Holy Ghostly Tales

Living where I do, on the banks of the Boyle River where even on a bad day you see more wildlife than cars, more rats than people, more rain than sunshine, our major task is the gathering of correct information. As by choice we do not have a television or radio nor do we venture into town for a newspaper because as I have just said our search is for correct information and not the unadulterated garbage and misinformation you get served up in the mainstream media.
I have to find another outlet that satisfies my obsessional desire for knowledge and truth and I find it through the internet, from the alternative media, from trusted sources of e-mails, websites and reading recommended books. I read possibly two books a week, trawl the internet or write. My week is full. I have no time to go out, socialise and have fun, I am too old for that marketing ploy. We make our own fun at home, talking, reading and arguing over a glass or two of wine. We, being my lovely wife Helen who has stood at my side for 43 years and watched whilst I do all the cooking, cleaning, gardening and all the rest of the mundane that makes life so well worth living.
Anyway a week or two ago we received an e-mail from the august chair of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society in Manchester. The SVP, as it is known, is at the centre of the Catholic Church and is paramount in the Church’s charitable works and pomps. The e-mail told of a book that had been published by an old time acquaintance of ours, Eugene Vesey and told of the physical, mental and sexual abuse in a junior seminary of the Holy Ghost Fathers as was. They have recently changed their title to the Spiritans. Their penchant for sexual abuse of young boys, especially here in Ireland, was getting them such bad publicity, a name change was so very necessary.
I pricked up my ears when my lovely wife of 43 years read this e-mail out because the Holy Ghost Fathers have been a big thing in both our lives. Both of us bought the book immediately on our Kindles. Eugene Vesey we knew 55 years ago but we had not seen or heard of him in 50 years. How time flies.
The book entitled Ghosters explains how a young boy of 12 years of age from Manchester was taken up to this junior seminary in the Lake District. This was housed in a large Victorian mansion which had been bought by this order of missionary priests. It explained the trials and tribulations of that enclosed life to a boy of that age and the unforeseen, unaccountable abuse those boys suffered of a physical, mental and sexual nature, whilst the priests of that order tried to mould them into Catholic missionary priests. The book is in novel form but I am assured by the author that it is basically autobiographical. It tells of the relationships that build up between these young men, the disgust they feel at the priest’s behaviour and the compulsion that existed which made them continue to accept the abuse being penniless and hundreds of miles from home. It also tells of the enlightenment that appeared when the hero of the story begins to realise the hoax that is being played on them in the name of organised religion, in particular with the Roman Catholic brand of Christianity.
It talks of the courage needed, in their miserable, boracic state, bereft of any power, to face up to the abusers and say “no more” and the ensuing depression that comes when the enlightened one comes into contact with the real world, having been virtually incarcerated for seven or eight years in the most important formative years of a young person’s life. How one’s emotional compass is all at sea especially in relationships with the opposite sex, the opposite sex that had been drilled into these young boys as being unclean, as being “the agents of the devil”. Helen was horrified that a man of religion could instil this thought into an immature mind of 50% of mankind.
As we finished our respective copies we looked at each other flabbergasted. We flooded each other with our thoughts and our opinions. We had a right, we had been plagued with this order of Catholic missionary priests for nearly 60 years.
Helen’s brother and my brother and a good few more of our peer group in and around Manchester had gone through the same process, through the same gates, the same doors, along the same corridors as contemporaries of the author. The author had suffered badly at the hands of these zealots. Had the same ignominies been forced on our brothers, our friends? When these lads had determined that enough was enough and came out at 19 or 20 years old, it was to a sadness of a failed vocation that faced them, not a happy relief from a gulag. We were young and callow, could not appreciate the depths they were in, could not see the emotional maelstrom that clouded their minds. They probably tried hard to hide it rather well but they certainly had a problem with relationships. Like the author who never wanted to talk of his previous life, not a dicky bird passed the lips of these unfortunates. For some now it is too late some have already gone to their graves. A little like the survivors of the atrocities of warfare, they took their secret  with them.
I could ask my brother but the tragedy is that relationship is lost. He has not spoken to me in 25 years. I think blaming me for all the bad things in his life, the source lost in the mists of time.
To show how this mistreatment in teenage life follows you through life, the author wrote a second book Opposite Worlds detailing his failed relationships during his twenties with girls passing through London and his inability to sustain them, even when he meets a decent girl he fucks it up by choosing to lead a promiscuous life style.. His emotional immaturity still abounding at an age when lads who had lived a normal life had learned in the main how to control this key element of our psychological makeup.
Going on to his last book in his so far trilogy he talks about his burgeoning emotional maturity, how he wants to settle down and have a family but his old tricks keep returning and the book Italian Girls finishes with a possible new relationship or could he eventually grasp the nettle and go back to the decent woman in his life.
His story is like so many stories I have come into contact with whilst pursuing the physical, mental and sexual abuse that pupils of St Bede’s suffered under the tutelage of Monsignor Thomas Duggan in the 1950s and ‘60s. I am beginning to see it as the norm for abused kids.
The three books are exceptionally well written as you would expect from a scholar of English and I would advise any reader with an interest in this problem of clerical abuse and the detrita it leaves behind to get the three. They are all available on Amazon but at the moment only the first book is on Kindle.
After contacting the author to congratulate him on his work he tells me there is a fourth book in the pipeline and possibly a fifth. The man is 70 years of age and this problem is still affecting his thoughts. Meanwhile we are communicating regularly trying to catch up with the 50 lost years. Read away at these three thought provoking books and if possible try to pass on your thoughts through the comment section of this blog.

