It isn’t surprising that the Anglican Church is guilty of crimes against the powerless. After all, it was founded on the whim of a King who wanted to divorce his wife and marry Anne Boleyn, a marriage that ended after 1000 days with her beheading.
Today’s Church doesn’t get away with capital crimes, but it certainly knows how to destroy lives. As a beginning university student just turned 17, I attended my very first Cathedral organ lesson in 1969. My mother, sitting outside in our car, had no idea that in entering this holy of holies I was abandoning all hope of future peace and prosperity. I didn’t need to be warned about the dangers of alcohol or staying out late. We were a church-going family. My father was teetotal and my mother occasionally drank a sherry before the evening meal. We didn’t go to parties, and our only social life was at our church, where I became the organist, aged 15.
At just 17, I had never seen a male unclothed. My organ teacher, high up in both the ranks of the church and geographically as well, near the cathedral’s soaring ceiling in an isolated organ loft, took it upon himself to complete my sex education. Not content with merely teaching me to play the organ, he generously shared with me a view of his erection. It didn’t stop there.
I had one close confidant at the time – my school friend Susan. Many years later she called me with an account of her father-in-law’s deathbed disclosure. He had been a fellow choirboy of my abuser in the 1930s. He had witnessed the choirmaster abusing young Robert, during a camping trip on Stradbroke Island. How ironic, considering what happened to my own child in 2002. But that story has been suppressed in Queensland, along with that of the Heiner Affair.
In 2012 I had the good fortune to meet John and Nicola Ellis. Not only did they save our home, they managed to obtain a measure of justice for me. Several other lawyers had tried, but that was before the Royal Commission. Now in the post-Royal Commission era, it appears that the Anglican Church hasn’t learned much. In 2016 I found out what had happened to the brave young priest whose mother was 12 when she was molested by her music teacher. No prizes for guessing what happened to him after his polite phone call to the Archbishop’s office in 2002. His marriage ended, he lost his vocation (Bishops of the Anglican Church, and the abuser himself, cruelly targeted him), and then he nearly died from a heart attack brought on by alcohol abuse. He and his family remain in fear of speaking out. This is Queensland after all.
I’ve had a lot of support from SNAP. They published my story, named my abuser, and continued to encourage my efforts to obtain justice. Recently I heard from another victim. She was abused by a Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane. I won’t name him, but I’m sure this won’t come as any surprise to many people. As well, she was abused by someone who went on to become a lawyer who represents paedophiles, which is how my abuser came to know him. In 2004 an independent inquiry by the Brisbane Diocese found that my complaint was substantiated. This finding was quickly overturned through the efforts of the aforementioned lawyer. I gave up hope then, until I was fortunate enough to meet John Ellis in 2012.
Today, as I contemplate my encroaching old age, I wonder just how long I will have to wait? When will the truth about my abuse, and the abuse of 12 year old Virginia, be revealed? Will my abuser be stripped of his OBE? I doubt it. His ‘friends in high places’ will see to that.
I’m so grateful to John Ellis and SNAP. Without their support, I would have gone on believing I had caused what happened to me aged 17. The Police blamed me for my abuse, so it was no surprise when my own child was attacked and destroyed by the Queensland justice system.
Neither does it surprise me that no Australian journalist will touch my story. My abuse led directly to an abusive marriage lasting 25 years. Two of my children have suffered unspeakably; another has cut all contact and denies the debt I sustain on his behalf.
2021 may not bring closure to my story. But I pray that my daughter and I will find peace in these troubled times.