You sexually molested me many years ago in a school office next to the gymnasium at St. Michael’s High School in Toronto. I was a 15 year old boy and you were my father figure, my own father having died when I was 7 years old. Today, I have been given a few minutes to capsulate the effects that this sexual abuse has had on me over the last 58 years.
To begin with, many years ago, you stole a piece of my soul and today I am here to reclaim it. You began stalking me when I was in grade 8. This predatorial action continued through grades nine and ten and eleven as you coached me in football and basketball. What you did to me has affected all of the relationships I have had over the years. My main doctors have been female because I could no longer trust a male. I often regret the fact that I have never been able to have a friendship with another male. In fact, over the years, my best friends have always been female.
Raised in an orthodox catholic home in the 1940’s and 50’s, the rule of my house was that the priest was God’s representative on earth. The priest was always right. Never disobey the priest. Always do what the priest says. Fear was definitely a result of the abuse. I remember being fearful of you and intimidated by you and I feared that I would somehow be blamed for what happened. What you did to me was going to remain a secret because I could never talk about the crime that you committed to anyone. With no father in the house, I could never reveal this crime to my mother. She had implicit faith and trust in priests. Would she believe me if I told her? Would she think that I was at fault? Would she begin to mistrust me as her son? Would she react like my friend’s father, when my friend tried to tell him that you had abused him, and say you shouldn’t have pulled your pants down? I could never tell my mother what happened to me. If I couldn’t tell her, whom could I tell? I certainly could not confide in my siblings. Could I tell another priest, perhaps in the confessional? I would never trust another priest for the rest of my life and would question everything I heard from the pulpit.
I want you to know that I have achieved much during my lifetime but probably could have achieved so much more. Teaching was likely my greatest achievement, no thanks to you. I had great empathy for my students. Every morning before leaving for work, I would say a silent prayer asking for God to make me alert and sensitive to the needs of my students. I would look at them in front of me in the classroom and remind myself that each one of them, like me, could be burdened in some way and they needed to know that I would be there for them.
You were a teacher and teachers are supposed to teach the young how to develop good work habits, how to get the best out of their abilities, how to be responsible citizens. At my high school, you were supposed to teach us the true meaning of goodness, discipline and knowledge. I learned none of that from you. Instead, I began to teach myself how to survive. What you did to me many years ago caused me to contemplate suicide on three separate occasions. Whether it was holding a razor to my wrist or hovering over the Niagara River after consuming a mickey of scotch at the age of 16, I wanted desperately to end the pain. Fortunately, a greater force than you intervened. I used to pray to God and asked Him to keep me alive until I was 21 because, in my naive way of thinking at the time, I knew then that I would be an adult and able to handle my problems. God kept me alive but when I was 21, the problem was still with me. I tried to forget my past by drinking excessively. I drank my way through my first year of university, was threatened with expulsion, left university after that year, took various jobs and filled in my time with wasteful and questionable activities. I entered the priesthood, the same order as you, but left after 3 days after telling one of the priests to go to hell. I was completely lost and continued this way until I met my future wife. I mention her now because it was she whose love would sustain me.
My life changed dramatically when I met my wife. I have had many flashbacks of these childhood occurrences. I have dreamt of the assaults and had them reenacted in my dreams. These continued on into my adult years, well into my teaching career. I still told no one of the abuse, not even my wife. She knew there was something wrong but blamed herself for my sexual dysfunctions. I never allowed her to play a part in our intimacy. If she came up behind me and put her arm around my waist, I would freeze up inside. We never went to bed at the same time. I always found an excuse when I knew she was ready for intimacy. Intimacy had to be on my terms. I had to control every aspect of our lives. Too often, we would make vacation plans, for example, and, moodily, I would change them at the last minute, without regard for her feelings. I had to be in control. I experienced prolonged periods of depression and anxiety, the depression often lasting as long as 3 to 5 days. My wife always thought it was because it was something she had done. I have found out that my daughter used to think it was something she had done. My daughter has since confided in me that although her children attend a public school, she has been responsible for their religious instruction. She can no longer do that and the thought of it brings her to tears. They both felt it was their fault that I was the way I was.
