Voices of Survivors of Childhood Abuse: Whalen’s Courage Shattered Walls Within the Church

Jonpaul Okal, raised in Springville, lives with his wife and children in Wisconsin. Five years ago this week, Okal was working at his laptop on a winter’s morning when he received an email from his mother, in Florida. He opened it, assuming it was something routine.

Instead, it contained a link to an article from The Buffalo News and a three-word message:

“Remember this guy?”

Norbert Orsolits, a retired priest from the Diocese of Buffalo who died in 2021, had just admitted to abusing “probably dozens” of Western New York boys during many years at regional schools and parishes. Orsolits publicly described that abuse as somehow consensual, and insisted that in some cases children brought it upon themselves.

It is hard for Okal to describe what those words opened up. He is a survivor. When he was 9, Orsolits – whose family cabin was not far from the Okal home – apparently spotted the child playing outside. Orsolits was soon stopping by, on the pretense of forging a neighborly bond.

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