Andrew Rannells Says a Catholic Priest Sexually Assaulted Him When He Was a Teenager

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Andrew Rannells visits Build to discuss his new book 'Too Much Is Not Enough' at Build Studio on March 12, 2019 in New York City.
Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

In his new memoir, Too Much Is Not Enough, Andrew Rannells says a Catholic priest in his 60s sexually assaulted him when he was a teenager.

The former Girls star, now 40, describes his Catholic upbringing in Omaha, Nebraska, in an excerpt from the memoir recently published by Vulture. Rannells went to Catholic school, and also served as an altar boy. According to the excerpt, Rannells, who is now openly gay, says that later during his time at a Jesuit high school, he was struggling with his sexuality. At a low point, he says he decided to open up to a priest whom he calls Father Dominic during the rite of confession.

"He was probably in his sixties, but he worked out every day and remained lean and sinewy," he writes of Father Dominic. "He also took an interest in me because I did well in his classes. That’s what I thought anyway." 

"He seemed so strong, but so kind, and I was hopeful that he could save me from myself," he adds of why he decided to confide in him during confession.

Rannells describes the uncomfortable confession atmosphere at the time.

"This was not your typical confession with private rooms and curtains drawn," he writes. "Priests would set up two chairs close to each other in various darkened corners of the quad, turn on music at a low volume to muddle the sound of confessions, 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."

Rannells says that, at first, he felt comforted by Father Dominic.

"I sat across from him in a dark corner, our knees touching," he writes. "He 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."

But the actor says the priest then forcibly kissed him on the mouth.

"He stood up and pulled me up with him," he writes. "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 says he was stunned at the encounter at the time and tried to avoid Father Dominic for the rest of the year. However, he says the priest forcibly kissed him a second time when his mother invited him, as well as a few of Rannells' other teachers, to his graduation party. 

"At some point, Father Dominic needed to leave, and he asked if I could show him out," he 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 says that shortly after, he decided he wanted to leave the Catholic church and his life in Omaha.

"It was time to leave high school, it was time to leave the Catholic Church, it was time to leave Omaha, and it was time to leave this idea that I had to go along with whatever older man was calling the shots, behind," he writes. "I was eighteen years old, and I couldn’t be anybody’s altar boy anymore."

ET spoke to Rannells last February, when he defended his Girls co-star, Lena Dunham, from the body shaming she experienced throughout the course of the show. Watch the video below for more:

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