The Dark Network

The Dark Network is a term used by academics to describe organised crime such as sex trafficking, Mafia, drug rings, youth gangs and so forth.

It is also the term used by an authoritative thesis study of organised Catholic abuse in Victoria, Australia.  It is not an isolated or maverick study; it is  further confirmed by other related sources and also independent Australian sources which state clearly that abuse in the  Australian Catholic Church was organised and endemic.

It’s remarkable that such a major study should feature on the internet – it’s only been up there since early 2020.  It has wider and serious implications for the Church in other countries, including Britain and Ireland. Therefore – if you find the study of interest – I recommend you download it, in case it mysteriously disappears.

It is relevant to the whole subject of abuse at St Joseph’s, Ipswich, the Catholic priests in Ipswich, the laity, notably the Knights of St Columba of Ipswich Province, and their wives – as I’ve detailed in past posts.  The Catholic structure in Australia and in Ipswich have enough similarities for this Dark Network to be worth looking at.  Thus I have posted the testimony of a St Joseph’s Old Boy that Father Jolly tape recorded confessions. Here is a similar account in the Australian thesis:

Searson’s sexualised conduct included having children sit on his knee inconfession, having them kneel between his knees during confession, taperecording ‘hot’ confessions, cuddling girls and having girls do handstands in front of him in their dresses.

It has always been my contention that there was organised Catholic abuse in Ipswich when I was growing up in the 1960s. Namely that it was premeditated, planned and highly organised.

It was a way of life.

 Thus all three priests I came in contact with were abusers and two, probably three, were Knights of St Columba. If it was just the odd ‘rogue priest’, as Catholics desperately still like to claim, that would be most unlikely.

Initially, my view was very much a maverick opinion which I voiced with some caution, because the prevailing view is still the ‘rotten apple’ theory of Catholic abuse. I didn’t want my evidence and the evidence of other St Joseph’s  Old Boys to be seen and dismissed as wild conspiracy theories.  But today there are now enough statements on my site to amount to empirical evidence of organised Catholic abuse.  For example,how Brother Solomon was moved around schools, and his disturbing connection with the equally disturbing Joe Homan (ex De La Salle brother) charity.  Homan (previously covered on this site) may have been ex DLS, but – as an Old Boy recently reminded me – there were still appeals in St Pancras, Ipswich, to raise money to buy him a tractor.  Everything was, and probably still is, interconnected.

 In particular, apart from my own testimony, there’s a recent detailed testimony of a survivor relating to Brother James, Father Jolly and how the Catholic authorities covered up a major crime. Plus a further private testimony I have from a survivor which describes in comprehensive and disturbing detail how organised laity cover-ups works in the Catholic Church.

In short, there was a similar Dark Network of organised Catholic crime in  Ipswich in the 1960s.

The Australian report confirms for the first time, as far as I’m aware, that such criminal Networks of organised clerical sexual abuse exist within the Catholic Church.  This should encourage survivors to speak more openly about their experiences without fear of being dismissed as fantasists. Unless family ties, tradition, and fear of the consequences still enforces the rule of omerta?

First, the other evidence from Australia which shows there was ,and probably still, is highly organised Catholic abuse.

There’s Kristina Keneally in The Guardian who highlights the response of the police to what she calls  ‘Catholic extremism’.

I posed this question on Twitter last week: should we call this Catholic extremism? One of the police officers who blew the whistle on the sexual abuse of children in the Australian Catholic church, Peter Fox, responded “I’d call it organised crime.” He’s right. But it is more than that. It is a warped, extreme and deeply flawed interpretation of the Catholic faith that led to such crimes.

I discuss this extreme interpretation of Catholicism later in this post and how it endorses and encourages abuse.

Then there’s The Conversation by Michael Salter, Lecturer in Criminology, Western Sydney University.

He asks if it’s rogue priests or a Culture of  abuse? He answers his question as follows:

The report of the South Australian Mullighan Inquiry into children in state care was published in 2008. In the report, former state wards provided detailed accounts of groups of staff sexually abusing children in institutions and taking them to what Commissioner Mullighan described as “paedophile parties”. Priests, nuns and care staff were implicated. Like so many other inquiries of this nature, the report hinted at a degree of sexual abuse that has not received full public recognition.

There’s also this statement made in Australian parliament.

Here is one person’s story which, I warn senators before I begin, is very disturbing. This particular woman told the inquiry that, as a young child and soon after her mother died, she had been placed in care at a Catholic church-run institution which held around 130 children in the mid to late 1950s. She alleges that a man, who she believes may have been a priest, started to sexually assault her soon after her arrival at the orphanage. She said that a nun took her to a room on the ground floor where the man put her face down on a table, lifted her dress, removed her undergarments and sexually assaulted her. He allegedly told her that she was worthless, that she deserved to be treated in this way and that she should never tell anyone because no-one would ever believe her. She said that she bled badly. The man returned her to the nun, who then put her to bed. This woman told the inquiry that this abuse occurred possibly twice a week over some time and would follow a similar pattern. Sometimes the nun who took her to the man would beat her and she would try to run away only to be taken back again. This woman did not tell anyone about the abuse at the time because she thought that she would not be believed. She recalled that she felt: ‘So lost, so lonely, so sad, so worthless. I cried every day. I cried myself to sleep every night. I used to go off into the toilet any time and I would just sob.’

And finally the thesis itself.  It’s backed up, of course, with further sources.

An exploration of the existence of clergy child sexual abuse Dark Networks within the Catholic Church.

