Catholic crisis: child abuse victim speaks out
Updated on 12 September 2010
In an interview in Antwerp on Saturday, 65 year old San Deurinck, a retired shopkeeper, described to Foreign Affairs correspondent Jonathan Rugman what he had endured as a child at a Catholic boarding school in the 1950s and 1960s.
San also gave his testimony to the Adriaenssens enquiry on child abuse within the church, which published its findings on Friday.
His testimony was so powerful that I have transcribed most of it here. San only started talking about his abuse this year, and I salute his extraordinary bravery in sharing his experience. (Reader warning: this text contains some graphic allegations).
"It started in the first two months of school, just before my 12th birthday. It started with two priests. The first priest tried to touch my genitals, which was extremely strange to me, and he hurt me once. It was a few days before I went home and he hurt me very very much.
The first year it was really intense. Then after three years, when I became a little older, they weren't interested any more. I was getting extremely rebellious because then I started realising what had happened. Because when I was sexually not active, I didn't know what they were interested in.
I wasn't the only member of my family who was abused. My younger brother told my mother he was abused...three weeks before she went into a retirement home, she begged for my forgiveness.
There must have been many (victims). It was common knowledge, like part of the corporate culture of the school. It was daily life. When the priest came in the playground, people would make jokes about it, sing songs about it. He would say "come to my room" and everybody started laughing.
Some priests disapproved of it but they did not speak about it. I have known at least two cases of boys who got a thrashing - split lip, closed eyes and nose bleeding, because they said "no". I was extremely frightened.
You didn't talk about it. The Catholic sub-culture forbids people to talk about the priests. A priest is God. I was 100 per cent sure I wanted to be in the statistics (of the Adriaenssens report into church abuse).
So I wrote a letter. The first time I started writing about it (in March 2010), it gave me an enormous emotional breakdown. I thought I should not give the names of the perpetrators. I was afraid it would give the Church the occasion to cover up the whole thing.
I got rid of the Church, I became an arrogant freethinking atheist, but I was not rid of the abuse or of the influence of the Church.
The second victim is the relationship with your parents. And trusting people is extremely difficult.
Many times I feel I make the wrong choices. I trust people I should not trust and I don't trust people I should trust. Also there is insomnia. When I have a night of four hours' sleep that is a good night. It is amazing what they have done to people.
They have been trained not to see the bad things of the Church. And now they are confronted with bad things, they don't see it. They try to guess how they should manage this and "manage" means no damage to the Church. If (the Pope) is serious, he should sell the Pieta of Michelangelo to the Chinese and give money to the victims: it is very, very simple. So people can make something of the last years of their life.
A new leaf can only begin when they repent and confess. And confess means open up all their archives. The Pope should force everyone to come forward with information, and he should change the vision of priests from sinners to criminals.