Unforgivable | A brother’s struggle with death, faith and the Catholic Church

By | August 31, 2019


Narrator:
James and John shared a bond
that only brothers do only to have that bond broken by evil. James Harmon:
“This literally is evil within the church
that needs to be cut out.” “He was such a good kid.” “He didn’t deserve any of what happened to him.” Narrator:
What happened to John robbed his childhood
innocence and ultimately took his life, his brother says. It began when a family friend molested John. But it did not end there. James Harmon:
“After that happened, John was recommended to” Father Dennis Peterson for counseling.” Narrator:
Father Peterson worked in
the juvenile justice system as a chaplain helping troubled kids. He seemed like a perfect fit to help John. James Harmon:
“We looked at the church as a trusted resource.” “And so to to have a priest that’s also able to double” “as a counselor was actually, you know,
that would have been a godsend.” Jeremy Rogalski:
“Instead?” James Harmon:
“He would drink with him or or give him” “drugs and then, you know, pull down his
pants and and do his business.” Narrator:
All while preying on the faith of his older brother. James Harmon:
“He told him that, you know,
you can’t go to your family” “and that we can resolve everything by
going to confession and going to God.” “And that was the method that he used.” Jeremy Rogalski:
“The very person that was supposed to help him” James Harmon:
“The person that’s supposed
to be in the role of the shepherd” “is the person that literally is the wolf.” Narrator:
His big brother sued Father Peterson and the Catholic Church in 1999
for abuse that spanned over 10 years. Three other accusers joined in the
lawsuit but the priest denied all allegations and the archdiocese
ultimately settled out of court. James Harmon:
“I feel like the church doesn’t understand properly” the ripple effect of something” “that the type of evil that has occurred
here and how much that impacts the families.” Narrator:
John went on trying to live a normal life. He got married and had a child. But he could not escape the past
and the demons inside. In 2003, John Thomas Harmon died
of an accidental overdose at just 30 years old. Jeremy Rogalski:
“Was it the drugs that really killed him?” James Harmon:
“No.” “It was” “the fact that he was abused and abused by
a member of the church that should have” been helping him.” “That’s exactly what caused his death.” Narrator:
As for Father Peterson, the archdiocese
says it removed him from ministry in 1999. It allowed him to live at a church
until the Vatican defrocked him in 2005. And because of poor health, the
archdiocese says it permitted him to live in a facility for retired and infirm
priests until his death two years later. James Harmon hopes to see his name
on the forthcoming list of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse. James Harmon:
“Yes if Dennis Peterson is on that list” “that will go a long way to helping my family heal” “knowing that the church is now” “turning a new leaf and recognizing the
the pain that they’ve caused.” “I mean you just cannot imagine how hard that is for
a family member to deal with.” “I’ve struggled with it for so long now.”

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