A grandfather has revealed the horrific sexual abuse he suffered as a child at the hands of a Roman Catholic nun who went on to have his baby.
Edward Hayes was just 12 and living at a children’s home when he was singled out and raped by Sister Mary Conleth, who was then in her 20s and has since died.
Hayes said the abuse happened “almost daily” at the former John Reynolds Home in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, until the nun became pregnant in 1956 and was sent back to Ireland and discharged from her role in the Church. Hayes, 76, who has waived his right to anonymity, claims the case could be “the tip of the iceberg” in abuse by nuns.
The Church has paid an out-of-court settlement and offered him a “sincere and unreserved” apology.
Hayes, who now lives in Carlisle, Cumbria, said: “I never thought I would hate people as much as I hate those in the Church for what they allowed to happen to me. I don’t feel like I’ve ever had a proper apology from those in positions of power.
“I think they are terrified about what else might emerge. I went through hell for the majority of my life, trying to hide what happened.”
He said he was targeted over three years at the home, run by The Franciscan Missionaries of St Joseph. He met Sister Conleth when she worked in the laundry room and asked her superiors for his assistance.
Hayes has no idea what happened to the child he fathered. After the pregnancy emerged, he was moved to a hostel in Cumbria. He said his treatment by Sister Conleth amounted to rape, adding: “That’s what happened to me – it happened many times.”
Hayes said he was put in the John Reynolds home as a ten-year-old after being neglected by his parents. He recalled: “My first years there created some great memories. I was a great student, I sang in the choir, I read perfect Latin and was playing football.”
But this changed after Sister Conleth, then 27, arrived at the home in 1953 and preyed on him.
Describing the abuse, Hayes said: “I was still 12. She’d pull my trousers down. She’d push me to the floor and would lay on top of me. I hated doing it but she said she’d tell on me if I didn’t, that I’d been a bad boy and I’d be punished. She’d talk dirty to me. I would not let her kiss me. I thought babies were made by men kissing women.”
Hayes said he was given his own room aged 14. But the reason for the perk soon became apparent when the nun started visiting him after lights out.
Hayes said: “I didn’t even understand how I got her pregnant because I never kissed her. We were more naive back then.”
Hayes was adopted soon after leaving the home. He married and had two children but his ordeal left him unable to build “normal relationships”. He turned to alcohol and his marriage broke down. He said: “Every single day I thought about the abuse, I started drinking to try and blot everything out. I never told anybody what happened to me, not even my wife.”
Hayes, who worked as a printer after serving in the Army, said he decided to confront his past in 1998 after reading about child sex abuse by priests. But he struggled to find anyone who would listen despite speaking to police, a social worker, an MP and a Catholic charity. He finally received help in 2010 after contacting support group Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors.
Noel Chardon, a retired teacher who volunteers with the group after suffering abuse himself, said he has spoken to more than 200 victims of alleged abuse in the Catholic and Anglican churches.
He said: “The stereotype is the altar boy being abused by the priest, but Edward’s case is not unique. I’ve spoken to easily a dozen survivors who were abused by nuns.”
The 72-year-old, from Brentford, West London, added: “For me, in the Catholic Church, there is still a continual conspiracy of denial and deceit. People like me are turned into vilifiers.”
Hayes sued the Church and was offered £20,000 in compensation in 2016 but half of that was spent on legal fees.
A spokesman for the Sisters of the Franciscan Missionaries of St Joseph, part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford, said: “We have offered our sincere and unreserved apology for the abuse and all the subsequent pain and trauma which followed.”
The spokesman said the abuse at the children’s home was a “one-off”. Other nuns working at the home at the time have since died.