The recent newspaper article about an abuse victim killing a 92 year old clerical abuser by shoving a crucifix down his throat made me reflect on the various ways Survivors fight back.
Sadly, fear and violence, horrible as this example is, is all these clerical abusers seem to understand. I wish it were otherwise, but in an age of endless cover-ups, when the current head of the Catholic Church – Pope Francis – is provably guilty of deliberately lying to cover up abuse – it’s inevitable.
See the final section of a French TV documentary (In English) Sex Abuse in the Church: Code of Silence.
It’s well worth seeing because when the Pope is caught lying (Over the Grassi scandal), the guilt is clearly written all over his face. He’s caught red-handed and papal apologists will have to tie themselves into knots to excuse his reaction. Even Bill Donahue would have difficulty. I guess he’d just bluster and shout at the camera as he usually does.
But with a long line of Popes like Francis in charge, it sends a message to these perverts that what they’re doing is okay, and is tolerated and IMO, for which I have some evidence, is actually encouraged by the clerics at the top. Such priests are not abusing their vocation, as critics or defenders usually claim, because it’s actually part of their vocation. I believe it’s always been part of the Church’s belief system. It’s actually no different to PIE (Paedophile Information Exchange) attempting to legitimise its crimes against children, and with a similar evil, if pseudo-spiritual, logic.
It’s never been one rotten apple in the barrel. When I was growing up, all the apples in the barrel were rotten and I very much doubt my parish was unusual. That’s when you start to realise the Church is actually like PIE; it’s hardwired into the religion itself. It’s something the media dare not say, because it’s thinking the unthinkable, but it seems blindingly obvious to me.
My own experience involved three parish priests based in Ipswich in the 1950s era, all three paedophiles: Canon Burrows, Father Wace, and Father Jolly – chaplain to St Joseph’s College.
So I thought I’d share three examples of fighting back against clerical abusers and how valuable it was for me personally. Even if I didn’t always win.
The one thing all three priests had in common was that they were English upper class, the product of Catholic public schools, and two of them, at least, were Knights of St Columba. (Canon Burrows and Father Jolly). I believe that their elite English Catholic background gave them a Droit du Seigneur and a pseudo-spiritual rationale for their crimes.
For the sake of brevity, I’m just going to focus here on the fighting back, although I have extensive notes on all three individuals. I even hired a private detective to gather information on one of them. A useful and positive step, by the way, which I would recommend to Survivors.
So Canon Burrows first: parish priest at St Pancras, Ipswich. Burrows was a very close friend of my Irish widowed mother. He was always round our house, doing practical jobs, like rebuilding a fireplace. I was 5 years old when he bought me an expensive cowboy suit, amongst other gifts, and he always referred to me affectionately as ‘The Sheriff’. One wintry afternoon he drove me to a deserted lumber yard down by Ipswich docks where his ancient car broke down and it needed a hand crank start. I can still remember wanting to hit him with that crank handle. Instead, I remember kicking him (a valuable symbolic gesture in retrospect) and then I did a runner. Maybe because he called me ‘The Sheriff’, instead of going home, I went to the police station to report what had happened. After all, that’s what a Sheriff would do.
I don’t remember the details, but I do recall vividly a kindly and positive response, where the cops made a real fuss of me. A classic Dixon of Dock Green cop brought me a cup of hot chocolate – a beverage I still drink today if I’ve had a shock. The official family story became that ‘I got lost’ and that’s how I ended up at the police station, because the truth was just too difficult for Catholics to deal with. Sadly, I doubt it was High Noon for Burrows – not in those days – but I think he may have been warned off. Anyway, my experience at the police station was so encouraging, I believe that’s what’s turned me into a life-long whistleblower. They listened to my story and they believed me. That was very rare in the 50s. So I’m still grateful to the boys in blue and that’s why I’m writing this whistle-blowing post today.
