I can’t think of many things that would be quite as devastating to a young boy as this.
A priest who died in 2002, without ever being prosecuted for child sex abuse despite 12 separate allegations against him, reportedly told a 10-year-old altar boy he would “ruin” him if he decided to speak out about the assaults.
Father Malachy Finnegan had been investigated for abusing at least a dozen victims, including at least one to whom his church paid a settlement. Among the victims that didn’t get justice was Sean Faloon, who is now in his thirties.
Faloon, who is now speaking out for the first time, says he never filed a formal complaint against the priest because he wanted to live a normal life and didn’t feel capable of handling a court case. That’s exactly what predators like Finnegan count on.
The abuse began in 1989 and continued for eight years, according to Faloon, who said hugs turned into kisses and then into “full sexual contact.”
Mr Faloon said Fr Finnegan would call at his house after Mass and tell his parents he needed Sean to help him “lift boxes from the wardrobe, because he was too old to lift them himself”.
“He told me if I ever came out about what was going on, or told anybody, it would ruin me for the rest of my life,” said Mr Faloon.
“People would look at me and talk about me differently, and it would affect all aspects of my life so we had to keep it secret.
“I was too frightened to not do as I was told.”
Faloon never filed a formal complaint, but he didn’t keep the abuse a total secret, either. He told his doctor at the age of 17, and the physician arranged for counselling to help him deal with the abuse.
The doctor then told Faloon’s family, as well as the police. He wanted the authorities to know in case someone else reported the same thing, and his account could corroborate theirs. (Smart move!)
“I wanted to deal with normal 17-year-old life,” [Faloon] said.
“I didn’t want the pressure burdening my family, so I just simply made the police aware of what had been going on.
“More than anything else, so if anyone else reported it that they had that to back it up.”
Faloon also told Francis Brookes, who was at that time the Bishop of Dromore. Unfortunately, that only made matters worse because he was offered religious counseling and then told God would forgive him.
I repeat: they said God would forgive Faloon, the victim of intense sexual abuse for years at the hands of a fatherly religious figure.
During the second last meeting with the nun, Mr Faloon says she told him that “given time, God will forgive you”.
“It stayed with me, and angers me and my family to this day what she said,” explained Mr Faloon.
He’s right to be angry. He was sexually abused by someone who was supposed to be a caring authority figure. Then, instead of prosecuting the priest, they blamed the victim. They let the priest get away with hurting even more young boys, and now none of them will ever be able to get true justice.
I wish I could say I’m surprised, but it’s getting harder and harder to feel that these days.
(Image via Shutterstock)