Signed 17th September 2019.

By Sally Muytjens BJus(Hons). Doctor of Philosophy. School of Justice. Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology

It’s an excellent document, much of it concerned with statistics to bear out her premise that there is a Catholic Dark Network and showing its similarities to other ‘traditional’, recognised criminal organisations.

Chapter 5 introduction has a good summary.

The chapter begins by evidencing ties between clergy perpetrators of CSA (child sexual abuse)  to show that rather than committing CSA on an individual level these DN (Dark network) actors (perpetrators) are connected on an organisational level. Furthermore, qualitative data shows these ties being utilised to support and share DN resources with fellow clergy DN actors. The data chapter provides examples of clergy DN resources and how these are shared between clergy DN actors. Clergy DN resources include victims, victim information, shared knowledge for the facilitation of CSA and silencing of victims. The data reveals common patterns for committing CSA and for silencing victims.

As I was recruited for a seminary and there was a very punitive response from the Catholic authorities  when I refused to go, this next piece was significant and confirms my recollections are correct.  As a fourteen year old boy, I was aware of the criminal nature of the Catholic Network and I wanted nothing more to do with it.

Recruitment is an important aspect of maintaining network numbers… The data chapter discusses clergy perpetrators who were placed in roles of recruiting boys into the priesthood. The importance of recruitment and mentoring to the DN is that the ability to be able to replace DN actors is crucial to DN resilience (Ayling 2009).

Her thesis cannot possibly cover crimes by the Catholic laity and female Catholic abuse as well. But both are relevant in my view. Namely the Knights of St Columba and their wives whom I’ve previously written about.  Here’s what Ms Muytjens said on this subject:

These crimes were not limited to Victoria and did extend beyond Australia’s borders, but the boundaries for this research were set within Victoria. These crimes, and the crime of CSA particularly, were not limited to clergy and were also committed by nuns and Catholic laity. The scope of this research was limited by the enormity of criminal acts committed within the Catholic church as boundaries had to be set to analyse a manageable data set.

Ms Muytjens later gives an example of where  Catholic laity were involved in organised Catholic sexual abuse. It’s from a survivor’s testimony:

I would have been about 16 or 17 years old. We stayed in a hotel and I stayed in the same room as Fr Pickering and he continued to abuse me. I remember one night during this trip, we went to a local hotel for dinner where Fr Pickering met up with someone, who I think was called Fr Gavin, and three other men. I don’t remember Fr Gavin’s last name, but he was quite young, about 30 years old. I don’t know who the three other men were, they were not priests, but my impression was that they were involved in the church in some way. All the men had boys with them around the same age as me. I was made to sit on the kids’ table while the men sat on a different table (RCICA 2015g, 46).

It’s an important quote because thus far the congregation have largely managed to escape scrutiny. It needs more survivors to come forward.  Australia, of course, has its  own equivalent of the Knights of St Columba.

Later in the thesis (Page 166), there’s a record of a clerical death threat made to a survivor. I had several such threats made to me because I would not stay silent. Here’s the quote:

Br Best, the school principal, also teaching Grade 6, called Paul to his office. Paul was aware of Br Best’s fondness for belting the boys, the nervous child entered and was told by Best: “It’s all right. Just want to talk to you” (BRA 2017). Best then sexually penetrated the boy. Soon afterwards, Paul told his own class teacher, Fitzgerald, what Best had done. Fitzgerald responded by hitting him and then asked the boy again what happened and when Paul repeated the claim he was struck again. After being asked a third time, Paul replied: “Nothing happened”. (BRA 2017). Paul could not bring himself to tell his parents, so he approached a Catholic priest who responded with a “backhander” and threatened his life, saying, ‘If you tell anyone what happened I will f***ing kill you’. (BRA 2017) 

The relatively modern, rather than historic, nature of Catholic Dark Network cover-ups is demonstrated by the following incident from 2003.  The Grey Network that she refers to is the Catholic Network that doesn’t commit abuse but supports it.

Br Julian Fox was appointed as the head of the Salesian Order in Australia, supervising Salesian schools in several States (BRA ndn).  The Victorian police wanted to interview Fox, but in 2003 the church gave him a job in Rome as a web-master on the Salesians’ worldwide website (Family and Community Development Committee 2012b, 7). Fox used Rome as his base, but he travelled the world (Family and Community Development Committee 2012b, 7). This transfer of Fox to Rome by the grey network showed the grey network not only protecting this DN actor and obstructing a police investigation but placing Fox in a position which provided significant opportunities to acquire new DN resources such as victims, new DN actors, safe places to hide clergy subject to complaints and connections to other DN actors globally. The promotion of DN interests by the grey network was also apparent in the role promotion of known clergy perpetrators of CSA.

As Cardinal Pell has recently won his appeal, it’s relevant to quote this from the thesis:

I told George (Pell)  I had been abused by Gerald. His first reaction was, “Oh, right”.There was no shock. His tone then became terse relatively quickly and I could sense anger in his voice. I started to get a sense he was insinuating things about my story and I felt like I’d done something wrong. George then began totalk of my growing family and my need to take care of their needs. He mentioned things such as, I may soon have to buy a car or a house for my family. I doremember with clarity the last three lines we spoke together:

Me: ‘Excuse me, George, what the fuck are you talking about?’ George said, ‘Iwant to know what it will take to keep you quiet’. My response was, ‘Fuck youGeorge, and everything you stand for’. I hung up the phone. (RCICA 2015d, 73)

The thesis also details how important judicial members of the Catholic laity are involved in cover-ups. The private testimony I have from a St J’s Old Boy says something very similar.  And there’s my own experience, too. I was warned off by a Catholic magistrate (A Knight) and told to keep my mouth shut as I’ve related previously.  

