Pope Francis Writes Forward to Sex-Abuse Victim's Book
Freiburg i.Ü., 14.2.17 (kath.ch) For four years Freiburg resident, Daniel Pittet was raped as an altar boy by a priest. The 58-year-old father wrote a book about it. He describes to cath.ch the long path from abuse victim to the abuse book.
"On August 15, 1971, at the age of twelve, I forgave the priest who raped me before I was out of his clutches," says Daniel Pittet in conversation with cath.ch. "It was the forgiveness of a child, sure. But on that day I heard him preaching about the Mother of God. People dried their tears with handkerchiefs. I knew I should be raped by Father Joël Allaz after the Mass. This was almost like a 'liturgy'. I said to myself, 'He is a priest, and what he says is right. There is another man in him, a creep, a pig. I made my accounting. I forgave him.'
The conversation takes place at the kitchen table. The former altar boy in Freiburg Cathedral recalls: "I have prayed to the Mother of God and to Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus (Thérèse of Lisieux, editor) to take me away from this man. I have cried streams, filled bathtubs. It took some time, however, before I was transferred to the St. Paul sisters, where my great aunt lived, who decided that I should not go to that Father Joel."
«I remain a fragile man»
Actually, Pittet does not want to return to the past, "because I was built on this. Who would I be today if I had not experienced this? I'm sure I would not be better. I have suffered a lot. I have learned modesty. The enthusiasm that I had as a child, I still have. I founded a family. I would not have found a better way, even if I am mentally and physically quite damaged. I remain a fragile man, but I know that what I am saying is true. I also know that certain people in the Church will be horrified. But you have to make a clean slate."
But you have to make a clean slate
Pittet comes from a broken family. The father left them when the boy was four years old. "When I told my grandmother and my mother that I was going to a Capuchin in the nearby cloister, they were very proud. They were glad to see that he took me up and brought me back. I have never dared to tell them anything. My mother had asked the priest to give me sexual education classes."
«Such facts break a family»
The priest regularly raped boys from 1968 to 1972. "The most beautiful photo of my childhood comes from Father Joël. He published it in their magazine 'Foyers' and added a text that was full of ambiguous allusions. At school, the teachers noticed that something was wrong, but this led this to the death of my grandmother and the problems in the family after the departure of my father. I was also with a psychiatrist who did not find anything or say anything. He never addressed me on sexual matters. Either he hadn't done his job or then he assumed that a judge would never have believed me. Such facts leave a family broken. So no one dares to talk about it."
He took 'difficult' guys up there with him
«This is for me»
The Capuchin Joël Allaz was a person highly esteemed in Freiburg. "One of the brothers witnessed a rape and asked the priest to leave me alone. He told me not to come any more. Father Joël, however, chuckled him off with the words 'Shut up.' He was only a brother and probably did not dare to interfere."
"He was good, even very good, in the 'professional' field. When the matter became public, I had many problems with people who knew him. In the Order, he enjoyed much autonomy and did not have to account to anyone, both in pastoral care and finance. In La Roche (in the Friborg Voralpen, the editor) he rented a chalet from a women's religious order. There he took 'difficult' guys with him. He knew very well how he could make up children who suffered, and of those whom he thought: "This one is for me."
Happy years in Einsiedeln
Three years after Daniel Pittet had been freed from the priest's grip, the latter disappeared from his memory. The young man went to Einsiedeln where he was "protected as in a cocoon" in the abbey. Retrospectively, Pittet referred to this time as "four years of happiness for my reconstruction." He appreciated the spiritual life and worship. The past had disappeared from consciousness. "Father Joël was wearing the robe of the Capuchins, I that of the Benedictines. I was never aware that we were alike in any way."
But I wanted the capuchin leave children alone
Pittet worked as a novice in a regional hospital. When he was 22 years old, a woman who had suffered a traffic accident died in his arms. Pittet suffered from a severe inflammation of the brain [meningitis?]. He went back to civilian life and said good-bye to his career in the Order.
Faith or Non-Faith?
"I had to decide whether I wanted to keep faith or not. I followed the advice of Cardinal Charles Journet, for whom I had been a altar server: if you are suffering, then go nine times to Bourguillon (a place of pilgrimage to Marienwall near Freiburg, the editor.). OnAt the ninth time I met a girl in the chapel who was crying. I entrusted her to the Mother of God and had chosen to believe."
