To be a voice for victims of clerical sexual abuse, Father Brendan McGuire realized he had to come to terms with the abuse he suffered at the hands of a priest when he was 18. It was a secret he had held for 35 years.
He told the story of his abuse in a homily delivered at five weekend Masses Sept. 8-9 at Holy Spirit Church in San Jose, California, where he is pastor.
In a Sept. 18 interview with Catholic News Service, McGuire said that although he always writes his homilies for distribution via email and social media, it was the first time he read it word for word from the pulpit so he wouldn’t overlook anything he wanted to say.
Parishioners responded with “thunderous applause” at two Masses and “three standing ovations” at the others – atypical post-homiletic behavior, he said.
Since the homilies, McGuire said, he has heard from 45 men who told him they also had been abused. Five of the men were priests, he added, and four of those had been abused while they were seminarians.
“One man was 95 years old. He’d been holding it for 60-plus years, 70-plus years,” the priest said. “I thought 35 was a lot.”
Growing up in Bray, Ireland, near Dublin, McGuire said he first met his priest-abuser when he was 14, and did not recognize the four years of “grooming” by the priest for his “final play,” with the priest saying during the attack that he had waited until young McGuire had turned 18 “so it wouldn’t be child abuse.”