At Gladstone Park, Fr Baker befriended a local family who had a son. Bakersexually abused this boy on trips away and in the boy’s bedroom. The victim’s father complained about Baker to the chairman of the parish school board,Brian Cosgriff, who was also a magistrate (BRA nda). Cosgriff consulted another Catholic layman, Brendan Murphy, who was a barrister. These two men of law neglected to notify the police and, instead, merely notified ArchbishopFrank Little (BRA nda). Archbishop Little’s secretary, Monsignor Peter Connors, who later became the bishop of Ballarat, visited the victim’s family and convinced them to keep the matter secret (BRA nda).

This evidence highlights the fact that the DN were also protected by certain members of the Catholic laity. It is significant that a magistrate and a barrister considered clergy CSA to be a matter for the Catholic Church to deal with rather than a legal matter.

It would be reasonable to assume the Catholic magistrate and barrister in question were Catholic Knights.  In two similar British incidents (my own and another survivor’s) they were Knights.

That’s as far as I’ve analysed the thesis. I must follow up on her sources where I can. Australians are to be congratulated for their courageous search for truth about the full extent and nature of Catholic abuse in Oz. By comparison, Catholic Britain is a long and shameful way behind and seems to have little interest in the subject.

The Dark Network that this thesis so superbly describes has numerous disturbing implications. The one that springs immediately to mind is – when did it stop?  There is no direct cut-off point in the thesis, but it starts to move out of historic abuse into current times with the example I’ve indicated and others.

Previously with historic abuse, the Catholic Church has been able to say:  the monks, brothers and priests who abused are now all dead or in their 80s, so it’s all in the past and today there are stringent protocols in place to ensure it can never happen again. So can we please just shut up, forget the whole unpleasant business, and look to the future?

But a Catholic Dark Network is different. It’s not dependant on individuals who die or retire as the thesis demonstrates.  It’s transgenerational.

You might assume that with such a spotlight on the Catholic Church today, that Networks would have disbanded in the last decade or so.  But this is not the case with other forms of organised crime, even though the spotlight is equally on them. The Mafia, sex trafficking, drugs rings and so on continue to this day, albeit more secretively, cautiously and cleverly than in previous eras.

So there is no reason to suppose that a Catholic Dark Network is any different. Yes, there are more stringent checks today but that’s never stopped criminals in the past from finding ways around checks.  And the Church’s wilful and provable delaying tactics and attempts to minimise and excuse its past crimes do not inspire me with any confidence. Its various  organisations’ silence about abuse at St Joseph’s College and in Catholic Ipswich is also a matter of concern.   Furthermore, in the current age of austerity, there will be more vulnerable children than ever before. 

They will be new targets for Catholic predators. And they will find new ways of reaching them. Doubtless they already have.

I’ve had one anecdotal confirmation from a police officer, who investigated paedophile crimes, that Catholic clerical abuse is still current rather than historic. I’ve also come across two incidents on the web that are thus already in the public domain. They also relate to the current era and I’ll refer to them in a future post. They’re not empirical evidence of Dark Networking, but they are a matter of concern.

 As several reports have shown, the Church has been riddled with sexual abuse for most of its two thousand years existence.  The underlying reason for this is because, underneath their paedophile and sadistic behaviour, there is also a belief system, a credo. That’s why it’s been tolerated. Priests, monks, brothers and laity do not form part of an organised Dark Network just to find an outlet for their depravity or sexual frustrations. There is an excuse, a rationale, a logic, a reasoning, a twisted theology behind their crimes. This ‘justifies’ their crimes. That’s something I can personally confirm from my own childhood encounters with these perverts.

It’s rather more than a depraved priest excusing his conduct with some pseudo-spiritual nonsense as he abuses a young child. And it’s rather less than some elaborate,  conspiratorial, esoteric,  masonic belief system.  Although it draws on  both and it has elements of both.

In fact it’s more down to earth and actually rather familiar to most of us. It’s a private interpretation and development of the Church’s public teaching on the weakness and evil of the Flesh, how to defeat the Flesh, and how to truly imitate Christ and his suffering. It’s all there, hiding in plain sight. I’ve covered some of the ground already – see ‘The Greatest Betrayal’ – but I’ll return to it in a future post.

The thesis also doesn’t cover what goes on in the criminal minds of Catholic Dark Networkers, it’s outside her terms of reference.

Significantly, few academics who relate and analyse the whole story of Clerical abuse go there either.  It’s like it’s off limits, even though it should be centre stage. It’s an aspect I’ll return to.

What Catholic abusers say, what they think, how they excuse their behaviour, how they explain what they are doing to their victims, is highly pertinent.  And yet, officially, all we have is a few pathetic  ‘rotten apple’ excuses and a few tawdry, pseudo-spiritual excuses which can be quickly dismissed.  Yet all organised criminals have a  sophisticated rationale for their behaviour – and putting Catholic abuse down to the frustrations of celibacy, traumatic childhood, the structure of the Church etc, as some authors claim, is deliberately going down a useful detour, a calculated cul- de-sac to distract us from the truth.  

‘If we can just get the celibacy/screening/structure right, everything will be fine in the Church in the future.’

