Father Henry Maloney was recognized by the Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church parishioners and most others in the Bancroft community as a caring and community minded person. He often stepped out of his role as a priest to advocate for his community in his 29 years in Bancroft.
He is credited with helping bring telephone service to the town. He and his brother, James, then Ontario Minister of Mines, helped reopen the Faraday/Madawaska Mine after personally lobbying Prime Minister John Diefenbaker which secured a federal contract for uranium.
Father Maloney died in 1986, but his legacy lived on.
Unfortunately, for one 17-year old parishioner (in 1973) the above legacy belies Father Maloney’s true nature.
For this young man the local priest was a sexual predator who ruined his life, changing it from one of exceptional success in music, academics, hockey, track and home life. It lead him into a life of emotional distress, depression and suicidal ideation that tainted his relationships to the point of divorce, separation from his children, a checkered employment history and issues with his chosen church and with authority.
That man will be 60 years old this month and in May of this year he finally received some degree of justice after the settlement of his civil case against the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of The Diocese of Pembroke in Ontario. He is now free to tell his story and it is his hope that others this same priest may have victimized will know they will be believed, that counselling can help them and speaking up can bring closure, but not complete healing.
The preparation of his Statement of Claim (filed on July 3, 2012) took two years beginning with his second round of counselling and a lengthy and stressful deposition. The matter was ultimately resolved in April of this year to the satisfaction of all parties with any financial component deemed confidential.
That statement of claim asked for $1.5 million in compensation. Since Maloney had died the case centred on the diocese. The allegations against it included “vicarious liability” as the employer of the priest, with eight items as evidence of that allegation. It alleged the diocese was significantly negligent for not protecting the plaintiff, for failing to act on information of Maloney’s treatment of the plaintiff after he informed a church official in 2005. There were a total of 18 items as evidence of the alleged negligence. It also alleged multiple instances of sexual abuse by the priest.
This is Mike Fitzgerald’s story that came to the attention of The Bancroft Times this past July through his lawyer Robert Talach of Beckett Injury Lawyers of London, Ontario.
Fitzgerald was raised in a large Roman Catholic family in Hastings Highlands. He describes his childhood years on the family farm as “magical” but his life began to change at the age of 17.
Asked why he wanted to tell his story, he said, “I’ll use an analogy. I have been carrying a refrigerator on my back for 43 years and telling you this story is like tossing that fridge in the dump.
It's my sincere hope that someone in my predicament would see this story and it would give him the courage to speak up. The courage to seek help and speak up. I do suspect there are others out there.
"The empowering thing is some good may come of this.
"I find it remarkable that only two victims have come forward so far and in between those two is a 25 year gap. Pedophiles are not curable, so what has happened in those 25 years? From 1973, in my case, back 1948 in Golden Lake, are there only two cases involving this same diocese and by the same priest? It's most suspicious at this point."
Fitzgerald was referring to the recent statement of claim filed by a 77- year-old man who has made similar allegations against the diocese and indicated his allegations of sexual abuse were perpetrated by Father Maloney. This case was known to Fitzgerald's lawyers before his negotiated settlement was concluded.
The local victim continued, “If someone else is carrying this load, I hope he can get rid of it. That's kind of a fantasy because you don't get rid of it, you just learn how to carry it better. I learned that through counselling and it continues even now and probably for the rest of my life. First, the counselling was in Bancroft in 2003 after my separation from Susan (his first wife). That lasted about one and a half years, initially, until 2005.
"It was 2005 when I met with a church official at the rectory. I was working in Toronto and my anger was acute then and I know now that I was wallowing in it. I sort of sensed I had not been successful at counselling. "I told him everything and I asked him to investigate my claims against Father Maloney. I also asked him to deal with any other cases like mine. I asked him to call me back and he said he'd investigate and call me. I never heard from him again.
"That was very disturbing and I was pretty down after that.
"Now I feel nothing but pity for Maloney. I didn't know he had died in 1986. I heard about that in the mid 1990s. No, I don't think it was a missed opportunity. I don't think I would have harmed him, physically, but I'd certainly have had something to say to him.
