It was the Summer of 1961, so I was twelve. At first I thought it was a year later, but no, it was definitely that Summer of 1961. Because I still wore short trousers and there was blood running down my leg. That’s the problem with having a ‘snapshot’ memory rather than ‘total recall’. Images come up as a series of still photographs and feelings and then I have the task of making sense of them, dating them, and stringing them together.
The images first came up at least 7 years ago and I dismissed them, because I thought it was so unlikely. Everyone at St Joseph’s knew James was a violent psychopath – but a sexual abuser, too? That seemed too much. It was only in recent years I’ve learnt that psychotic violence and sexual abuse actually go together.
Then two St Joseph’s Old Boys- in recent times – have confirmed, with their detailed accounts, that James was indeed a serious and violent sexual abuser. Their accounts have many striking similarities which prove this beyond reasonable doubt (See past posts).
That was a game changer.
It meant that I wasn’t imagining it all.
I’d maybe also dismissed my memories because I was a bit coy about the whole event. Not embarrassed. Not ashamed. Not guilty. Not afraid. But coy. And the reason why I was coy, becomes clear a little later on.
But those two survivors have been remarkably courageous, so I’m going to have to step up, too, and say what happened. Because clearly James must have sexually assaulted many other children, too, and they need to know they’re not alone.
If this is likely to be triggering for you, do be careful.
Please don’t read on unless you are set up to cope with any emotions or memories that may come up. I know just what that feels like, so take care.
So it was the Summer of 1961 and my best friend, who I’m going to call ‘George’ here, were bored. We’d been swimming every day at Fore Street Baths. I taught myself to swim on my back because my Knight step-dad used to shove my head under water when he tried and failed to teach me to swim. Then we went to Ipswich Station and had a neat little racket going, carrying female passengers’ luggage for the tips, until the angry porters spotted us and rightly kicked us out.
But we’d heard that we could do work at our school, St Joseph’s, and the Brothers would give us a reward. Hey – that sounded like a good way to pass the time. So off we went.
The Brothers were pleased to see us. I think there were two or three of them around. I don’t remember the work. Maybe shifting furniture. But then, as a reward, Brother James gave us the key to the drinks tuck shop and told us to help ourselves. To a bottle of pop each.
The drinks tuck shop was that dark, long, narrow ‘cupboard’ in the 5th form building with a little serving hatch that looked out onto the playground. George and I sat there guzzling endless bottles of pop (like something out of Just William by Richmal Crompton) and I recall feeling guilty about just how much we were consuming. But no one seemed to be around and we added our bottles to the empties.
Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, James burst in like a whirling dervish. It was classic James, obviously he had psyched himself up to do what he intended to do. He admonished us for drinking too much. He was very angry with us. As you can appreciate we were trapped, there was nowhere to run. He stood between us and the exit.
I think he sent George on his way with a stern warning to stay silent. Not sure why he didn’t go after George. Maybe because George had a big, powerful, successful dad. Maybe because James knew I hadn’t got a dad . Or maybe he lusted after ‘gingernuts’.
In retrospect, I’d say it was because George was a Protestant. I’m pretty certain they are off limits to Catholic abusers. It’s too risky. A Protestant might talk, whereas in the Catholic community, omerta is the rule we lived by. So abusers know they’re safe.
If I’ve got it wrong about George (see later), I will certainly correct this account.
Anyway, James raped me.
Very few details at this point.
Just shock. Massive shock.
And blank snapshots.
Like your memory vanishing during a car crash, so you have no recall, until the time you wake up in hospital.
Some verbals from James, but I don’t want to be too graphic.
Afterwards, James is rather pleased with himself. Smiling, he swears me to secrecy, telling me it’ll be our little secret.
Cut to me leaving the school grounds and passing another Brother who smiles at me. Then he sees the shocked, car-crash look on my face and his own face drops. I know he’s guessed what’s happened, but he does nothing
He’s defined by today’s academics as a member of the Grey Network. Although innocent themselves, these Catholics know what’s been going on and they look the other way.
Thus the Grey Network supports a Dark Network of criminal abusers.
Then I have a subsequent memory of blood running down my leg. I was still in short trousers.
I bitterly complain to my mother who fobs me off, which I’ll come back to a little later.