It’s a classic, questionable academic technique which I’m very familiar with.  It uses that well-tried and successful ploy: ‘Don’t look over here – look over there.’ I need to return to this in a future post.

The authors concerned know it’s a detour, but desperately need to believe the Church can’t be all bad and so blind themselves to or filter out the truth.  That’s a gentle explanation for their conduct. There are other explanations.

Fuelling their work, consciously or unconsciously, is that ongoing premise, ‘The Church’s good name must be protected at all costs.’

These individuals are the loyal opposition whose work gives the fake impression that something is being said and something is being done. At last.

By comparison, Ms Muytjens courageously  ‘tells it like it is’ and exposes the true nature of the Catholic Dark Network.

 It’s a rare and refreshing contrast to and challenge to academia and the establishment’s calculated damage limitation exercises to protect the Catholic Church.

The Greatest Betrayal

The wives of the Knights of St Columba in Ipswich Province played an important part in the events I’ve described in Ipswich in the 1960s.  Their role challenges a stereotypical image of women in that era: that of dutiful, supportive Catholic wives waiting patiently at home for their Masonic husbands to return home from their men’s business.

The truth is rather different. On a purely practical level it had to be. On the Knights’ retreats, weekend outings and other charitable events, there were meals to be provided, beds to be made, children to be organized. And chaperoned, when there were girls. The wives therefore had to have a physical presence, at least. It’s unlikely that 1960s men would have done all those domestic tasks. But what I’m describing here is something more – a further betrayal of trust, which needs recording because my experience could hardly have been unique. It was hardly a one-off moment of madness. And it’s the greatest betrayal, because we assume that children are safe with women. That assumption has taken a hammering in recent decades, but it’s still a commonly held view and the uncomfortable reality is still largely a taboo subject.

I’m sure there were some admirable characters amongst the wives, but I can only recall one rather splendid woman.  She was the wife of my part-time Knight stepdad and she used her teacher skills to help prepare me and my brother to pass the relevant exam to get into St Joseph’s. Why she would do this does rather boggle the mind. Under duress from a domineering husband who ordered her to help the sons of his mistress? Or because she saw us as part of an extended family and wanted to help us? Who knows?

I am also aware of four Catholic ladies who had a great deal to answer for. I’ll keep them anonymous because I prefer to have a secondary source to confirm my recollections. As many survivors find the subject of female abuse embarrassing, I doubt that will be forthcoming any time soon. I don’t have that problem. I think it’s far too important that all the dark and taboo secrets of the Catholic community are finally brought to light. However, I already have confirmation from an Old Boy that my recollections about the character of one of the women was correct.

The abusers were Mrs C, Mrs W, Mrs X and – above all – Mrs Q.

Mrs C was a widow, she had two daughters who went to St Mary’s Convent school and she came from a wealthy Ipswich business family. As my mother was also a widow, the Parish Priest, Canon Burrows, a Knight of St Columba, encouraged our two families to bond and spend time with each other. We went on outings and a pilgrimage to Walsingham together. We spent time in her rather impressive apartment. She was a most attractive but very sad Mrs Robinson figure, but I was too young to be the Graduate. I was at primary school, after all.  She blamed me for what she did and said I’d go to Hell for it. She was also a member of the Legion of Mary. If you look at 1950s and 1960s photos of the Legion, you’ll see they dressed up like nuns on special occasions, and that’s just how I remember her – like Audrey Hepburn in The Nun’s Story.

Mrs W was the wife of a most important Ipswich legal figure. I remember her as a colourful and artistic character, a refugee from a troubled country. Her son described her in her obituary thus: ‘These events contributed towards her sometimes eccentric and unconventional disposition.’

Mrs X was the wife of a very successful local Catholic businessman. He is listed as a Knight of St Columba. Their son went to St Joseph’s.

Mrs Q is the woman I’m going to focus on here because she’s really the archetype that can represent the others. Her behaviour was the scariest, most abusive, most threatening, and I recall her in the greatest detail. She arouses the greatest anger in me, even after all these years. Actually, it’s not anger – it’s rage. But the other women – Mrs C, Mrs W and Mrs X – were cut from the same cloth, and they were all similar in their abusive methods.

Just as the Knights abused their positions of trust, so too did these women. Again, this account highlights the highly organized nature of Catholic abuse, which – officially – still does not exist. Instead, we are still told it’s just random acts of depravity and lone wolves who are responsible for Catholic abuse. A pack of wolves, hunting in unison, is simply an impossibility for many people, especially with the accusation that women were in the pack. And there was a ritual aspect, too. Or theological inspiration for abuse, at least. If such notions upset or disturb you, then you maybe shouldn’t read on because you will be upset and disturbed, even though I’m deliberately throttling back on the graphic details.

Mrs Q was a very powerful figure. This was confirmed recently by a fellow Old Boy who described her as a ‘Dragon’. His recollections about her personality dovetail with my own. The rest I’ll vouch for and swear to on a stack of bibles, if necessary. I remember thinking as an altar boy – as I would idly scan the congregation during the sermon – that her two nervous-looking sons were visibly afraid of their parents. It was that obvious. A glamorous lady, she wore the trousers in her family, even though her husband was an important and aggressive Knight, involved in business wheeling and dealing around construction work at St Joseph’s. She organized a regular Catholic social event; she was ‘the hostess with the mostest’, as my fellow Old Boy put it, at which Father Jolly – the Knight of St Columba who liked to tape-record adolescent boys’ confessions – was present and would get regularly drunk.

