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Andrew's story

Father Flanagan held a privileged place in the small regional parish in Western Australia, including within Andrew’s devout Catholic family. ‘When Flanagan opened his mouth, everyone listened. He was highly educated. Everyone told you it was an honour if he came into your classroom to teach.’

In the early 1970s, Andrew’s mother returned to work. His parents often worked early shifts, so by the age of 10 he was being dropped at school an hour before it opened. Father Flanagan had become a regular visitor to the family home, and one day before school Andrew went to see him in the presbytery.

‘He was in his shaving jacket, and he took me into his bedroom and said, “Get into bed with me”. Then he put my hand on his penis and told me to stroke it. I can remember his penis up against my bare buttocks, and I can remember afterwards, but I can’t tell you exactly what happened.’

Andrew recalls walking out of the presbytery as other children arrived at the school. ‘I was devastated, but I just sort of melded into the rest of the day and life went on.’

Life, though, became increasingly difficult for him. ‘I went from being a good kid to an awful student. My behaviour was terrible, and the solution was to put me in Father Flanagan’s care, so he had a vested interest in my misbehaviour.’

When after a couple of years the family left the area Andrew felt an enormous sense of relief. Within a year, however, Father Flanagan moved to the same city and again sought out the family. Andrew made sure he was never alone with Flanagan, and he rebuffed all offers of friendship.

Father Flanagan then started stalking Andrew, turning up at his Catholic high school, following the 12-year-old home from school, and turning up unexpectedly in unusual locations. ‘I’d be surfing with my mates at a remote beach, and suddenly he’d be there in the changing room toilets.’

In the mid-1970s, during a heated argument, Andrew told his mother about Father Flanagan’s abuse. ‘She went white and left the room. Then she went to speak to the headmaster.’

The next day the headmaster took Andrew aside and told him that it was rare for a priest to behave like that. ‘I’d been in a lot of trouble at school, and the subtleties of what he was saying were, “You’ll have another chance if this goes no further”.’ Andrew’s schoolwork and behaviour improved as Father Flanagan’s stalking behaviour and visits to the family home stopped.

Andrew’s father was extremely distressed when in the 1980s he learned of the abuse. ‘My father was a professional, and he realised the depth of the betrayal of me, and of the whole family. He saw that he’d been made a fool of. To be betrayed and conned like that was terrible for him.’

Andrew is still coming to terms with the impact of the abuse. In the past he’s often been angry to the point of violent outburst, largely directed at his wife and children. ‘One day, I woke up and realised something wasn’t working. I made up my mind that I had to change.’ He told his wife about the abuse and later told his children, and is still grateful for their understanding.

It has become apparent to Andrew over the years that Flanagan abused many boys.

‘Out of 70 kids in my class there were 10 suicides within 10 years of us leaving. I don’t know how many were abused, but I know one who went from the most promising student to bottom of the class. Now he’s serving a life sentence for murder. It’s people like him that the Catholic Church should go and find and get to tell their stories. Otherwise we’ll never know how much damage was done.’

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