34 thoughts on “Holy Ghostly Tales

  1. I don’t have a TV either, and have refused to have one since I left home at the age of 18. When I met my husband, in 1983, I told him that everything in our relationship was negotiable if necessary, with just one exception: no TV in the house. If he wanted a TV he would have to find a different partner.

    It seems to me that in the long run the best, and perhaps the only, way to prevent abuse of youngsters by religious organisations is to train people in the wider society to think. Religious figures have been able to get away with this sort of thing in part because so many adults in the wider community looked up to them. They looked up to them because they were brainwashed, as kids, to accept uncritically the claims of religion. The only antidote to that is critical thinking.

    One of the good things about a St Bede’s education, at least in my case (yours may be different), is that we were encouraged to think critically about things. (RC doctrine was always peddled, but even some teachers of religion encouraged us to think about it and debate it. Their aim, of course, was not really to promote thinking: it was to demonstrate to us that the “party line” was the right one. But it was a tactic that could, and sometimes did, rebound on them.) Possibly that reflects the different mentality of teachers of science and maths compared with teachers of classics. Whatever the reason, critical thinking, which started at school and which was reinforced at university, was enough to free me from the clutches of catholicism before I was 20. I could see that it was all nonsense. Putting it in more measured terms, I could see that the claims of religion were just not supported by evidence. (That word, again!)

    Everything I have learned since then has only reinforced my views about religion.

    I have no special respect for priests, or other religious figures, simply because they are priests – though there have been a few who I have respected for themselves. If everyone had the same outlook, it would be very difficult for religious groups to get away with large-scale, systematic abuse of children. They probably wouldn’t even try.

    There will probably always be a few people who try to take advantage of kids. But without the protection of a large, powerful organisation, which itself has the implicit support of much of the population, the problem will be on a much smaller scale.

  2. Linda, I agree with everything you say here – except I do have a TV and rather enjoy watching it most evenings for an hour or two to unwind! This is usually after I’ve spent most of the day writing and reading. I’ve just finished reading God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens. I dare say you’ve read it, but if not I’d recommend it. It echoes everything I’ve come to think about ‘organised’ religions such as Catholicism, Judaeism, Islam et al. In other words, as Hitchens points out, they are manmade and imaginary, and have far too often been used as instruments of control and oppression. I now find it utterly incomprehensible how any intelligent, educated can believe literally in the dogmas of Catholicism eg the resurrection or true presence – as we were brainwashed into doing. Maybe Catholics don’t believe in them literally any more. As for a belief in a personal, benevolent god, it now seems to me that you might as well believe in Father Christmas. In fact he probably has a bit more substance. As for all their ‘holy books’, I now consider them no more than fairytales – some of them pretty nasty ones too. Having said all that, we’re still left with the eternal questions: Where does it all come from and what’s it all about? Maybe the answers are nowhere and nothing. To be honest, I still find it difficult to accept my own utter meaninglessness in the grand scheme of things. Then again, there is a certain exhiliration about doing so …

  3. Eugene, you touch on an important point with your musing on “What is it all about?”. We all ask that question, and people have always done so. The fact that there is no easy answer has left a gap that unscrupulous religions have been all too willing to fill.

