survivor, and advocate
Terry Kohut was born in Chicago in 1950,
and grew up in rural Elmhurst, Illinois,
youngest of three sons of Dmytro ("Donald")
and Barbara Kohut. He began his elementary-school
education at St. Rita School for the Deaf in Cincinnat,
then, when he was 10, transferred to St.
John's School for the Deaf, St. Francis,
Wisconsin, south of Milwaukee.
Terry's older brothers were Don, born
in 1944, and Bob, born in 1947. Don was a science buff, and
Terry recalls how Don showed him how to photograph
the moon through a telescope, and how to
develop the photos.
Don and a classmate, Walter, were electrocuted
while rigging up a ham-radio antenna between
two trees in a neighbor's yard. The two boys
were standing on soggy ground, and the copper-wire
antenna, weighted with a crescent wrench,
made contact with an overhead 2,300-volt
power line whose insulation had worn off.
The neighbor had even complained to the electric
company two weeks previously
about the sparks being emitted by the line
at night—but nothing had been done.
Donald Kohut suffered from chronic depression.
Although he wasn't physically abusive, he
drank a lot of vodka. Finally, Barbara persuaded
him to see a psychotherapist, who told her
that he was fine. When Don was 11, his father
hanged himself in the basement of the family's
house . . . and Terry found him.
Then, when he was 12, his beloved white
German Shepherd, Chriissy, died of hypothermia.
He was devastated.
Barbara had lost faith in psychologists,
but not in priests and nuns. When she took
Terry back to St. John's, she tearfully pleaded
with Father Lawrence Murphy, the only fluent
signer on staff, to take good care of Terry.
Murphy proceeded to molest him.
Terry lived in a nightmare—Murphy's nightly
prowling of the Junior Boys' Dormitory, going
from bunkbed to bunkbed to molest the boys,
his use of the confessional for "sex education sessions," summoning
boys to his office, obscenely exerting his
power and dominance over them. It's believed
that Murphy molested as many as 200 boys at St. John's. Terry was
one of his unwilling victims.
But he survived, and after graduating
in 1969, began shaping a life for himself.
He earned his B.A. in Drama at Gallaudet
College, and a Master's in Education at CSUN.
He returned to St. John's as a part-time
teacher and dorm counselor, working there
from 1974 until St. John's closed in 1983.
(Murphy had been transferred to Boulder Junction,
280 miles north, shortly after Terry was
hired, so there were no uncomfortable confrontations
between the abuser and his former victim.)
Terry's students loved him—the way he dramatized
his lectures, encouraged his studens to discuss
politics, told of his travels to the
"ancestral grounds" of the Soviet Union,
and treated his students as equals. H e never
mentioned his being molested—he kept that
Unable to find acting work in California,
he took a teaching position at the John H.
Kinzie School in Chicago, and also teaches ASL at
Harper College in Palatine. He and wife Pam
have been happily married for 21 years, and
they have "two beautiful American Eskimo
In 1995, Terry sent Murphy a furious,
gut-wrenching letter confronting him with
his abuse and telling him exactly what he
thought of him. (The letter is posted in
Murphy's file on BishopAccountability.org.)
He sent copies to Archbishop Weakland of
the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and Pope John
Paul II. Murphy never responded. But Weakland
invited Terry to testify at the canonical
trial he was planning. The trial never took
place. After Murphy pleaded with the Vatican
to let him off on account of his poor health,
the Vatican abated (froze) the proceedings.
Murphy claimed to be frail and sick, but
was well enough to play the casinos. Never
defrocked or prosecuted, he died before any
pastoral measures could be taken. He was
buried with full priestly honors,
which outraged his victims.
On April 22, 2010, Terry Kohut, as "John
Doe 16," filed the first sex-abuse lawsuit
against Pope Benedict XVI, alleging cover-ups
among the highest echelons of the Vatican.
(He revealed his identity after filing the
suit through Jeff Anderson and Associates,
a firm that has represented hundreds of victims
of clerical sexual abuse.) He was interviewed
on CNN's controversial documentary, What
the Pope Knew,
which aired on September 25. His story has
achieved wide publicity. He is grateful to
his friends, the Deaf Community, colleagues
in SNAP (the Survivors Network of Those Abused
by Priests), and other survivors of Murphy's
for their support.
Whether he gets any kind of settlement
from the Vatican, or any response, his act
sends a clear message to the Church. Survivors
of clerical sexual abuse are not going to
remain silent. They have a right to come
forward and demand justice and full discolure.
Terry Kohut and the others want to see real
action and real change, so that no more children
will be at the mercy of molesters protected
and shielded by their superiors. Until all
children are safe from predators, the campaign