The second was Father Harry Wace – he was Chaplain to Canon Burrows. He was from a wealthy military family – his father was a Lieutenant Colonel in a Sikh regiment of the Indian Army. His brother, too, was a priest. According to his obituary, Harry liked to wear dead priests clothes and his dead father’s suits. As they were the same gender, I guess there’s nothing Norman Bates there. My mother was his housekeeper. So when I was around seven, I followed her around as she made Wace’s bed and folded his pyjamas. His pyjama jacket, casually left out on the unmade bed, was covered in the most amazing metal badges. A collector’s paradise. I was in awe and I can still recall that feeling of really coveting those super-cool badges. They were every young boy’s dream.
Wace was 28 years old at this time. He had been in the Rifle Brigade of the Suffolk Regiment and served in Palestine in the 1940s for two years. So he was not some immature young Father Dougal from Father Ted.
That pyjama jacket would have been impossible to sleep in, but my mother simply smiled at me as she put his pyjamas away. She was surely a classic example of Stockholm Syndrome, which is how the Catholic Church got away with so much – and still does. They call their denial system – when faced with overwhelming evidence – the highly prized Gift of Faith. You believe in the Church, no matter what. Every Catholic aspires to it.
So then I joined the Catholic Cubs, which was run by Wace. He was Akela and all I can recall visually is a memory of his bare knees and his special Cubmaster grey socks. The rest is still hazy but I guess he thought that my mother being a widow, I was fair game. But what he didn’t know was that although my legal father was dead, my biological father was still very much alive and would visit us from time to time as a family ‘friend’. He was from a working class background in Dublin and was fond of the notorious ‘Bucky’ – Buckfast Tonic Wine – the ultimate tongue loosener, which is how I knew that he was actually my dad. So I told my dad – I blew the whistle on Wace – and, to my delight, he paid the priest ‘a visit.’ I then mysteriously left the Cubs and Wace shortly afterwards left his chaplaincy at St Pancras church.
Filling in the gaps on these minimal details is conjecture but I believe it’s pretty close to the truth. Because, annoyingly, adults rarely tell kids what actually happens on these occasions. But it would certainly not have been a polite middle-class exchange of views! However, dad – under the influence of Bucky – once opened our front door with his shoulder, so I’m convinced he would have dealt with Wace in an appropriately ‘physical’ way. Even though he too was an Irish Catholic, there was no danger of him being affected by Stockholm Syndrome.
And that makes him quite unusual. In the same era, a middle-class dad gave his son a horrific beating for making up ‘terrible lies’ when he complained about the notorious Brother Solomon abusing him. And that was the usual reaction of parents in that time – the child must be punished for being a ‘malicious liar’ in order to protect the corrupt institution and corrupt individual.
What makes me know my dad was different and say this with conviction is the song, ‘Oh! My Papa’, which was very popular in the 50s. When I listen to that song today, the tears stream down my face, but they are never tears of sadness or loss – which the words usually evoke for most people. (E.G. ‘Deep in my heart, I miss him so today.’). Instead, surprisingly, they are tears of happiness, of joy and celebration! Celebrating what? I’m pretty certain I’m celebrating dad’s visit to Father Wace. Dad may not have shoved a crucifix down Wace’s throat, but I like to think he gave that upper class pervert a good hiding, which he certainly deserved. ‘Oh, my pa-pa, to me he was so wonderful.’ Thank you, dad.
And lastly we come to Father Jolly – the chaplain at St Joseph’s and my parish priest at St Marks. I would help him paint his yacht moored at Pin Mill, and he took me sailing as a reward. He also took other St Joseph’s pupils on sailing trips. When he wasn’t buying me wooden clogs – one of several souvenirs he brought back from his visits to 1960s Amsterdam – and loaning me his 1930s super-long skis, he was part of a wider Catholic community of like-minded souls. This involved weekend ‘retreat’ trips away in his Hillman Minx car and I would sometimes accompany him. Once again the details are hazy, but let’s put it this way – I still have a fanatical hatred of Hillman Minx cars, specifically their dashboards, which I’d still like to smash with a hammer. Because when you can’t attack a perpetrator, you displace the anger onto a nearby inanimate object.
