‘It’s troubled me right back that nothing happened and it didn’t look like happening.’
Father Alfred has been dismayed by the inaction of his leaders and colleagues in the Catholic Church for many years.
In the 1990s he was alerted by a friend, another Catholic priest, that a cleric from his diocese was hosting holiday weekends for children at his seaside home.
‘Monsignor Menzies was inviting only small boys down, or they might have been pubescent or younger’, Father Alfred told the Commissioner, ‘and he would make excuses to smack them on their bare buttocks. Now whether any sexual, direct genital events happened I don’t know’.
Father Alfred then heard the same allegations from a second, independent, source.
‘Some of them were Indian boys, or Indian ethnicity, and Italian and Burmese. Now none of those boys would be talking, mixing together. And they were from different parishes too. So there was no collusion. And I was hearing these two stories and they were the same story from both of them, just different ethnic backgrounds.’
In the late 1990s Father Alfred rang police to alert them to the allegations about Monsignor Menzies, naming as witnesses the two priests who had spoken to him. On the same day, both men were interviewed by police.
Father Alfred heard that the priests were criticised by local parishioners for stirring up trouble, even though they had not reported the matter themselves.
‘The police got verbal statements from some of the boys, but under pressure from their family and Monsignor Menzies they would not sign a statement.
‘The police were furious.’
The local archbishop became aware of the investigation. But instead of standing Menzies down, the archbishop shifted the monsignor from his job into a lower profile position. The job was among children in a school, however, which dismayed Father Alfred.
Father Alfred believes Monsignor Menzies continued to exert pressure on the boys he was accused of abusing. Some of the boys, grown to adulthood by the time of the investigation, were still in touch with Menzies through the church and were subtly blackmailed into silence, according to Father Alfred.
No charges were laid and Monsignor Menzies continued his ecclesiastical career. Father Alfred outlined to the Royal Commission a network of friendships within the local church, which he believes is partly behind the archbishop’s limp response to the allegations. Father Alfred also believes Monsignor Menzies held compromising information about the archbishop, and that the men therefore had an ‘understanding’.
He believes his church superior moved to deliberately supress the investigation.
Early in 2000s, Father Alfred wrote directly to a cardinal in the Vatican to alert him to the allegations of child sexual abuse by Menzies and to the local archbishop’s lack of action on the matter. Though he hoped his correspondence would be confidential, within days he was called to a meeting with a local prelate. In his defence Father Alfred noted that all allegations of child abuse are meant to be reported to Rome. Nevertheless he was chastised for ‘going over their heads’.
No further action was taken and the matter died again.
Father Alfred is in retirement now. He has heard that Monsignor Menzies is still in the habit of inviting young boys to his home by the sea. Father Alfred still worries on behalf of those boys, though he has heard of no recent complaints.