Gabriel Byrne Phoned the Priest He Accused of Sexually Abusing Him: ‘i Wanted Him to Be Terrified’
By Emma Kelly
January 13, 2021
|Byrne said the priest did not remember him (Picture: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)|
Gabriel Byrne called the priest he accused of sexually abused him in the hopes of confronting him. The actor opened up about the abuse he suffered as a young boy in the Catholic Church in 2011, alleging that a ‘kind’ priest sexually abused him after he travelled to an English seminary aged 11 to train as a priest. In his new memoir, Walking with Ghosts, the 70-year-old said that he called the priest, but that the man claimed not to remember him. According to Page Six, Byrne wrote: ‘I wanted in those last seconds to call him a c*** and say that even though I don’t believe in Hell, I hope he does because I want him to be terrified and burn forever. ‘But I said nothing. Some part of me did not want to hurt an old man with a kindly voice stuck in a retirement home who now had no memory of me or anything he’d done.’ The Usual Suspects star added: ‘Even years later, it feels like the night has been concreted over. I’ve been picking at it with a pin ever since, afraid to use a jackhammer, afraid of what’s buried in there.’
Byrne said in an interview with the New York Times that the priest has since died, and said: ‘We love to think there’s a resolution to these things, that that’s how to deal with trauma — “I confronted him; I dealt with it; I moved on”. ‘But that’s not necessarily true. I realised that there doesn’t have to be a resolution.’ Speaking in the 2011 RTE documentary The Meaning Of Life with the late broadcaster Gay Byrne, the actor, who grew up in Dublin, claimed that he had been sexually abused by the Christian Brothers in Ireland as a child. Byrne said: ‘Unfortunately, I experienced some sexual abuse. It was a known and admitted fact of life amongst us that there was this particular man, and you didn’t want to be left in the dressing room with him.
‘It took many years to come to terms with it and to forgive those incidents that I felt had deeply hurt me.’ He then claimed that when he travelled to England to train as a priest, he was sexually abused by a priest there, who offered him a cigarette in his dressing room. He said: ‘It didn’t go on over a prolonged period but it happened at a very, very vulnerable moment. ‘Again, I didn’t think it severely impacted me at the time. But when I think about my later life, and how I had difficulties with certain issues, there is the real possibility they could have been attributable to that.’ Byrne has been vocally critical of the Catholic Church, criticising Pope Francis for ‘doing nothing to address’ child sexual abuse, divorce and the role of women in the church, and expressing his anger that the church still ‘controls’ education in Ireland. The In Treatment star now lives in Maine in the US with his wife Hannah Beth King and their three-year-old daughter; he is also father to Jack, 32, and Romy, 28, with ex-wife Ellen Barkin.