Love Among the Ruins
What came next was a long journey to recovery. Both the Skettinis became activists and members of the national Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). Ray joined nearly two dozen of Hanley's other victims to demand that the priest be defrocked, and lent his name to a civil lawsuit filed to learn what the church had known about Hanley's crimes and how it had dealt with that information. Ultimately Hanley admitted to sexually abusing some 12 child parishioners (although a statute of limitations kept him out of jail), and the diocese paid out a multimillion-dollar settlement to 21 of his victims, including Ray. Because Hanley wasn't required to register as a sex offender when he moved to a new neighborhood, Ray and Donna agreed to help leaflet the streets with warnings. One surprising morning, Hanley appeared and shouted at the protesters.
In a fit of anger, Donna grabbed him by the sleeve and demanded he account for what he had done.
"Did you abuse this man right here?"
"Ray Skettini? Yes, I did," he answered hotly.
"He's my husband. ... You married us. ... You baptized our daughter."
"Yes, I did," he said, "and Ray knows I'm goddamned sorry for what I did to him too; right, Ray?"
After a brief exchange, Ray responded, "Jim Hanley, you still never got all the help you needed."
Hanley agreed: "I love you, Ray, and I hope you forgive me, babe."
"Oh, I don't know if I can forgive anything anymore," Ray answered calmly.
Today Donna and Ray are still digging themselves out from the past, attending individual and couples therapy sessions twice a week (which the church pays for as part of a legal settlement) and making an effort to be frank with each other. They have not yet solved their troubles with physical intimacy, a fact that upsets them both—"but we're working on it," Donna says. In Ray's mind, this could take a lifetime of therapy. "I'm still trying to get back to being close to my wife," he says. "I never had an explanation for 'Why was I not wanting to have sex with her?' I never understood it myself till all this broke. I would like to believe we're moving in a more positive direction. I was scared she was going to leave me."
But Donna is still committed to making the marriage work. A major breakthrough in therapy for her, she says, has been discovering that she wasn't the one who turned her husband off. "I have since realized it was a third person in my marriage—Jim Hanley," she says. Last year Donna wrote the priest a seven-page letter. "I told him it wasn't just Ray he destroyed. He destroyed our marriage, our healthy, normal relationship. And I wasn't going to let him win."