Wife of abuse survivor shares her message of faith
By Connie Berry
Lorrie Frawley doesn’t want her husband Tim’s life to go unnoticed. Tim died during Holy Week in 2010 having never fully recovered from the sexual abuse he experienced by a priest from this diocese. Tim’s faith was so strong and so deep, Lorrie said, that he could not bear to hurt even his abuser. And he never stopped loving his church.
Tim was an altar server, lector and on the parish council and always active in the parishes he attended. He and Lorrie were married for 20 years.
Her family’s story is one of faith, family and friendship, Lorrie explained. Lorrie prayed that she would find a good, Catholic husband and her prayers were answered. They met on a blind date set up by mutual friends in August of 1989 and Tim proposed only a month later. They were both in their 30s, Lorrie said, and they knew they were brought together for a special reason. They loved each other very much. They were married May 18, 1990 at St. Joseph the Worker Church in Liverpool nine months later. They both had quotes from Scripture engraved in their wedding rings. Lorrie has Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good for those who love the Lord.”
“Our faith was a very, very strong part of our relationship from the first day we met. It was the core of our relationship and our marriage,” Lorrie said. When they got married, Tim and Lorrie received a wedding gift from Msgr. George Sheehan. It was a plaque that reads, “Marriage takes three.” Lorrie said so many times over the years, especially after 2002, she would read the plaque and find peace and comfort in the words.
Lorrie knew Tim’s faith and his love for the Catholic Church and all it stood for was strong, and important to him. It was one of the things that made him so special to her. Lorrie said she was also drawn to his eyes. “There was something about his eyes that touched me deep in my heart right away,” she said.
It would be much later, after Tim’s passing, before Lorrie would fully understand that the deep look in her husband’s eyes revealed the secrets and the suffering he carried with him. “Now,” she said, “it all makes sense to me.”
Tim was a very successful and charismatic man by all accounts and he could light up a room when he entered it, Lorrie said. “But he also carried a lot of hurt feelings, shame and guilt deep in his heart daily.”
“I can never fully comprehend what he felt,” Lorrie said. “I knew he was struggling and I knew he was hurting but I had no idea how deep-rooted his pain and suffering was. He kept it inside since he was 12 years old.”
Lorrie explained that Tim’s abuser was a very integral part of his life and the life of his family since he was a child. He groomed both Tim and his family over the years.
At first Lorrie felt having a priest close to the family was a gift and a privilege. But, as time passed, Lorrie could see that the priest had an unnatural hold on Tim. When she would bring it up or try to discuss it with Tim, he would shut down and she could see in his eyes it was hurting him so she would stop, she explained.
Lorrie said their lives were turned upside down in May 2002, 10 years ago, on Memorial Day weekend. “That weekend there were more local priests named in the clergy sexual abuse scandal,” Lorrie said. “We watched together as Tim’s abuser’s name came on TV and we both just froze!” Weeks earlier when other clergy were named, Lorrie asked Tim and he denied he had ever been a victim of abuse. But after they saw the television announcement, Tim realized he had been a victim.
The first thing Lorrie did was contact was their pastor at the time, Father John Rose.
“Tim always said to me that he would have taken this to the grave with him,” Lorrie said. “I said to myself, ‘Oh my God. I am not going to let this destroy our marriage.’” Father Rose told Lorrie to bring Tim right over to see him.
“He was such a gift to both of us and he said to us, ‘The same church that hurt you is going to be the church that heals you.’ And he was so right,” she said.
Father Rose directed the couple to the chancery and Tim received counseling and then Lorrie and Tim received counseling as a couple. Lorrie has nothing but gratitude to express to the diocese. The professional counseling provided to the couple and the love and support they received from then-Bishop James Moynihan and now Bishop Robert Cunningham still mean so much to her and to her son. Priests including Father Cliff Auth, Msgr. George Sheehan and Father Tom Servatius, the Frawley’s current pastor, along with Father Rose, were a huge part of their healing process as a family, Lorrie said. Victim assistance coordinator Nuala Collins, assistant chancellor and director of communications Danielle Cummings, and Kathleen Owens, who facilitated Tim’s spiritual healing group, were also a great source of strength for her and her husband, Lorrie said.
“Bishop Moynihan gave my husband his cell phone number and told him to call him day or night if he needed him. This gave Tim a lot of comfort at the time,” Lorrie said. Bishop Robert Cunningham never met Tim but he wrote her a letter after Tim passed away, Lorrie said.
Even though the diocese’s response was one of compassion and support, Lorrie doesn’t deny it was a very stressful and difficult walk for their family.
Their son Paul Timothy was born Oct. 2, 1992 and Tim and Lorrie considered their him a very special gift. He has touched their lives in extraordinary ways, Lorrie said.
Lorrie said Tim was a great dad and he was so proud of Paul. “He loved watching Paul play football and basketball and most of all throwing the football to Paul in the driveway,” she said.
Tim was always so proud of Paul’s athletic success, Lorrie said. “But I knew it hurt him very much because he used to say so often to me, ‘I lost so much of my childhood and I was robbed,’” Lorrie said.
