This is an old post from April 2009.  But it led to some correspondence with Mona Villarrubia and, with her permission, I reproduce our correspondence here.  Firstly to underline that the abuse of children by Catholic priests is only too real and secondly to show that, everywhere there is evidence of courage and dignity among those who have survived such abuse.  There have been comments on this blog that I am disrespectful to the church and the pope.  So please let me set the record straight:  I know and have personally met a number of great and spiritual souls who find a home within the Catholic Church both priests, nuns and brothers.  A nun has been one of my greatest friends.  However they are highly spiritually evolved people, not because of the Church but rather in spite of it.  I consider the church and its present pope to be completely pro-establishment and committed to what appear to be traditional and outmoded hierarchical models of governance, religous division (look at how Benedict is seen to be cashing in on the woman-priest debate in the Anglican communion), anti-feminist or even woman-hating in outlook and anything but a refuge and a champion of the poor.  In addition there is much evidence about the protection of paedophile priests and in some cases they have been transferred between areas thus ensuring their abuse continued.  

If you are affected by anything in this correspondence write to me and I'll put you in touch with organisations that can help.

From Mona Villarrubia:

I didn't want to post this on your blog...I wasn't sure it would be appropriate to do so.
This is my story re. the Downeys:
I was taken to visit Montford College as a small child by Fr. James Downey, a family "friend"; his brother, Br. Bernard Downey, was living and working at the College. I remember the chickens and a hatchery Br. Bernard showed me. Both men were child molesters; James Downey was also a rapist, I know this because he raped my mother.
I have been told by someone connected to the order that Bernard is currently serving his second sentence in a Belfast prison for sexual abuse of some kind; he has been thrown out of the order. Fr. James Downey is dead; he was never exposed as a criminal, to my knowledege. But a member of the order (off the record) described them both as "notorious."

I was one of their victims, as was my mother and one of my brothers. My abuse happened in the late 50's / early 60's. I was born in 1955. I remember one road trip with my sister who is four years younger than I. She was about 4 so I would have been about 8, and that would place it in 1962/3. But I know that abuse went on for years, at least until I was 11 -- when I reached puberty and decided I would never let him touch me again.

I am trying to connect with others so I can go to the church and get my mother some help. She is in a bad way, 82 years old and having flashbacks and nightmares. I think all the press coverage of the past couple of years brought it all up for the first time for her in a way that she could no longer sit on the memories. She has always remembered, even though she didn't believe me when I first told her about my abuse by Downey. There is no "recovered memory syndrome" here, but she has not spoken about it until the last 3 years. I began going "public" in 2002, with an article in America Magazine, September 16, "From Hurt to Healing." So that is where I am.

Sorry to bring such a distasteful topic to this site.

If you want to read about me, I have a blog: From Hurt To Healing: http://fromhurttohealing.wordpress.com. My article is on the site.

I am sorry if I have distressed you. Please know that I am not a "Catholic basher." I taught High School religion (in New Orleans) for 27 years; I have a divinity degree and a Masters in Religious Education. Until the last couple of years, being Catholic and having a religious faith were important parts of my survival. Right now I don't know where I stand re. God-Church-faith, and I am currently working in Administration in a Jewish synagogue. A great group of people and a female Rabbi! 
Sorry -- this is so much more than you wanted to know.


Dear Mona,
Firstly please do not apologise.  I admire your courage in being able to say so clearly what has happened to you-which naturally fills me with complete outrage.  I would be honoured to publish this correspondence on my blog with your permission because of the example your courage might give to anyone else who has experienced such abuse.

If you've read my blog posts you will realise that many catholics could be offended by my criticisms of the church but I do try and leaven this with a certain dry humour (pope in a mankini post for example!)

It is my contention that the Catholic Church is essentially anti-feminine and oppressive as an institution.  Jesus would last about 5 minutes in the Vatican-he'd be wanting to give all their gold to the poor!