There are three relevant aspects to her character.

Firstly, her spiritual involvement with the Knights. That may seem surprising as it’s such an-all male organization, and I’ll come back to that in a moment.  I should add that there was also a scary physical aspect to her spirituality.

Secondly, how female abusers like her used the guise of controlling and protecting children’s burgeoning adolescent sexuality to abuse them. Control was something Catholics were utterly obsessed with, at least until the 1980s, in a most unhealthy way, and it provided a perfect cover to abuse children. This kind of abuse is fairly well known and so doesn’t require much elaboration.

Thirdly, ‘straightforward’, unabashed sexual involvement with minors. Once again, it’s relatively straightforward and so I’ll be brief.

And so to Mrs Q’s spirituality and its relevance to the Knights and to myself.

Of the three aspects, this was and is the most important. Because she was telling me what to think. What to believe.  And it’s this psychological abuse that’s left the strongest negative impression on me.

Strangely, her spirituality seemed to have a strong New Age flavour. Of course Catholics normally disapprove of anything New Age. My Catholic aunt thought New Age thinking was the work of the devil. And anyway, the New Age started in the 1970s, so I tried to push it all out of my mind. It couldn’t be true. But it just wouldn’t go away. I’d have dreams where Mrs Q acted like a New Age guru towards me. Well, it would certainly explain my life long dislike of New Age gurus, particularly females, which my wife gently tells me is ‘disproportionate’ and well off the Richter scale.

But if such memories are correct, then it’s likely there would be similar Catholic women like Mrs Q – and there are. There’s Bronwen, Lady Astor, daughter of a Judge, glamorous ex-model, and BBC TV presenter, who was caught up in the Profumo scandal. She had her first mystical experience in 1953, became a Roman Catholic in 1970, founded a Catholic charismatic ecumenical religious community that collapsed in 1974, lectured on religion, ran retreats, and chaired Alister Hardy Religious Experience Research Centre, which focuses on mysticism, including past-life reincarnation experiences. She was an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and also opened her home to the homeless.

Note the words in italics. Her Ladyship is leading and telling her followers what to think. What to believe. She was clearly a guru. And she was a New Age guru.

She was a devotee of the French Jesuit priest and mystic Teilhard De Chardin. ‘Father of the New Age Movement’, whose ideas ‘had a profound influence on the New Age Movement’, according to Wikipedia. By the late 1950s, his groundbreaking books were available in English. Notably, The Phenomenon of Man (1959). His writings are based on the concept of Cosmic Theology.  Although condemned by the Vatican for his ‘dangerous’ and potentially heretical beliefs, other aspects of his works are approved of by both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis.

The Phenomenon of Man, written by a Catholic mystical priest, would undoubtedly have been read by intellectually and spiritually curious Catholic women such as Mrs Q.

‘You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience.’ That’s a typical Chardin quote and it’s also typically New Age.

Mrs Q was also a kind of guru. She had so much to say and people really needed to listen to her! To listen! She alone had the answers! Possibly the Knights weren’t too impressed – it was an all-male organization of hard-nosed businessmen in the 1960s, after all – and she needed an outlet, a way of discharging her cosmic effluent. Or perhaps her spiritual and physical beliefs ran in parallel with the Knights and they just let her get on with it. I just don’t know. Or maybe she preached to them, too, and they listened attentively. After all, she was ‘the hostess with the mostest’ who knew how to command an audience. Anyway, she started imposing her spiritual revelations on me. I had to listen to her inspired words of wisdom. Up front and personal. Full blast! At which point you may be asking, so what? As schoolkids, especially at St Joseph’s, we were used to fanatical and rabid teachers ‘telling us how it is’.  Brother James springs to mind, right? We knew how to nod enthusiastically in the right places and let their crap go in one ear and out the other.  So what’s the big deal?

But there was a difference.  Mrs Q reinforced her message with a stylized form of physical violence. A frightening, physical element to her spiritual bullshit, which is why I hate it and I still hate her so much. It made her verbal nonsense stick to my 14-year-old brain, which would otherwise have long forgotten all about her. And it was this: ‘Mortification of the Flesh! Because the Flesh is weak and needs mortifying! Only through Suffering can we reach out to the Hand of God! And feel his Divine Goodness! Just as Michelangelo’s Adam reached out to touch the Hand of God.  Do you understand, Patrick? Do you? Do you?!’  It clearly excited her and my lack of enthusiasm seemed to send her into guru overdrive.

I’ll spare you more of her rantings.  I’m sure you get the idea.

The Catholic Church has a long and enthusiastic history of encouraging mortifying the flesh (flagellation, etc.), which continues to the present day. It’s meant to be a way of imitating Christ’s suffering, so we suffer with him. So self-harming, encouraging others to self-harm, or physically harming children ‘to show them the way’, is what we’re talking about here. I don’t share Tory MPs enjoyment for this kind of self-violence: I find it disturbing. I don’t like it, and I really don’t want to know.

Doubtless the Knights themselves were similarly inclined to mortify the flesh, but this post is about their spouses and the impact their abuse had on me. And this particular aspect of Catholic suffering always seems to have a stronger female dimension, rather than a male one.  I hope to return to the somewhat different male dimension in a further post.

So where does Chardin fit in? I assume mortifying the flesh ‘released the spirit’, allowing it to ‘rise to a higher vibration’, and ‘get in touch with the Christ consciousness’, etc. Certainly the Gnostic flagellants whipped themselves to reach a heightened state of consciousness. I don’t have the time to read Chardin, but if anyone out there has, doubtless you may know the link. It’s in his books somewhere, I assume.

