GABRIEL BYRNE has spoken of how he felt “ashamed and guilty” for many years after he was abused by a priest at the age of just 11.
The Usual Suspects star has opened up about the abuse in his new memoir, Walking With Ghosts, in which he recounts how he first moved from his family home in Dublin to St Richard’s College in Worcestershire to train for the priesthood.
In an abridged extract published by the Mail on Sunday, Byrne recalled how he was initially taken under the wing of a kind priest at the college.
Their relationship turned sinister, however, when that same priest molested him.
Recalling the night the clergyman first revealed his true intentions, Byrne wrote: “The priest’s breath was sour and hot as he moved toward me. Then there was blackness.
“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 jack-hammer, afraid of what’s buried in there."
The Miller’s Crossing actor reflected on how the incident haunted him in the years that followed with Byrne blaming himself for the incident in a response see all too often in abuse cases of this kind.
“For so long I blamed myself. Ashamed and guilty that I had done something wrong," he said.
Byrne was eventually asked to leave the seminary, aged 16, after failing to adhere to the strict rules, but the experiences and abuses he suffered there stayed with him.
According to the book, Byrne finally decided in 2002 to contact the priest who had abused him all those years ago. Incredibly, the clergyman couldn’t neither remember him nor the abuse he had inflicted on him.
“I wanted in those last seconds to call him a terrible word and say that even though I don’t believe in Hell, I hope he does, because I want him to be terrified and burn for ever. 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 of anything he’d done.”
Ultimately, Byrne’s time in the seminary helped him realise his true passion was not for the priesthood but for the performing arts.
He does still wonder how things might have been had he stayed the course.
“Even now I can’t help but imagine how different my life could have been had I remained on my once chosen path to the priesthood.”
Walking With Ghosts by Gabriel Byrne is published by Picador this Thursday November 12.