In my time I’ve met a few Archbishops. There was Archbishop Rush, who agreed to meet representatives of FICH (Formerly in Children’s Homes) to hear allegations of abuse in Catholic orphanages, particularly Nazareth House, in the early 90s. It is worth noting that upon a FICH member’s request for an Apology, FICH received a letter from Archbishop Rush which contained the sentiment that the Church had “cause for regret”. It wasn’t much of an apology, but it pre-dated all the others in Australia.
Then I met Archbishop Hollingworth, three times, together with my support person Karyn Walsh. I know one of the meetings was in 1998. It was during one of these meetings that the Archbishop asked me: “Were you blonde?” at the time of the grooming and abuse by his good friend the organist and choirmaster. He also noted my comment that men should be able to help themselves when in the presence of an attractive young 17 year old girl, whereupon he said: “We’re only human!”.
My next meeting with an Archbishop took place at a function where the late Professor Freda Briggs, child protection advocate, was speaking. Archbishop Aspinall greeted her with a kiss on the cheek. I wasn’t sure how to feel about that, but subsequent actions by Archbishop Aspinall have confirmed my doubts about his sincerity towards historic child sex abuse victims like myself. It took a Royal Commission, and possibly the death of my husband, to propel the Diocese to set up a Mediation with my lawyer, a couple of teachers from my high school, and myself. The Mediator, far from being impartial, expressed the view that the perpetrator had “seduced” me. In what sense does a University organ lesson, held in a cathedral organ loft with no outside scrutiny, resemble a seduction scene? In addition, the Mediator was the husband of my former treating psychiatrist, with whom I had consulted about PTSD, financial stress, and family problems. Not only was he connected to me in this way; he personally knew the abuser, and had previously been his employer when he had been accompanist for the University Choir. Unsurprisingly, the outcome of the Mediation was disappointing, and I have never received a word of Apology on behalf of the Church from Archbishop Aspinall.
I had just turned 17 when the grooming and assault took place. I know it is not the same for me as it was for younger children. I loathe the crimes committed against all children. The police seemed to think I should have known better, at 17, and that “my mother had a lot to answer for”. Nevertheless, I was a vulnerable and isolated youngster and the Church knew full well they had a predator in their midst. Archbishop Hollingworth’s secretary told me as much.
In view of the track record of these and other Archbishops, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that they can easily hop onto the moral high ground about the origins of a treatment for coronavirus. It’s much more convenient to object to the use of tissue from an aborted foetus, than to address the lifelong damage done to a young life in a cathedral organ loft. The perpetrator has never been charged by Queensland Police. I doubt this will ever change, despite the considerable anecdotal evidence that now exists, with one of his alleged victims being only 12.
Here’s hoping more of his victims find their voices.