Opus Dei is the most well known example of Catholic flagellants. But this celebration of self-violence is notorious in Britain, Ireland, and everywhere else, too. It’s approaching the Heart of Catholic Darkness. It’s close to the very core of their beliefs which I hope to cover in a later post . The Catholic Church has always been about celebrating suffering and it manifests itself in numerous ways. As a child, my mother told me about the wonderful pilgrims climbing Croagh Patrick mountain in their bare feet, which were cut to ribbons, and how the pain brought them closer to Jesus. They still do so to this day and their children are still allowed to make the barefoot ascent, even though the Garda seem to be discouraging both. Health and Safety protocols have not yet won the day.

Very relevant to this British and Irish aspect of Catholic self-harming is the 15th century book by Thomas a Kempis: The Imitation of Christ. Widely read by Catholics, my mother was given a paperback copy by my ‘stepfather’, that Knight of St Columba. Today, I find it almost impossible to read its dense prose, but my mother perused it avidly and her copy was well-thumbed.  Here are some relevant excerpts:

52nd Chapter. Deserving of Chastisement. ‘I deserve only to be scourged and punished because I have offended you (Christ) open and grievously. I am deserving of all scorn and contempt. ‘  Kempis goes on to say that only scourging can wash away our ‘defilement’.

Elsewhere, in Book 3:  ‘They who mortify the flesh are known to be truly wise for they are transported from vanity to truth.’

There’s lots more where that came from. Nature is seen as the number one enemy, and that’s relevant when it comes to suppressing children’s natural sexual development, as you’ll see later below.

Then there was the Oxford Movement of Anglo-Catholics, who slavishly imitated Roman Catholics and their practices. Evelyn Waugh – breaking ranks for once – warned: ‘Beware the Anglo-Catholics, they’re all Sodomites.’  Ditto Roman Catholics, Evelyn. In the Oxford Movement, led by (later) Cardinal Newman, whom my mother hugely admired, ‘it was quite common to practice self-flagellation using a “discipline”, a whip with 7 cords symbolizing the 7 deadly sins.’

That sounds very much like the multi-corded whip a St Joseph’s lay teacher was using on a school boy in the 1980s. See an earlier testimony from a survivor on this site (about 18 months ago, I think.).

So there’s a provable and commonplace British aspect to these masochistic practices, which can only be described as Anti-Human. Sexual and physical abuse of children is thus inevitable within the Catholic Church from such activities and attitudes, which are still widespread and still encouraged by its leaders. It’s emphatically not just a few weird and obscure Catholic cults who practice self violence and ‘mortify themselves’.  It’s centre stage.  What I find remarkable is that this is rarely spoken or written about, even by the Church’s many critics. Somehow we’ve been conditioned by history and heritage to see this twisted behaviour as normal or inconsequential, when it’s neither.

So it’s hiding in plain sight, as the Church so often does. Anyone self-harming  outside the Church would be seen as needing an intervention by a doctor or social worker. Hurting yourself or others, or encouraging others to harm themselves, ‘in the name of Jesus’ doesn’t make it better or make it right.  Especially if they are fourteen years old.

But Opus Dei does provide some evidence and the clearest picture of what’s actually involved. Dan Brown readers will have some idea of Opus Dei, but to briefly add to it: Opus Dei is a secretive Spanish organisation, a very rough equivalent of the Knights of St Columba. With its wealthy members, it helped to finance the Vatican, which may be one reason Pope John Paul made its fascist founder, Escriva, a saint.  Escriva is on record as saying ‘Blessed be pain.’

Mother Theresa – of whom the respected Stern Magazine asked, ‘Where are the missing millions?’ – said much the same. I think it’s important to mention Mother Theresa at this stage, and describe her relish for pain, because she was a female church leader. Many leading Catholic women think the same way. And so did the Catholic women connected with the Ipswich Province who I had the misfortune to meet.  

Mother Theresa’s whole ethos was based on the joys of pain and suffering, which these links below make clear. It’s known that although her terminally ill patients were given only the most rudimentary care, she herself had the best care money could buy. She wasn’t so keen on suffering herself, it seems.

“There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ’s Passion. The world gains much from their suffering,” was her reply to criticism, cites the journalist Christopher Hitchens. Nevertheless, when Mother Teresa required palliative care, she received it in a modern American hospital.”

Her financial crimes and involvement with fascists and fraudulent businessmen seem to have been no impediment to her being made a Catholic saint.

Returning to Opus Dei, it is not uniquely Spanish. Catholic Ruth Kelly, a Labour MP and one time Education Secretary, is a member of Opus Dei. She wore a self-flagellating cilice garter in 2005.

So it’s a masochistic practice that’s known to British Catholic women.

Here’s what The Independent had to say at the time:

‘This is a religious sect which recommends regular use of “the discipline” (an instrument of flagellation applied to the back or, er, the buttocks), and of the cilice, a sort of garter inset with tiny spikes that bite into the upper thigh like sharp little teeth, or thorns, and for two hours every day.’

Here are similar accounts:

‘Opus Dei embraces corporal mortification in their program of making modern-day martyrs. The use of the cilice, a barbed-wire chain worn around the groin for two hours each day and the disciplines, a flagellation device, is well-documented by former numerary (celibate) members.’  

