Jaycee Lee Dugard, who was abducted in South Lake Tahoe 18 years ago, has been reunited with her family–along with the two young daughters she bore to the monster, Phillip Garrido, who perpetrated the crime. I remember when the abduction took place because we were living about 90 miles from Tahoe in the Sierra foothills at the time. The story of what is every parent’s nightmare was all over the papers and on every television station. There was a massive search and her face was on flyers in every supermarket. Sadly, time continued its relentless march and, for the public at large, Jaycee was relegated to the “unsolved cases” files in its collective consciousness.
Although I’m very happy she has been returned alive to her family, I know she has a long road ahead of her in terms of dealing with the psychological aftermath of her abduction. I wish her all the best.
Jaycee’s “home” for 18 years.
Thoughts of Jaycee brought up my brief brush with one of the worst pedophiles the Catholic church has known to date. His name is Father Oliver O’Grady, who spent years being shuttled from one diocese to another even though the hierarchy of the church knew he was molesting children. He finally wound up as the parish priest in a small town in Calaveras county, California. I was working as a dental hygienist for a local dentist and Father O’Grady happened to be one of our patients.
The dentist I worked for was a devout Catholic. My employer was, on the whole, a nice fellow who felt strongly about his convictions. He had anti-abortion posters hung quite visibly in his lab where patients would see them as they were escorted to their dental chairs. Some patients took offense at being subjected to something like that in a dental office and angrily left the office–and in some cases they left the practice itself. To me, this dogmatism on his part was like wearing a pair of blinders which allowed you to see only what you were supposed to see.
Often the dentist, his assistant and I would have lunch at a nearby sandwich shop. On some occasions the dentist’s wife would join us. At one of these informal lunches we were talking about water wells, a common topic in rural areas where having a good well is essential to life itself. I happened to mention that a neighbor of mine, whose father was half Native American, taught me how to dowse for water with a forked branch. The usual term for that was “water witching”, a skill that even the men who worked for our local electric company, PG & E, knew how to do.
My employer turned to me and said, very serious and straight-faced, “Isn’t that witchcraft?” At first I thought he was kidding, but quickly realized he wasn’t. I was nonplussed and stammered something about “No, it’s just something you feel.” The dentist’s wife was in our little group and she tried to smooth things over a bit, but I have to say I was taken aback that someone in our modern age would bandy about the charge “witchcraft.”
Now, post-Palin anti-witchcraft blessing ceremonies, I’m no longer surprised.
I mention all of this in regard to Father O’Grady only to make the point that while my employer was looking behind the dental chair for imaginary witches, here we had a man who was actually doing unspeakable things with children. Father O’Grady was a figure of authority and power, as was the diocese that sent him to this unsuspecting little hamlet. Everyone in my office fell all over himself in deference to this man when he came in for his appointments with me. It was “Father this…” and “Father that…” but no one had the slightest clue that he had been molesting children for years and the powers that be knew about it, but kept it hidden.
The sadly laughable thing about it was that he was such a little milquetoast of a man when I finally did meet him. I took an immediate dislike to him because he would not look me in the eye. What kind of a priest won’t look you in the eyes? I guess it’s true that the eyes are the windows into the soul. Father O’Grady’s soul was hidden from view. There was too much ugliness there.
Father O’Grady as he looked sometime around when I met him.
It was several years after I left that practice that the whole story surrounding Father O’Grady came to light. I could only imagine what they thought at my old dental office. Had real evil replaced the imaginary? I somehow doubt it. Excuses were made all along the line for the transferring of O’Grady from one place to the next, without punishment or warning. The man involved in Jaycee Lee Dugard’s abduction seems to have had every break in the books also. It shouldn’t have taken so long in either Garrido’s case or Father O’Grady’s for someone to step up and put a stop to the abuse. The kids deserved better.