Clericalism and My Experience of Sexual Abuse from the Hands of Fr. Ruben M. Tanseco, S.J.

A little past six in the morning, I left home for work. Feeling the warm air as I was traveling on a tricycle, the word “clericalism” entered my mind. Immediately, I remember Pope Francis mentioning that word referring to it as an illness in the Church, blaming it as one of the root causes of crimes and injustices and abuses in the Church. It is an evil in the Church. Clericalism emphasizes the authority of the clergy over their obligation of service. The culture of clericalism fostered the culture of abuse in the Church, highlighting sexual abuse. For a prolonged period of time, I was experiencing flashbacks of my own personal experience of sexual abuse from the Jesuit priest whom I knew and encountered as a seminarian in San Jose Seminary, Ateneo Campus, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. His name is Fr. Ruben Tanseco, S.J. With some intensity, my remembering of this abusive Jesuit priest was just vivid. I cannot help but situate my own experience of sexual abuse in the context of this culture of clericalism. Fr. Tanseco is a Jesuit priest who has his vow of chastity. It means that he is not an ordinary priest but a Jesuit who went through long years of spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation prior to ordination. In sexually abusing me, he simply violated his vow of chastity and betrayed his priesthood. He does not deserve to remain a priest and a Jesuit. Fr. Tanseco was trained in the United States of America and went home to the Philippines to introduce the Marriage Encounter movement. He spent most of his priestly life in family ministry and counseling. I am thinking of how this training made him an expert and a pioneer in his particular ministry and yet he has the capacity to sexually abuse a vulnerable seminarian like me. Fr. Tanseco was also professor of pastoral counseling teaching a lot of seminarians. I am imagining a professor of pastoral counseling sucking my dick. Fr. Tanseco initiated the Center of Family Ministry (CEFAM). His name was already attached to the name of the center to be now called RMT-CEFAM. He would conduct counseling sessions in the center. He also has a programs called “Discovery Weekend” and “Christian Parenting for Peace and Justice.” These must be pioneering works by a Jesuit who fondled my genitals. As a Jesuit, Fr. Tanseco was also assigned as Rector of the Loyola House of Studies. As rector, he was a formator of Jesuit scholastics. And I am imaging a rector masturbating my dick until I ejaculate. That is how clericalism is at work in my experience of sexual abuse from one of those intellectually, morally and spiritually superior Jesuits.

Trying to Understand What I Am Going Through

For quite some time now, I feel strange about the kind of person that I have become. I tried to make myself busy at work. I am normally an efficient person. I would accomplish my tasks quite easily. I try to make myself busy when I am at home too. I attend to many things inside and outside the house. But something would disturb me. Memories of the sexual abuse done to me by the Jesuit priest, Fr. Ruben Tanseco, S.J., would always become vivid to me. I can vividly remember the events that led to the first time Fr. Ruben Tanseco touched, fondled, and masturbated my dick. I can fully remember my first trip to Baguio City on a semestral break when I was second year in my theological studies. We took the bus, the Dagupan bus from Cubao to Baguio City one rainy morning. I can remember a lot of details even when I am busy. These flashbacks are so vivid, so clear, so detailed. I am bothered. I feel anxious, nervours and jittery even when I am in the midst of work, even when I am in the midst of a meeting. I have to find a way to make myself relaxed. It is just stressful. I do not want to remember but the more I am determined to forget my experience of sexual abuse from a Jesuit, the more that my memories of that experience become vivid. I just try to be strong and cheerful. But deep inside, I am hurting. Deep inside I know I deserve some form of justice. I can still remember how Fr. Ruben Tanseco is an advocate of justice but in sexually abusing me, he committed a grave injustice. I can only wish for the day that I am accorded real justice. Only then I can say to myself that healing is achieved.

The Meditation on Two Standards and Sexual Abuse

The meditation on two standards is supposed to be an important meditation in the spiritual exercises. The meditation involves choosing where would a person stand, with Jesus or with the world. Followers of Christ are supposed to stand under the flag of Jesus. As I consider the meditation on two standards, I cannot help but think of my experience of sexual abuse from the hands of Fr. Ruben Tanseco, S.J.. He is a priest, a Jesuit, a counselor, a spiritual director, a retreat director, a rector/formator, etc. As a Jesuit, he is familiar with the meditation on two standards. When he inserted his hands in my underwear and fondled my genitals, I cannot say he was standing under the banner of Christ. When he masturbated me, he was not standing under the flag of Christ. When he sucked my dick, he was not guided by the standard of Christ. However, as a Jesuit, he was expected to stand under the banner of Christ. In sexually abusing me, he stood under the banner of the devil. He was guided by his worldly desires. All the more it becomes worse when I think of the vow of chastity he swore to live as a religious and as a priest. In sexually abusing me, he simply invalidated the meditation on two standards. Instead of living in accord with the standard of Christ, He was living a double life, a hypocritical life. The worst part of it is that, in sexually abusing me, Tanseco destroyed a life. That life is mine. Tanseco is a classic case of the devil looking like an angel. Very deceptive. Very scheming. Very deceitful.

