Sunday, July 18, 2010

BENITA: Prey For Him

“Father enjoys us, the clamoring, unglamorous seventh grade girls.”

BENITA: Prey For Him is the true story of bright, vivacious Benita Kane and the Catholic priest who lured her from childhood into a disastrous twenty-year entanglement that changed the course of her life.

Benita spends her happy-go-lucky childhood in the shelter of the nearby church, parochial school and shared belief system of an entire town, Dubuque, Iowa. This idyll comes to an end when her father suddenly dies, WWII breaks out and her two older brothers enter the service. Into this vulnerable situation strolls young, charismatic Henry N. Dunkel who offers hope and friendship to Benita’s overwhelmed mother, Marcella. He drops in to chat with her in the kitchen, stands in for Benita’s dad at school events, offers to teach Benita to drive.

These secret lessons in his new Dodge lead to a country lane where he plies her with cigarettes, bourbon, and stargazing in his arms. One spring afternoon he entices her into a parish confessional room and forces himself upon her.Now she is his, body and soul. Despite her tormented conscience, she meets him for clandestine sex wherever and whenever he wishes. Meanwhile, Benita’s brothers have returned from the service; initially, they are grateful to Father for his help, but their trust slowly turns to suspicion. Throughout high school, college, graduate school, beyond, the surreptitious meetings between Benita and the priest go on, alienating her from her family and plunging her into deep distress. Still, she is helpless to change her course. Her anguished family turns to the church for guidance. The Archbishop pledges them to secrecy, blames Benita for ruining his priest and launches a series of creative maneuvers to stop her, including a six-week stay in a psychiatric hospital. How she extricates herself from this hell is a gripping story as well as an inspiring testimony to her strength of character.

As Benita’s friend and classmate from second-grade through college, Virginia Tranel writes from the unique stance of participant-observer. This story is not simply one more account of clerical sexual abuse, but rather an astounding, maddening, compelling look at what it was like to grow up in a family, community and culture so dominated by the Catholic church that no one could acknowledge the ominous events unfolding before them.
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