Broadway and Girls star Andrew Rannells reveals that he was sexually assaulted by a Catholic priest as a teenager in an excerpt from his new memoir, Too Much Is Not Enough: A Memoir Of Fumbling Towards Adulthood. The memoir focuses on Rannells’ life before he became famous, covering his years growing up in Omaha, Nebraska and his early career in New York.
In the excerpt published on Vulture, Rannells writes that he decided to seek guidance from a priest about his recent sexual involvement with a forty-year-old man. When "things really started to get complicated with the forty-year-old," Rannells writes, “I was at a total loss for adult connection and assistance. My grades were plummeting, I constantly had a stomach ache, and I thought my life was crumbling around me."
Rannells chose a priest named Father Dominic, who he estimates was in his sixties at the time. “He seemed so strong, but so kind, and I was hopeful that he could save me from myself,” Rannells writes. He went to Confession, which at his Catholic school wasn't held in a private room. Instead, priests would set up two chairs close to each other, play music to muffle the sound, and “then you would basically just get right up in a priest’s face and whisper your sins. Sometimes he would close his eyes and grab the back of your neck firmly while you confessed. It seemed very ‘Roman Wrestler’ at the time, but looking back it was also very ‘Abusive Pimp.’”
When Rannells went to Confession, he writes, Father Dominic "grabbed my neck, as expected, and I started to talk. I started to try to explain what was happening with me, but I couldn’t make the words come out right. Instead, I started to cry. I was so embarrassed. Father Dominic squeezed my neck harder, and he grabbed both my hands with his free hand. His hands were like baseball mitts. We just sat there while I cried. He finally said, 'It’s okay. You’ve done nothing wrong..' It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but it still felt nice.”
Then, Father Dominic kissed him: “He stood up and pulled me up with him. He hugged me tightly. I felt safe and heard and understood. Then, with unexpected force, he kissed me. On the lips. He muscled his tongue into my mouth and held the back of my head still. Then he released me and made the sign of the cross on my forehead. He smiled.”
Rannells was “stunned," he writes, and “mostly tried to avoid Father Dominic for the rest of the year.” But then, his mother invited Father Dominic, along with several other priests (including two that Rannells had had crushes on) to his graduation party.
When Father Dominic left the party, he asked Rannells to show him out, and he kissed him again. “I knew what was coming, but at this point, I didn’t care. I had performed and received numerous sex acts with a man I didn’t care about, and I just walked around feeling damaged. So what did I care if one more creepy man wanted to kiss me? What did it matter?” Rannells writes. “We stood at my parents’ front door and said our good-byes for the final time, and then he grabbed me by the back of the neck and forced his tongue in my mouth. I just stood there and let him. I didn’t kiss back, but I also didn’t move. He smiled at me and walked to his car. I went into our kitchen and slammed a glass of wine before going back out to the party.”
Rannells writes, “Cleaning up after the party, I felt a little numb. I thought, How many teenage boys have to deal with this shit at their graduation parties? Am I the only one? Or was Father Dominic just taking a tour of homes and forcing French kisses on young men throughout the city? If I had to kiss a priest at my graduation party, why couldn’t it have been a priest I wanted to kiss? More important, why did I have to kiss anyone?”
Rannells' memoir comes out at a time in which the Catholic Church is confronting numerous high-profile reports of child sexual abuse by priests over the past several decades. Last month, Pope Francis held a summit to address "Protection of Minors in the Church” in response to these ongoing reports of sexual abuse, as well as ongoing criticisms of the Church’s failure to remove priests they knew were sexually abusing children. It was the first summit of its type held in Church history, however, NPR notes that many Catholics were disappointed by the Vatican’s description of the summit as focusing on “prayer and discernment” rather than action.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).