A man who claims he suffers mental health problems because of "horrendous" sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of his parish priest has begun a claim for damages against the Catholic Church.
London's High Court heard the 34-year-old, named only as A for legal reasons, was abused for ten years by Father Christopher Clonan, who at the time was assistant priest of the Christ the King Church in Coundon, Coventry.
Barrister Robert Seabrook QC, for A, said the priest died in Australia in 1998, at the age of 56, after going on the run and never facing the prosecution police wanted to bring.
Mr Seabrook said Fr Clonan subjected A to a catalogue of " horrendous" assaults between 1978 and 1988, having ingratiated himself with the then youngster's "devout" Roman Catholic family.
"One cannot understand the magnitude of the impact on this man," said Mr Seabrook, who said A had known Fr Clonan since the age of two.
He added that A - who suffers from schizophrenia, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and lives in a care home - had become profoundly mentally ill in 1992 after finally disclosing the abuse he had suffered.
It is A's case that his present state is due to the abuse and that the church is responsible.
He is now suing the Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, in his role as head of the church in the area.
For his part, the Archbishop does not deny that the abuse took place, but says A cannot seek damages.
If A is successful in proving his case, he could win compensation running into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Attacking the church's stance, Mr Seabrook said although the Archbishop had publicly apologised, the court case had been met with a "sceptical" approach.
Mr Seabrook told the court that on the surface Fr Clonan was a "wonderful" and " energetic" parish priest who was involved in all aspects of community life.
But during seemingly innocent visits to A's school, his family home, and trips to London and Northern Ireland, he was secretly grooming the boy.
The abuse took place in many different locations, and never came out because Fr Clonan appeared " unassailable", "daunting" and " impossible to challenge," Mr Seabrook said.
He added that Fr Clonan had twice tried to contact A's family after the abuse had been revealed, but was confronted by two of A's sisters and told never to show his face again.
The case, which is due to last five days, continues.