But kids’ revenge is sometimes as devious, ingenious, nasty and – most important – deniable as the groomers’ actions themselves, and this needs honouring and recording. So here’s a case in point. A friend of mine, who I’ll call Paul, also knew Jolly very well, disliked him intensely for some mysterious reason, and – in recent years – described to me an incident which I had no knowledge of at the time.
Paul related how he and his friends, all fellow pupils at St Joseph’s, (not in my class) ‘made a pipe bomb and blew up the remains of an old tree in Father Jolly’s orchard.’
‘Because we were interested in chemistry.’
(Next time I see Paul I must ask him if Mike Kearney was their teacher – although I doubt their bomb would qualify for his memorial prize.)
So I quizzed Paul further. He and his friends bought all these specialist ingredients to make a bomb. But why choose Father Jolly’s orchard of all places to detonate it?
Paul shrugged his shoulders. ‘I don’t know,’ he said, his sphinx-like face giving nothing away.
Any old boy of St Joseph’s from our era will tell you that Jolly’s orchard was small – it was just a garden, really, overlooked by Jolly’s house – and it was so close to the school that the risk of being caught was high. If you’re going in for crazy chemistry experiments, as kids used to do, there were other places nearby where you could carry them out without any fear of discovery.
I tried interrogating Paul again. ‘Was Jolly there at the time? What was his reaction to you exploding a bomb near his house?’ I was wasting my breath. I doubt Paul would break, even under waterboarding. He came back with his standard reply whenever I push him too hard for details about his days at St Joseph’s.
‘It was so long ago, I don’t remember now,’ he said, his face a picture of complete innocence.
Fair enough. So I’ve filled in the blanks myself, and a fictional version features in my novel ‘Serial Killer’. Doubtless you can reach your own conclusions.
Bottom line on all this? Kids do hit back in their own unique ways and we need to remember their victories over the priests, teachers and De La Salle brothers in Ipswich, cowards who have otherwise largely escaped justice.
This is because of a Catholic Diocese that has shown zero interest in historic crimes by its priests. Instead, it does a Pontius Pilate and refers them to the police, which is all too often wasting valuable police time as the crimes are historic and, invariably, there’s nothing the police can do. But they still have to look at every case passed to them. I’ve personally found the police as supportive today as when I was six years old.
In a similar way, the De La Salle brothers are still going strong, but the organisation also ignores the numerous historic crimes its order are notorious for. Unless they’re fetched. Then, of course, they will wring their hands with expressions of regret which I doubt fools anyone, including themselves.
Meanwhile, St Joseph’s maintains its links with its past (e.g. a sadistic teacher like Kearney. See an earlier post), but otherwise does a complete Pontius Pilate while at the same time proudly proclaiming that it is ‘In the La Sallian Tradition’.
Which particular aspect of the tradition would that be? As a Survivor, that means something quite negative and disturbing to me.
Yet the reaction of Catholic authority is hardly surprising when the Pope, their leader is caught lying on camera. He is clearly telling Catholic perpetrators: ‘It’s okay to lie. I’m on your side.’ Stockholm Syndrome, cognitive dissonance, or whatever you choose to call it, is still as potent today as it ever was.
But we don’t have to always talk about all this in sad, hushed tones as stereotypically represented in the media. These sick individuals, when they’re still alive, probably enjoy that because it means they still have the power and power is ultimately what all this is about. Especially when – as the facts have shown time and again – they’re still protected by their Pope, despite his phoney words to the contrary.
Naming and shaming them is one way of us taking back our power and I’m looking forward to doing more of the same shortly. There are other ways, too – like suing them or their organisation or having abusers arrested and banged up before they can plead senility. If you’re a Survivor, whichever path you decide to take, I wish you luck and can assure you it will be worth it.
Because you’re fighting back.