In addition their protection of the many child sexual abusers in their fold incriminates them as an institution.  I ran out of respect for the church many years ago though I also acknowledge that many priests and nuns and brothers are beautiful and spiritually advanced souls-I just don't know what they're doing in that awful institution.

Far from being distasteful your story seems one of courage and integrity, and I am humbled that you should share it with me.

If there is anything at all I can do please do not hesitate to ask.  I should say I visited your site and loved it-I'm going to be practising positation for sure.  I wrote this poem some time ago and would like to gift it to you as someone who seems to demonstrate exactly what it's about.

My heartfelt admiration and very best wishes to you.


Poem here 'I will not be cast down!'...

From Mona

Thank you Tony, for your support and for the poem, it resonated with me a great deal. Conrad's Heart of Darkness image is one that keeps circulating in my life. Strange that you should reference it, too.
Yes, I did see the papal mankini and loved it. If we can't laugh at the old men in dresses what good are they at all. And yes, you certainly have my permission to publish our correspondence. I am convinced that there are other victims of the Downeys in Southampton so maybe someone else will read it and get in touch with you.

Montfort College Romsey: Going back to my old School

Picture by David Martin

Returning back to places from your past can be a bit like trying to squeeze into an old suit. Not only is it out of fashion but buttons fly off in all directions as you try and force that belly where it doesn't want to go. Innocent bystanders can be torn to pieces by button shrapnel. Memory itself can be shredded by reality-buttons. My own visit to my old school-a seminary run by the Montfort Fathers- was not the nostalgic event I anticipated. More like poking a stick into the long dead remains of some unspecified, possibly mythic beast from a twisted fairytale. I found Romsey ugly and tired, apart from its beautiful Abbey and was left wondering how my life became connected with this benighted place at the hoary old age of 11 years. The trip ended somehow appropriately with me esconced as the only solitary in my hotel's shabby dining room on Valentine's Evening, surrounded by couples, and being told I could only have the Valentine's menu of smoked salmon, sirloin steak and cheesecake. Fortunately there was no coupling actually in the restaurant and I survived by taking refuge behind an unread 'New York Review of Books'. I quickly consumed the fare between articles and stumbled off to my room to lie gasping on the bed like a heartbroken whale beached on some God-forsaken isle in the middle of mating season.
It was a place where I became educated in the ways of literature for sure, for it contained golden libraries replete with dusty books, but it taught me little in all.  Much that I learned was of the ways by which men become so easily hypocrites and of the brutality that results from cowardice towards originality and repression of the sexual instincts and the inherent stupidity of religion.  They were not the golden years of youth for me at least, and  I shall not return in this life.



MonaV said...
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MonaV said...
Do you remember either a Fr.James Downey or a Br. Bernard Downey?

MonaV said...
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Heart of Balance said...
Hello Mona, No I'm sorry I don't. I was there from 1968-72. Father Matthews was principal then Sean O'Hare. Also Frs Madden and Sam Erskine. I recall Bro's Anthony and a few French Bros Michael, Daniel. What dates are you thinking of?

MonaV said...
I used to visit there with Fr. Downey to see his brother Bernard, a Montfort Brother. They were not good men! Bernard worked with the physical plant/ I remember chickens and a hatchery. I was about 7 or 8. So around 1962? Mona mmmjv3@yahoo.com

Heart of Balance said...
Hi Mona, Your comment that-'They were not good men' fills me with dread somewhat. Yes I remember chickens and pig sties. And I agree many of these people were not what I would call good men-can you say anything more?


  1. mona can you get in touch with me please re downeys......

  2. To Anonymous,
    Thanks for your comment, is there anything I can do to help?

  3. i know off the downeys, i took br bernard to court in 2009, to get justice for the abuse me and my sister suffered by these 2 men. if you can put me in touch with mona, would be very much appreciated. thank you.

  4. I've forwarded your comment to Mona-please feel free to contact me if you need to on heartofbalance@gmail.com


  5. SUPERSURVIVOR77713 April 2011 at 21:28