It’s rare to finish a book where you want to shake hands with the author, and give him a hug. Gerard Gorman recounts his abuse by pedophile priest Malachy Finegan during his first year at St Colman’s College, Newry, Co Down, in 1970. Brave, steadfast, dignified – words cannot do Gorman justice in sharing his story. –
Gorman writes poignantly that even if he had found the words to tell what had happened, his father was so deferential to the Catholic Church that: “I would be punished for lying about one of the anointed ones of God.” Now he has found his words.
It’s easy to see why Gorman was a vulnerable child. Home life looked good on the surface: house, car, family business, regular vacations. But her mother held everything together underneath; dealing with her father’s yo-yo personality, the physical abuse towards her and the children, her game.
St Colman’s added to Gorman’s trauma, recalling his fear of a place full of austere men in black. The only professor who seemed friendly was Finegan. Gorman remembers that he always reeked of cigarette smoke and often alcohol. Nonetheless, he and the other boys considered him a “friendly uncle”, even when Finegan walked into their dorm undressing.
Finegan would invite boys, including Gorman, into his quarters. Gorman’s memory is heartbreaking: “There were things on the walls, but I can’t remember exactly what. When things changed, I spent an awful lot of time looking down.
The first time he was honored he was 11 years old: “When I met him next”, writes Gorman, “he was no different than usual”.
Money for candy or a gift would follow the abuse. Easter 1971 was the last time Finegan abused Gorman; he left for the parish of Newry for a spell before returning to school. Gorman’s story doesn’t end there, of course. Finegan became president of the college and died in 2002.
A change of school sees Gorman’s story move forward, but life did not improve for him, and inside of him was a door he dared not approach. The final part of the book sees him gradually opening that door through therapy and seeking justice in the civil courts, with a settlement reached in 2017. His book will give courage to others.