice day!

  • Illithid

    All he’s got is assertion. He’s claimed in discussion with me that “consent” is meaningless.

  • Illithid

    Just in case this wasn’t a typo, you should know that the egg and sperm both provide DNA.

  • TinnyWhistler

    I get that he’s working with a different definition than the usual English one, I just wish he’d ACTUALLY define the word as he uses it. I asked him to 3(?) times and crickets.

  • All consent is an assertion.

    The whole discussion is about assertion.

    Eliminate assertion as fact, and you’ve conceded that consent is non-factual.

  • You are correct, was a typo- but it’s a little more complex. RNA is provided to create DNA

    I edited to clarify.

  • Illithid

    I assert that you don’t understand what I wrote, here or in the past. Fortunately, I have plenty of supporting evidence.

  • Illithid

    “Only the RNA of the sperm and only the RNA of the egg combining to create the DNA of a new human being.”

    That’s amazing. You edited your comment and made it more wrong.

  • And that assertation has about as much value as your consent: none.

  • You didn’t drill down deep enough:

  • Illithid

    Well that was an interesting read. I learned some stuff. However, not only was there no mention of RNA in gametes, RNA is not mentioned even once in the entire article.

    You, ah… do know the difference between RNA and DNA, right?