Charges Physical, Mental Abuse
After 55 years of silence, psychiatric treatment and several episodes of shock therapy, a Rockaway native is speaking out, detailing the physical and mental abuse he endured when he was a second grade student at St. Francis de Sales school in Belle Harbor.
Arthur McGoldrick, 62, told The Wave in an exclusive interview that he would take off his pajamas, open all the windows and lie on the floor when he was seven years old, in hope of getting sick so that he would not have to go to school and suffer the abuse of Sister Maria Thomas, CSJ, who was his teacher at the school.
"She tortured me every day," McGoldrick said. "She would stand me up in front of the class and beat me mercilessly from one point on the Stations of the Cross to another until we did all 14 of them."
McGoldrick said that he was so frightened of the nun that he purposely tried to get himself sick or injure himself so that he would not have to face her each day.
"She told my mother that I was mentally retarded and that I needed harsh treatment," the Rockaway man said. "She did it to me in front of the class, in front of my sister, and in front of other kids."
"I got so frightened once that I even tried to jump through a window to get away."
Finally, McGoldrick told his mother, a Catholic school teacher at Mary Louis Academy, about the abuse and she transferred him to PS 114.
Even after the transfer, however, the abuse stayed with him.
He began going to psychiatrists when he was 16, he said. He had two stints in the psychiatric ward at Mercy Hospital and underwent a number of shock therapy treatments.
The fear never left him, he says.
Why is he coming forward now, 55 years after the event and long after the nun involved died?
"When the Pope came to Yankee Stadium, he addressed the issue of abusive religionists," McGoldrick said. "The Pope said that all of the abuse had to be accounted for and the religionists punished. I knew then that I had to speak out."
McGoldrick sought out the Rev. Robert Hoatson, the founder of The Road to Recovery, an organization that counsels the victims of clergy abuse, whom he saw speak at a Rockaway Voice of the Faithful meeting.
In a letter to the president of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Hoatson wrote, "We are all familiar with the kinds of corporal punishment that took place in Catholic schools of the past that, thankfully, did not usually cause lifelong injuries. However, at times, we know that there were 'sick' religious who inflicted torture on children. [McGoldrick's] second grade teacher beat him so badly that he began to selfmutilate and self-destruct. His life has been one nightmare after another since that time. When his parents finally decided to transfer him to a public school, he said that it was like going from hell to heaven, but the effects of his torture continue to this day."
The sisters agreed to meet with McGoldrick and Hoatson in July of last year.
McGoldrick said that he was told that he could bring no lawyers or other professionals to the meeting, but that the two representatives of the Sisters of St. Joseph, with whom he met, he found out later, were an attorney and a social worker.
The abused man said that the sisters promised to speak with everybody involved and to investigate his charges fully.
In September of 2007, however, he received a letter from Sister Lucy Blyskal, a representative of the order.
"I have reviewed all of the records regarding Sister Maria Thomas, CSJ, at St. Francis de Sales school at the time of your enrollment there. I have also conducted interviews of persons who were present at the time indicated by you. A review of the records, along with my personal interviews does not establish the existence of the incident that you discussed with us. Therefore, we are not in a position to acknowledge your claim."
The letter to McGoldrick ended with, "Since my first telephone conversation with you, I want you to know that you have been in my prayer."
McGoldrick, however, disputes that any investigation was ever held.
"They did not contact my sister, who witnessed the beatings, nor my doctors or therapists who have treated me for [the nun's] abuse."
Two weeks later, he received a letter from Sister Jean Amore, the president of the order.
"Though our investigation is somewhat limited because of the fifty-year time lapse between the alleged incident described by you and today, there is no information that substantiates your claim."
McGoldrick says that he went back to St. Francis de Sales for his last two years of school, but that church officials refused to give him a diploma.
Now, McGoldrick, who was a chief lifeguard in Rockaway for many years, wants others to understand what he went through 55 years ago and to come forward with their own stories.
"The statute of limitations has long since past, and all we have now is the court of public opinion," he says. "I came to them without a lawyer, without representation because all I want is justice."
He says that he has contacted the Sisters of St. Joseph to find who they interviewed during their investigation, but they have not responded to him.
Hoatson sent a letter to Bishop DiMarzio of the Brooklyn Diocese, asking for a meeting, but has been met with silence, he says. Attempts by The Wave to get comment from the Sisters of St. Joseph and the Brooklyn Diocese for this story were unfruitful.