He shaved his pubic hair as a seminary student to prevent sexuality from starting, his development was so arrested. “I prayed that my penis would remain small like a boy’s. I thought men’s genitals were ugly. I did whatever I could to resist the inevitable arrival of puberty,” writes ex-Franciscan Robert Van Handel, trying to plead for compassion at his sentencing in 1994.
He poured out a single spaced tight 27-page “Sexual Autobiography” that indirectly reveals a lot about the environment where young priests lived that germinated the pedophile epidemic in the Catholic Church.
An old Friar at St. Anthony’s saw young Van Handel’s confusion, he writes, and, as an act of apparent alcoholic kindness, the priest came to Robert’s bed in the night and performed a sexual assault, masturbating the high school student, “to make the boy perspire and thereby rid him of his ‘fever.’” So writes the MSW in Van Handel’s probation report for his August 1994 sentencing hearing.
Physical exams “by men with no medical training” were approved and used to abuse students at St. Anthony’s seminary over decades, reads First Amended Complaint for Damages and Relief, for Case #1338070 filed in Santa Barbara Superior Court November 3, 2009, where a victim came forward with charges that Van Handel and other Franciscan brothers performed a similar bogus medical exams on him, twenty years later when he was a seminary student at the Santa Barbara site.
“Plaintiff believed Van Handel, so when the second Franciscan told Plaintiff where to stand and to drop his pants, Plaintiff complied without question. The man then approached Plaintiff, grabbed Plaintiff’s testicles, and instructed Plaintiff to turn his head to cough as if he was conducting some sort of hernia exam. This ploy was utilized repeatedly during sexual assaults by Father Mario Cimmarrusti, the abuser of at least twenty-three (23) St. Anthony’s students in the 1960s.”
When Robert Van Handel got arrested, he went through a period of soul searching, and poured out his entire “sexual autobiography” for the police, the DA, his court appointed doctors and social workers, everyone.
He wanted to tell his story to the world.
As a result the sexual autobiography of Father Robert Van Handel is a public record, which we are quoting in depth below.
He reveals an insular and oppressive environment that, at least in part, caused the epidemic of pedophilia in the Catholic Church to flare up among the Franciscans of Santa Barbara.
“All but 2 of 27 Franciscan perpetrators have escaped criminal prosecution in Santa Barbara despite assaulting at least 63 Santa Barbara children since 1936,” writes attorney Tim Hale in a lawsuit filed last Fall.
As a teenager, Van Handel even tried to prevent his own wet dreams, he was so repressed as a young seminarian. In the “sexual autobiography” written in the period between arrest and sentencing, he remembers himself as a young boy, “fighting against any enjoyment and compulsively trying to mutter some holy words” to prevent nocturnal ejaculation.
One of his counselors wrote about Van Handel for his sentencing hearing:
At age 15 Robert’s anxiety and confusion escalated when he was molested by an alcoholic priest at the seminary.
“The priest entered his room, pulled down his pajamas, rubbed his chest until he got an erection, then played with Robert’s genitals for about ten minutes. Robert states he was embarrassed and ashamed. The priest reportedly told Robert ‘the rubbing exercise’ was designed to make the boy perspire and thereby rid him of his ‘fever.’
(From p. 47 of Probation Report part of the statement of a Goleta MSW who worked on the Van Handel case.)
Van Handel “recalled falling ill and reporting to the infirmary where he was allowed to rest. At that time, a priest (Father Martin McKeon) came into the room, put a towel on the defendant’s chest, and then started to rub his stomach and chest area. The defendant stated he subsequently obtained an erection when Father McKeon rubbed the defendant’s penis.
“The defendant remembered being alarmed as to what was happening, and also recalled being very concerned-
“That he would ejaculate in that he felt it was a wrong thing to do.
“The defendant was very confused and embarrassed about the situation
“The defendant (as an adult) added, ‘I have trouble dealing with the idea that I, myself, was molested. But I don't want to switch the blame for what I did to Father McKeon.’”