Lorrie said she always respected her husband for all he was going through and most of all, because he never gave up on his faith, and he took his family to Mass every Sunday. “That meant so much to me,” Lorrie said.
The Frawley story goes beyond Tim’s victimization. It’s a story that isn’t over yet, Lorrie said. She also said she is willing to share her story of God’s love and grace.
Lorrie said she knew something happened to Tim on Holy Thursday in 2010 when they went as a family to the service at St. Mary’s in Baldwinsville. Father Abe Esper was leading a procession of the Blessed Sacrament onto a bus that was carrying parishioners to St. Augustine’s Church where the Blessed Sacrament was to be placed in the chapel for adoration. Lorrie said Tim jumped up out of the pew and told her three times that he had to go see the procession, and then he was gone. “When Paul and I went to look for Tim he was standing down by the road near the bus watching Father Abe put Jesus on the bus,” Lorrie said.
“That Holy Thursday night, which was always a very special night to Tim, Jesus spoke to him and said, ‘Come follow the procession and I will answer your, Why me? And all your other questions and give you peace,’ and Tim said, ‘Yes.’
“The next day was Good Friday and the three of us went to the cross together as a family to pray,” Lorrie said. “That night Jesus came like a ‘thief in the night’ and took Tim home.”
Paul told Lorrie, “Dad went to sleep and woke up in heaven.”
A few weeks before Tim passed away, Lorrie said she heard a speaker on EWTN who shared the difference between a “strong woman” and a “woman of strength.”
“She said a strong woman relies on her own strength but a woman of strength gets her strength from the Lord. I know that message was for me that day and I also know that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Paul and I miss Tim very much and we are very grateful for our faith, family and friends. The day Tim went to heaven, I had to make a choice for my son and me, and we choose to look through the eyes of the Spirit and not the eyes of the world.”
Syracuse Diocese on the 10th anniversary of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People
Danielle Cummings said it is interesting that local media covered all the Masses in 2003 when the bishop offered healing services in all four regions of the diocese in response to the clergy sex abuse scandal. The diocesan newspaper was the only media interested in covering this year’s Mass on April 28. Cummings was director of communications for the diocese in 2002 and is still today. She is actively involved in the coordination of the outreach to victims and their families.
Every year the USCCB prepares an annual report on the implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Dioceses are allowed to submit online audits but the Diocese of Syracuse has always asked for an on-site audit, Cummings explained. The diocese has been in full compliance of the Charter every year.
“The audit allows us to have an outside entity look closely at how the diocese has met each and every one of the articles of the charter. It’s important to keep the culture of safe environment prominent and before our ministries and the people of the diocese,” she said. The audit takes several weeks to complete and then two representatives take four days to go over the information on site.
Cummings said the process has improved over the past 10 years, especially considering that each diocese does things differently. Now, she said, the essence of the process is the same for all dioceses.
This year’s annual report can be found on the USCCB website, www.usccb.org. Bishop Robert Cunningham has served on the USCCB’s Commission on the Protection of Children and Young People. His term expired November 2010. This year’s report also states that the Diocese of Syracuse was one of 24 dioceses that, “agreed to have the auditors conduct detailed interviews in parishes to determine Charter understanding and compliance at the parish level. The parishes were selected by the auditors prior to the audit. Demographics considered include the location of the parish and whether the parish includes a school. Parish interviews were conducted in person.”
The annual report states that nationwide there were 704 victims who came forward to report abuse for the first time to dioceses and eparchies this past year. Out of the 704, 683 of those allegations occurred years ago and the victims are just now able to report the incidents. Dioceses and eparchies reported providing outreach to 453 victims and related family members who came forward this year. Another 1,750 who reported abuse in prior years are still receiving support.
“The Church can never forget the harm done to victims/survivors of clergy sexual abuse. Healing those wounds must remain a top priority for the Church. Our work is finished only when all victims are comforted and healed,” the report says.
One of the most significant outcomes of the Charter is the development of safe environment programs. The Safe Environment Program in the Diocese of Syracuse has trained 29,000 people to date. The goal, Cummings said, is not so much to run a program but to build a culture of awareness to prevent sexual abuse of minors within the diocese.
“What people don’t see is that as a result of this program, we receive calls every week from people who see questionable behavior,” Cummings said. “If anything, we’ve all learned in this community that child sex abuse is not exclusive to clergy. The Syracuse media just produced a simulcast event with an hour-long presentation talking about local stories of child sexual abuse not related to the church. Unfortunately, child sexual abuse takes place in all areas of society.”
Cummings says the Frawleys’ story is extraordinary. “They came to us and I really felt a sense of spiritual healing,” Cummings said. “They struggled. Tim still loved his abuser and he forgave him. That’s powerful. We still encourage people to come forward. Absolutely. Most people don’t get to see this part of the story. We’ve seen lives transformed after they come forward.”
To report child sexual abuse in the diocese, contact your local law enforcement and contact the Victims Assistance Coordinator at the Chancery by calling Cummings at