Fr. Othmar Hohmann would make his rounds, visiting St. Joseph Parish families on, I believe, Sunday afternoons. When he was to come we kids were told to be on best behavior and we girls were to dress up in the short frilly dresses of the time. Othmar was seated in the living room. My parents would be in the adjacent room, the kitchen, getting the coffee and cookies, and astonishingly, with them that close by, he would grab me and pull me up onto his lap and deftly put his fingers up the leg hole of my panties and fondle and grope, carrying on all the time as if nothing was happening; he was so quick and expert at it and it was so confusing because he was so brazen with my parents just in the next room within earshot so I’d think it was all okay with them, it must have been, otherwise how could he have done it so brazenly? Surely they knew and approved! I was six years old at this time and we had just moved to St Joe from St Cloud.
Later, when I was seven or eight, I was involved in a school play directed by Othmar. I had many rehearsals with him and he had lots of access to me. I don’t know what happened then – it continues to be a blank. I recall hiding there in the dark, under the stage with all the folding chairs that were stored in that low dark space. Just not sure what exactly I was hiding from. I know that there are things that happened that I don’t admit to myself yet, that my story is not filled with all the details. But I know that I have been horribly betrayed; that for many years I blamed myself, wanted to kill myself and believed myself evil and damned; even able to contaminate ‘good’ people!
Can you imagine going into a confessional and knowing that you have this sexual sin you’re supposed to confess, but it’s Othmar on the other side of the screen and the penances received would keep you on your knees forever in the church saying all those Hail Marys and Our Fathers….and everyone would know how evil you were just because of the length of the penance Othmar would have imposed on you/me?
My parents would never have believed me. Othmar acted like nothing was going on so he would have denied everything and I was always being told how good everyone in our small safe town was, so I had to be wrong. What a mess.
There is much more I can say about the effect of the hypocrisy and abuse on my life – it has taken decades away from me. The losses have been tremendous and there is much grief yet to go through. But I have come to the point where I can really blame THEM rather than myself, and that’s a huge step forward, albeit a little late in life. Now I’m angry, and that’s good and just. Forgiveness will have to wait a while.