John Delaney, 47, was altar boy of the year at St. Cecilia’s Parish in Northeast Philadelphia in the 1980s – years in which he was being raped by the Rev. James Brzyski, later identified as one of the most brutal abusers ever to serve in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Delaney has been one of his most vocal victims. In excerpts from recent interviews, he talks about the damage.
He recalls an innocent childhood before Brzyski came to his parish.
“I was an athlete. I remember seeing kids up at the Fox Chase Recreation Center smoking weed, thinking, ‘Those guys are losers.’ My goal was to be like my dad. He was a cop.”
Brzyski arrived. The little boy changed.
“I was being abused, I was running away from home, I was cutting school, I was getting drunk and high. I was 13 years old, whacked out on coke, serving Mass. I passed out on the altar one day.”
Later, he would spend time in and out of prison. He married, had two kids, got divorced. He kept returning to drugs.
“It’s a very common thing with victims. It kills the pain and it takes your mind away from it. But the sad reality is that when it’s over, it’s still there — only 10 times worse.”
Coming to grips with the abuse wasn’t a healing process.
“When I came out in 2005, no one was there to guide me about what I was about to go through. The emotions, the post-traumatic stress disorder, and all of that. When you first start talking about it, it opens a floodgate of things. I went through hell.”
Talking about it is intimidating.
“It’s that pain. I’ve never felt anything like it and I wish it on no one. When I start rehashing something, or I have a flashback … in my head it will just pop up. Moments when I’m supposed to be happy and holding my granddaughter, I’m not. I’m not happy. I can remember [the abuse] like it happened yesterday. These horrible thoughts. I could be sitting there reading a book and all of a sudden this just pops in my head. It’s a spiral. You just get depressed.”
He sometimes wonders how he’s managed to stay alive.
“Maybe I’m supposed to be the voice for the guys who don’t have a voice any more. They’re dead. There’s a couple things I’m good at in my life: One of them is running my mouth. Maybe I’m supposed to be here to run my mouth for them guys who can’t do that no more.”
He hopes speaking out will help others.
“If one kid comes out because of something they read that I said, it makes all the difference in the world to me. …. There’s not a lot of victims who are willing to stand up and tell the truth. It’s too hard.”