Victim Becomes the Man His Priest Should Have Been

The Arizona Republic [Arizona]
March 12, 2003

It probably never occurred to the then 31-year-old priest that the child he was abusing would grow up to be an inspiration to others.

More than likely, John Maurice Giandelone never took the time 24 years ago to consider that young Ben Kulina would eventually become the type of person kids expect a priest to be.

The desire to sexually abuse an altar boy in all likelihood precluded any hope Giandelone would have had that the child one day would be a model of humanity. A mentor. Someone children could really trust. Someone who would not repeat the cycle of abuse.

Someone like Mesa police Lt. Ben Kulina is for 40-plus hours a week. A person like the police sergeant, undercover cop and criminal investigator with the meritorious record that Kulina was for 12 years before his most recent promotion, in 1998.

A law enforcement officer like Kulina, who assists Child Protective Services and sets up a system that raises money and collects gifts for needy families during the Christmas season.

Someone like Kulina, who has the moral courage to expose wrongdoing even when it means his horror will be repeated over and over in headlines and the world will know he was the innocent victim of a now former priest's depravity.

A humanitarian who wants other sexual abuse victims to know by his actions that they don't have to hide.

"As a police officer, I wanted to set the example," Kulina said. "I wanted to say that if you're a victim you can stand up and make a difference. You can still bring some closure to what has taken place."

Kulina can attest to that not only as a victim, but also as a cop who deals with victims all of the time.

"It's OK if you're a victim," he said. "But you still have to make sure you stand up for what is right."

While Giandelone spends up to 22 months in prison, plenty of time to reflect on his felonious acts and inexcusable failure to do what was right, Kulina will continue his efforts to be a guidepost in his church, in his community and on the job.

He has become a beacon to victims who continue to suffer because they believe their silence is their best protection.

He wants them to know that "anybody can stand up and get their voice back when something bad has happened to them."

"My message of hope," he said, "is that they can be restored."

Reach Thomason at or (602) 444-7971.

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