“Delete the adjectives,” Atticus says to Scout about Jem’s book report, “and you’ll have the facts.”
I have gone back and forth for the past few days about whether to say anything publicly. I am well aware that I, as well as a few other women in this group, are at the center of a lot of adjectives right now, some of them less than kind, flying furiously back and forth via private messages.
It doesn’t surprise me: As a general rule, women who don’t speak up about their own mistreatment are complicit cowards, and women who do speak up are vindictive whores. It’s one of life’s great paradoxes — much like how every man knows hundreds of women who have been sexually used, abused, exploited, manipulated, harassed, or assaulted, but none of them seems to know anyone who has done it.
I wasn’t going to speak of this in a public forum, and I have not said a word for months, but someone else fired shots on Fort Sumter, and Sick Pilgrim reached out to ME to ask for an account of my recent experience – I did not volunteer the information, nor did I approach the admins. The crime for which I’m being crucified is being asked some questions and answering them honestly.
I will not be a pawn in some sort of Catholic Civil War, nor will I allow my wounds to become a bully pulpit for anyone else’s persecution complex, nor will I stand by silently and watch someone who has wronged me and a number of other people control a narrative by altering facts and disseminating false information.
I am not known for going gently into that good night where basic human dignity is at stake, and I don’t intend to start now.
There are two things I want to make perfectly clear:
First, I am a proud feminist, but I am not a person who is often – or ever – accused of being histrionic, hating men, or perceiving misogyny where none exists. I am friendly with almost all my exes, even some pretty awful ones, and you’d be hard-put to find one who wouldn’t come jumpstart my car in the middle of the night in a bad part of town. I don’t tend to operate from a place of kneejerk ideology, I’m not particularly sensitive to slights, and I think if you ask anyone reasonably well acquainted with me, they will say I am not prone to see bad behavior in men on the monstrously sophistical grounds of penis ownership. I am, however, inclined to call out bad behavior in my fellow human beings when I see it, and to protect other human beings from further injury where I can. As Dorothy Sayers once said about “a woman’s point of view”: “The line I always want to take is that there is the ‘point of view’ of the reasonably enlightened human brain, and that is the aspect of the matter which I am best fitted to uphold.”
Second, I am a journalist. It’s my job to say who, what, when, where, why and how (although in this case, I’m still working out the last two.) I’m not here to embellish for you, to impress you, to win your trust, or to tell you what to believe. I’m here to tell you what happened.
As many of you know, Sick Pilgrim was instrumental in my reversion back to the Church in mid-September. In particular, I was (as many of you know) extremely close to one person in a position of quasi-pastoral authority in this group: Jonathan Weyer. The first time we spoke, we spoke for 70 hours – straight.
I rapidly fell in love with his intellect and his seeming concern for me, my son, my well-being, and my spiritual welfare. He assured me he felt the same way. He pulled over in his car, weeping, the day he found out my patron saint was St. Kateri Tekakwitha, telling me that she had sent me to him. He assured me I was his soulmate, the One, that there are no accidents in this life, that the Holy Spirit had sent me to be his wife. That he loved me as no other had or would ever love me, that he promised he was going to marry me and stay with me forever. We talked nearly constantly; he talked about marrying me next July 14th, St. Kateri’s feast day. He picked out baby names with me. He promised me I would be the last person he ever slept with. He promised to take care of my son and be his father.
By the first few days of October, I was convinced to break up with my boyfriend to be with this guy, and he asked me to be in a relationship with him that same day.
There were red flags, of course: he badgered me to keep our relationship a secret, citing his concerns for privacy, his desire to not have Sick Pilgrim “up in his business” or asking questions about his love life, and not alienating his ex-wife and kids. I complied.
In hindsight, I was sold a compelling bill of goods, but I bought it.
I flew to visit him in mid-October, after about a month of this madness. He introduced me to his parents. I went to confession for the first time in seven years.
Then he had sex with me. A couple times.
Let me be clear: I’m no saint under the best of circumstances. But this is a man who also works for the Church, is 11 years my senior, is in a position of self-proclaimed quasi-pastoral authority, has been instrumental in my conversion, knew I was struggling with a number of things, and really shouldn’t be in the business of using people in vulnerable positions. “Whenever a man lies with a woman,” writes Lewis in Screwtape, “whether they like it or not, a transcendental relation is set up between them which must be eternally enjoyed or eternally endured.”
Trust me. I’ll be enduring this one for a long time.
But since there’s a lot of other misinformation being bruited about: I have not, nor have I ever claimed – NOR WOULD I EVER CLAIM – that I had sex with this man against my will in that moment. Rightly or wrongly, I had sex with someone whom I loved very much, who had promised me repeatedly that we would get married and it was just a matter of working out the details. But I had sex with him under horrifically false pretenses of him having assured me of God’s intent for him to marry me, and I had many times said that I would not do so otherwise. And that is, definitionally, sexual coercion; telling other people lies in order to get laid – be it about your HIV status, your cousinship with Brad Pitt, or the Holy Spirit convicting you – is to obtain consent fraudulently.
