[The following is the Victim Impact Statement which was read to the court in a Pembroke, Ontario court by “Victim C” on 17 September 2013. When he was nine-years-old Victim C was sexually abused by Father Dan Miller ]
Victim Impact Statement
As a young boy under the age of ten, there were certain things in life I just didn’t have the experience and knowledge to fully interpret and comprehend. Although I came from a broken family and was one of the youngest (5th of seven in age), I basically received the same parenting as my other siblings in what I considered to be a fairly normal and supportive upbringing, all things considered. My parents loved me, they protected me, and they fed and provided for me. That’s all I needed to know and understand.
My siblings and I were raised by Catholic standards, educated in the catholic school system and supported Catholicism both financially and spiritually for many years. Catholicism was deeply rooted within my family, especially on my mother’s side, namely the [redacted]. For example, my late grandmother, [redacted], was the organist for her beloved [redacted] Catholic church in [redacted], Ontario, for 69 years without missing a day. The church leaders, priests and nuns became extensions of her family; they were regular dinner quests at the [redacted] residence, they married my Aunts and Uncles, they provided spiritual and moral guidance during times of need and bereavement. In short they were well respected individuals; they were revered amongst leaders and were trusted community citizens of the highest order. These deep roots from my Mother’s upbringing found their way into my family life including my brothers and sisters and eventually converted Father.
As children in a Catholic upbringing, it was imperative to actively participate in all activities and formalities within the church from baptism, confirmation, weekly service, altar boys, choir, youth groups, marriage etc. If we weren’t participants in the weekly mass, it was our family unwritten rule to occupy one of the front two church pews on the right, which was pretty much the entire row. I might have been too young to fully comprehend all the symbolism and pageantry of the church service, however, I explicitly knew the Catholic Church was important to my family, and the priests wearing the colorful robes were part of my family. They were trusted as such unconditionally.
It’s not a simple task to articulate to the courts how this event has affected me and my family. To live through a repulsive experience is something that cannot be shared through the expression of words. This statement barely qualifies the shame it has put me through to come forward, words do not express the anger it has caused me and my family, words alone cannot erase the pain and suffering it has caused my parents, both of whom have questioned their parenting abilities in retrospect…they couldn’t protect their own children. All I can do is give my personal account as a young boy with the faith and hope of understanding and true justice.
I considered myself to be a typical nine year old, no different from other kids in the neighborhood. I enjoyed the company of my friends and siblings; we played together, we ate together, we argued and fought together and made amends together. This was pretty much our daily cycle. As a 9 year old, I didn’t have to make difficult decisions or even think about the things that adults thought of…nor did I want to. Although I was moving to an age where I probably thought I knew it all, I certainly did not have the full capacity to understand why such a trusted and supposedly Godly person would want to harm me in any way. I was fortunate enough to know right from wrong but didn’t understand the true gravity of the offence as an adolescent. The seriousness and ramifications of this offence became much more apparent to me as I entered my early teens. My belief at the time was that it only happened to me and therefore kept the secret to myself. I also learnt a great deal more about shame and fear and how these two responses alone drove my secret even deeper within. I didn’t fear the Catholic Church or priest or that I wouldn’t be believed. I mostly feared the outcome of telling my parents who were fiercely protective of me and my other siblings for that matter. It was also around the same time my folks were struggling with their marriage and absolutely did not want to give them any more grief. My only way out was to stay strong and silent and pretend that all was fine despite enduring many further visits from our parish priest who was also counseling my parents during difficult times. My secret remained and boiled within me for many years.
Another secret I held for many years was why I didn’t get married in the Catholic Church, especially if my wife and I were raised Catholics. I knew well before the thought of marriage there was absolutely no way mine (ours) was going to be administered by a Catholic priest. Oddly enough it never became a topic of conversation prior to our wedding as the presumption from family members and friends was that my wife was non-catholic. I dodged a bullet and my secret remained a bit longer! My mother was the first to learn the real reason and will never forget as long as I live the sadness and anger in her face and eyes as I revealed to her my account of what happened. Although I learned well after the fact, I’ll also never forget how she immediately went into “protective parent mode” and did what any parent should do; she confronted the perpetrator and the leaders of the Catholic Church. The response, especially from the Church Leaders, was deeply troubling for both my mother and I, as it revealed the true systemic nature of this problem; an organization more interested in protecting their own interests via denial, silence, bureaucracy, in- action and finger pointing the other way. As a result, the Catholic Church took enormous steps towards irrelevance for me.