    In ancient times, it was considered one of the main purposes of philosophers to provide answers to questions of that sort, but modern philosophers have mostly failed to rise to the challenge. Too difficult for them, perhaps?

    Atheists have generally refrained from providing answers for a very good reason. To provide a good answer to the question of how people relate to the universe as a whole, you must first be sure that you understand people very well and also that you understand the universe very well. Our knowledge of both has been changing so rapidly over the last several centuries that any answer you provide is likely to look inadequate, or even absurd, in a few decades time. So it would be imprudent to be dogmatic.

    Still, I’ll venture my own opinion. As usual, it is based on what I can discern from the available evidence. Putting it simply, the fact that the universe is so big, and we are so small, strongly suggests that we are of no significance whatever in the wider scheme of things, and that our own lives have no ultimate purpose or meaning. It doesn’t prove those things, but it does make them seem probable. That looks to me like the best way of interpreting what we know today. Of course, it is possible that one day we will find new evidence that points in a different direction, but for now we can only work with the evidence that we have.

    That leaves religions with a big advantage. “Give us some money and you will go to heaven and live happily ever after” is a more attractive sales pitch than “Your life has no ultimate purpose or meaning”. There will always be people who fall for marketing tricks. I prefer to deal with reality.

    1. Look at any congregation and besides the large percentage of people who have not a thought in their heads, there is also a fair sprinkling of intelligence. They must have stopped to think. Why did Tony Blair want to become a Catholic? Surely not to beg his confessor for forgiveness as He downed another thousand arabs. No it was because he could smell the money and power. Power attracts people on all sorts of levels and one-upmanship in the parochial area suits an awful lot of the faithful. Very few seems to ponder over the idea that religion is man-made and therefore a commercial construct. No different than a pimp sending his girls out to work.

  4. Well our campaign against the dirty deeds of Roman Catholic priests at St Bede’s College has now officially been broadcast by the Manchester Evening News of all people five years after they gave Bishop Brain’s half-hearted apology to the matter.
    You always win if you stand your ground.

  5. The “News” isn’t exactly the Washington Post- but hopefully other U.K.”meejah”will get stuck in. Festinae lentae,boys!!!

  6. This looks like another number of books to add to my collection, to follow the St Ambrose one I bought.

    I listened to the radio programme on St Ambrose (I don’t know if it’s till on BBC i-Player). It was well put together, it needed to be concise, as the running time was under 30 minutes and there much detail to be included. The sheer arrogance of Alan Morris, who was convicted of abuse, was breathtaking. Well done, David Nolan, who helped to make the programme and was one of the victims.

    Well, back to long running saga of the Alma Mater. It’s only taken the MEN 5 years to get to get to grips with the Bede’s story, now naming names, conveniently all the alleged perpetrators are dead. You can hardly exactly accuse them of investigative reporting at its finest here, can you?

    I sincerely hope AO Advocates get massive compensation for Rick Merrin, Michael Sweeney and all the others victims, certainly on a scale far better than the awards achieved by the local Sue, Grabbit and Run lawyers for previous victims, who settled out of court.

    Remember Paul, “Nihil carborundum illegitimi”, as the Romans never actually said.

  7. Brian, Brian, Shoddy, shoddy!

    Festina lente, dear boy.

    Showing promise here, must try harder.

    You’re speaking to someone here whose only award won at Bede’s was a Latin dictionary, gained in 1967, courtesy of one of my favourite teachers, little Tom Heslop, who, at least recently, lived near me in Prestwich.

    I was taught Latin by Tom for the first two years (2nd & 3rd, but not 1st). Gordon Frost left around 1967, Tom then became the Music teacher.

