There is an expectation by the general public that priests are not only the disciples of the Lord on earth but that their behaviour is beyond reproach; after all they are the shepherds of the flock! So James Miller’s transfer to St Pius X catholic secondary college in 1978 should have been a positive move for a lively, gifted student, as the school leadership consisted of catholic priests. This was not the case. Unfortunately this move was to change the course of his life forever. St Pius X was not the place of trust and healthy discipline that James’s mother had hoped; sadly, instead it was a school where sexual abuse of students was at best ignored and at worst denied.
In James Miller’s book ‘The Priests’ he recounts firstly his life at St Pius X catholic college in the outer Newcastle suburb of Adamstown; He describes his resultant adult life which followed the sexual abuse which he suffered at the hands of the principal Thomas Brennan, a catholic priest at this school.
Although he became a successful, highly regarded lawyer, who had a delightful wife and a life style which was the envy of many, his inner turmoil, as a result of the abuse, lead him to become homeless and suffering with severe mental health issues. His wife’s family relationship to Brennan caused the author great anguish and prevented him from disclosing the abuse to her. He often met his abuser at family functions. Finally this inability to share his dark secret destroyed his marriage and prevented him from having a meaningful, healthy relationship with other women.
The book explains what happens to children who can’t talk about their abuse. Although their lives may appear both successful and fulfilled to the casual observer, more often than not their lives are unravelling and these victims, as in the case of the author, are suffering from periods of self-doubt and loathing.
Miller’s story is typical of survivors of child sexual abuse; it is a powerful, gripping personal story of an articulate, educated man. The book also explores the reasons as to why, when ‘everyone knew’ that there was a problem with child sexual abuse at some of Newcastle’s catholic schools, very little was done either by the police or the church to prevent it from happening.
Although this is not a comfortable, enjoyable book to read, it is a must for those who ask the question, “Why is it that after 30 or more years victims are still coming ‘out of the woodwork’ to tell their story?”
|Author||James M Miller|