Image: Chief Commissioner Peter McClellan
Abuses by the Marist Brothers order of the Catholic Church have continued to be the focus of the current hearings of the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. It has heard further evidence from the Marists’ former Sydney head, Alexis Turton (see yesterday’s posting), and a victim known only as DK.
DK was abused by three brothers at the Marist Brothers’ school, St. Augustines (see previous posting) in the city of Cairns, in QueenslandState. One of the abusers was Brother Ross Murrin (see previous posting), who is still in prison for abuse offences at a Marist primary school at Daceyville, and at St. Gregory’s College in Campbelltown. He pleaded guilty to those offences in 2009.
DK told the enquiry that, after the abuse by Murrin, “I received a number of floggings, and was treated differently by the Brothers. I remember being excluded from school event, and feeling like they were trying to get me to leave the school.”
Marist Alexis Turton further enhanced the bad reputation of the Catholic Church with regards to cover-ups. One Brother had been the subject of several complaints, including that he abused a student who then suicided. In 2009, another Brother provided a list of 18 children who might bring claims against him. This list was placed on the Marist secret files, and a copy was sent to the Catholic Church Insurance company.
The latter Brother was then transferred to the Vatican.
All Turton bothered to inform the enquiry about all of this was that “At the time, since it wasn’t expected, I commented to him: ‘What does this mean?’ and his comment was: ‘It’s hard to know how other people will interpret (my actions)’ … but I didn’t get any more information than that.” Nor did Turton seek more.
DK informed the enquiry that, at the school, a dormitory master Brother had removed the shower curtains so that he could watch the boys including DK, shower. [This author has included a similar claim against the Salvation Army at the “Alkira” children’s Home in a submission to the Commission, and is awaiting a reply, still, on whether or not the Chief Commissioner, Peter Mc.Clellan (see previous posting) will allow him to appear at the up-coming hearings on that Home, and accept the submission. The Salvos also removed the toilet cubicle doors for the same reason.]
Turton offered DK “help” through the discredited “Towards Healing” process which is the subject of this session of the enquiry. It is supposed, under its own charter, and submission to the enquiry, to have an “independent” facilitator for the process.
DK had been told that the facilitator was, indeed, independent. However, through a TV program, he found out that this person, Michael Salmon, was an employee of the Catholic Church. He was, in fact, the Director of the New South Wales State Professional Standards Office. Under the rules of the church, such person is prohibited from involvement in the mediation process.
DK said that “This made me really, really angry, because I felt that I was lied to.”
Counsel assisting the enquiry, Angus Stewart, questioned Turton about his decision to appoint Salmon.
ANGUS STEWART: You are aware, of course, that in the Towards Healing protocol it is provided that the director of Professional Standards should not even participate in the facilitation?
ALEXIS TURTON: I am aware of that, yes.
ANGUS STEWART: So you accept that, under the protocol Mr Salmon, because he was the director of Professional Standards for the state, should not have been the mediator?
ALEXIS TURTON: I did not turn my mind to that fact at that time, so that was an oversight on my part.
ANGUS STEWART: And would you accept then that, as fair and as competent and as professional as a facilitator might be, he might not be seen to be impartial if he is employed by the Church?
ALEXIS TURTON: Looking back, I would have recommended a facilitator totally unconnected with the Church.
Salmon, has told the commission he did tell the victim he was employed by the church.
DK was scathing of the role of Mr. Salmon in the “Towards Healing” process, which he described as a “sham”. He told the enquiry that “When I arrived for mediation with my wife, Michael Salmon took us in to a room and lectured us on how good the Catholic Church was… and said ‘now I just want to tell you how rare it is that sexual abuse occurs in the Catholic Church’. This made me angry, too.”
During the meeting, DK said he was repeatedly interrupted by Mr Salmon and a solicitor for the church, Patrick Monahan, who “kept telling me to hurry up. He said to me ‘You are wasting time’.” DK said the whole process made him feel “ashamed and dirty” and was a form of re-abuse. Other witnesses have expressed this same sentiment.
“I have difficulties trusting people and I am a very anxious person. I find that now I compensate by overeating. Since my first child was born in 2009, I have put on 40 kilograms. I have difficulty concentrating and have struggled to work effectively over the years,” DK told the Commission.
His final comment is worth recording for future researchers. The comment was the “Towards Healing” process was more like a “Towards Hurting” process.
[Postscript: A Commission officer e-mailed the author today to “drop into” their offices, in central Sydney, by the end of the week, i.e. tomorrow, to have a talk, without time or resources to have a lawyer or other support person with him. The author is a disability pensioner and could not afford the travel or accommodation costs, lives 500 miles away in the bush, and even 100 miles from the nearest airport, and does not know his way around Sydney. So, somehow, I am expected to arrange all of this, and at a time when school holidays, summer holiday (it’s summer down-under now) and Christmas travelers are criss-crossing the nation, means that short notice bookings would be impossible. Even if all of these difficulties did not exist, there would not be enough time to make the trip, even forgoing a day’s sleep. The only conclusion I can reach is that this is a none too subtle way of making sure I appear to have been responsible for missing the opportunity to appear before the Salvation Army “Alkira” hearing. Shame, Mr. McClellan, shame.]
Read more here:
TOMORROW: More on the Towards Hurting process
That’s all I can say
Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)