Van Handel says he didn't have another sexual experience with another person until college.
“The defendant admits that now at the age of forty-seven the molestation still affects him.”
For the sake of total truth and transparency, here are direct quotes from:
RVH SEXUAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY:
“Our family was one in which there was a minimum of demonstrable emotion. We did not hug or say endearing things to each other. Never were voices raised. No one ever yelled.”
At one point “My dad came to me and announced he no longer loved my mother, and instead was going to live in Germany with a woman he loved there. As it turned out my dad stayed, but I am sure in the back of my mind I always feared abandonment.”
Remembers playing doctor with neighborhood kids and “getting in trouble for pulling down the pants of a smaller boy in our apartment complex.”
(He, like me, remembers when Orange County, California was full of orange groves.)
“We all went to Catholic schools. My father is a great believer in quality education and he felt the nuns were the best available.”
“We were a proud Catholic family, and my father would put us on parade. We would march down the front aisle on Sundays and sit conspicuously in a front pew. During summer we brought home school books and dad assigned work daily. There was no doubt who ruled our lives. None of us could envision rebellion. My dad drank at the time, and developed into an alcoholic.”
At the sight of his sister’s short skating dress, “He ripped the skirt from my sister and tore it to shreds. He was in a rage. My mother tried to stop him and then he turned on her.”
How Perpetrator Priest Robert Van Handel learned about the Birds and the Bees: A Book Recommended by Priests that was ‘Anti-Sex’
“My father sat me down and together we read through a sex education book which had been recommended by the priests. They could not have chosen a worse source, because it was very anti-sex, and I believed every word.
“I remember verbatim one section when the book dealt with wet dreams. There were events that were unavoidable but nevertheless to be resisted. Consider the pleasure one might realize to be poison to the soul.
“Wet dreams were like poison candy, they tasted sweet but would kill the immortal soul.”
(The Dysfunction Germinates)
“I swallowed the instruction hook, lie, and sinker. I would resist sexual pleasure forever. Every night I prayed that I would be spared a wet dream for fear I would fail to resist. I wanted to remain pre-pubescent. I didn't want to grow up into the confusing world of adolescence.
“When I began to grow public hair, I secretly used an electric shaver to remove it. I was terribly ashamed.
“I prayed that my penis would remain small like a boy’s. I thought men’s genitals were ugly. I did whatever I could to resist the inevitable arrival of puberty.”
“Fitting well into the fear of sex, women, men, and my father was the idea of going off to the seminary to be a priest. My father encouraged it and probably would not have accepted any other profession for from me. I was glad to be going away from home and some of my friends from eighth grade were going to St. Anthony’s in Santa Barbara also.
“I remember being disappointed that my father would not let me go to my graduation dance with my school friends. He said he didn't think the fathers at the seminary would approve of dancing with girls and such.
“I never protested, but did what I was told. At the age of fourteen, I was off to boarding school."
MORE FROM VAN HANDEL SEXUAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY
What kind of upbringing produces a serial sex offender priest
(No quotation marks needed, these are all direct quotes)
St. Anthony’s was a small school of 230 students housed in large stone buildings behind Mission Santa Barbara. Most of the students were from middle class families and all arrived with hope of becoming priests and Franciscans. The dormitories were really barracks. There was very little privacy, which was difficult for me at first.
I adapted quickly to life at the seminary. I thrived. I loved the camaraderie.
I mourned that I was not chosen for the choir. For three years I tried to join and was only accepted as a senior. This experience affected the way I constructed choirs many years later.
St. Anthony’s was very demanding academically. Discipline was enforced through the ranks and many older students abused that privilege. But basically the school ran smoothly. It was a microcosm and the outside world had little to do with our lives.
Sex had very little to do with anything else in my life in the first year at seminary.
I never masturbated and I often wondered what other boys confessed. I had reached puberty by the time I was a sophomore and had some wet dreams, but I was still afraid of ay sexual thought or act.
Actually I remember my first wet dream during the summer after my freshman year.