‘Trying to emulate the founder, I found some tiny metal safety pins and pressed them into the knots of my whip in order to inflict more pain. Feeling guilty for doubting my vocation, I whipped my back with more pain as a way to punish myself.’

‘As a member of Opus Dei, I was expected to undertake a weekly discipline of private self-flagellation 40 strokes with a waxed, corded whip. We were encouraged to ‘draw a little blood’ and frequently told how ‘the Father’ the founder of the organisation drew so much blood that he spattered the walls and ceiling with it.’

Another account by a British OD member describes how she was inspired by St Theresa flagellating herself, which led to the saint having a vision of being impaled by a fiery lance and achieving an orgasm.

The various OD accounts I’ve read all seem to notably involve Catholic female flagellants enjoying masochistic practices, apart from Escriva himself who seemed to love to thrash himself. 

The questionable nature of self-harming – especially for an Education Secretary, responsible for children – doesn’t really require further comment from me. Of course the Catholic Church would probably respond, ‘Catholics only flagellate themselves as part of their own private and personal spiritual journey. They’d never do anything like that to children. They would never encourage or introduce 13-year-old boys to mortify their flesh as part of their spiritual training.’

 You think?

With the Church’s record?

I was signed up for the seminary, so they needed to initiate me into these weird practices. I was a prime target. There must have been many others, too.  Subsequently, I guess like everyone else, I’ve tried to downplay the significance of mortification of the flesh as just a typical eccentric and ‘harmless’ Catholic practice. But I can’t. Even though the media seem to think it’s all rather amusing and kinky.

I don’t. It was a perfect opportunity for warped behaviour and Mrs Q and others took it. Inviting me to ‘share Christ’s suffering’. It’s an abuse of power. It’s sadism, carefully masquerading itself as spirituality.  

Of course, they had a perfect cover story if anyone rebellious – like me – complained or reported them. As I most certainly did – at the age of 15, as I’ve previously related. 

As Catholic self-harming practices are still enthusiastically encouraged by the Church today, I stood zero chance of being believed back then. The police just didn’t want to get involved. It didn’t stop me trying, though, not least because I had a wide range of accusations against the Knights. We’re not talking about a one off incident here. I was burning up with anger. But more so because of Mrs Q’s New Age bogus rationale, rather than her actual physical abuse.

‘Perhaps you’re not ready for this great spiritual journey, Patrick’, was Mrs Q’s response.

Let’s now turn to ways the Knights and their wives, and Mrs Q in particular, affected adolescent’s physical, sexual development. 

As I’ve said, Catholics were obsessed with controlling their adolescent children’s sexuality in the 1960s. They did so as late as the mid 1980s and an incident bears relating here because it illuminates just how their minds work and how they will go to any lengths to control children.

In the 1980s, I had some dealings with a Catholic couple – a doctor and a matron. He was almost certainly a Knight. His fellow hospital doctors were known to cover up his alcoholism, possibly a side effect of his important and stressful job.  That’s typical masonic support for a fellow Knight. The couple had inspected their rebel teenage daughter’s underwear for signs of possible sexual activity. When the girl showed signs of normal teenage rebellion, they used their fellow doctor connections to have her sectioned, even though she was not mentally ill. She was in a ward in the town mental hospital and they intended to keep her there over Christmas ‘to bring her to senses’. In the ward, she met strange and distressed characters and was given drugs that she said zombified her. She was a good friend of my daughters, and my children asked me if she could stay with our family for Christmas. I contacted the hospital, who agreed, provided I obtained the parents’ consent. So I went along to see them. They told me they had been bluffing, they had intended to have their daughter back for Christmas, but I had ‘spoilt’ their plan by my interference. So, yes, she could stay with our family at Christmas, because they didn’t want her staying with them over the festive season now. She would ruin their Christmas with her bad behaviour and nasty attitude that had hurt them so very deeply. So, instead, the girl had a great Christmas with my daughters.

This incident illustrates just how far Catholics believe in power and control at all costs and how they will not be defied. In the 1960s it was worse. Back then, Catholics’ obsession with children’s sexuality was often also a cover for sexual abuse, particularly where the Ipswich Knights of St Columba were concerned.  Catholics were desperatelytrying to suppress normal adolescent behaviour, such as masturbation, which they saw as a Mortal Sin, punishable in Hell. They still do. If you’re aware of the numerous writings of Kellogg, the famous Cornflakes inventor, you’ll know he endlessly ranted about the evils and dangers of masturbation that he warned would lead to ruin and death. It’s the sickest stuff I’ve ever read and was designed to terrify the reader. Catholics thought on exactly the same lines. I would refer you to my previous post on the Knight of St Columba, Father Jolly, and his tape-recording of boys’ ‘impure thoughts and deeds’ when they confessed their sins in his confessional.

So ‘self-abuse,’ flagellating and otherwise mortifying the flesh, is good, but ‘self-abuse’, masturbation, is evil.  Even though, for some, the end result of orgasm is the same. But as long as they claim they are groans of pain and not ecstasy, it’s okay, it seems.

Next, consider the American Catholic League of Decency. In the 1960s, they were outraged by the TV series Batman and Robin because of the bulge in Robin’s trunks. They complained to the studio which, in response, made Burt Ward (Robin) take penis-shrinking pills.

‘I took them for three days and then I decided that they can probably keep me from having children. I stopped doing that and I just used my cape to cover it.’

