The Army of God

How a monk, an altar boy, and a sex-abuse victim joined forces to battle their common enemy: the Catholic Church

"I'm a leveler," Wall beams. He retains from his St. John's football days the build and mindset of an offensive lineman, which he effectively mitigates with a singsong Minnesotan accent and an endearingly frequent use of words such as "dude" and "malarkey." "I level that playing field between lawyers and the Church. The Church will provide files, but there's so much information to sort, and you have to ask for it specifically or they won't provide it at all. It's real obvious to me, but those things that are in my head are not ammunition in the lawyer's head." Wall stopped attending Mass about a year ago, still a believer in God but fatigued by the struggle to fight for his faith. "It's almost to a point where [sex abuse has] become a custom of the Church," Wall says. "Catholics are currently taking a walk through the valley of tears. It's a dark night of the soul. I have faith that Christ will once again take command, but it'll take generations. "There are good priests, but they're all silent," Wall allows. "It's time for laicized priests and priests alike to come forward and say what they know today. To me, that's what we were ordained to do. We're ordained to look out for the weak, the widowed, the orphans and the poor, to be a voice for those who don't have any." Wall stops and realizes what he just said. He smiles. "The saying is true," he remarks softly, almost sadly. "Once a priest, always a priest."

It's an overcast, chilly Thursday morning outside Mater Dei in May. Joelle Casteix and three other Orange County Church sex-abuse survivors stand silently in front of Mater Dei's entrance, holding signs protesting the school's refusal to acknowledge their cases. Casteix, who frequently appears on television and in newspaper reports regarding the Orange diocese sex scandal, grips a poster board that reads, "Mater Dei's legacy is a legacy of child rape." Another woman unveils a list of 10 former Mater Dei faculty members accused of molesting students during their tenure. The man heading the list is Michael Harris. In the background rises a haunting melody courtesy of the parochial school's choir, which is rehearsing for a performance later that morning. Most cars just zip past the protestors and into Mater Dei's parking lot without a second glance; some stare a bit longer. Still others slow down, lower their passenger windows and begin shouting profanities at the three women. "Shame, shame, shame on all of you!" yells a woman in a Pathfinder as she sticks out her tongue. Another flips what Casteix peppily refers to as "the holy bird." Wall soon joins the women, taking hold of the sign emblazoned with the names of the alleged Mater Dei molesters because "I work with these guys every day." Manly also arrives but stands to the side, looking glum. "I want to support my clients, but I don't want people to say I orchestrated this or that I'm doing this for the attention," he sighs. "It's for the survivors." DiMaria arrives about an hour later because, as Manly glibly notes, "Ryan's always fucking late." Another car passes near the protest, stops and lowers its right window. Everyone suddenly lowers their signs, expecting the umpteenth barrage of the morning. "I just want to say that I'm sorry for what happened to all of you," the female driver shouts out. "I'm sorry. I'm going to pray for all of you and the Church." Wall grins. Manly doesn't react. Casteix looks away. Large, dark sunglasses hide her eyes, but a slight smile slowly creases across her face. She remains silent for a while, and then speaks in a tone that's almost sighing, a breath of healing. "That's all we want to hear," she says to no one in particular. The car drives away, and the three resume protesting — there are more cars coming.

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