I recall fighting against any enjoyment and compulsively trying to mutter some holy words so I would not do so.”
“I wished I could fantasize about girls but I was afraid to do so. I lived a very pure life. When I was a junior in a sex education course, I was afraid to ask questions.”
(Van Handel graduated in 1965 and went south to seminary college in San Luis Rey, 40 miles above San Diego. “This was the day of Peter Paul and Mary,” he writes. Sometimes groups would end “with holding hands and swaying to Indian chants by candle light. There were encounter groups started and talk of ‘getting out our feelings.’)
“I was frightened by much of this and tried to avoid ‘touchy feel-y’ sessions.”
THE MEDICAL EXAM THAT purportedly started Van Handel’s later reign of perpetration in the Santa Barbara Boys Choir and St. Anthony’s seminary:
From Van Handel Autobiography continued:
“One night when I was in boarding school I was sleeping alone in the school infirmary because I was running a fever. I must have been a sophomore or a junior. I woke up in the night to find a priest sitting on my bed and ready to take my temperature, which he did.
Then he took off the covers, lifted my pajama tops, and lowered the bottoms. I tried to stop this, but he gently moved my hand out of the way.
Then he placed a folded towel on my chest and began to rub my stomach and chest. I became erect from the stimulation and his hand did rub against my penis several times. I remember feeling some distress at this because I did not know how much of this it might take to cause ejaculation. Before this did happen, he stopped, covered me up, and left.
The whole thing lasted, I suppose, about ten minutes. The next morning he asked me if I had been awake when he came in. When I said ‘yes,’ he said that he was trying to lower my temperature by making me perspire.”
HE SAID HE WAS TRYING to lower my temperature by making me perspire.
“I thought all this a bit odd, but I never told anyone about it, and pretty soon it faded from my memory.
“While I don't think it is of crucial importance in my life, it is curious that this is nearly the exact activity I would perform ten to fifteen years later.
“THIS IS NEARLY THE EXACT ACTIVITY I would perform ten to fifteen years later.”
About the Sexual Autobiography of Robert Van Handel:
“After being informed that the document was, in fact, going to be made part of the Probation Report, in that it had been submitted as part of the statement made by Detective McGrew of the Santa Barbara Police Department, the defendant agreed to discuss the sexual autobiography.”
(ME: Seems men in authority are easily able to intimidate RVH.)
RVH was in Santa Barbara County as a student 1961 - 1965
Then again as a Franciscan 1975-1991
Born 1947, his parents are still alive up in Oregon. Portland, Oregon (a 500 or so mile drive, close enough for visits.)
High school grad (St. Anthony’s 1965)
San Luis Rey College 1969 BA philosophy
Graduate Theological Union College 1972, MA Theology and Master of Divinity 1975
UCSB 1991 MA History.
(However, a source tells City of Angels that Van Handel used to tell people he had a degree in child psychology.)
“A lot of his friends in the high school left prematurely because of the rigidity of the academic program.
“Robert experienced anxiety when four of his friends were expelled for talking to girls. At age 15 his anxiety and confusion escalated when he was molested by an alcoholic priest at the seminary.
“The client states he was confused by the experience which did not affect his academic or social performance.
“Throughout his high school years he was perceived and treated by peers and faculty as ’boyishly naive’
(And he grew up to molest hundreds of little boys who were members of the Santa Barbara Boys Choir, yes, Van Handel is the perpetrator in this story:)
Friday, February 5, 2010
Priest Abused a Boy a Month in Santa Barbara Boys Choir. With 150 victims, he serves time for one. Now living in Santa Cruz
“Not a month went by that Defendant did not molest members of the Santa Barbara Boys Choir,” reads the Probation Report. The MO of Fr. Robert Van Handel in Law enforcement language: “Defendant first started giving Victim what he viewed as a ‘regular’ back rub so he could fall asleep easier. However, the defendant then started touching his stomach, thighs, legs, and eventually worked up to the point of" [SEX ASSAULT]..
By Kay Ebeling
The City of Angels is Everywhere