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Last Updated: Friday, 5 December, 2003, 17:51 GMT
Priest reveals child abuse torment
Father McCafferty has spoken about his years of abuse
A Catholic priest who has served in Northern Ireland has revealed he was sexually abused during three periods of his childhood.

Father Patrick McCafferty, who has served in parishes in Lisburn, County Antrim, and in Belfast, said he had decided to speak out to give hope to other survivors.

He made the comments on Friday, a day after Catholic Primate Archbishop Sean Brady apologised for failures in the church over the issue of sex abuse.

Father McCafferty, 40, is one of the church's fiercest critics on how it has dealt with abuse scandals, but he has disclosed that his motivation stemmed from having been a victim himself.

"There's a huge amount of people out there who have similar experiences, and I took this step for their sake mostly, because I want to give hope to people and I want people to realise that it is possible to survive," he said.

"It's difficult.. only God helped me I would never have survived. I had a strong faith since I was very young."

Father McCafferty, the oldest of four children, was sexually abused by three unconnected people, over three separate periods as he was growing up.

He was abused by a female when he was just four-years-old, a male youth when he was six and later was sexually abused over a period of several years, by a man in a "position of trust".

He said those involved were all outside his family, but would not say if they had church connections.

He described himself as having been "vulnerable" during the periods of abuse.

"Suffice to say that when it was happening to me, it was like out of the body experiences, you were beside yourself looking at yourself," he said.

The one thing that has brought me happiness in my life is being in the priesthood and serving the people and God
Father Patrick McCafferty

He said he felt "locked in" and did not not talk to his family about what was happening until earlier this year.

"What strikes me most, when I think about myself as a small child, was bewilderment. Total confusion, I couldn't understand this stuff. I didn't talk about it, like so many of us, I never told anybody."

His torment over the years led him to contemplate suicide.

"Quite often over the years, it was unbearable, life was just torment. I thought it would have been easier not to be alive. I used to consider different scenarios.

"But my faith in God helped me."

He said he had begun to preach about his abuse to his parishioners after moving to the USA, where he received months of specialist counselling.

"It was a wonderful response, an amazing response. My main reason for going there was to get help with all this stuff. It was getting worse over the years and I knew I had to do something," he said.

Social impact

He said the abuse did not enter his head when he decided to become a priest.

"I was very drawn towards God from a very young age, I loved going to church. I loved being in the church.

"The one thing that has brought me happiness in my life is being in the priesthood and serving the people and God."

On Thursday, a report by the Irish Royal College of Surgeons examined the psychological and social impact of clerical child abuse.

The survey of almost 1,300 people in the Republic of Ireland revealed that 75% of those questioned felt the Catholic Church did not deal properly with the issue of sex abuse.

Archbishop Sean Brady, said the report made for "painful reading".

Irish sex abuse probe in crisis
04 Sep 03  |  Europe
Priest abuse victims speak out
29 Oct 02  |  Northern Ireland
Irish Catholicism in crisis
25 Oct 02  |  Europe

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