Local News

Raleigh Woman Tells of Abuse by Parish Priest

Posted April 16, 2008 11:11 p.m. EDT
Updated April 17, 2008 11:27 a.m. EDT

— On Pope Benedict XVI's agenda for his six-day trip to the United States is discussions on the sex-abuse scandal that has brought shame to the Roman Catholic Church.

According to the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, 35 victims have come forward since 1950 with credible allegations against 15 of its priests. Most of those priests are deceased.

Audrey Shaw, a Raleigh resident in her mid-50s, told WRAL the church's handling of her sex-abuse case drove her away from practicing the Catholic faith.

“I'm a recovering Catholic,” Shaw said.

She grew up a devout Catholic in Pennsylvania.

I had my “first Holy Communion in the Catholic church, confirmation as a Catholic, went to parochial schools for 12 years,” she added.

Shaw said that a relationship with her parish priest violated her trust and left her spiritually broken when he had sex with her. She was 16 years old.

“I think he sort of took advantage of that sort of friendship and the intensity that we had as a minister to a teenage young adult or teenage child,” she said.

Shaw said she felt betrayed, but looking back, it taught her a few lessons.

“I can say, I was hungry for attention and very hungry for someone to listen to what I was going through,” she said.

Shaw kept quiet for more than two decades. Two years ago, she came forward with her story. She said he was disheartened by how the Catholic church with which she was affiliated handled it.

“They would send me information about the church, but I have yet to hear to this day from them to call and ask how I'm doing,” she said.

Shaw also said she thinks the Pope Benedict's decision not to meet with survivors of abuse by Catholic priests is wrong.

“He needs to understand how it felt to the people who actually survived and who experienced that,” she said.

Shaw said her decision to come forward caused quite a bit of conflict because the priest she accused was close to her family.

She said that when she reported the abuse, the priest was still ministering. He eventually retired, but she decided not to pursue the case legally since he died suddenly in an accident on his farm.