With all the palaver being spoken and written about regarding clerical abuse and I hear lots and lots of talk and read reams around the subject but nearly nothing about the lives of the poor victims or survivors as some like to refer to them and how they get through every 24 hours of their living.
We hear the apologists saying that the poor priests are not to blame. It is the dastardly Church and its stupid determination to ensure celibate lives. How unnatural this whole process is and how the poor priest is only going through this harrowing ordeal because he is looking for a loving relationship. What nonsense, these fellows would be abusing young children and still be considering themselves celibate. If its loving they want, nuns have been supplying this service for years and if not a nun, there are plenty of ladies round the parish who would willingly accept the priestly staff, no questions asked. They could have an harem of women in the presbytery but to a confirmed paedophile that would not matter a jot. These men are born with this predilection and are guided to this calling by their twisted minds. You would think that there must be a psychological test that seminarians could be put through to weed these men out of the process. There probably is but with the dearth of vocations these days, this hurdle is possibly not taken.
Then there those who deny that there is a problem and that these accusations of clerical abuse are just the product of an over enthusiastic warped mind. There are a lot of these people about, believe you me. Just like there are those who deny the holocaust there are those who deny this abuse. I have an in-box full of these e-mails from people whose minds must be as warped as the abusers themselves.
And there are the excusers who say these men are just the same percentage wise as the abusers in the whole male population and this might be so but their position is a lot more complicated than that. The lay person, unless he is a member of the family has to rely on subterfuge and strives to put himself into a position of trust, the cleric has trust thrust upon him. The lay person does not start brainwashing the child about sin before they act, the priest has the child bewitched by tenets of religion to the extent that the child cannot believe he is being used until too late.
Finally there are the abusers themselves who say to the child whilst the abuse is being perpetrated that God wants everybody who loves him to love each other and that this behaviour is not only tolerated but also has God’s blessing. The child is totally confused and is easy meat.
So we hear all these testimonies, denials and excuses but nobody ever really gets into the victims lives. Nobody ever talks about the torment that these people go through on a 24 hour, 365 day, 60-70 year existence. Some of the victims of course do not and prefer to end the excruciation prematurely.
However I have listened to these survivors and I have read what they have had to say albeit purely by accident. I have become witness to the most horrendous tales of misery and purely by fluke. I wrote a blog post about a friend of mine at St Bede’s College in Manchester, who had been abused by the Rector of the College, Monsignor Thomas Duggan. I never set out to make a campaign of this, I just wrote about what Michael had told me and what eventually and tragically happened to him. (anybody interested can read about it in my blog posting Decline and Fall written in January 2010.)
I was amazed at the deluge of e-mails and letters I received from all parts of the world with ex-pupils of the school all telling roughly the same story. It was as though Duggan’s behaviour had caused a diaspora, with pupils fleeing off to all corners of the globe to escape, hopefully, their daily problems.
As I said it was all roughly the same story, mostly written into me at the same time, there could not possibly have been collaboration and everthing at that time remained totally anonymous. I was the only one who knew the individuals, I was the only one who knew the sources of these testimonies.
Some of these fellows after 40 years of marriage had never been able to tell their wives of the abuse and the women, not understanding the problems behind the mood swings of their spouses, put up with it for the sake of their marriages. They must have been strong, strong individuals. Obviously some of these marriages failed because of this inability to comprehend but others miraculously survived and when the truth through this process came out it was like a veil had been lifted from their lives.
Some of these chaps were in such a depressed state after leaving school that medication was prescribed in their late teens and early 20s, which they have lived with for 40 years or more. Now their doctors reckon it is too dangerous to wean them off their prescriptive lives.
Most took to alcohol as a way of deadening the pain, a lot of boys committed suicide, far and away above the national average and although we cannot be certain the causes that led to their premature deaths, certainly we can trace some of their histories back to abuse at school. An Australian study has shown that there is a direct link between suicide and premature death and with sexual abuse.
I know a few Old Boys who have attempted suicide and been rescued by third parties in the nick of time and the psychiatrists who examined them afterwards in hospital certainly put their actions down to their abuse at school. Alcohol seems to be the daily harbour for most who have a reasonable control on their lives, but you can see the torment in these people’s faces as you sit and have a social pint together. You can see their agonies on an hourly, daily, weekly, yearly basis and when you think of the lads at Bede’s, the oldest chap I know was first abused in 1951. He has had 61 years of this torture and take it from me it is real, live, determined and eternal.
Last night I watched an Australian television programme on the computer called 4Corners that has just investigated the situation in New South Wales and the behaviour of that arch sexual abuser, Father F. The link to this programme is www. abc.net. au/4corners/stories/2012/06/28/3535079.htm. The Austalian boys, some of whom have committed suicide, speak exactly the same language as the St Bede’s old boys. It is quite incredible, the similarities and it is important to realise is that these kids received hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation, yet still committed suicide. Money does not protect people from the damage caused. The programme is 45 minutes long, spare the time and watch it, while Australian emotion on this subject pours out.
If you are able to spare yourself 45 minutes, try at some stage to spare more time thinking of ways of helping these poor chaps. Look around you and see if you can spot a normally decent person acting abnormally, try and help them, It might have been abuse that caused this derailment.