Normally, James seems to have used the gym and caning as his excuse and way of getting off. But a 12 year old boy in the school holidays – with no witnesses – must have seemed like manna from Heaven to him. All his foul fantasies come true. And, while we were busy guzzling pop, he had the time to plan his moves meticulously. You can see that from the past testimonies.
Don’t be fooled by his vile temper, he left nothing to chance.
I’ve often wondered what George and I said to each other later. I’m sure we would have discussed it because we discussed everything, including all the strange mysteries of puberty we were both experiencing. And I wouldn’t have held back – that’s not my style. It’s possible that his version of that day in 1961 might even differ from mine in details. Perhaps he, too, was assaulted by James – although I don’t think so.
I’ve recently found George on Facebook. His life is exactly how I guessed it would be – he’s a local parish councillor, living in an idyllic countryside, happily married, and he followed in his dad’s footsteps job-wise. I’m so pleased for him. He looks good, too. So, although I’ve considered it, I really can’t get in touch with him and say, ‘Hey, George – remember when we had the key to the tuck shop and Brother James burst in, and…?’ It just might turn his life upside down and I’m sure his wife wouldn’t thank me. So I can’t take that chance. I’ve noticed spouses aren’t keen on their St Joseph’s Old Boy partners ‘raking over the past’ and feel a need to protect them which is understandable. However, it’s just possible that George has been silently following my site for years – without comment. I know of at least two old school friends from St Joseph’s who read my posts for several years before finally getting in touch with me.
So if you’re listening, George,: ‘Hi, how’s it going, man? I have such fond memories of your family – especially your mum, she was lovely. And very kind to me. Oh, and I remember Trudy, your dog, too. I’m still crazy about spaniels because of her affectionate nature. Your family probably helped keep me sane. Because you were all normal. You were an escape from the Catholic madhouse. I hope my memories are accurate, and if they’re not, please do correct me, if that’s possible. Sorry about your bike (see later). Hope you and yours are coping well with the lockdown. All the best, Patrick.
So, let’s go back to the Aftermath. Blood running down my leg. Complaining to my mother, knowing she wouldn’t do anything about it, but also knowing she couldn’t wriggle out of this one. Not this time. I was going to whistle-blow. Damn right I was. And I’ve got previous as a whistleblower, going all the way back to primary school, reporting Knight of St Columba Canon Burrows to the cops when I was seven. (See an earlier post) It’s who I am and I’d better explain why.
In those primary school days I’d seen one little boy – I’ll call Konrad – have an shocking and tragic breakdown in the school playground and soon after he was killed. I blame my Catholic school for his death And my best friend, Julia, was sent away to boarding school after she talked about being sexually abused by a priest, so I never saw her again.
Those are the two inciting incidents in my life. I remember resolving at the time that, one day, I have do something about it.
For Konrad. And for Julia.
This time the bastards are not gonna get away with it.
But they did. And here’s how. There are more snapshots:
My part-time Step Dad and t Knight of St Columba is told and called in to troubleshoot. Along with Father Jolly, Knight and Chaplain of St Joseph’s. And another Knight who’s a legal eagle.
On behalf of the Knights, they have to defend the Church’s good name. That’s what the Knights – then and now – are all about.
Now previously I’d be running backwards and forwards from George’s house every lunchtime during the holidays. Going home to have my own lunch. A twenty minute run each way. But from now on there’ll be no more running because, suddenly and mysteriously, out of nowhere, I have … a brand new bike!
Now bear in mind my mother is more skint than a church mouse. And, hey presto, I have a new bike!
A state of the art bike, no less, blue and chrome with twist gear handle-grips. A bike I somehow never really looked after subsequently. It was never my pride and joy, my most treasured possession, which you’d expect it to be. Instead, there was something not quite right about it. Not the machine, but the circumstances under which I got it. But hey, don’t overthink it, Patrick, it’s a brand new bike!
Snap shot of Brother James turning up at our council house on Chantry Estate to talk to me.
Now that might seem like a courageous thing to do, but he would have known my mother was a widow and there was no fireman dad waiting to give him a good or, preferably, a bad hiding. We’re left one to one, with the adults, mum and stepdad, hovering next door.