Moreover, it may not be illegal to target vulnerable women whose spiritual lives have been exposed to you, who are openly struggling with depression and anxiety, who have told you all their deepest, darkest secrets — to tell them you want to marry them, keep them a dirty little secret, sleep with them, dump them, and start dating your next soulmate before the milk in your refrigerator expires – but it’s certainly a grievous breach of ethics for even an ordinary person, let alone one literally in the business of souls and bound to uphold integrity and Catholic ethics.
And dump me he did – nearly as soon as my plane touched wheels down back in Texas, the day after sleeping with me — citing initially his lack of desire to have more kids, a story that rapidly changed, over and over again, throughout the following weeks.
It would seem, through timelines others have constructed, that he sent an email to another girl in Sick Pilgrim telling her he loved her and that God had destined them to be together for all time on Sept. 4th; that he was telling me the very same thing by Sept. 23rd; and then dumped me and started dating a close friend of his within a week or so of breaking up with me Oct. 23. (A friend whom, by the way, he categorically claimed he had no interest in and would never date or marry because she was not Catholic; I don’t know whether or not his relationship with her overlapped with his relationship with me, nor do I care.)
I left this group [a secret Facebook group where the message was originally placed] because the situation was making me mentally sick and I was having bouts of emotional whiplash and cognitive dissonance because of this behavior. He told the group I had “problems” and implied I stormed off in high dudgeon for no reason.
After the book launch party, he yelled at me for talking to “his” friends – because I had asked Jessica and John how the book launch party went – and accused me of spying on him, sending me further into my isolation and feelings that I couldn’t have any friends in this group (a group which, to reiterate, was really instrumental to me finding faith again).
He continued to gaslight me for weeks, baiting me with random messages about how important this girl was to him while simultaneously claiming that there was nothing going on between the two of them — until he recently publicly confirmed their relationship in an odd display for someone who claimed a month ago that his privacy, and keeping his love life out of SP’s scrutiny, were of the utmost importance.
For the record, after Sick Pilgrim admins came six days ago to ME asking for my account of what happened, it was confirmed to me that there are at least THREE other girls in this group besides me with accounts of sexual harassment, abuse, or romantic exploitation involving this person – including one story far worse than mine. At least three of the four girls, including me, were women with remarkably similar backstories: single mothers in vulnerable positions whose previous relationship was with a narcissist abuser.
I’m not here to speak to motivations, but Occam’s razor would suggest that the most obvious solution is the correct one, and it takes only three data points to form a valid logical induction.
Regardless, these other stories are not my stories to tell. If they want to tell their stories, I support them with all my heart, and I believe them. I would encourage you to do the same, and to think long and hard before discounting what they have to say. And for the record, since varying versions of events are being disseminated, this person openly admitted to the admin group all his behavior toward me and that “he is not proud of it.” So his claims that his actions have been mischaracterized belie actual demonstrable evidence.
And because I know someone out there probably doesn’t believe me, and thinks I’m just a vindictive bitch — and trust me, I steeled myself for this eventuality when I set out to write this down — I have only one thing to say to him:
Jonathan, you sent me a rather jarring text this week saying, “I hope you’re happy. You got your revenge. Congrats.”
And I cried.
Because, to recap: I was put through hell and back again by you, who were instrumental in my conversion, claimed to love me, and promised to marry me; seemingly exploited for sex when I was vulnerable by the person I trusted and loved most in the world; dumped 24 hours later; replaced by someone else — and lied to about it; and asked deeply uncomfortable questions by SP admins, which I answered as fairly and honestly as I could. Who exactly is the victim here?
Justice is not revenge, and it is unacceptable to troll for sympathy when there are multiple women in this group who have been wounded by exploitative treatment by someone with self-proclaimed pastoral authority, and are owed apologies and amends. Don’t be the thief who is not sorry he stole but is terribly, terribly sorry he is going to jail.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t appreciate you mistreating women — or any other souls in your care, for that matter – in His name. God will not endure being mocked, and if you can’t distinguish between the voice of God and your own libido, then you don’t belong working in Catholic ministry amongst broken people. “It is a serious thing … to remember that the dullest, most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” (C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory)
If any of you have ever asked yourselves how the Harvey Weinsteins of the world go so long undetected: Men get away with patterns of abusive behavior and mistreatment of women for decades because victims are told to shut up and sit down. A lady never gets abused and tells.
If you see the emperor has no clothes, closing your eyes won’t make him any less naked. You don’t have to believe me. I expect to be disbelieved by a lot of you. I love you anyway. And I refuse to be bullied into silence. “You own everything that happened to you,” Anne Lamott once wrote. “Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” #metoo