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I am yet another survivor of St. Jo’s. The guy responsible for abusing and controlling me is still around and I know where he lives so almost every day I have to resist that crucifix-ramming urge! Years ago though I had to blurt the words out loud, long before I understood why, that I forgave him in order to get on with my life. Maybe it’s easier or better that the most of the actual details remain blanked out (little snippets are there; that blue flecked paint used on the toilet wall, having to decide outside the gym to shut down part of my brain to deal with what just happened and get back to class after the lunch hour siren had gone and appear normal to friends…). At last I understand exactly what happened because my sister reminded me of a few details about the guy I’d chosen to forget. Anyway, survival is all about management and choosing to be better than your abuser. It’s such a shame so many have suffered at the hands of DLS “brothers” and their pedo associates (lay-teachers). Closure is massively important to all of us who’ve walked those hard years so St. Joseph’s College, Birkfield, Ipswich, how about allowing an investigation into crimes committed there and do us all a favour. That word Tenacitate eh, what a bitch 😉
I agree, Nosssh. In fact I’m going to make it the title of a separate post.
Pingback: EVIDENCE OF ORGANISED CATHOLIC ABUSE | Pat Mills
Hi Pat. Bearing in mind how your article begins, I wondered if you’d seen a french movie called Martyrs. Directed by Pascal Laugier and released in 2008, it deals with the effects of extreme religion and the lengths its practitioners will go to. It is nominally a horror film and a tough movie to watch but I think you would find it interesting. Keep fighting back!
Thanks, Paul. I must check it out
It was – and IMHO still is – the norm, I’m afraid. Look at my example – I only knew three priests and all three were perverts. That’s astonishing and means perversion is a way of life for priests. And that doesn’t just stop after a couple of generations. So both motivations you suggest are valid, but it’s actually far worse and the media must bear huge responsibility for knowingly obscuring the truth. If I’m aware of what’s really going on, I’m sure plenty of investigative journalists are, too, and have chosen to keep quiet, to their shame. Namely: the Catholic Church has a sophisticated, pseudo-spiritual rationale for its crimes against children. It’s so much more than just some dirty old pervs molesting kids. That cannot possibly explain the extent of it. Instead, the Church sees it as part of their ‘Battle for Souls’ which is very real to them. Like most cults, they focus on conditioning young people. They genuinely don’t see what they are doing is wrong. Because their moral compass is literally shot to Hell. That’s appalling, I know, but it’s important to remember as it helps explain their motivation and why the last two Popes regularly and provably lie on the subject. I have some evidence about the Church’s fake-spiritual justification, which was hard work to make sense of because I had to get my head around their disgusting and alien mind-set. For now, here’s a few pointers: Occam’s Razor theory would tell you that the staggering global statistics of clerical abuse, and the Vatican’s endless and defiant defence of priests, means there must be more to this than just paedophiles running amok, as the media pretends. Namely, what healthy people rightly see as criminal abuse is actually an intrinsic part of their theology. Secondly, the vows of silence within the Church. Thus members of an important, national Catholic youth organisation in the States take a vow of silence never to reveal what goes on. This is current. In 2019! Thirdly, it was only in the 1990s that the world became aware, for the very first time, of an epidemic of clerical abuse. Previously there was a media blackout on the subject – it rarely, if ever, was reported. So it could take another thirty years – or never – before anyone looks at the underlying motivation for these crimes and why priests are still protected. Any secular organisation would have been shut down long ago as a dangerous criminal cult, which is what the Church really is. Fourthly, The Church’s Canon Law is still in some cases upheld over Civil Law and it’s to Canon Law – with all its caveats about secrecy – that priests owe their true allegiance. I’m not aware of any pervert priest being sentenced to prison under Canon Law. Turning to your point about the psychological effect… Because I fought back from the very beginning, I haven’t been affected in any obvious way, thankfully – e.g. alcoholism or drugs. In fact, like many survivors, I’ve turned lead into gold, thus the Church is the inspiration for much of my creative writing. In fact, without getting too esoteric here, I, too, see it as a Battle for Souls and it’s just as real for me as it is for them. Hence why I’m a comic book writer. And I know that on the personal battlefield, I’ve won, exposing some of the Church’s crimes and turning many souls against them. So for me, it’s actually been a positive experience on one level of consciousness, if not on every level. And there’s so much more work to be done…