James apologizes to me. Couldn’t tell you the words. Something about the evils of the Flesh that I’ll understand when I’m older. That’s right– blame it all on the Flesh. It was rehearsed and he didn’t seem that rattled or nervy. I guess this wasn’t his first time.
How can I be sure he wasn’t genuine? Because he was a proven psychopath. Psychopaths don’t have a moral compass. He probably enjoyed every minute of it.
As a kid, I have to accept his apology, but by the time you’re 12, you know when adults are lying. You bloody know! And there’s a feeling in my subconscious, my soul, call it what you will, that this guy is full of shit. And he is damned. And whatever will ultimately happen to him in the future, or in the afterlife, it’s not gonna be good. That somehow helps me as a little of my soul’s wisdom filters into my conscious mind.
But that doesn’t let me off the hook. I should have reported him, despite all those heroic Knights lined up against me. I swore an oath to Konrad and Julia.
Stepdad/the Knights supplied the bike. A bribe, a reward for my silence, but it did provide a certain fake closure. Fake, because it was forced on me. I had to forgive and was applauded by the adults for doing so. ‘Good boy!’ It’s the Christian and the Catholic thing to do, my admiring mother and step dad tell me.
We should ‘forgive those who trespass against us.’
And James had trespassed, big time.
I should have spoken out. So the trespasser was prosecuted. Then all those boys he violently physically and sexually abused after me – including the two survivors I’ve quoted – could have been safe.
Those assaults happened because the Knights of St Columba covered up James’s crime.
And so did I.
James was a predator. Recent studies by numerous Catholic academics desperately try to explain away clerical abuse because of celibacy, immaturity, dysfunctional childhood, lack of Church transparency, changes to Church hierarchy and so on. They are talking nonsense and – worse – they know it. They know they’re carrying out a damage limitation exercise. They are simply the ‘loyal opposition’ in their critique of the Church. They’re doing the same work today that the Knights of St Columba did in my era. They’re not stupid, they’re highly trained intellectuals and they know you cannot change a predator’s nature (as the disastrous Servants of the Paraclete attempt to reform clerical abusers showed. )You cannot train a kestrel, a tiger or even a domestic cat not to kill. It’s in their nature. It’s who they are and what they do. And James was a predator par excellence, with all a predator’s cunning and hunting skills.
So today’s Catholics academics who write about clerical abuse – many of whom are admired for their ‘courageous stand’ against the Church – are actually Grey Network, covering up the real truth about predators.
I should have reported Brother James to the police. I had the physical evidence and he might have gone to prison. Okay, it’s unlikely. Doesn’t matter. I should still have done the right thing. Just as two or three years I later reported the Knights of St Columba to the police and paid a helluva price for it by being kicked out of school.
It still felt surprisingly good, because it was the right thing to do.
Accepting a bribe makes the victim complicit in the abuse. It’s probably a tried and tested Catholic and Knights of St Columba technique. See an earlier post where there’s a remarkable similarity in the Knights’ methodology. The bribe, accompanied by an apology, has a veneer of morality and pseudo-justice. It’s ‘restitution’. It may explain why it doesn’t come up in testimonies of clerical abuse. Because the victim will be reluctant to tell all even today, feeling guilty for having accepted payment from the abuser. For services rendered. Well done, Knights. What clever chaps you are!
I thought I’d gotten away with accepting the bribe, but my subconscious/soul had other ideas, dammit! So, shortly after, George and I swopped bikes, like kids do and sped away from my house on Chantry Estate. We sped down Birkfield Drive, took the sharp turning into Stonelodge Lane at high speed and I crashed into the street sign, wrecking George’s bike, and injuring myself. It was nasty and very painful, but no bones were broken.
It was a good solution from the pov of my subconscious. I still had my brand new bike but I’d now beaten myself up, punished myself for taking the Catholics’ bribe. Sorry about your bike, George. I’ve always puzzled why I – as a generally cautious cyclist – should suddenly hurtle ,like a kamikaze pilot, slam into that street sign.
Now stepdad – somehow in conjunction with James – pitch a wonderful surprise for me! Because I’ve been a good Catholic and shown forgiveness, they are going to give me a wonderful surprise. Something I’ll love. A big deal! A great honour!
When that memory feeling came up, ahead of the actual details, I thought – what could it possibly be?
