I have never been in the military and have never engaged in armed combat.
But I suffer from some PTSD that goes back to 1978 – 1983 – the time I sent in St. Peter’s parish on the Belfast Fals Road.
Occasionally I wake up in the middle of the night shouting and shaking. Last Monday night was one of those nights.
People staying in the house have heard my nocturnal shouts.
In my scary dreams I am back in the presbytery and various things are happening.
I am back in my bedroom and two drunk priests are outside in the corridor, kicking my door and regaling me with songs that might come from Rugby changing rooms.
Or I am in the kitchen having a meal with the housekeeper and a priest is shouting “I thought I told you not to feed tramps here”.
Or I am the ground in the dining room and a priest is kicking me.
Or I am in a priests room discussing a possible pastoral project that he opposes. I ask him what Jesus would think. He replies “How dare you drag the fucking Word of God into this”.
Or I am praying in the cathedral and two priests are on the altar making masturbatory motions at me.
Or I am sweeping the street outside the presbytery and two priests are at the window laughing and giving me two finger salutes.
This PTSD does not affect my ordinary everyday life but it makes those occasional nights very deeply unpleasant.
There is domestic abuse in presbyteries too!
Why have I been affected like this?
First of all I was a young priest, believing in the essential goodness of priests and what was happening to me contradicted what I deeply believed.
Secondly, I was working hard with and for the parishioners and my ministry was so intensely resented.
Thirdly, being from Dublin I had no local family and friends and the experience was so isolating.
And what made things worse, no one believed me, not fellow priests, not parishioners and certainly not the bishop.
You only really get to know these guys when you live with them and observe how they operate closely.
And you really expose their vicious side when you challenge them in any way.
Wait to see the clerical response I will get to this piece today.
They will say it was I who was the abuser, not the others.
They will say I am lying.
They will say I’m not right in the head.
And God knows what else they will say.
That will be further clerical abuse. But then they are experts at abuse, are they not.
No priest every sexually abused me.
But a number of them abused me physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
They say I am anticlerical.
I wonder why?