I accept most of what you say, especially in regard to cover-ups and lying, though I’m dubious about molestation being part of their theology. In regard to psychological after-effects, I don’t want to use your blog to advertise my own, so rather than provide a link, let me quote from a post I wrote about my own experience and just how it affected me…
So, physically, I was unscathed, but for years afterwards, I would sometimes have panic attacks at the thought of what could have happened to me. I’d break out in a sweat and the room would spin; I’d feel as if I was suffocating and gasp for air, while a sense of fear, nausea and impending doom engulfed me. This also happened in the form of nightmares, from which I would suddenly awake as though my life depended on it. Even today, there are certain scenes in some movies that I cannot watch without feeling distinctly uncomfortable, and I can only guess at how awful it must be for those who have actually suffered sexual abuse to see such depictions regularly on their TV screens – all in the name of ‘entertainment’.
Let me know if you’d like to read the full thing and I’ll provide a link, but the above should provide an idea of how my ‘near-experience’ affected me. I find myself unable to say whether I regard it, in the long run, as a positive experience or not, though I suspect it wasn’t. We can only hope that all such predators will be brought to book eventually.
That’s very powerful, Kit. It affects us all differently and I don’t recall having any such symptoms remotely like your own. I sincerely hope the worst is over for you. IMHO it only has positive aspects if the perpetrator is dealt with in some way, directly or indirectly. Catharsis is good for the soul. Hence my blog about the importance of fighting back. Also, I hope in the near future to put up details which point strongly to molestation being part of the Church’s (hidden) theology. PIE and other organisations and past historic cultures would indicate it’s not that surprising, or unusual as it might seem. It’s a taboo subject that someone needs to talk about but really it should be the job of journalists who have notably failed to go beyond a safe and very superficial critique of the Church. Just as Mother Theresa was regarded as a Saint and any criticism of her was a taboo subject until Christopher Hitchens and others showed the very dark side to her character. Sadly, even now, most people worldwide think she’s right to be a Saint and ignore the considerable uncomfortable and disturbing evidence to the contrary. The media’s ability to make us all live in a fake world where unpleasant truths are hidden is considerable.
Frightening stuff. Do you think these types are attracted to the priesthood because of the access it gives them to children, or, in your opinion, is there something about being a priest that turns their minds to such things? Or a little of both? I was nearly molested when I was a bout 14 or 15, but it wasn’t by a priest, and mercifully I managed to extricate myself from the situation physically unscathed. However, such tales as you recount touch a nerve, and I’m grateful that I was spared, though it affected me psychologically for years, and still does to some extent today. Pax Vobiscum.
No, the guy never got called to account, but that was my fault because I never identified him. In fact, I never even told my parents what his intentions had been. I’ve long been fearful that others might have suffered because of my inaction, but he never actually laid a finger on me, so I can only hope he didn’t with anyone else. It was more a case of… well, let me quote from my post…
Laying on a table beside me were some ‘soft-porn’ mags like Mayfair, Club, and Penthouse, which he invited me to peruse if I so wished. I self-consciously thumbed through one or two, thinking that it wasn’t normally an activity in which teenage boys indulged in the company of adults. Surely such pursuits were meant to be solitary, furtive and guilty pleasures? Truth to tell, I found myself more interested in the comic strips, recognising Stingray and Captain Scarlet artist Ron Embleton’s distinctive style on a strip called Oh, Wicked Wanda.
