What a happy day this is, our lawyers who have been beavering away under this legal cloak of omerta have decided to come clean and chuck their cap in the ring. Hurrah for Anderson Olivarius, our champions. The very names should strike fear in the hearts of our enemy, who having admitted to their faults 18 months ago and apologised, are now denying everything.
For all newcomers I had better explain. Three years ago in order to improve my writing skills, I decided to set myself a discipline of writing articles of a 1000 – 2000 words a day on any subject that entered my head. My daughter and her husband set me up with this thing they called a blog and my tentative first steps make me cringe to this day. However I was soon in my stride and after upsetting everybody here in Ireland within a 50 mile radius, I decided to concentrate my thoughts on subjects farther afield.
My Damascus moment came with the publication of the Murphy Report addressing clerical abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin. It made me shudder, I could not believe the horror that was unfolded. So much so that I, who had been a good Catholic all my life, who had conducted myself almost 100% in the Church’s teaching and rules and had helped to raise our family of six children, suddenly rejected 63 years of inculcation and started to think. Something very few people have the opportunity of doing and which so many people should try.
I have not been near a church since except for one relative’s funeral during which I felt very uncomfortable. I was relieved and amused shortly afterwards when I found out that the priest, a friend of the family, who had been persuaded to conduct the requiem mass, had been forbidden by his bishop from conducting public religious services. Probably for some past misdemeanours and it does not matter really, but it made me feel exonerated.
Anyway after a few months of chronicling my life’s thoughts, I wrote a piece about my schooldays and in particular about the abuse of a friend of mine by the Rector of the school, Monsignor Thomas Duggan, who was the head kiddie at St Bede’s College in Manchester, my old alma mater. In writing this posting I was totally naïve, I thought my friend Michael was the only boy that this had happened to, although I knew the punishment for being sent up to this man was a caning across the bare arse but I did not understand and I do not think I ever thought about the serial nature of paedophilic abusers and how pervasive were its affects on us all. However I wrote it all down how he had explained it to me many years afterwards, the look on his face and the staccato delivery telling me it was the truth and I still did not appreciate the evil of it all, but it still registered.
I was astounded by the response this posting engendered, old boys of the school started writing to me from all over the world, explaining their experiences. I could not believe this tsunami I had created by just dropping one pebble into the sea. I started to flounder, I was out of my depth, I could not believe the furore I had created, I needed advice. So like an idiot I approached the Church with my problem. I would at this juncture just like to tell anybody who reads this and has suffered or knows somebody who has suffered abuse and is thinking of approaching the Church, DON’T! See a lawyer or a bobby, do not have anything to do with God.
Like the eejit I was, I made enquiries and a priest I was at school with put me in touch with the Safeguarding Commission of the Salford Diocese. These Safeguarding Commissions which are in every diocese have nothing at all to do with protecting children and vulnerable adults as their mantra says. No, they are there as a first line of defence for the diocese, first of all to ameliorate the angry, frustrated victim by promising the earth and then suggesting ways of dealing with the problem that normally end up in a maze of mirrors where nothing is done. These Commissions are usually headed by a legal type and a cleric. The Salford Diocese’s Commission was led by a smooth talking operator called Devlin, a solicitor, who really liked the sound of his own voice. He was backed up by a particular doltish priest called O’Sullivan who counselled prisoners in his spare time.
I wasted nine months with these people, really only three because they refused to speak to me because of my insistence on getting the story out, but to cut the tale short, in the March of 2011 the Bishop of Salford issued an apology through the offices of a local rag saying that he understood some pupils of St Bede’s College might have been abused by Duggan and that he was sorry they felt bad about it. This apology seemed as genuine as a nine bob note and had the consistency of maid’s water.
By this time my championing zeal had been totally deflated, I was all washed up and did not know where to turn but my anger at the Church and its acolytes was burning as strong as ever. Then my shining light appeared. Ann Olivarius, a lawyer she said, phoned. We met over a cup of tea in Carrick on Shannon, which now I think about it I paid for. (Mental note to claim for these two cups back as expenses). Ann had a purse full of dollars and sterling but not the price of a cup of tea in euros. We spoke for an hour or two, I was impressed with her fortitude and we came away friends. This instant bonhomie might have come from the fact we were both born on the same day, Ann of course a few generations after me.
The upshot was that she took on our case and a few weeks later she introduced me to a bevy of brilliants, her co-litigates, including the master Jeff Anderson from Minnesota and Fr. Tom Doyle from Washington. Talk about fire and brimstone. The law firm of Anderson Olivarius Advocates have impressed me like no other, with their tenacity, diligence and gentleness, in getting some of these wrecks of men, the litigants in this case, through the legal process. Here I must give a particular word of praise to the firm’s barrister, Georgina Calvert-Lee who for the last year has patiently guided my outpourings away from the libel courts. She has been my guardian angel, editor and teacher and I am a far better man for the experience.
We are now all in position, visors down, with lances levelled. It is squeaky bum time for the Salford Diocese. It makes a change.