Saturday, February 5, 2011

2 brothers
Unsettled lives

Father James Hickey — File Photo
Published on February 5, 2011
Published on February 5, 2011
Steve Bartlett
The Telegram Brothers sexually abused by James Hickey want claims settled
Topics : Alberta , Newfoundland
Two brothers sexually assaulted by Father James Hickey say they’ve lost enough of their lives and they’re filled with rage because their claims against the church remained unsettled.

The men, now in their 40s, were abused by Hickey more than 30 years ago and filed suits against the Archdiocese of St. John’s over two decades ago.

“I just want it over,” said the younger sibling, who’s now 44. “I just want it dealt with so I can get on with my life. It’s been too God damn long without a life.”

The brothers’ identities are being withheld. They contacted the paper after reading a Weekend Telegram story about the dozen unsettled claims against Hickey.

The high-profile priest pleaded guilty to 20 charges of sexual assault, gross indecency and indecent assault involving teenage boys in September 1988.

He was sentenced to five years in jail, and died in 1992 at the age of 59.

Interviewed separately on the phone from Alberta, the brothers said they are fed up with waiting and reliving what happened every day.

“I’m so frustrated I can’t even deal with life, honest to really God,” the younger sibling said.

“I really can’t deal with it. I don’t know what’s going to happen from one day to the next.”

Both brothers said it’s good they don’t live in St. John’s, because they fear they’d do something regrettable if they did.

“I avoid the place like the plague,” said the oldest, who’s 47.

The brothers were abused by Hickey during their pre-teen and early teenage years in a rural Newfoundland community.

The youngest said Hickey would even pick him up at their family home and take him to St. John’s for the weekend.

“If a priest asks your parents if you can go on a trip, they say, ‘Go, go, go,’” he said.

“They don’t know anything about (the abuse), and you’re afraid to tell them.”

The siblings didn’t know they were both victims until the legal proceedings began.

After living with what happened for so long, they say cash isn’t the main reason for wanting their claims settled.

They want to try to put the past behind them.

“I’ve never been concerned about money,” said the oldest, noting he hasn’t had a full night’s sleep in years.

“It’s just that this chapter of my life has got to get closure. (A settlement) would end a lot. It would bring it to an end, so it’s not hanging over my head, waking (me) up in cold sweats at night because of what that bastard did.”

“You just don’t get rid of it,” the younger brother said. “F--k, you dream about it. You go to sleep thinking about it. You wake up thinking about it.”

The elder of the two said Hickey’s perversions made him heavily dependent on drugs and alcohol for most of his adult life and led to numerous run-ins with the law and other personal problems.

“It’s been a struggle, I tell ya,” he said, adding he made a life decision two years ago and ended his substance abuse.

The younger brother hasn’t been as fortunate. He’s also had his share of troubles and remains an alcoholic.

“You think about (what happened) every day,” he says. “For over 30 years, I’ve been thinking about it. The only way I can’t think about is to f--king drink, to go to a different God damn place.”

The brothers said their loved ones have suffered a lot, too.

Archbishop Martin Currie, in response to the same article on Hickey’s victims, said this week there was nothing he wanted more than to settle the outstanding claims and help the victims get closure.

He explained there’s been a delay in settling the suits because the church has taken legal action against its insurer to secure compensation for the victims.

The brothers are so angry at the delay that they don’t buy that explanation and feel the church is trying to make itself look good.

They maintain their claims should have been dealt with long ago.

“Enough is enough,” said the younger brother.

Asked for a comment about the brothers’ concerns Friday, Currie expressed deep sorrow, compassion and concern for Hickey’s victims and their families and for the victims of anyone convicted of sexually abusing young people.

Currie said he regretted the slowness in the process and apologized to anyone who has been abused by a priest or church official.

“I wish that there was some way to adequately express the compassion I feel for you,” he wrote in an email.

“I wish that I could somehow move this process along more quickly. If the church has learned anything, it is how devastating and deep the effects of sexual abuse on the children and young people who suffer it are. I realize that even the passage of many years does not wipe away the memory of these terrible crimes. Your innocence, your childhood and in some ways your adulthood has been robbed from you.”

The archbishop said he is doing everything in his power to bring healing and restitution as quickly as possible.

Tom O’Reilly, the archdiocese’s legal counsel, said the litigation against the insurance company could resolve many of the outstanding claims.

“The archdiocese has purchased insurance. It has insurance coverage for this sort of thing, and they’re just extremely frustrated that the insurers haven’t carried out their obligations under the policy and resolved these things long ago.”

O’Reilly added that no one at the archdiocese is dragging their feet, and upwards of 30 claims have been resolved.

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