Georgetown Prep, liberal Catholicism, and sexual abuse

Mark Judge Journalist and filmmaker
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Last week, I wrote in The Daily Caller about the arrest for alleged sexual abuse of Garrett Orr, a former priest and teacher at my high school alma mater, Georgetown Prep. That piece can be found here.

Shortly after the piece came out, I got an email from a former Prep student. It turns out that the abuse is wider than I thought. Orr wasn’t the only one.

Before getting to that letter, a distillation of my piece from last week. My point in that piece was that for the past 40 years, if not longer, there has been an effort by liberal Catholics to subvert, censor and generally eradicate orthodox Catholicism. (As Richard John Neuhaus once put it: when orthodoxy is made optional, sooner or later it is proscribed.) This has been done mostly through teaching on human sexuality. The result has been not just a loss of faith, but the abuse of kids in the schools — including Georgetown Prep, a place that otherwise does so much to foster community, faith, and brotherhood. The equation is pretty simple: if you teach young people that religion is all about peace and love and expressing yourself, and not about conquering yourself in the service of a greater, richer, freedom, you will get a religion that is bland and leaders and teachers who are more liable to abuse kids.

The email I received from the former Georgetown Prep student eloquently describes how liberal Catholics have corroded Catholicism.

An important note: I am not endorsing only exposing kids to approved authors and theologians. I have always advocated giving them both sides. What is so damaging about liberal Catholicism is that it has a totalitarian streak. In 2005 I made this argument in a book called “God and Man at Georgetown Prep.” Shortly after, a faculty member asked to meet with me to talk about the conclusions I came to. He also told me that he was meeting me against the advice of the rest of the faculty, and that any chance of me coming to the school to speak to the kids and defend my position was out of the question. Ah yes, the great Jesuit intellectual tradition: if someone raises an argument you don’t like, walk away and ignore them.

I have been given permission by the student who sent me the email to publish it here. Names have been changed or deleted. Two things to know: the Heights school, which is mentioned in the letter, is a fine and orthodox Catholic school. Also mentioned is Michael Rose’s book “Goodbye Good Men,” an examination of the takeover of the priesthood by liberals.

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Hi Mark,

Thank you for letting me tell you my story. You are free to share it, but if you do, please keep me anonymous or give me a pseudonym.

I graduated from prep in 2002 and my first one-on-one encounter with Garrett Orr involved making an appointment for confession. It was the first day of my freshman year and because it was schola brevis, I would have plenty of time after school to go to confession. Prior to going to Prep, I had been at the Heights. While there, I developed the habit of daily mass and frequent confession. Since the summer had passed, I hadn’t been to confession for a long time before the school year. Orr agreed and we met later in the day. After I made my confession he asked me, “Where did you go to school before here.” I told him. He responded calmly but somewhat arrogantly, “You’ll find things are a lot less strict here.” We wrapped up the confession and I went home. But his comment stuck with me.

Over the next year and a half, I continued my confessions to Orr about every two weeks. We also discussed other areas of the faith as I helped with campus ministry and special masses. Oftentimes he would say things like you are “too pious” or “you’re too concerned with hierarchy.” These remarks were telling because several faculty members, both lay and Jesuit, encouraged my mass attendance, piety, interest in the faith, etc., even if they themselves were a bit more liberal.

On one occasion, I confessed something to him that I had confessed many times before. He told me, “That’s not a sin.” I don’t remember what it was, but it was a sin. I remember that it was not something sexual or otherwise controversial; even liberals would have said it was wrong. I was in complete shock at the remark. He continued advising me and it was clear he was in some sort of odd mood that Orr was known to get in from time to time, a sort of odd foolish, almost childish mood that I recognized from when he would joke with students in my Latin class. But he wasn’t joking about this particular sin. It was bizarre. I remember it vividly because I made sure that was the last time I confessed to Orr.

During the second semester of my sophomore year, a newly ordained Jesuit came and taught me religion; from that point on he was my regular confessor. It was a relief to get away from Orr. While he never physically harmed me, he was clearly a bit off. As a 15-year-old, I didn’t know what it was but I knew a new confessor was necessary. He was actually a very good one. He and I are friends to this day. But sadly, this man left the priesthood a few years later.

Since I was going to daily mass and receiving communion, I would see Orr at mass once a week. I had developed the habit of receiving on the tongue prior to coming to Prep. One day while walking through Boland Hall, he pulled me aside and basically told me he was unhappy with me receiving on the tongue. Despite being around Jesuits for 7 years and having gone to countless parishes where receiving in the hand is the norm, Orr remains the only priest who has ever complained about my means of receiving.

I remembered many of these incidents years later when I began reading “Goodbye Good Men” while a student at Boston College. I had long thought about the priesthood. I eventually discerned pastoral work was not my calling. But it was clear from Orr’s remarks over the years that he was actively working to kill my more orthodox approach to the Catholic faith. I may not have been applying to the seminary at the time, but he seemed to be part of the lavender mafia at work actively trying to undermine the work of the Church.

Shortly after finishing Good Bye Good Men, I learned of Orr’s first accusation.

It turns out Orr was not the only faculty member acting inappropriately. The summer before my sophomore year, a male religion teacher was told to leave. It’s widely believed by parents and students that he was forced out for having had a sexual encounter with a Prep alum who had graduated the preceding year. Also, my geometry and chemistry teacher is believed to have had an affair with a senior from the class of 2001 the summer after he graduated. Eventually, she was fired early in the school year after apparently engaging in sexual acts with another student around the same time that Orr’s first accusation came to light. I believe the student was around 16 at the time of the incident, and I think it happened with this particular student more than once.

Thank you for listening to my story. There is more I can tell you about my experiences with religion classes that you might find to be of interest. Feel free to contact me in the future.

Mark Judge is the author of A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.