    For the 4th and 5th years we had Robot Ron Smith for Latin, not a bad teacher, but I lost interest, I wasn’t planning on becoming a priest. I limped through the O ‘level, Grade 5 only, I’m afraid.

    I then had the Chemistry bug, since then there’s been no stopping me!

  8. Paul, I noticed that too, but decided not to comment in case I seemed too much like a nagging schoolmistress. Because you’re a man you just come across as well-educated. (It’s that sexist double-standard again.)

    I too lost interest in Latin, mainly because there was too much emphasis on grammar and vocab, and not enough on real life. It needn’t have been like that, but it was. But over the last 20 years I have had to read many thousands of pages of Latin in old botanical texts, in the course of my researches, and am very glad that I have a solid understanding of the language.

    1. I noticed it too but I am to well mannered to tick off an old age pensioner who has done his bit for king, queen and country. Sexist, agist, let’s call the old thing off.

  9. No, Linda, there’s nothing better than being a bit didactic,I’m afraid I can’t resist, and I don’t mind being corrected if proved factually wrong. I reckon that’s why so many of our alumni ended up as teachers, including ones who actually went to Bede’s as students and went back teaching there. I personally haven’t been back since I left in 1971.

    To name but two who were former Bede’s students you will know, Bernard (Ben) Sweeney, our 4th/5th year French teacher and the late, but great, Mike McDermott, Applied Maths teacher for A levels, who sadly passed away in 2003, at the tender age of only 57. I went to Mike’s funeral at Poulton-le-Fylde, near Blackpool. He became headmaster of a Catholic school in Preston at age only 37, a great achievement. Over 400 people attended his funeral, it was very, very sad.

    Also Joey Bowdon, in the year below us, is still a teacher at Bede’s, having gone back after doing his degree.

    Our year ended up with Frank Myers and Bren Hennessy as teachers, no doubt others did to.

    I’m currently learning Spanish, already at GCSE level, I’ll be recommencing studies soon, why should get me up to around AS level in the next year or so. (I did French at night school to A level).

    I did a smidgeon of Russian at Uni at Salford, but about all I remember now is the alphabet!

    Adios, et adieu. Remember N. O. T. always, the college motto.

  10. We are going off subject here. This posting is about the affects of Roman Catholic sexual abuse of boys and a swift trawl through the international press today shows that Bede’s past misdemeanours are being read and absorbed by Americans, Australians and Europeans after its exposure in that John Bull of a newspaper, the MEN. Everywhere in fact that old father whatsit has pulled down his zip or was it buttons in those days. It’s the psychology behind this act which is the interesting subject and should be the topic of future debate.

  11. Point taken. Back to the subject.

    I read the MEN report last night, non-committal as ever. Journalism at its most bone-idle.

    Surprise, surprise, no comment yet from Bede’s or Salford Diocese.

    If it does come eventually, it will go as follows:-

    “Sorry what happened, it won’t happen again, we didn’t know what was happening or we would have done something to stop it. This was over half a century ago, things are different now. Lessons have been learned. Things like these unfortunate incidents, due to our Safeguarding Policy, will ensure it never happens again.”

    Please feel free to add/subtract variations of the above statement as you feel. I think the description “Variations on a Theme” would describe the statement rather accurately, never once admitting any culpability for what went on.

    Unfortunately Duggan and Co over half a century ago wasn’t the end of the abuse. Nature abhors a vacuum, so they say. Sadly we all know now that the paedo ring of the 1950s – early 60s was kept going by Billy Green in the 1970s/80s. I would reckon by now his parole is finished, I think he got six years in 2008, he was let out after three years.

    Likewise, is this the same Safeguarding at the College which was found, by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) to be insufficient, as recently as November 2013? It would be interesting to know what steps have been taken to improve matters, and has anybody been back to check that this has actually made any difference?

    My take on the psychology?

    My simple take goes as follows. Many of these priests were kept closeted away from normal life, at a very early age. They may, or may not, have had homosexual tendencies. The atmosphere they were brought up in was rarified, they rarely met people from outside the religious circle in which they were cocooned.