And then reality finally, inevitably, intruded. “How often do you see to yourself?” he suddenly enquired – though that wasn’t exactly how he phrased it, instead using the ‘w’ word. I was shocked and stunned. Remaining as civil as possible under the circumstances, I told him it was time for me to go, and before too long, I was on a bus home, prepared to face the music from the earlier episode that day. It was preferable to dancing to the different kind of tune that my ‘host’ no doubt intended to play.
So why didn’t he try to prevent me leaving? It’s obvious what his intentions were, but perhaps he salved his conscience by only exploiting youngsters who could be led, perhaps in their confusion or fear, down the route which he tried to steer them. Then, if caught, he could claim that they were ‘up for it’. Had he mistaken my acceptance of his invitation as a sign that I was aware of what his ‘game’ was, and curious to discover what was involved? Had my obvious shock at his question and stout refusal to be drawn made him realise his mistake, and that here was no potential participant?
Whatever his reasons, I avoided a terrible fate that night, but while the individual’s predatory behaviour deserves nothing but total condemnation, I used to sometimes wonder if he deserved a (grudging) measure of credit for not trying to satiate his unwholesome desires by force. But no, his reluctance to do so was doubtless nothing other than a shield reserved in the armoury of his own defence lest he ever be hauled to account, not any form of consideration for those he concluded were beyond his ability to ‘seduce’.
So you see, it wasn’t a direct physical attempt at molestation, it was more a case of him hoping I’d get aroused looking at his mags, then probably inviting me to ‘relieve’ myself (hence his question), and then no doubt offering to ‘lend a hand’. His intentions were clear.
My panic attacks over this don’t happen so often now, but, in adulthood, I considered going to his flat and giving him a kicking, but I had no way of knowing if he still lived there, and he’d have been much older as well, so I had reservations. Also, what if he was now married, with grown-up children who loved him? It would devastate their lives to learn what he had once been like.
Funnily enough, a friend suggested going into Glasgow a couple of months back to look at some charity shops he knew, and I was surprised to find they were in the same area where the predator had lived. Thoughts of vengeance again resurfaced, but I found that I didn’t even want to go near the tenement building in which his apartment was.
I feel a bit guilty about my thoughts of revenge, because I wasn’t even touched, but I can’t shake the feeling that he should be made to pay for his evil intent. Ach well, it was over 45 years ago, so maybe he’s dead already.
Lucky escape. As you say, he’s probably dead by now. If it still affects you it may mean that there’s something unresolved that you’ve overlooked. That can be tough to deal with , especially after 45 years. But I found it can be quite a revelation because the unresolved element breaks through the agreed remembered version and shows something I missed. The agreed memory may be 95% accurate, but it’s that missing 5% that’s the problem and won’t let you go. I’ve found it’s usually an emotion. However, it can also be a link to a completely separate memory and the subconscious uses memory a) to attract attention to your memory b). The subconscious also doesn’t care if it conflates two events together which can be annoying. So two people become one in memory That’s happened to me before now. It’s why I’ve taken so long before writing these blogs – I needed to double check everything where I could.
The unresolved part for me is that he may have done the same with others who weren’t quite so lucky as I was, and had I spoken out, they may have been spared their fate. He should’ve been punished. Also unresolved, is that I wish I’d been big enough and tough enough to boot him in the spuds the moment I knew what his game was. In fact, I wish I’d been street-smart enough not to get myself into the situation to begin with. I just wish it had never happened, because it cast a shadow over my thoughts for many a year in regard to what could’ve occurred. I’m eternally grateful that it didn’t. I’ve thought of giving his name to the police to see if he had any kind of record over his ‘inclinations’, but it’s a big nest to stir up 45 plus years after the fact. However, the possibility that he may have succeeded in molesting other under-agers still haunts me. I wish I could resolve that fear by finding out that he didn’t, but how would I live with myself if I discovered that he did? On the other hand, I sometimes wonder if I’m making a mountain out of a molehill over what was, essentially, something that never actually transpired, despite his intentions. Can you punish someone for the thought if it doesn’t become a deed? Anyway, this has become too much about me, so I’ll shut up now. Cheers.