ABC’s Revelation: Sort of a #MeToo

I watched in amazement the episode on Revelation (ABC, Monday, 17 March 2020) – St Patrick’s Day.

Father Vincent Ryan was breathtakingly psychopathic in his description of countless crimes against young boys – quibbling certain minor points, as though they somehow mattered – while blithely admitting the most appalling acts, and strategies in support of those acts – against the vulnerable children he’d specifically targeted.

And by the end of the episode, despite all the dreadful things he’d admitted, he still somehow seemed to be claiming some sort of exculpation. The final scene of him continuing to say mass – even in private – was utterly obscene and underscored better than anything I’ve seen before or since the way the Catholic church STILL doesn’t understand the depth of their own evil. Not the actions of their priests, nor the cover ups of their superiors, nor the obfuscation and delaying tactics of their legal representatives.

It really is a kind of Orwellian double-think the way the church can admit the wrongs of its priests while simultaneously defending itself in every way it legally can, and diluting the individual crimes through weasel words, smoke and mirrors.

While watching this outrageous catalogue of perversion in the name of Christ, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my own story.

It’s a story I wasn’t even properly aware of until about five years ago, and involves a recovered memory.

I am (I hope) a sensitive, empathic individual. I’m also a lawyer, with a special interest in criminal law.

I am aware of the concept of recovered memories, but like many, I couldn’t help, in the past, have a slight suspicion of such claims. They can seem a tad convenient, to the cynical, when only raised decades after the fact.

But now I know they really are thing, because it happened to me, like this:

I was at a party at my sister’s place in (approx.) 2014. We’d been going some hours and I’d had a lot to drink, and I found myself chatting to a fairly nice chap called Tony.

We were chatting away nicely until he mentioned the Catholic church. For some reason it just set me off and I started getting obstreperous.

Tony tried valiantly to calm me down, and I knew I was being a bit of a dickhead, but I couldn’t help it.

He mentioned George Pell (who was head of the Australian church and just about to be promoted to the Vatican) and that really got me angry.

‘Fuck George Pell!’ I shouted.

Tony tried to assuage me, like he was trying to appease a knife-wielding maniac, but I was unstoppable. I railed against Pell like he was the devil incarnate – even though I’d never met him.

Tony was (perhaps unwisely) trying to calm me down and told me his aunty worked for George Pell and that he wasn’t a bad bloke.

‘Fuck your aunty!’ I shouted, and Tony finally gave up on me and walked away. After all, I was obviously a complete fuckwit.

The next day, my brother in law rang and said: ‘Boy, you gave it to poor Tony last night.’

I had totally forgotten the incident and cringed with embarrassment as I recalled my appalling (if very pissed) behaviour.

‘Oh jeez…please apologise to Tony for me,’ I pleaded. ‘I don’t know what came over me.’

I was absolutely horrified by what had happened and genuinely confused as to what had inspired it. I reflected on the matter for a few days, and suddenly the following scene exploded in my brain.

I was transported back to being about 14 years old.

It was the end of a holiday in Port Stephens (in the Newcastle diocese, I note) and before we left, my mother insisted we all go to confession. (I’m guessing it was just before Easter.)

When it was my turn to enter the little closet, the priest asked me about my sins, and like most innocent young boys I made up the usual lies:

‘I’ve told four hundred lies and erm…’

‘What else?’ he asked.

‘Erm…I don’t know.’

‘There must have been other things…’

‘Probably…I’m not sure,’

‘What about impure thoughts?’

‘Eh?’

‘Impurity…have you been touching yourself?’

The interrogation continued as I obstinately refused to understand and engage with his questions. Then, I became aware of this odd rustling sound and glanced through the gauze screen.

The priest’s arms were under his robes and moving rhythmically.

I don’t remember any more.

I think, but I don’t know, that I immediately got up and left the confessional.

What I know for sure is that about that time I told my very Catholic mother that I was never going to church again.

She tried to guilt me into going – in the age old Catholic tradition, but I refused point blank, and I have always since been a most devout atheist.

To be honest, I think I was always an atheist – belief in god had always struck me as absurd – mainly because it was pretty obvious that no-one around me lived their lives as though they truly believed. They said they did, but their actions never bore that out. Not really.

That repressed memory stayed repressed for almost forty years.

And my anger arced up again watching that fucking Revelation show on Tuesday night.

Those poor chaps, whose lives were utterly ruined by that cunt of a priest, Ryan, and the arrogant shits who protected him – including Pell.

I got off fucking lightly.

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