Priest Tells Of Sex Abuse Horror

A Fermanagh-based priest has explained why he has written an account of the sexual abuse he suffered as a child and while training for the priesthood.

Newspaper columnist and broadcaster Father Brian D’Arcy said he included the details in his memoir to help other abuse victims.

“If I hadn’t got counselling to deal with it in a healthy way it probably would have destroyed me,” he said.

He said it was only years later he was able to “deal with the stigma”.

In his book, A different Journey, Father D’Arcy revealed he was sexually abused as a 10-year-old boy by a religious brother at his school in Omagh.

It happened again seven or eight years later by a priest while he was studying for the priesthood at Mount Argus in Dublin.

Father D’Arcy, who broadcasts a weekly programme on BBC Radio Ulster, said the fact he had been abused leaked out about a decade ago, after he spoke about it confidentially.

He subsequently admitted it to a newspaper, but was unhappy about it being used in a “head-line grabbing way”.

But he said: “To deny it would indicate that I was to blame for it and it’s just part of the dealing with abuse in the proper way.

“It’s a short part of the book, only two pages. It’s the simple fact of the matter that it did happen.

“And it has changed my life and it does give me some insight to be able to say that the way the church… in particular and society also has dealt with abuse is not something we can be proud of. It is something we should be drastically ashamed of.”

Father D’arcy, now a rector of the Passionist Monastery at the Graan in Enniskillen, told the BBC’s Sunday Sequence programme it was only years after the first instance of abuse when he was able to comprehend the “horror and the effect of it”.

As a child with a religious and moral upbringing, he said the childhood abuse had an “an awful affect on my life.”

“The one in Mount Argus was even worse,” he said. “I was a young man, I should have known better. But I was a very naive, 17 or 18 year old at the time.

“If I had said it to anybody at that time, I probably would not be a priest today.

“I would have been sent home. You suppress these sort of things, just to get through.

“I always wanted to be a priest…. therefore the whole thing of dealing with it became very, very difficult.”

In his book, Father D’Arcy writes: “Thank God, I have been able to cope with the trauma, but only when I shared the experience with professionals.

“For most of my life I was ashamed even to think about it, let alone speak about it. I convinced myself that it never happened at all.

“There are days when I am still disappointed with myself when I reflect on how I irrationally suppressed the abuse. I am learning to be more forgiving though.

“That was the key for me. As soon as I realised that I wasn’t to blame, that I couldn’t have prevented it and that I was used and abused simply because I was vulnerable, innocent and gullible, I was able to talk about it and start on a road to healing that will probably continue for the rest of my life.”

Father D’Arcy, who has been a critic of the institutional church, said he now feel he can use the abuse in a “good way”.

“I can be a voice for those who are abused – in a kind way,” he said.

“Not by highlighting my own abuse, because relatively speaking, it is minor abuse. But just to say: ‘Look you really must understand what it is like to be abused and unless you try to do that, you can’t deal with it effectively.”