Image: St. Catherine’s Girls Orphanage
The St. Catherine’s Girls Home, at Geelong in Victoria, is yet another of the old Children’s Homes worthy of new look by the Australian Royal Commission into child sexual abuse. There are two main reasons for this.
Firstly, there is the matter that a flat was maintained within the Home for a priest who acted as a “chaplain”. This provided the potential for abuse. Indeed, that happened with one Fr. Bernard Maxwell Day, who occupied the flat between 1961 and 1963.
It was the practice in St. Catherine’s that, after early morning Mass, the priest’s breakfast would be prepared in the convent kitchen and a girl would have to take it to the priest’s flat. A girl would also be sent to tidy the priest’s bedroom and make his bed. These women say that Father Day used to sit girls on his knee and touch them indecently. They assumed that this was the normal job of priests.
Former inmates of St Catherine’s say that Mother Aquin learned about Father Day molesting girls and she therefore had him removed from the institution. This forms the second basis of concern about this particular Home. There is no evidence that Day was reported to the appropriate authorities.
The Catholic Church has previously issued the standard apology, which reads “We apologize unreservedly to those who experienced abuse and neglect while in our care. We express our deep shame and sorrow.” This comes after an introductory statement that “We hear stories of appreciation for the opportunities they were given to create for themselves meaningful and satisfying future lives.”
In another standard response, instead of contacting civil authorities, the church suggests that “Anyone who has experienced abuse during their residency in any of the welfare institutions conducted by the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of St Joseph and the Christian Brothers is encouraged to contact the relevant Congregation or Victorian Professional Standards Office (i.e., the discredited “Melbourne Response” and “Towards Healing” programs.)
TOMORROW: Mandatory reporting laws
That’s all I can say
Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)