Letters to the Editor: Catholic Church failed me — but I am not a failure

Letters to the Editor: Catholic Church failed me — but I am not a failure

St Peter's Square at the Vatican. The Church has shown its inability and failure to change, even in the light of abuse revelations. This doesn't mean its victims are failures. Picture: AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

In TP O’Mahony’s article ( Irish Examiner, June 10) he appears to expect something from the Catholic Church that, in my opinion, it cannot give — the ability to look within and change.

I can only speak from experience. For me to change, I had to be free of contempt, resentment and fear.

Fifty years after I was abused, an organisation financed by the Catholic Church continues to supply me with therapy sessions — but only when I plead and beg.

Towards Healing were the organisation I spoke to 20 years ago after I heard a caller talk to Joe Duffy about the abuse he suffered in school. I called the number given out that day. For the first time in my life, I was listened to.

As a consequence of the abuse I suffered, I continue to see a therapist today.

My point in writing is the Catholic organisation in Ireland ought to be offering me help. Instead, I’m offered six sessions here; 10 sessions there. Each time, I have to go back and ask for more sessions.

I’ve asked for an education from the De La Salle order. I was treated with utter contempt by a representative. The order didn’t have the courage to meet with me in person, so they sent a messenger to scold and embarrass me. All I was asking for was a chance to be educated.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the Church, it’s that it will never ever admit its faults because to do so would mean having to look within itself.

I am what’s left of a crime that was committed in St Joseph’s national school in Macroom in the 1960s. I didn’t know it was a crime until I told a psychotherapist 40 years after it happened.

I have mixed feelings about the word survivor. I’ve survived yes, but in the same way a three-legged dog would survive. I’ve hopped along. Wobbled sometimes. Fallen over. Been pushed over. Laughed at. Tried to fight back or defend myself, like a three-legged dog would defend himself — with some noise and no bite.

I am the remains of a beautiful little boy who was violated and has been in hiding ever since. Who had the same chances of surviving this
valley of tears as any other privileged middle-class farmer’s son in 1966.

I am a victim. I was used by an adult, whose job it was to care for and nurture me (nurture, care, console were words I didn’t know existed then). His job, as directed by the Department of Education and the De La Salle order, was to educate. But like thousands of others, he did the opposite.

A 22-year-old brother of the De La Salle order realised one of his fantasies with the help of my little six-year-old classmates. I was the centre of this fantasy.

His use of me continued for two years. Just two years was the entire time he spent in the school and the order. When he left Macroom he applied to the Vatican and was released from the order.

Where is he now, I’ve often wondered? Has he had a family? Did he enter another profession? Is he happy?

Has he continued to abuse?

I’ve often wondered these things.

My life after meeting the clean-shaven young brother has been difficult, painful and sad. A journey of continuous self-sabotage, alcohol and drug abuse; sordid and toxic relationships; co-dependency; and numerous failed attempts at educating myself. A short unsuccessful career in the performing arts. A failed marriage.

But my greatest achievement? Raising three perfect children.

My education was non-existent. I suffered severe mental and emotional trauma at age of six and seven — the consequences of which only became real when my own six-year-old son started school.

As was common in Ireland then, no one at home believed me. In fact, I was made to feel responsible for my abuse. This was counter-trauma, I’ve since learned.

Back in 1966, there were no special needs teachers. No help. No sympathy. No warm, softly spoken words of understanding.

Just daily re-traumatising. Prayers every morning. Mass on Sundays on and on and on. The Church was everywhere.

Dyslexia was diagnosed at age 11, but by then it was too late.

Secondary school quickly expelled me. At vocational school, I was understood and valued.

My clerical abuse has been with me all my 50 years. My abuser is with me daily and in the dark night. He stands by my bed, my back turned, stroking my short hair like he used to. I force myself to wake and turn to look.

The Church will survive and is a victim of nothing and nobody. It will never apologise for any of its crimes.

