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Open letter to my priest abuser: ‘I thought it was my fault and I never told my mam’

A survivor of abuse tells a priest it is time he comes forward and tells the truth.

Catherine W

A FORMAL INQUIRY into child sex abuse by clergy of the Catholic Church in Australia heard from a number of survivors this week who say their lives have been blighted by the offences against them and the organisation’s response to it. The following letter was written and sent to a Catholic priest earlier this year. The writer is a woman pleading with the recipient to tell the truth about an alleged historic rape. She outlines the difficulties she has had in later life. She has granted TheJournal.ie permission to reproduce it here, with some details changed and omitted to ensure anonymity.

Dear Fr. X,

As I write this I wonder if you remember me. My father befriended you while you were visiting our parish.

My family invited you into our home; you played sport with my dad. You swam with my sister and brothers. My sister remembers your car fondly.

Let me try to help you remember me. My dad got very ill…I believe he went to the hospital on a Sunday. Monday, I came home to find no one home. I called the hospital and they said he was “still in surgery” and that made me very upset. I knew my mother would call for a priest so I ran to the rectory hoping to get a ride to the hospital and see my dad. The monsignor was surprised to see me when he answered the door.

Another priest was there and you were wearing vestments for the Last Rites. I was poured a glass of wine, which I thought was weird, but also made me feel as though I was an adult, and made me very frightened for my father.

I asked to go to the hospital and we climbed into your car. You stopped at the store, gave me some money and told me to buy cigarettes for you and a pack for me because “I was going to need them.” Again, I thought it was weird, made me feel like a grownup and made me terrified for my dad.

My dad died on the Wednesday.

I remember you next at my dad’s funeral. You were my dad’s friend and I found comfort in that. We all trusted you.

I remember you looking ta me and I thought it was because you cared about my family.

I was home one afternoon and you molested me. I have the memory of you sticking your hands in my vagina frozen in my mind. It won’t go away. I remember hiding in the closet. I have another memory of you on top of me, you were so big and I felt so small. I hope you remember everything you did to me.

How long did that go on? How many times? How many months? My memory does not serve me well for that time. Did you molest my little brother? We have both had problems consistent with child sexual abuse. I throw up thinking about it. Indeed, I threw up when I saw a picture of you.

I thought it was my fault and I never told my mom, I spent the next thirty-two years blaming myself for causing you to break your vows.

***

Years later, I read a magazine article about a priest in Boston who preyed on a family whose father had just died. Had you changed the name it was nearly identical to what happened in my family. I was stunned. I had been teaching in a Catholic school and I told the deacon what happened to me. He told me that it happened a long time ago and to forget about it. I couldn’t forget about it and I felt betrayed. I made an obscene gesture at a priest while he was auctioning a golf game. I told the priest and my principal about my molestation and they did nothing. I recently learned, my priest didn’t think he had to report it because I was not a child at the time I reported it. They don’t understand. I am still a sixteen year old child in a woman’s body. I have to stand with other victims of priest abuse.

I have PTSD, I have suffered a stress related heart attack, t have cyclic vomiting syndrome, kidney failure and have been harassed because you raped me. I feel that I am not welcome in my church and … [have been] a victim of gossip. I feel that I have lost my culture, as I always identified myself as Irish Catholic.

I beg you to identify any other victims and to cooperate in any investigation. This happened to me years ago and you have haunted me every day. I was shocked to see that you are still a priest. I wonder do you think that you walk the path of Jesus? I am a very private person and I do not enjoy having this publicity. I tried to reach out for help within the church but was rebuffed and made a pariah. But I could not stay silent when the church is telling the public they are addressing the problem of priest sexual abuse and reaching out to victims. That has not been my experience.

I worry about my children; this has been very hard on my family. Please make this easier on all of us and do the right thing.

Please … walk in the path of Jesus and come forward and tell the truth.

Tell the truth about everything. Publicly.

The time has come.

The identity of the author is known to TheJournal.ie.

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About the author:

Catherine W

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