23 September 1997
"You seemed distracted," Dr. Harris said. I was sitting in her office, having stopped in to discuss the therapy groups with her. I had taken to wearing street clothes to avoid notice for my cassock, ever since the locals had grown concerned about a priest sniffing around. I was already driven out of town once, I knew I was on borrowed time at this point. It was concerning how much Dr. Harris would know of me, if she was not on my side; but I had to find out. "Almost as if you weren't really there for therapy." I leaned forward in my chair.
"Is that your professional opinion?"
"You know, my first thought was press. Figured I'd have to confront someone about what they are and aren't allowed to publish from confidential gatherings. But then you showed up here. Problem is, I know everyone at the local paper, and neither television nor radio around here tends to hire someone with a European accent."
"It's my job to know people. So what's your interest in our groups?" I paused, trying to read her face. She was giving nothing away. Finally, I sat up and straightened my shirt.
"I wasn't. Not at first. I had reason to suspect someone was using your groups for their own agenda, an agenda that I happen to be investigating."
"There are a lot of hurting people around here. If I can help them in any way while I'm here, I would like to."
"While you're here."
"You must understand, my duties-"
"Duties to who? Who do you work for?"
"I'm a Roman Catholic priest." She took a deep breath in through her nose as she leaned back, and her eye twitched just a bit. "But my job is primarily in dealing with heresies and threats to the Church."
"My concern at the moment is a specific body that has violent aims toward the Vatican and has already killed one priest and maimed another. But I am of the opinion that abusive priests are a distinct, and much more real than I knew, threat to the Church as well."
"I'm sorry, did you say killed?" She asked, leaning forward and resting her hands on her desk.
"There are dark forces at work around here, doctor. And I fear your groups are being used as recruiting tools aimed at the most angry victims of church abuse."
"You're concerned about Mr. Withenow."
"The other observer at the meeting?" She nodded. "Yes."
"He's my sponsor. Or more of a liaison, I suppose. Works with a special interest group. He does gather some vague information, more statistical than anything, to bolster their lobbying and lawsuits. This is all covered in the release form. In exchange, they fund the groups."
"He seemed a bit more proactive than that after the meeting."
"Did you witness something?"
"I'm still investigating that."
"Well then. Father, I appreciate your concern, and I assure you that if Mr. Withenow or his group are in any way connected with the things you're investigating I will immediately cut ties and willingly turn over anything that helps hold them accountable. But until you have evidence to support that claim, I must ask that you let me help these people in peace." I nodded and began to leave, but stopped before opening the door.
"When is your next group meeting?"
"Doesn't matter. I would thank you to not be there." I gave a vague sound of affirmation and left.
21 September 1997
I was expecting to arrive to the meeting to find one, maybe two, other people with chips on their shoulders and half-baked stories about a priest who didn't let them serve how they wanted in the church or parents who abused them and blamed it on God. My isolation within the Church was far more extensive than I had realized, however; the full reach of scandal within the priesthood was, and I'm certain still is, well beyond my understanding.
There were at least a dozen people in that room, and I was made aware that there were other meetings that happened on other days of the week. I do not know how many. My heart broke for these people, and the few stories I heard that night were horrific. But, having studied the hierarchy in this region before arriving, I knew that each of the handful of clergy being discussed all answered to one man, and had throughout the time in question. I decided to have a talk with him later.
For the time being, though, I tried to focus on the people at the meeting, and two were of special note. There was a Dr. Harris overseeing the whole thing, a licensed psychiatrist who seemed genuinely dedicated to helping the people here. The other did not introduce himself, but I recognized quickly that he was there to observe as much as I was. He seemed to take special notice of the people who were primarily angry, and I committed myself to following him. After the meeting, I grabbed a business card from Dr. Harris and slipped away somewhere quiet to watch, and caught the mystery man approaching one of his targets and inviting them to learn more about an initiative to hold the clergy accountable. Afterward, I tracked the man to a large, seemingly abandoned building on the edge of town. I could sense a massive amount of spiritual activity in the building and, deciding I wasn't yet ready to face it, I left to continue my research through another avenue.
Found in the garbage by Father Benedict de Monte on 16 September 1997
[Image ID: A tattered and stained piece of paper that reads, "Have you been abused by The Catholic Church?
Don"t suffer in silence
Get the help you need
The bottom of the page includes strips that can be torn off with the phone number 555-3461, only four strips remain.]
26 August 1997
Last month, the Diocese of Dallas, Texas lost what was apparently a famous lawsuit over sexual misconduct carried out by one of its priests. It seems there are more monsters in robes than I knew. I had not heard about this matter in rural Germany, but the people of South Carolina have. The lack of trust right now has greatly hindered my investigations. When I went to the police department where the last priest had been found after his encounter with the Brood of Nachash to ask what they knew about the assailant, and admitted that I was not associated with a specific local church on being asked, I was detained and questioned about my credentials and mission and knowledge of misconduct for nearly twenty hours. After that, I decided to be more quiet about my work.
I had to abandon my cassock and opt for street clothes in order to accomplish anything, and even then the trail was hard to find. The local diocese knew about my predecessors arriving and beginning their work, but did not receive regular updates that would help me track their location. The non-Catholics in town seemed disinterested at best in the murder of one priest and mutilation of another, and the Catholics were waiting for news of priestly misconduct to die down before they really spoke to anyone about matters of the Church. When I asked the Cardinal for the records of the previous investigation, he informed me that the priest who had been picked up was too traumatized to tell them where his notes were and very few reports had come in. I am on my own, and must retrace the investigation that came before me to find anything.
I believe I'm close, however. The national news suggests that the case in Dallas is not as well-remembered in the rest of the nation as it is here. I suspect someone has used it to encourage animosity toward the Church. My best bet may be to trace that word rather than imitate those who came before me.
Evidence compiled for use during the trial of Father Benedict de Monte.