    The people already at the institution were already committing these illegal acts with young boys, without fear of penalty, the code of Omerta prevented discovery. Which Catholic parent would believe their son had been abused by a priest, let alone a Monsignor, a high ranking official of the Catholic Church? Answer – very few.

    Quite simply, they did it because they were somewhat perverted in their sexual outlook (no different from other paedophiles?) and the fear of discovery was non existent.

    No doubt the parallels between Bede’s and Jimmy Savile can be drawn. The latest £10M whitewash investigation by the BBC tried to tell us no senior manager knew what Savile was up to. I’ve heard about “Hear no Evil, see No Evil”, but this beggars belief. Of course the BBC hierarchy knew, but because Savile knew where all the bodies were, as they say, he was more “Untouchable” than Eliot Ness and his men ever could have been.

  12. Well, I never.

    A mealy mouthed apology by the College and Diocese in today’s MEN, no doubt instructed by their lawyers to admit absolutely nothing. Pretty close to my own forecast, possibly even weaker than my suggestions, which weren’t exactly all illuminating or revealing.

    Time to bring on the lawyers here, no settling out of court, the story needs to be heard, time for the dirty linen to be hung out to dry, for all to see. No need for press restrictions either, a la Alan Morris, as it’s the college on trial here, not living persons.

    If the MEN are going to report this properly in the next six months or so, they’d better order in extra newsprint paper and ink, because they’re going to need it. It will be interesting to see if the national dailies take it on board, so far, little response from them.

    We await further developments, as they say…

    1. I have it on firm authority, from the horses mouth in fact albeit that she looks nothing like one, that the boys are not for turning. They are going to court. Dirty linen will not only be on show, it will be stuffed down our gobs. What you will read or hear you will not believe. How a man of god could behave in such a way is hard to fathom. If he is a man of god, how low is god. Look beyond the filth and depravity and try to deal with this man made construct that is christianity.

  13. Paul [M], the bits that have reached the internet mention three priests, all deceased. (Two of them I never knew, so far as I can recall.) Do you know whether the lawsuit will also be making allegations about other priests, including any who are still alive? Obviously, I’m not asking you to name names.

    I just wondered whether I need to prepare myself for unexpected shocks concerning people I knew, and perhaps even liked.

    1. Linda,
      I cannot really say much on this subject as it might frig the lawyers strategy up. Suffice it to say that bringing a case to court is like a game of chess. You will not know of Hamilton or Mulholland because you are too flaming young. Mulholland was farmed out in 1957, Hamilton in 1962 I think. Both stories very interesting and explains the thinking of the hierarchy on the subject at that time. Sorry I cannot be any plainer for the moment.

  14. A nice bit of extra publicity tonight for the cause, this will do wonders for Bede’s recruiting drive for new students. Not.

    A three to four minute peak time slot on ITV’s Granada Reports, I didn’t watch BBC North West, so I don’t know if was on there as well.

    It featured a former pupil, a Michael Sweeney, who made everyone aware of how evil Duggan and Co really were, and how no one would believe a cleric to be capable of such depravity.

    Once the press get hold of this, they will be like a dog with a bone, they won’t let go.

    Dirty linen is already on public display, when it goes to court it will only get worse. Not long to go now…

    1. He was in my year, a clever lad but what a hard life he has had. He has come through it all so well. Goodness overcomes evil always. oops I will have to leave it there for the minute he has just sent me an e-mail.

  15. Just heard that Slater & Gordon that Australian abuser of children’s legal rights, because of financial restraints back home in dear Aussie, are closing one of their Manchester offices which houses about 30 suits. Is this the top of the slide? Will Richard Scorer’s sphincter be twitching? Keep tuning in to this site to see if Panone pans.

  16. Paul

    Since AO Advocates are dealing with The Bede’s case, there’s no mileage for Slater & Gordon here, in fact quite the opposite, good publicity for the opposition, likely to take custom away from S & G.

    I might be heartbreaking if your bete noire, Molly, get the push from S & G?

    The item on Bede’s this week was shown on ITV Granda Reports, did anybody see anything on the BBC North West news? I personally didn’t.

    I seem to remember when Mr “Back of the net” Scorer was talking about child abuse recently on the TV, it was almost a free advert for S & G. And what channel did it appear on? The BBC.

