Beyond Belief: Abused by his priest, betrayed by his church, the story of the boy who sued the pope Paperback – May 12 2010
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'[This] is 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 Toibin
[This] compelling memoir is wonderfully well-written, brilliantly paced and will surely be made into a film...This is a book you simply have to read. It could change your life...It is the memoir of a man whose courage and timing ultimately made the difference. With this book, he continues that mission by rescuing the story of child sexual abuse from media fatigue to make it compelling, relevant and current once again.―Sunday Tribune
This is the most important and moving story to come out of Ireland in many years. It shows how the gentle will inherit the earth.―Anne Enright
a powerful and moving story and Colm tells it so articulately in print and interview.―ABC Radio, National Life Matters
a chilling account of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests... Colm went on to successfully uncover the past and change the future with the first Irish inquiry into clerical sexual abuse and sue the Roman Catholic Church - forcing it to admit failing to protect its children. *****―Manly Daily
One of the most inspiring and dignified voices heard in Ireland in recent times. He has triumphed over sexual abuse.―Mary Robinson, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and former President of the Republic of Ireland.
I doubt you will read a more moving memoir this year than Beyond Belief...Parts of his beautifully written book will reduce the reader to tears, especially his description of his relationship with his father. It is this story - so typical of the dysfunctional communications some Irish fathers had with their sons a generation ago - that forms the other pillar upon which this valuable tome rests. His final paragraphs on forgiveness are pure poetry and deeply moving.―Irish Times on Sunday
Few men have made such an extraordinary personal journey... I have interviewed several sufferers of systematic sexual abuse, but Colm, almost uniquely, doesn't come across as a victim. Nor is he self-conscious or bitter.―Daily Telegraph
Compelling and moving. He is a very rare and clearsighted person to whom we owe a great deal.―Books Ireland
Beyond Belief is both shocking and inspirational, evoking the terrible loneliness of the abused child before channeling the adults frustration, anger and passion for the truth. Excellent.―RTE Guide
...inspirational and moving.―Sunday Independent
...a riveting account of his own abuse and his battle with the Church -- and he's a very good writer, which helps. It seems certain to be a bestseller.―Irish Independent
...a determined and fluent individual who has turned the trauma of his life into an extraordinary form of empowerment. O'Gorman transcends much of his terrible anger and brings some sense of resolution to what was, and is, a dark period in the story of modern Ireland.―Irish Times
(Colm) is a charismatic man, his words tumbling with the speed and lyrical cadence so typical of the Irish, yet so polished, so wholly formed in thought, that the deeply felt passion of it packs the punch of an evangelical preacher.―Scotland on Sunday
About the Author
Colm O'Gorman founded the charity One in Four to support women and men who have experienced sexual violence. Prior to that he worked as a therapist in private practice in London. He is a former Senator of the Irish Parliament and is now Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland. In 1998 he sued the Roman Catholic Church over its systematic cover-ups of child abuse scandals involving its priests, and won. He lives in County Wexford with his family.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.