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Beyond Belief: Abused by his priest, betrayed by his church, the story of the boy who sued the pope [Paperback]

Colm O'Gorman

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Book Description

May 12 2010

The inspiring true story of a man who moved on from a background of shame to sue the Roman Catholic Church over its systematic cover-ups of child abuse scandals involving its priests—and won


"I was living in a world where a priest who spoke the words of God used me for sex, and there was no one to tell. The world where this horror happened didn't exist for anyone else."


As a boy in Ireland where everyone—from his own neighbors to the powers of church and state—chose to deny that a priest could sexually assault a child, Colm O'Gorman felt only shame, guilt, and fear at the regular rape and abuse he suffered. But Colm would go on to make history, successfully suing the Roman Catholic Church, asking questions of the Pope himself, and creating a watershed in history as hundreds more victims around the world found the courage to report their abuse. This powerful story of a young man's shame turning to outrage demonstrates that, whatever our past hurts, there is hope for the future if we are prepared to stand for truth.

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"This is a book you simply have to read. It could change your life."  —Sunday Tribune

"Parts of his beautifully written book will reduce the reader to tears, especially his description of his relationship with his father. . . . His final paragraphs on forgiveness are pure poetry and deeply moving."  —Irish Times on Sunday

"A crucial document in the charting of a dark period in our history. It is also a story of bravery and survival, of strength and resilience, and will serve as an inspiration to many readers."  —Colm Tóibín, author, Brooklyn

About the Author

Colm O'Gorman founded the charity One in Four to support women and men who have experienced sexual violence. He is a former senator of the Irish Parliament and is now executive director of Amnesty International Ireland.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You just have to read this Nov. 26 2009
By John B. Fiddler - Published on
Colm O'Gorman took me briefly back to the exciting and secret Dublin in the Viking and the Hirschfeld center that I also knew. But other terrible 'secrets' I luckily never had to keep. But his story literally made me weep for my own life and his. I could not physically put the book down until I finished it although I was exhausted. Clearly and honestly told. Unsparing in its revelations. His story should be sickeningly familiar to many and remains heartbreakingly without a certain justice.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The title says it all April 15 2012
By Matthew Hosier - Published on
Colm O'Gorman was the man who sued the Pope and helped ignite the huge scandal that arose about sexual abuse committed by priests in Ireland. It is a shocking story.

The Ireland of O'Gormans childhood seems to have been inflicted with endemic child abuse. He recounts how as a small child he was abused by two men in his village, as well as by a teenage boy; however, the significance of these incidents recedes rapidly against the experience of prolonged abuse suffered at hands of Father Sean Fortune. Fortune was able to use his authority as a priest to gain control of O'Gorman and other boys, taking them to stay in his house whenever he wanted, without ever being questioned by the boys' parents.

O'Gorman tells the story of this abuse, his physical escape from it and finally emotional escape from it. Along the way he decided to speak publicly about what had happened, discovered that many others had gone through similar experiences, set up a charity (One in Four) that helps victims of abuse, and pursued a legal case and media campaign against Fortune and the Roman Catholic Church.

A number of things particularly stood out for me in this story...

The way that abusers are able to ensure the silence of their victims is remarkable. By transferring their own shame to those they abuse they can act with impunity. I have seen this myself in people who have been abused by family members, but it is all the more the case when the abuser has the authority of a priest in Catholic Ireland.

That priests had such authority in Ireland shows what can happen when there is no clear separation between Church and State. The Catholic Church really doesn't come out of this at all well, especially when it became apparent that Bishops were protecting priests who they knew were abusers, and continuing to place them in positions where they would be able to continue their abuse. When challenged, rather than showing the repentance that a church in error should, the Catholic Church threw up the defensive walls of a powerful institution, and did all it could to obstruct justice.

O'Gormans search for relationship with his father, and the effects abuse had upon this is also harrowing. Years later their relationship is at last restored, only for O'Gormans father to die ten months later. Very sad.

Having escaped from Fortune, O'Gorman ended up in first Dublin and then London, and lived on the streets at times - only surviving by exchanging his body for a bed and shower. The book ends positively enough with O'Gorman now at peace with himself, working as director of Amnesty International in Ireland. A measure of justice for the victims of abuse has been achieved and the Catholic Church has finally put better child protection procedures in place. But there aren't really any winners in this. It is all just horrible.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truely Beyond Relief Aug. 4 2010
By Aether - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
What a brave and sad story! I cannot believe that the Roman Catholic church 'got away' with what they did to generations of 'the faithful'. This story can be told by many people all over the world and it was not just Ireland that suffered under the abuse (as we now know). I am reminded of being educated in Christian Brothers schools in Australia and suffering at the hands of the sadistic so called "Christian" Brothers who beat us, abused us and made us feel insignificant and worthless. I am pleased to see the demise of the Christian Brothers Order in Australia and the fact that they can no longer practice their particular brand of physical, emotional and spiritual cruelty.
I never suffered sexual abuse but I have empathy with those who did and I can only imagine how difficult it must be for them to come to terms with the betrayal by the church, the authorities and their parents. I don't think financial compensation can satisfy the anger of the victims. Looking forward, I am disappointed with the official line taken by the church - I am not sure the hierarchy are really sorry; I think they have been found out and have apologised because they have to. Nothing changes! Books like this help others who have suffered realise they they were/are not alone. Those responsible then and now have a lot to answer for. This book should be compulsory reading so that what happened can never happen again.
5.0 out of 5 stars Suing the Pope April 25 2013
By June Morley - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Good for Colm telling his harrowing story. Sorry about his battle but hopefully this will make the Catholic Church sit up & take notice, tho I doubt it.
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking Story of Abuse and Recovery Dec 7 2012
By Melanie Z. - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Deeply disturbing and powerful, this book made me at times very sad and very angry, and also very moved. There were times when tears came to my eyes as I read about O'Gorman's struggle to find peace after his abuse. I have read books about priest sexual abuse before, so I was familiar with the lengths that the Catholic Church has gone to hide abuse and shelter pedophile priests, so that was not a shock, but its still something that can horrify me. I liked that this book was not just about the court case, but also about O'Gorman's recovery. We follow him on his journey to heal, and see how he manages to rise above the abuse. Because of that, it was a very emotional and inspirational read. O'Gorman has done so much good with his life, and I want to learn more about the documentary and his charity now

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