My wife bore the weight of my burden for too many years although she never knew my secret. It was to remain buried for 35 years until some time after my retirement. It was then that, faced with an impending breakdown, with her support, I sought professional help.
I mention my wife at this time because I know now from experience that love will always triumph over hatred and despair. I also mention her at this time because she too became a victim of your actions. For what you did to me 58 years ago was to have a permanent effect on our relationship and our marriage. Not able to understand my mood swings and my sudden outbursts of anger and my depression that would plunge me into days of not talking, how often did she want to leave me and end our marriage and why she did not, I will never know. By never sharing my secret with her, I showed that I could not trust her. By never sharing with her, by reliving that nightmare of my youth over and over again, I knew our intimacy would be and was permanently affected. Today she is my greatest supporter and I don’t deserve her love nor can she ever be compensated for the sacrifices she has made with her life, sacrifices she made willingly for me, sacrifices made necessary by the heinous and demonic crimes you committed.
My children were also affected by what you did to me so many years ago. I told my oldest son about my secret when he turned 40. I could not attend his fortieth birthday celebration because all I wanted to do was stay home, crawl into bed and hide under the covers. I wanted the company of no one. Naturally, my son weaselled the truth out of me. He doesn’t attend church any more and his faith has taken a major hit. My daughter, once a regular church goer, rarely attends. Furthermore, she no longer sees the importance of allowing her children to attend church, vowing that they will never be left alone with a priest. My other son does attend mass with his family but our relationship is not what it should be. So you see, what you did to me 58 years ago has had generational effects. Your actions have had a profound impact on my marriage and the relationships which I have had with my children and their children. They have impacted my relationship with the Catholic Church and with God. They have impacted my relationship with anyone who has brought meaning to my life. They have impacted my ability and willingness to trust others. They have made me feel a deep guilt for what happened. They have made me question my own abilities and self worth. They have caused me to plunge into long periods of depression, to drink excessively and to contemplate suicide.
In January, 2009, I was hospitalized with an apparent heart attack. After much testing, it was diagnosed as an angina attack which is indicative of coronary artery disease. Of course, this is not an uncommon experience for people of my age. But I believe there is a relationship between this event and what happened to me years ago for this occurred while in the midst of writing my book, a book which recounted my abuse and its lifelong effects. For several years prior to this time, a time during which I had once again buried my childhood experience, I had relative calm and peace in my life. Furthermore, leading a healthy lifestyle, I experienced no symptoms of heart disease. However, once I began to write my book, it became a compulsion for me. My sleeps were often interrupted and my past once again caught up to me. I dreamt about the abuse and probably should have stopped writing. However, I could not. I had to finish it. When it was released, I found out that you were still alive and facing charges. Since that time, I have been surrounded by a whirlwind of activity. I think about the abuse too often. I know that this is not healthy and my psychiatrist has advised me to confine my attention to the abuse to one or two hours each day. This is impossible for me because now I receive emails and telephone calls from far and wide about the abuse. I read about it, in one form or another, almost daily in the paper. I discuss it endlessly with my wife and whoever else wants to listen. Not too long ago, while walking my dog, I experienced chest pains. When I slowed down, the pains would subside. This happened three days in a row and my cardiologist told me that what I had was a further episode of angina. Needless to say, it is known that stress is one of the leading factors in causing heart disease.
I have not lost my faith in God but my relationship with the Catholic Church has changed forever. My level of trust in the clergy and the hierarchy of the church has diminished greatly. What you did to me caused me to turn my back on God at different times over the years. In my twilight years, I embrace Him completely and throw myself at His mercy. I say that now because I want you to know that I wish eternal damnation on no one and I pray that you begin your purgatory and your reconciliation with God now. I also want you to know that today I am reclaiming that piece of my soul that you stole from me 58 years ago. .