"In 1973 I planned a suicide. I used to drive him to Haliburton, after he said mass in Bancroft. He’d say mass there and we’d have lunch at his friend’s house. She was a very kind woman and I think she knew what was going on.
"There is a sharp turn by a lake on that road near a rock cut. I remember thinking that if I hit that rock cut we'd both be dead. I sped up, but at the last second I chickened out. I thought I was a coward. That was not Mike Fitzgerald, that was Mike wanting relief. I remember saying prayers before this, like I can't do this anymore.
"Then back on the straight road I had a whole range of emotions on the drive back because I knew it (the abuse) would start all over again.
“His favourite saying was, 'It's time to play. God's work is done and it's time to play.'”
"Then the clock would stop.”
"He was a mean old man with a grossly inflated image of himself. If I saw a bottle of red wine come out I knew what was coming. When he wanted sex the wine came out and he made me have a glass with him." Fitzgerald's early experience with the priest began a year before the teenager moved into the rectory.
He recalled, "The 'grooming' began then. David Kelly (now deceased), a Protestant and a teacher at the senior elementary school, approached me at the high school. He asked if I'd be the organist for the choir that he and Maloney were starting at the church. I remember telling him I had no way to get to the practices. He said he'd talk to Maloney.
"I told Maloney I didn't have a driver's licence and he said, 'Don't worry young man the police in this town will never stop this car.' And they never did. In fact, one in particular always looked the other way when I drove by. They were parishioners and they were afraid of him. He strutted around town like he owned it.
"I used the car four or five times for the rest of the school year.
Sometimes I'd have dinner at the rectory and that's when the hugs started, usually from behind me. It was awkward but I put up with it because I got to drive his Chrysler Newport. I'd drive it home, bring it back to the church in the morning and walk to school. I recognize it as grooming now.
"In March of '73 he called me into the rectory and said he and Dad had decided I should move into the rectory and become a priest. That startled me because I had no such ambitions. Dad had only spoken briefly to me about this before. He asked if I could be a priest and I said 'No'. But in those days families wanted one child to be a priest and Dad's sister was a nun." At this time Fitzgerald said he was trying to gain acceptance from his father who, he said, had been disappointed two years earlier when he did poorly at Bobby Orr's hockey camp. He respected his father who had hoped he would make it to the NHL.
Fitzgerald continued, "Maloney said, 'Let's just see how it works out.' The next day I moved in. Now for a 17-year-old it opened up a whole new social circle because living in town I got to go to all the school dances."
The boy was given a guest room in the rectory but the next week his clothes had been moved into the priest's bedroom.
According to Fitzgerald, Maloney told him, "You're going to sleep with me, it will be all right."
He recalled, "I was very self-conscious and started wearing underwear under my pajamas. The groping and hugging continued in the kitchen while I was cooking for him. His voice changed to this sick, syrupy tone saying the dinner smelled 'yummy'.
"I'd stand for it because it was either that or hit him. I couldn't hit him because he was God's representative in town. I was terrified. He had power and a powerful family and I know he had money. I couldn't tell anyone. So I'd just freeze.
"Later, when I got into counselling, Dr. Conn said at that time I didn't want to acknowledge the reality of it all.
Fitzgerald's disturbingly detailed account told of how the sexual advances escalated in bed when all he could do was pretend to be asleep.
"I think in August of that year was the first real sex act," he said in a quivering voice.
Fitzgerald detailed with great difficulty this event and three more incidents of anal rape, but "rape" was not a word he could bring himself to say over three interviews with The Times. He also noted that regular failures by the priest to be physically satisfied caused him to curse and take the Lord's name in vain.
On the occasions when the priest's brother, high powered lawyer Arthur Maloney or other siblings visited, Fitzgerald's clothes were always moved into a guest room. Bishop Windle and other priests from Pembroke regularly visited and the same ruse to hide the truth was used.
"I felt then that they knew what was going on, but I couldn't tell them," Fitzgerald said.
Finally in the spring of 1974, the 18-year-old left the rectory one night and never returned to school where his good grades had dropped over the previous year. He hid out for three months in a one-man tent bought with money he borrowed from a cousin. He camped in the bush behind the old pressure treating plant in Bancroft.
Part 2 Next Week
Published on September 30, 2015