The Jesuit Way of Losing a Positive Image of God

One of the principles of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola is to develop a positive image of God, of the self, and of creation. As I try to conduct a review of what I believe regarding this idea, I cannot reconcile a positive idea of God with my experience of sexual abuse from Fr. Ruben Tanseco, S.J. I am thinking of Fr. Tanseco as a Jesuit who is supposed to promote the Spiritual Exercises and everything that is written in it. However, it is just painful to think of how this very Jesuit who is supposed to live out and give witness to the Spiritual Exercises would go against what he is supposed to promote and preach. I cannot think of a positive idea of God during those times that Fr. Ruben Tanseco would strip me of my underwear to have access to my genitals during the nights I spent with him. I cannot think of a positive idea of God every time Fr. RubenTanseco would fondle my genitals until I have erection and continue to play with my penis after it gets erect. I cannot think of a positive idea of God every time Fr. Ruben Tanseco would suck my dick and masturbate it until I reach orgasm and eventually ejaculate. Aside from destroying my positive idea of God, I cannot think of a positive idea of my self when Fr. Ruben Tanseco sexually abused me. In sexually abusing me, Fr. Tanseco reduced to me to a thing, something he can use and abuse to satisfy his worldly desires. I cannot even think of my experience of sexual abuse from Fr. Tanseco as something being done by a religious with a vow of chastity.

In another dimension, I cannot think of a positive idea of God when I continue to struggle for justice until today. I still have to experience the God of justice from the very Jesuits who would preach “faith that does justice.”

The Jesuit Way of Losing the Faith

I was taught by Jesuits. One of the things I was taught is that people are created to praise, reverence and serve God, if there is a God. It is the very principle and foundation of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. How then would it be for somebody like me who was sexually abused by a Jesuit priest whose name is Fr. Ruben Tanseco, S.J. Perhaps, I can have more questions than answers here. For the several times that Fr. Tanseco sucked my dick, can it be considered a praise of God? For the several times that Fr. Tanseco masturbated my dick until I cum, can it be considered giving reverence to God? For the several times that Fr. Tanseco slipped his hand in my underwear and fondled my genitals, can it be considered serving God? Here is a Jesuit preaching about praising and giving reverence and serving God. But the preaching is not consistent with his actions. There is a scandalous disconnect between what this Jesuit preaches and what this Jesuit does. More than breaking his vow of chastity, in sexually abusing me, Fr. Tanseco brought me away from God. That experience taught me that God is absent or non-existent. How can I praise, revere and serve a non-existent God? Instead of my faith being strengthened, I simply lost my faith because of my experience of sexual abuse from the hands of Fr. Tanseco. Instead of being spiritually enriched, my life is shattered because of my experience of sexual abuse from the hands of Fr. Tanseco.

The Jesuit Way of Leaving the Church

i am on my way out of the church. i am just maintaining my social ties with some priest whom i consider friends. my work in a catholic college is purely for economic reasons. but as far as anything spiritual is concerned, i no longer entrust my spiritual welfare, that is if there is such a thing, to the church. i do not see any significance or meaning in prayer and in going to mass and the sacraments. i have survived without doing so for years already. i am not sure if any retreat will be helpful to me now. if ever i have a soul, i cannot entrust its welfare to the church. should there be a need for spiritual nourishment, i might as well seek it somewhere else.

my experience of sexual abuse is an experience of injustice that created a deep wound in me. in my woundedness, i cannot see any significance in many things. there are times that i do not see the significance of my existence. my raison d’etre is put into question by my experience of sexual abuse from the hands of a jesuit. psychotherapy might help me manage my anger, my depression, my low self-image, my distaste in doing what i used to enjoy doing. psychotherapy might help alleviate my stress and anxiety. i am not sure if  any psychological intervention can address certain medical symptoms i am experiencing now.

given that sexual abuse is an injustice, it is justice that should heal. and justice is an absolute necessity, according to cardinal tagle. what is owed to me who has suffered at the hands of the church is incalculable. no amount of money can compensate for the lasting, if not lifetime, effects of sexual abuse. as i told your before, the wealth of the jesuits cannot restore what i lost from the sexual abuse done to me by tanseco. even the defrocking of tanseco cannot repair the damage he has done to me. the dignity i lost from the sexual abuse i experienced from the hands of tanseco is not subject to liquidation as if i owe some money to the society of jesus.

i sought justice from the church and from the society of jesus that strongly advocates justice. until now i am still seeking for that real justice that i know i deserve. to say that the church should be prepared to grant real justice to victims of sexual abuse is mere rhetoric for me now, in the same way that the jesuit advocacy towards social justice, for me, remains mere rhetoric if not hypocrisy considering my personal experience of seeking justice. by asking me to liquidate whatever therapy-related expenses is simply ridiculous. i cannot allow myself to appear stupid.

in as much as i want closure and end to my interior suffering, the way it is now i am ready to die, sooner or later, without achieving justice and healing.

Ignatian Flashback…

Last night, my mother woke me up. I was crying in my sleep. I woke up gasping for breath. And there came the flashback of the first night that Fr. Ruben Tanseco, S.J. sexually abused me. It happened during that one cold night in their family home in Baguio City. I can still remember a lot of details of the house, of the room, of the hot shower in the bathroom, of the heater in the room that looked like an oven toaster with a fan. It was my first time to go to Baguio City. It was stormy. I was on my semestral break from school. Every now and then I would experience flashbacks of how Fr. Ruben Tanseco, S.J. sucked my dick and masturbated me. Every now and then I would feel depressed. Every now and then I would feel like crying. Aside from being an injustice, my experience of sexual abuse from the hands of Fr. Ruben Tanseco, S.J. was an experience of betrayal and manipulation. And the pain is real, sometimes almost paralyzing. As I put my thoughts into writing, I want to be heard. I want people to know the priest who sexually abused me, how he sexually abused me, and how this Jesuit murdered my soul, murdered my vocation, murdered my faith.