Adan’s mum was an ‘avid’ Catholic, Adan told the Commissioner. So she considered it a great honour when the parish priest, Father Ranaldo, began paying the family regular visits.
Adan, his three siblings and their parents lived in a small Victorian town not far from Melbourne. Adan was about 10 or 11 when Father Ranaldo started visiting, in the mid-1970s. Adan and his older brother were dedicated football players, and Adan’s mum agreed with Father Ranaldo when he told her their young bodies needed regular massages to help prevent injury.
As it turned out, Father Ranaldo was a masseur and was willing to massage the boys himself.
He came round twice a week, Adan told the Commissioner. The kitchen table would be moved into a bedroom – the only room in the house with a lock. Adan’s brother always went first. His massage lasted about 10 minutes. Then it was Adan’s turn. His massages took about half an hour, and Father Ranaldo always locked the door first.
Adan emerged from the massages feeling groggy and confused. Years later he realised that Father Ranaldo had been pinching pressure points in his neck to make him lose consciousness.
As well, the massages frequently left him bleeding from the anus.
‘One day I come out and went to the toilet and I wiped my bum and there was just blood everywhere’, Adan said. He showed his parents, who suspected haemorrhoids. His mother took him to the doctor, who agreed. But despite treatment, the problem didn’t go away. ‘Me arse was always sore’, Adan said.
Adan didn’t understand what was happening during the massages but he knew something was wrong. ‘You’re battered and bruised but you feel intimidated at the same time. He used to grab me and say “This is our secret, no one’s allowed to know - if anyone finds out I’m giving you massages I’ll get in big trouble and you’ll be in big trouble too.” He put the fear of God in you.’
Eventually Adan refused to have the massages. He’d stay away from home until Father Ranaldo’s car was no longer parked outside. It made his mother furious. Adan would be sent to bed, and she’d come in and flog him with the jug cord. She’d say ‘Father was here to see you – he said your body’s in a bad way; he needs to keep fixing you up’. And Adan replied ‘How come every time he’s here, it’s really painful afterwards?’
There were more visits to the doctor and Adan was diagnosed with ‘a lazy muscle in my arse’. He continued to avoid Father Ranaldo’s massages. When Adan was in Year 6, his mother was severely injured in a car accident. She was in hospital for three years as a result. Father Ranaldo disappeared from the family’s lives at that point. He didn’t even visit Adan’s mother in hospital.
Years later, Adan was working in a nearby small town and he came across a photo of Father Ranaldo in the local paper. He’d been honoured with the town’s good citizen award. ‘I thought, bullshit! No way!’
Adan decided to report Father Ranaldo to the local police. The first officer he spoke to didn’t believe him. ‘Her true words were “I know this priest. I know him personally and what you’re telling me is a load of lies”.’ Adan persisted, and eventually found himself dealing with the Victorian Police’s Child Exploitation Unit. Here his statement was recorded and in due course charges were laid against Father Ranaldo.
Adan also employed a solicitor, and through him was contacted by representatives of the Catholic Church. A meeting was agreed to. At that meeting, Adan was offered $180,000 if he agreed to withdraw his complaint against Father Ranaldo. He was unimpressed.
‘I said “I’m not here for your money, mate. I don’t care about your money”. I said “I’m here for a principle”. I said “I was fucked in the arse by a dirty rotten priest … I had no choice in the matter. This bloke’s come in and ruined my childhood”.’
The offer was expanded to include free education for his three children. ‘I said “Nothing’s for free, mate”. I said “I’ve already paid for that”.’
In the end the prosecution of Father Ranaldo was drawn out over several trials with multiple witnesses appearing to give evidence against him. Adan appeared as a witness at one of the trials and was aggressively cross examined for several days. ‘Tell you what, it was the hardest slog of my life’, he said. ‘It was evil, sitting in there and getting nailed for two-and-a-half days.’
Father Ranaldo was finally convicted and jailed in 2007.
Adan’s mother lost her faith in the Catholic Church and joined the Salvation Army instead. Adan, who doesn’t speak much to his mum any more, said he told her they’re just as bad.
He told the Commissioner he believes the world has changed a little since he was a boy. Kids are a little bit smarter, more streetwise. He hopes that means kids are less likely to be molested the way he was. He believes the Catholic Church should think again about celibacy. ‘Why can’t Catholic priests be married, so they can have sex with women instead of little boys?’ But mainly he felt more vigilance is needed.
‘You’ve gotta catch them before they do it’, he said. ‘You don’t know it’s happening till it’s happened.’