Saturday, August 30, 2003

Victim abandoned dream of priesthood

'I remember feeling lost'

By Maggie Downs
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Stephen Dasenbrock
Stephen Dasenbrock grew up wanting to be a priest.

Dasenbrock attended Catholic school from first grade through high school. He said the Rosary every day. And he attended first Saturday devotions to Mary.

As a boy, he believed priests were incarnations of God's will on earth. Select shepherds of the flock. Almost superhuman.

"They were what we all could be as our best possible self," he says. "They were beyond reproach, and their words and actions were the will of God."

That belief was shattered when, Dasenbrock said, a priest molested him at age 12.

"I remember feeling the feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when as a child you look up in a crowd and don't see anyone you recognize,'' he says. "I remember feeling lost, separated, and abandoned."

As an adult, Dasenbrock felt his faith slip further away as the church protected that priest, then-Rev. George Cooley. Cooley has been convicted and defrocked in connection with the molestation.

"I found myself in front of a large crucifix at the seminary. I remember screaming at the crucifix: 'If this is your love, if this is how you protect your children, I will see you in hell.' "

The 33-year-old Anderson Township law student no longer participates in the religion of his childhood.

But he has again found faith.

"God and I still talk - even if he mainly listens."

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