The first indications that abuse was alleged to have occurred in the Catholic Church date back to the 11th century.

The Catholic Church is an organisation whose sole reason for existence is to make money and to continue to wield power. Male dominance over utterly helpless women and children.

I’m sorry for myself that I didn’t have an education. Other members of my family did.

The Catholic Church failed a young man from Leitrim. They failed the De La Salle order and they failed the Department of Education.

I have tried and failed countless times to educate myself. I am the victim. I have been failed. But I’m not a failure.

Name and address with the editor

Returning from sea before dawn the trawler Atlantic Rose makes her way up the River Lee to the quays where she will unload her catch at Horgan's Quay, Cork. Picture: David Creedon / Alamy Live News
Returning from sea before dawn the trawler Atlantic Rose makes her way up the River Lee to the quays where she will unload her catch at Horgan's Quay, Cork. Picture: David Creedon / Alamy Live News

Fishing woes caused by EU, not Brexit

It’s quite obvious that the further decreasing of Irish coastal fishing rights has nothing to do with Brexit and everything to do with the EU’s policy of using convenient excuses to see Irish fishing grounds decimated for Ireland — with our fishing waters enhanced for the factory ships of the French, Spanish, Dutch etc.

Irish fishermen are now only allowed take 15% from our own waters, and this is with the blessing of Irish governments.

There is absolutely no stance that can be taken in the Dáil or by our Irish MEPs which has any power to protect our rights when it comes to EU diktat.

Neither do our Government ministers have a say in changing anything. It’s easier and more blameless to put an erroneous responsibility upon the British for the EU theft of our fish. Yet this is crazy and delusional. Leinster House does not even ask the real questions for fear of annoying Brussels.

Robert Sullivan


Co Cork

Government needs to protect fishermen

The protest in Cork by Irish fishermen and women must be a wake-up call for this Government. They should have no doubt what needs to be done and they need to stand up for them in Europe.

They need to speak the truth about the injustice of the huge amounts of fish taken from Irish waters over the years by factory ships and supertrawlers of other EU states. The 12 nautical mile limit gives exclusive rights to Irish-registered vessels to fish in these waters.

Spanish vessels do not have the right to fish inside these limits at any time. Last week a Spanish trawler tried to ram an Irish trawler inside the limit and cut away his longline gear. This incident presents a challenge to Irish authorities to show they can protect our Irish fleet and bring these wrong-doers before our courts.

Noel Harrington


Co Cork

European post for sea fisheries head

I found Michael Clifford’s recent article ‘Much of the fishing crisis is a problem of our own making’ ( Irish Examiner, May 27) most interesting, even though I do not even possess a fishing rod.

Fishing is a hard and often dangerous way to try to earn a living. With increasing costs and regulations, it is certainly not for the faint-hearted.

Mr Clifford states that the EU “can no longer trust the Irish authorities — principally the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority [SFPA] — to police quotas”. His piece outlined a number of reasons behind the EU’s ruling.

Yet the SFPA head Susan Steele has landed a plum role as executive director of the European Fisheries Control Agency. There her remuneration will certainly far exceed that of most brave trawlermen by some considerable distance.

As the article concludes: “We really are a great little country”.

Michael Silke


US First Lady Jill Biden attending the G7 summit. Picture: Patrick Semansky / AP
US First Lady Jill Biden attending the G7 summit. Picture: Patrick Semansky / AP

First lady’s jacket is symbol of change

Rarely has a piece of clothing been such a symbol of change than with two first ladies. America has moved from Melania Trump’s jacket emblazoned with “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?” to Jill Biden’s “Love”.

As to the transition of presidents, we have moved from chaos and disunity to control and working for unity.

This change in approach is a hope for the future of America and, thus, the whole world. The change in having a woman of colour in the VP role also provides a hope for a better future.

The reality, of course, is that there is so much more to be done, but at least this time the presidential team is on task rather than on Twitter.

Dennis Fitzgerald



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