The Western Star (Corner Brook, Newfoundland)
05 June 2010
The Western Star
A man originally from Bay St. George says he was abused by Rev. George Smith.
The man, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity since some family members and friends are not aware of his accusations, has come forward to Halifax police with a complaint of abuse.
The man said he was an altar boy between the ages of about 12 and 14 at St. Columcille Roman Catholic Church in St. Fintan’s where Smith served for a number of years prior to being stationed in Deer Lake.
Smith visited a number of area churches during that period.
The alleged sexual abuse incidents occurred twice between 1978 and 1980.
The allegation means this is at least the second complaint of abuse received by the RCMP over Smith. Deer Lake RCMP confirmed earlier this week they have a formal complaint concerning allegations of abuse by the Roman Catholic priest.
Smith was suspended from his ministry in P.E.I. last month after the church received a complaint.
The St. Fintan’s man, who now works with the Canadian Forces in Halifax, said he felt it was important to come forward with his story after all these years for other people in similar situations, and to explain why he had held his silence.
Now in his 40s, the man said Smith would come over for dinner after mass on Sundays.
He was a central figure in the west coast community while he served there, the man said.
“I was an altar boy for about three years,” he said. “We were all altar boys, me and my older brothers … I used to collect the chairs for bingo and stuff, do work for the nuns, do the shoveling … We were always up there working or doing something for the church.”
He said he never told his brothers about what had happened to him, and they never confided anything in him.
He said the boys would often stay with Smith during lightning storms because “he was afraid of lightning.”
“Whenever there was a storm, somebody would have to go up and stay with him … I know he put his hands down my underwear while we were sleeping … It was a three-bedroom house, but we had to sleep with him,” he said.
Priest was respected
Growing up in a small western Newfoundland community, he said the priest was a strong figurehead in the community.
“These priests come to these communities and people are happy they finally have a priest, and they want to believe in this person,” he said. “You don’t know who this person is. This guy sat at our dinner table every Sunday. This guy came into the family. He was accepted. Thirty or 40 years ago, the priest was it. If someone fell and got hurt, it wasn’t ‘call the ambulance.’ You called the priest.”
The man said he tried to speak out once, after the first alleged incident, but was beaten into silence.
“One time I went to my aunt’s house and I mentioned something about the priest, and I got a beating when I got home,” he said. “Stuff like that happened. I was definitely too scared and ashamed, and you’ve got to remember the priest was put on this pedestal. People, that’s all they had to believe in was this guy.”
The man said dropped out of school in Grade 9, and moved away to live with his brother and then his sister in different parts of the province.
“It happened twice, and pretty much after that time I sort of wandered on a path. I was a young offender. I got charged with break and enter. I was in trouble … As a young adult, I was very mixed up, very confused as to what direction my life was going to go. My self-esteem was blasted. I hadn’t any self-worth,” he said.
He left Newfoundland in 1984. In 1989 he decided to go back to school and join the military. He said the military family was what gave him the chance to have a functional career.
“That’s where I basically recovered,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, the military saved my life. You’re there to protect people. You’re a leader.”
The man is now a husband and father of two. He said his children were a big incentive for him to speak out.
“I think it took me 30-some-odd years to realize I didn’t do anything wrong. It’s hard to come forward, especially when you’re scared you might be the only one. But I knew in my heart that I wasn’t the only one,” he said.
“I made it as far as I’m concerned; I overcame it. However, it doesn’t mean that I don’t have scars from it … I know what happened to me. I got nothing to be ashamed of.
“I was a young boy … I’ve shed my tears over this.”