(Pixabay photo)

Rickter Scale: Brother Gary strikes again

The Rickter Scale is a weekly column

Rick Stiebel/Columnist

Fifty-five years later, I can still feel the scratch of his stubble and the smear of his spittle on my cheek.

Although the memories of Brother Gary and what he tried to do have dulled under the weight of decades passed, they still ooze to the surface occasionally from my personal quagmire of Catholic schooling buried deep within. Disturbing revelations of serial sexual abuse by 286 priests in Texas – suppressed for years until the end of January – act as a trigger that causes the spam-like files to crawl back into the inbox of my mind.

Even though he wasn’t one of my regular teachers at Father McDonald Memorial High School, I looked up to Brother Gary in every possible way. I had considered, at least as seriously as any 13-year-old altar boy on the brink of puberty can, to one day become a priest, Brother of the Sacred Heart or missionary, like the one who visited our home to regale me with tales of doing the Lord’s work in Africa.

READ MORE: Rickter Scale

Brother Gary approached me to help him sort books in the school library after school one day and suggested I give my parents a heads-up that I would be late for supper. After the school had cleared, including the last janitor emptying the trash cans in each class, I found myself trapped on the lap of his six-foot-four frame with no way to escape, the vice-like clamp of his arms coiled around me like a boa constrictor. Wracked with panic and a feeling of impending doom, I feigned submission just long enough to knock his glasses askew. He reached up to catch them, and I was out the nearest exit in a blink, running the entire mile all the way home. I can still picture the family all seated at the table and my mother retrieving my dinner covered in aluminum foil from the oven.

I never said a word about what happened, too rattled to even know where to begin. I did approach my homeroom teacher, Brother Emilio, a few days later in an effort to address the feelings of confusion, shame and guilt that were causing sleepless nights. The Catholic church lost another recruit for during the 15 or so minutes I listened to Brother Emilio, he defended Brother Gary’s behaviour implicitly, accused me of instigating what took place and said that I had perverted what was clearly a case of “paternal affection.”

I never served another Mass after that day and found myself fooling my father by slinking out the back door every Sunday as soon as the service started while he was distracted ushering the flock’s late arrivals to the few remaining seats.

And so once again I feel a sense of pity and anguish for the countless victims whose childhoods were savaged or destroyed by predatory criminals masquerading as clergy, this time in Texas. I was one of the luckier ones, but how many others are forced to relive the sordid details with no hope of simply shrugging it all away. Relief is fleeting at best, knowing it’s going to raise its ugly head again with the next news of systemic abuse in some other country.

Rick Stiebel is a semi-retired local journalist.

Just Posted

121st Victoria Day Parade takes over Douglas Street

Rainclouds don’t keep Victorians away from yearly parade

Saanich Police take down snake camera

Snake first seen in December 2018 has remained elusive

Search crews rescue kids, 6 and 7, stranded overnight on Coquitlam mountain

The father and two youngesters fell down a steep and treachorous cliff while hiking on Burke Mountain

Police-run Youth for Change and Inclusion camp bids fond farewell to tireless directors

Founder Sgt. Paul Brookes has run camp empowering youth and creating leaders for 16 years

Canadians not afraid to take the plunge for the second time

Most will wait almost five years before remarrying

VIDEO: Horseshoe pitching association appeals to Greater Victora youngsters

Youth horseshoe pitching club offers fun for all ages, says GVHPA

Facebook takes down anti-vaxxer page that used image of late Canadian girl

Facebook said that the social media company has disabled the anti-vaccination page

Search crews rescue kids, 6 and 7, stranded overnight on Coquitlam mountain

The father and two youngesters fell down a steep and treachorous cliff while hiking on Burke Mountain

Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

Leonard has 36 points as Toronto cuts Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-1

‘Teams that win are tight’: B.C. Lions search for chemistry at training camp

The Lions added more than 50 new faces over the off-season, from coaching staff to key players

Rescue crews suspend search for Okanagan kayaker missing for three days

71-year-old Zygmunt Janiewicz was reported missing Friday

B.C. VIEWS: Reality of our plastic recycling routine exposed

Turns out dear old China wasn’t doing such a great job

B.C. ferry stops to let black bear swim past near Nanaimo

Queen of Oak Bay brakes for wildlife in Nanaimo’s Departure Bay

Mother dead, child in critical condition after carbon monoxide poisoning at Shuswap campground

The woman was found unresponsive insider her tent and the youth was taken via air ambulance to hospital

Most Read