In Freiburg, Pittet joined the prayer movement of the Prayer Apostolate and became its president. Under his leadership in Freiburg, the Catholic meetings "Praying and giving testimony," which are directed primarily to church youth. In this context, he encountered other victims of abuse. In 1989, he came upon a victim of Father Joël. "It was like waking up. I fell into a trance. My whole story came back to the surface. "
Like a hot potato returned
Pittet did not want to swallow it anymore and contacted the official (judge) of the diocesan section of the diocese of Lausanne-Geneva-Freiburg, Jean-Claude Périsset, later Vatican diplomat and nuncio in Germany. This gave him faith. He confronted the Capuchin himself. Joel Allaz acknowledged the deeds. "At that time I was the only applicant." He received a paper confirming the facts. "But I wanted the Capuchin to leave children alone." He was transferred to France. "They told me he was going to be treated and that I should not take care any longer about the matter. Whatever I did."
First contacts with the media
The matter rested until 2002, when Daniel Pittet discovered that the Capuchin was still "active" in Grenoble, France. "The diocese had indeed returned Father Joel to the Capuchins like a hot potato, and the Provincial has sent him elsewhere."
The media became aware of the matter. A friend of the journalist contacted Daniel Pittet and asked if he knew anything. "I'm not quite sure, but there is me." The passage into the media relieved the victim, he gave anonymous information. But there were also people who suggested that he should keep his mouth shut. This led him to a depression. He was ill for several months.
Encounter with Francis
The well-known French homeless priest and longtime friend, Guy Gilbert, advised him to write a book, and made contact with his publishing house "Philippe Rey". With the help of the Freiburg author Micheline Repond, the book came about. The last impulse to publication was given by Pope Francis. Pittet met the Pope during the time of origin of his book , "Loving is Giving Everything." Francis had asked him where his enthusiasm came from. During the conversation, I said: "I was raped by a priest for four years, when he took me in his arms" the Pope responded, "This is extraordinary."
Francis wanted to know more and asked if the priest was still alive? "Yes." The Pope asked him to give witness to this in a book. Pittet promised to bring an Italian translation of the already existing manuscript to Rome. "I asked him to write a foreword. He did not answer me clearly but promised that we would meet again." The Pope wrote this preface.
When I saw him, it hurt
Victims challenge perpetrators
Pittet also considered that his "tormentor" could express himself in the book. He wanted to say to him, "Thanks to you, I was in shit. It must be for you too. You must be able to talk about your suffering." West Moravian bishop Charles Morerod sought the priest. In the afterward to the book, the bishop reported on the encounter.
Pittet continues: "When I read the story (of the priest, editor), I said to myself," That is terrible. I had even more sympathy with him."n There was also a meeting between the two in the monastery. "When I saw him, it hurt me, for it strengthened me in what I had been thinking for forty years: he was a perverse, sick pedophile." He spoke as an egoist only of himself and his suffering. He had no word for the victims.
It needs a preface from the Pope so that he will be excluded from the priesthood
He was convinced that he would end up in hell. "I replied," You are not the only one who has done terrible things. When you confess and the priest forgives you, we will meet again in heaven. It was as if I'd betrayed him with a 'trick' to go to heaven. I'm glad I could tell him that."
Daniel Pittet is pleased today that he is supported by good persons, his wife, a close friend and also by priests and religious. He could now be "completely free" behind the book.
The diocese today takes the situation very seriously, but must go even more to the victims, who see him as a "flag carrier". The abuse of children is still not taken seriously anywhere. Thus the Pope had told him: "Pedophiles in Italy? That does not exist." Pittet hopes that his book will draw more people's attention to the problem.
There are unfortunately some drops of bitterness. The Capuchins have released Joël Allaz of all positions and pastoral tasks. But he was not excluded from the Order. Pittet: "It is presumably because of the preface by the Pope that he is excluded from the priesthood. But if he were not in the monastery, he would have resumed of his nature, or would have been killed." (Cath.ch / Translation to German from French: Georges Scherrer)
The book "Mon Père, je vous pardonne" by Daniel Pittet has been published by French publisher "Edition Philippe Rey". On request, the publisher declared that it was necessary to check whether a German-language translation would be given, but "assumes it".
Edit: the story was also covered in CNA, kind of a puff piece. They don't go into Francis' own congtroversial statement, or that the priest himself is unrepentant and still in the order.