Life of Pain Laid at Door of Three Clerics
Irish Times, Saturday, 14 August 2010 by Patsy McGarry
When ‘John’ sought advice from a local priest after his relationship broke up at the age of 20, it led to sexual encounters with that priest and two others. All three priests were in the same class in St Patrick’s College, writes PATSY McGARRY
JOHN (his chosen pseudonym) says his adult life has been one of turmoil, and he attributes this to being taken advantage of by a young priest, Fr T (who, along with the other priests referred to in this article, cannot be named for legal reasons).
He also claims he was raped by Fr U, a Maynooth classmate of Fr T’s, and that he was intimidated and threatened by a gang acting on behalf of Fr V, another Maynooth classmate of Fr T’s who also had sex with him.
John is heterosexual. “I’ve had no homosexual experience except for those three priests. I have never been able to form a close personal relationship with a male since that. I always got on completely better with women,” he says.
John has been married and had four children before he separated from his wife. He has since had a daughter from a later relationship. He has had “countless” relationships. He has had “38 jobs and has lived in 31 different locations”, mostly around the midlands town where he is based. He has also been homeless. He has attempted to take his own life a number of times, twice in recent months.
He traces the beginnings of his misery to the break-up of a relationship with a girl when he was 20. He was distraught. His father was worried, and sent John to see the local priest, Fr T, for help. This was in a rural parish in the Killaloe diocese.
IT WAS the early 1980s, and priests were still held in awe. John used to visit Fr T for advice in the priest’s house. They would talk. Whiskey would be produced, and Fr T would bring the conversation around to homosexuality, something John knew nothing about.
Fr T talked about homosexuality among his classmates at Maynooth and, eventually, during one of their talks he told John he was gay. A short time later Fr T touched him for the first time.
Looking back, John is still surprised at his passivity in the situation.“I thought . . . if a priest was doing it, it was right. Or I was doing wrong. I’ve lived with the guilt of that all my life,” he says.
His sexual encounters with Fr T continued for many months. There were complaints. When then Bishop of Killaloe Michael Harty visited to investigate, John claims he was hidden in an attic at Fr T’s house until the bishop left. Nothing more happened.
On another weekend, they went to Killala diocese to visit a Maynooth classmate of Fr T’s. It was there that John met Fr U, who took him on his own to another house. Poitín was produced. They drank two glasses. It was then, John claims, that Fr U raped him.
John did not tell Fr T what had happened. “I was afraid of him. He used to beat me up,” he says.
John took an overdose of tablets early on in his meetings with Fr T. He was pumped out at a local hospital. Fr T decided to quit the priesthood and the locality. They went to London and were there three months, until money ran out. On their return Fr T was hospitalised, and John went to his sister in the midlands town where he has since lived.
John met a girl there. They married and had four children in quick succession. But he was in and out of work, and riddled with depression and anxiety.
John rang the president of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. He said he wanted to talk to him about Fr T. He was met in Maynooth by two men, one of whom he has since recognised from internet photographs as Msgr Micheál Ledwith.
He says when he arrived for the meeting Msgr Ledwith said: “I can only give you 10 minutes. RTÉ are coming to do an interview.” He says he had “only got as far as talking” about Fr T “when he [Msgr Ledwith] said ‘Did you have your tea?’ He cut me off and brought me down to where they eat and ordered me a meal and left. I was disgusted. I didn’t eat it. I left too.”
John subsequently contacted Fr V in Armagh diocese for advice, another Maynooth classmate of Fr T’s. He had not met Fr V before but he had heard Fr V praised highly by Fr T.
Fr V was very encouraging, and asked John to visit him. He told Fr V about Frs T and U. A bottle of brandy was produced. Fr V then told John he should probably stay the night. He was shown to a bedroom. During the night, John claims he awoke to find Fr V touching him. “I just froze. I lay like a block of ice. Afterwards I felt that he had not just taken something from me physically, he had raped my soul,” John recalls.
The next morning, Fr V gave him a cheque “for a few hundred quid and said ‘I want you’ – not ‘will you?’ – but ‘I want you to come up to me in two weeks’ time’ ”. John did as requested. He realises how this appears, but he says he “felt obligated”.
On this occasion, John says he asked Fr V how could he have done what he did, considering what had happened with Frs T and U, and how would it look if he (John) told the gardaí or the newspapers. Fr V became very angry.
John says that some time later, Fr V pleaded with him to visit again, to make peace. When John did, he was attacked by three men. They pinned him down and put a gun in his mouth and said he had threatened the priest, he alleges. They warned him never to come back.
Fr T subsequently left the priesthood. It has been confirmed that Frs U and V are now out of ministry.
John says he wrote to Bishop of Killaloe Willie Walsh, Bishop of Killala John Fleming and Archbishop of Armagh Cardinal Seán Brady about five years ago, outlining what had happened him.
Bishop Walsh drove to the midland town immediately. “It was bizarre, surreal. He cried and cried. He also cried for many of the abuser priests, who he said had been abused themselves as children.” He encouraged John to go to the Garda, which he had done and has done again recently.
Over the intervening years, John believes Bishop Walsh has given him about €20,000 from his personal funds. He also organised driving lessons for him so he could get a job with a local building firm, which he did.
Bishop Walsh told The Irish Times he believed Fr T was “the worst offender in that he started it. But the other two did worse”, where John was concerned. He has been in contact with John “40 to 50 times” over the years and they had met “about nine times”.
In 2008 the diocese of Killaloe gave John €40,000, with another €5,000 in 2009, though “he never formally sought compensation”, Bishop Walsh said. John was “a decent person”, he added.
John contacted Bishop Walsh again last May. He was in dire straits. He could not pay his bills or his rent. He was “literally in the dark. It summed up my life,” he said. Bishop Walsh arranged for himself, Bishop Fleming and Bishop Gerard Clifford, Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh archdiocese, to meet John at a hotel in the midlands town on June 14th last.
John believes that afterwards Bishop Walsh agreed to seek a further €20,000 from his own diocese and that he encouraged the other two bishops to seek €10,000 each from Fr U and Fr V.
However, the finance committee in Killaloe refused to give any further money to John unless he agreed to go for treatment for alcoholism. He was infuriated as he does not believe he is an alcoholic. Neither does Bishop Walsh.