    Coincidence or not?

    I saw Michael Sweeney on the Granada Reports feature, his criticism was well articulated, but absolutely scathing against Bede’s. If I were the college, I’d be shitting myself if he goes in the witness box against them in the court case.

    Think firstly of anything resembling a sincere apology from the College and the Diocese of Salford.

    Then think nice big round numbers for compensation to the sufferers of abuse, not the Sue, Grabbit & Run levels obtained by another legal firm.

  17. To Michael Sweeney

    Michael, I only went to Bede’s 1964/71, by 1966, Duggan had been ejected from his position and booted off to the backwaters of Langho, Blackburn, about as far away in the Diocese of Salford as you could geographically get from Whalley Range. He died there in late December 1968, I’m sure Bede’s had some sort of commemorative Mass for him in early 1969, when I was there. Ouch!

    I was lucky, our intake missed both the abuse by Duggan and others and the later offences committed by Billy Boy Green (at Bede’s from around 1973 to the late 80s, who was sent down for 6 years in 2008, but let out after 3.

    It takes a brave man to do what you’re doing here, I wish you all the best.

  18. Thank you Paul, I will be saying it how it is when we go to The High Court later this year, bring it on. Meanwhile Duggan is buried in Langho as you know. The road which runs from Salford and passes through Bolton and Blackburn and ends at Langho is the A666, an interesting number to lead to a beast! Thanks for your good wishes Paul.

  19. To Mike Sweeney

    All the best later on this year. I realise, if I had been 5 – 10 years older than I am (born 1953), I could easily have been a victim of Duggan and the others myself. A sobering thought.

    Yes, the A666, running from Bolton, through Darwen to Blackburn. Perhaps there is some significance in that, the Devil’s number.

    Even now, Bede’s won’t accept what happened. Just like St Ambrose’s in Hale Barns in their recent case with the convicted abuser Alan Morris, I don’t know if the lawyers are instructing them to say very little.

    I personally think it’s in their nature to cover it up, hoping it will all go away eventually. For decades, that ploy worked, then the later offender Billy Green was jailed, now the dirty linen is there for all to see. No one can argue that this couldn’t have happened at Bede’s, because clearly it did.

    To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, from “The Importance of Being Earnest”

    To have one paedophile in the College is a misfortune, to have have a second one is downright carelessness.

    The words I would have preferred to “carelessness” here would be wilful ignorance, deceit, mendacity and self-preservation of the College’s “reputation” at any cost whatever to anyone else. And it still continues to this day, with the mealy mouthed apologies the College and Diocese issue every time the subject arises.

    A shameful episode which brings disgrace on the College, the Diocese of Salford and the Catholic Church, of which I am no longer a supporter and haven’t been for over 40 years now.

    A very sad state of affairs indeed regarding the Alma Mater, I hope there is closure for you at some point in the near future.

  20. To Paul Taylor..
    Yes the Salford Dioceses will neither admit nor disclose anything although I am sure they have a long list of accusations of abuse, they hide behind lawyers and only speak as they are instructed. How on earth priests in the catholic church can commit mortal sins by not telling the truth is amazing. Anyway it will be in court soon and then there will be an end to it all at last….at least this particular episode. Thanks Paul for your support..Mike

  21. To Mike Sweeney

    I don’t about the Bede’s lawyers, but watching you on TV with my missus, she remarked that if you’re going to be one of the witnesses in the High Court, Bede’s have got one serious problem come May.

    The sheer disgust with which you put across the way you’d been treated, the fact that these people were commanded such respect, when in fact they deserved none whatever because they were pure evil, will long live in our memory.

    All the best.

  22. Hi Paul. I have recently begun searching for any people who attended Castlehead College, Grange over Sands, in the academic year 1961-62. At last I am beginning to write down some of the things that were done to me in that year. (Have they any idea how much harm they do to a child?) I read from your blog that Eugene Vesey was 70 years old at the time of your writing (2016?), I reckon he may have been at the college a couple of years ahead of me. (I will be 70 this Xmas, 2018) How can I get in touch with him? Do you know of any way I could contact other people who were there around that time? All advice will be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance. Jax.

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