Exclusive: “I asked the Pope for justice.” Mea Maxima Culpa’s Terry Kohut on the abuse he suffered in the Catholic Church

Posted on April 5, 2013

Last month, we published a feature by Tom Seymour about Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, Alex Gibney’s film about four Deaf American men who protested publicly against the abuse they had suffered at the hands of a Catholic Priest. Here, Seymour interviews one of those men, Terry Kohut (below) about his experiences.


What was your first reaction to the resignation of Pope?

Wow! and ‘Pah!’ (Finally!). It proves that the Pope is not infallible.

I would like to believe Alex Gibney’s documentary had something to do with his resignation. I asked the Pope for justice but he continued and still continues to ignore me and all of us Deaf survivors. He never apologized to us. And I find myself wondering if it is because we are Deaf and therefore insignificant.

I hope the new Pope, Francis, will not follow in his footsteps.

When, and how, were you first able to talk about your experiences as a child at school?

In 1989 I couldn’t stand that my future lovely wife did not know my terrible secret. It had been torturing my mind for many years. I finally told her the truth. Thankfully she didn’t even flinch. In fact she said, “you and a million other people.” That should have relieved me but it didn’t.

How difficult was it?

When people ask me if they should tell their loved ones what happened I do not say “oh yeah, you’ll feel better, go ahead.” Because even though my now wife for 23 years didn’t reject me, I rejected me and her too.

The panic attacks I suffered after “telling” were unbearable and almost cost me everything. I would withdraw from her and almost blame her, if that makes any sense. Therapy saved me and us.

So, when people ask if they should tell I am never nonchalant. I tell them to have a therapist or counselor ready to help them through the mud. And it does feel like slogging through the mud. But with the right help and support it is so worth the risk.

Also, reading The Gospel of Shame showed me I was not alone, that it had happened to many other young men. That book was a life saver!!

How did Alex Gibney (director of Mea Maxima Culpa) convince you?

He didn’t convince me, his work did. Kristen Vaurio worked for Alex Gibney and asked me for the interview. I accepted it. She came to my house and interviewed me for hours.

How do you feel now Murphy’s crimes have been exposed?

I am happy that more people know him for what he was, a very sick, sick, man who should NEVER have been allowed to work with children. The Vatican knew about him long before he worked at our school. Shame on them for sacrificing us. How do they sleep at night? Many of us still can’t. And others of us have killed themselves.

What are your hopes for the film?

My hope is with parents and caregivers. With the internet and cable TV I hope the warning is heard around the world. No other child will be left ALONE with “Father so and so” to “counsel”. There will be no more instant trust just because a man is called a Priest. \

And I hope the film helps people wake up and see the Vatican and all its employees for what they are, just men: some good, some evil, very few looking out for the children.

Can the Catholic Church be left to reform itself? What’s the most pressing reform?

It already ruined my faith and the faith and lives of millions. I do not know if it can be left to reform itself. If the sercret archives are opened to the public, then there may be some hope. But Priests and Cardinals and bishops have to stand up and speak up and stop being so afraid of offending a Pope we now know is fallible. There are no more excuses for silence. They have to come together and decide other people’s souls are worth more than their own.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I learned that keeping the secret is just not worth it. Yes, I suffered after I told, but with the help of therapists, my wife, friends and family I am now free to help others. My hope is that others will get help and tell what happened to them. Not doing it will poison their lives as it did mine for so many years. I would like to believe future generations will not have to go through this.

Interview by Tom Seymour

Mea Maxima Culpa is in cinemas now, and will be released on DVD in May. Watch the trailer with subtitles here: http://www.amara.org/en/videos/oamfhhlQIqSs/info/mea-maxima-culpa-silence-in-the-house-of-god-trailer-tiff-festival-2012/

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