I have a number of beliefs and life experiences that have shaped the person I’ve become today. Let me start by saying I have a strong belief in God and am thankful everyday for the blessings and good fortune I’ve received, however it wasn’t always so. My belief in God was severely challenged and questioned as I became older and more cognizant of the crime committed against me by someone my family and even the community adored and whole heartedly trusted. How and why would God let this happen to me if he is all loving and omnipresent? Why would the Catholic Church, who claims to be the vicar of God, allow the men of cloth to commit such crimes against me and as I learned later, other innocent children? The answer to these questions has been a journey to say the least however I’m not certain this journey always ends well emotionally. With time, good fellowship, support of my family and perhaps maturity, I’ve been able to overcome some of the issues and questions that have haunted me. More questions and concerns still remain to this very day.
After many years of introspection and maturity, I’ve been able to come to certain understandings about myself and life in general. I truly believe we all have a higher purpose in life if we just make the effort to search it out and then live it. I do my best to live by the golden rule of treating everyone the way I would want to be treated. I also take full ownership of the person I’ve become, the choices I’ve made despite some misfortune and pain. In other words, I don’t blame anyone or anything for who I was, who I am and who I might become; I’m in control of my life. These basic values have served me well personally and professionally thus far. The impact of this event has challenged these values to the core!
I do, however, put 100% full accountability on the Catholic Church, its leaders and clergy for the abuse I was subject to and the pain and suffering it has caused my family. What I also feel is much worse than blame or accountability and should be of concern to this institution. As much as I’ve attempted to put this issue behind me and move forward, the Catholic Church and everything it stands for has become increasingly irrelevant to me, and I don’t think I’m alone. Let me state unequivocally, this statement alone has been extremely bitter for me and most notably my Mother, Aunts, Uncles and good friends, all of whom have put their complete faith in this institution and its leaders. I’m sure my grandparents are rolling around in their graves to hear this statement of resentment towards their beloved Catholic Church!
Every time I read in the newspaper or hear on the news of innocent children being abused at the hands of “men of cloth,’ it just sickens me to the core. I don’t think this feeling will ever go away and is a perpetual and persistent reminder of my own abuse. In a recent interview with Peter Mansbridge from CBC’s National, a prominent Canadian Bishop stated in response to questions that abuse of innocent children is not just a Catholic problem but a human problem. What a relief for victims in knowing this and appeared to me as an attempt to minimize the systemic problems that exist within the Catholic Church! The extent of this abuse cannot be denied, silenced, or trivialized anymore. The deceit from the hands of people who claim to be ‘men of god’ is adding up each day unless drastic measures and actions are taken. It appears the Catholic Church has not been sufficiently motivated on their own to rid themselves of these abusers.
I appeal to the court to make a strong statement for all victims of abuse. I’m not going to pretend and say my life was in shambles because of this event, but I can promise you that my life changed forever on that one day. I can promise you my family and close friends have been deeply affected by this event. The entire Catholic institution has become increasingly irrelevant to me even though there are good God loving Catholic leaders out there. All I ask is that you (Court) do your best to imagine what it was like to me or any of the other direct victims of this type of abuse. I also ask that you imagine what it would be like to be the parent of a 9 year old who first learns that his/her child was abused by your community parish priest. Society and victims can no longer tolerate child abuse! The Catholic Church and its abusers need a strong message of deterrent and will put my trust in the legal system to do so.
In the bible, the Apostle Paul describes one of the churches during the latter days as being neither hot nor cold but rather lukewarm. In short, it is a church that is apathetic. The Lord is so dissatisfied with the church He declares, “Because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:6)
In the end, I believe you will be judged appropriately.
“Dieu et mon droit,” God is my law.