In a similar way, St Joseph’s school chaplain Father Jolly, who also supplied my mother with questionable tranquilizers, supplied me with bromide pills to ensure ‘my body remained a temple to the Holy Ghost’. I spat them out. Apart from the priest’s other activities, this Knight of St Columba was a Catholic ‘Candy Man’, helping his parishioners to self-medicate, and seeing that as part of his pastoral duties. Witnessing the negative effect those drugs had on my mother made me very angry as a boy – an anger that’s still there to this day.

Against this background, I don’t think it’s necessary to spell out all the various bizarre ways that Mrs Q and the other women attempted to control boys sexuality ‘for their own good’ and how they would use typical abuser’s excuses, ‘I’m doing this for health and hygiene reasons.’… ‘It’s all right if a responsible adult does it for you.’…  ‘It will take away your temptation’. Without getting too graphic, it did actually work. It put me off for a couple of years and left a permanent psychological mark. So much so that when I was sixteen, teenage girls I’d be heavy petting with would comment on my failure to ejaculate. Disappointed and puzzled, they would tell me that I was  different to other teenage boys who lacked my ‘control’ and they could easily turn on like a tap.  They’d wonder what they were doing wrong or if I wasn’t attracted to them. This wasn’t especially embarrassing to me. In fact, my teenage male friends and I would discuss the mystery openly and wonder why, too. Nevertheless the Catholic women had done a good job on me.  And I would also wonder anxiously if maybe there was something wrong with me; so I was enormously relieved when I later found out this was not the case. But paradoxically – as you might imagine – it encouraged me to go ‘all the way’, in search of sexual satisfaction. So it actually accelerated and fast-tracked my teenage sexual evolution.

This, of course, was the very thing those wives of the Knights of St Columba would have particularly disapproved of.  Probably that was another reason why I was so keen to get laid as often as possible– to get even with them. Especially because they claimed sex was not something men or women should take any pleasure in, but simply be tolerated for the purpose of  producing children, and then only within the confines of matrimony. It’s pretty much the same today.

I don’t recall all the excuses and ploys they used at these weekend retreats, only their intrusive actions, but I’m sure you can join the dots. These wretched Catholic women were definitely privately getting off on their ‘holy work’  – otherwise why on Earth would you do it? – and, once again, they had a cover story for their abuse. They were doing ‘Holy work’.

I’m sure these activities were not unique to Ipswich Province. Rather, they were widespread Catholic practices and thinking. ( Similarly, I believe the nuns had some ingenious way of sexually repressing  girls, too, from what an ex-Convent girl told me. She related with a sad sigh that ‘The nuns did a good job on me.’)

Finally, there’s direct sexual assault by Mrs Q, which seemed to lack the usual cover story. Maybe she couldn’t be bothered. Once again, I don’t think it’s necessary to go into details. My hair was bright ginger at that time and I was known generally as Ginger or Ginge. Afterwards, with a happy smile, Mrs Q referred to me as ‘my Ginger Tom’.  Hardly a spiritual way of addressing a wannabe priest. So I flew into a furious rage at the idea I was being used as some kind of junior Midnight Cowboy. This was probably a mistake because she was a scary individual. So when I later blew the whistle on the Knights, her reaction was not as circuitous as the men. They had warned me to keep my mouth shut or I would rue the day I was born. She was rather more direct.  ‘If you don’t shut up, we will kill you. You will die.’

If you’re wondering how I survived all this sick nonsense, I can tell you. It was partly down to a song that encapsulated my feelings and gave me courage. I suspect many other Catholic survivors from that era drew on the same song, because it’s an anthem against everything the Catholic Church stands for.

It was Lesley Gore’s legendary ‘You don’t own me’ which was a huge hit around the time I was 14. It had a tremendous impact on me and probably helped keep me sane. It’s a brilliant, early feminist anthem and it reached out to boys, too.

‘You don’t own me’ is surely the most powerful response to abusers. We are not your property. Because – as I’ve demonstrated clearly – Catholics thought children were their property.

That’s very different to loving, protecting and being responsible for children. As I’ve demonstrated, Catholics have knowingly and rather cleverly twisted that legitimate role into something dark, frightening and perverted that must have damaged so many children.

Catholics will recognize another word for what they have done. It’s called Evil.

Here’s my adaption of some of the lyrics that I would sing in my head when I was up against these middle-class, Catholic paedophiles, these esteemed, ‘highly respected’ pillars of the Ipswich Catholic community. I would change ‘own’ to ‘know’ – because my strongest sense of outrage was that outsiders, like Mrs Q, were interfering and controlling my life. A sense of outrage that’s never left me. Those are the kind of psychological scars that abuse leaves behind.

‘You don’t know me.  I’m not just one of your many toys. You don’t know me. And don’t tell me what to do and don’t tell me what to say. Don’t tell me what to think. Don’t tell me what to believe. Don’t try to change me in any way. Just let me be myself, that’s all I ask of you. I’m young and I love to be young. I’m free and I’m going to be free (one day), To live my life the way I want; to say and do whatever I please.’

That song of Resistance kept me going through some dark days.

But all that anger for the Greatest Betrayal needs to go back to where it belongs – to the whole sick and corrupt set-up of Catholic Knights, their wives and their close connection to my school, St Joseph’s. So here we go:

‘Here – this is your shit. It belongs to you. You deal with it. You have it back.’

Once again, I expect the usual silence from the relevant Catholic communities. To which I would respond: If you are not part of the solution, part of the necessary acknowledgement of Catholic crimes, then it means you are part of the problem.

You are part of the cover-up.