At first I remembered going to the London Palladium to see Frank Ifield. Maybe that was this new bribe?
However… Frank Ifield at the London Palladium meant that was the late Summer of 1962. So it couldn’t be.
But I desperately wanted to believe the bribe, the ‘prize’, was Saturday Night at the London Palladium. That, at least, had a certain wholesome, healthy quality.
And then it came to me. The true prize was not healthy. It was not wholesome. It was sick.
That’s why I was being coy. That’s why I really didn’t want to remember it.
The Knights pitched it to me that – because I’d shown such admirable Catholic qualities of forbearance and forgiveness– they were going to elevate me in the Catholic social order.
I could join the Knights of St Columba at their private events! And if I continued to make spiritual progress, I could even, roll of drums, become a …. Squire!
Patrick, you lucky boy!
Presented like that, I didn’t have any choice. I always knew it was wrong, but I was trained by Catholic conditioning to hide who I really was and how I really felt. I often didn’t know myself. We all have do it – and pretend to be pleased -when we get an unwanted but very expensive Xmas present.
But the subtext of what James was saying was, ‘Sorry I’ve abused you. Come and join the abuser club.’
They’d cleverly solved one problem of abuse, by lining me up for further abuse, which I’ve recounted in earlier posts. Perhaps Brother James had even, usefully, broken me in for others to follow. All of which is classic abuser technique.
Anyway, that’s how James and my stepdad Knight sold the ‘honour’ to me. In this era, the Knights were still a secret society. They still had secret ceremonies. It’s all there in Wikipedia. They must have sounded really exciting to a 12 year old.
But let’s be clear: I’d sold out again
My soul seems to have gone along with my compliance. At the risk of sounding esoteric, I believe it was playing a long game. It saw it as a valuable opportunity for a whistleblower to infiltrate the ranks of the enemy and gather useful information about them, which I’ve certainly used against the Church in later life. Ask my regular readers. And/or perhaps it felt I’d already punished myself enough by wrapping George’s bike and myself around a street sign.
Or perhaps I thought I could create change from within. Lots of adults in numerous walks of life have fallen for that one. It’s a classic confidence trick. And, of course, it never works. People who believe they can make a difference from within are invariably corrupted by the system or they’re ejected by it. Change has to come from outside.
Personally, I don’t believe the Catholic Church will ever change unless its Dark Networks are fully exposed and its current members prosecuted and imprisoned. A Dark Network is – by definition – transgenerational, so they are still out there.
Today’s Catholic children are still at risk.
Catholics know it and they choose to live with it. It’s why there are 75 year old altar ‘boys’ in one Catholic Church I’m aware of. It’s why the sacristy is bizarrely crowded with mums and dads to make sure nothing happens to their little boys. Catholics think that’s funny and have laughed nervously as they told me all about it. I don’t think it’s funny.
Today’s Catholic predators are just like Brother James. They’re smart, they’ll bide their time, until the right opportunity, inevitably, arises. Just like that day George and I went up to the school in the summer holidays.
Justice may seem unlikely, but in the 1980s, the notion that clerical abusers would one day face long prison sentences was unheard of. At that time the Church was still above reproach. So change is possible and it surely begins by more survivors coming forward and more genuine academics (not apologists from the Grey Network) exposing the Church’s Dark Networks.
I may have had snapshot memory on the rape and the aftermath, but my final memory is a continuous film. It’s stayed in my mind all these years and I’ve never forgotten it.
Because it was clearly important for me to have a lasting memory, an insight into the mind of a predator, a Catholic sexual abuser, a De La Salle Brother, and a teacher at St Joseph’s College, Ipswich.
A few months later in class, Brother James asked me in front of everyone, whereabouts did I live? He sounded puzzled, like it had momentarily slipped his mind. Knowing damn well where I lived! He’d been to my house, after all. A little coldly, I replied, ‘On Chantry Estate.’
He was the only teacher or pupil at St Joseph’s – a college full of middle class and rich kids – who ever made me feel awkward and uncomfortable about where I lived. And that was definitely his intention.
He was also covering his tracks. He was saying – in front of witnesses – that he never had any inappropriate contact with me. He had never visited my home.
Then he smiled knowingly at me.
Reminding me of our shared secret.