In the mid-1970s, Bede was 13 and attending a Catholic school in Melbourne when he and his classmates were called out one by one to see Father Matucci in the presbytery. Bede didn’t know the purpose of the visit and was surprised to be told by Father Matucci when he arrived that he was a bully and needed to be caned.
‘So he then got the cane’, Bede said. And I mean it’s pretty straightforward that when you see the cane you’re going to get a flogging. So I thought, here we go, I’m going to get the cane. Then he told me to take my pants off and move near the fireplace. He’s made me lean into that, hanging on to the mantelpiece. Then he’s talking and saying he’s going to flog me: “I’m going to flog you like your father flogs you”.
‘I’m waiting then to get flogged, with my back to him and from that, like he was quite loud, quite angry. I’m waiting to get flogged but … I felt his arms come around my chest and under my arms and then from that he’s talking and he’s more of a soft, rambly type.
‘He started with saying, “Oh God loves you. I’m not going to flog you, God loves you”, da de da. From his hands being around below my arms, he’s gone straight to my genitalia, to my cock and balls, and then he’s cupped those in his hands, well one hand. I just automatically broke away, I mean he didn’t have like a strong grip around me. It was more a gentle thing.’
Bede told the Commissioner that he pulled his pants up and ran from the room, down the stairs and out of the presbytery. He wasn’t pursued and neither did Father Matucci yell after him. Bede said he was alert to what was happening because several years earlier he’d been sexually abused at a friend’s house by a man who was a visitor there. ‘That basically put me in flight mode real quick and I got out of there’, he said.
Thereafter, Bede often saw Father Matucci at church or at his parents’ business but no words were ever exchanged between them.
Thirty years after the abuse occurred, Bede told his parents what Father Matucci had done. ‘I felt better and I mean my mother, father and I had a good cry together. I felt a bit closer to them because the shit that’s been in my head for so many years, and I’ve got it off my chest.’
Bede’s parents encouraged him to report Father Matucci to Victoria Police. It was some years before he did so, but in the early 2010s he rang and made an appointment to see an officer who worked within a specialist sexual abuse unit. The process of being interviewed and making a statement took two hours. Bede said when he gave the name of the man who’d sexually assaulted him at his friend’s house, the police officer’s demeanour changed and she looked at a fellow officer in a manner that seemed to Bede as if they were familiar with the name. At the end of the interview, the officer said Bede didn’t need to sign anything and told him the statement would be posted to his parents’ address.
When the statement didn’t arrive and no further follow-up came, Bede thought, ‘stuff it’ and let the matter go. Then when the Victorian parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations commenced, Bede contacted lawyers to raise the issue again. The lawyers requested copies of the statement he’d made but were told by Victoria Police that although an appointment had been made in 2012, Bede hadn’t shown up and they had no other paperwork relating to his matter. This, Bede said, was a lie, and he was now thinking of pursuing the matter with police again.
Bede said being abused as a child had led to times when he’d ‘gone a bit haywire’ in life. ‘It’s always in the back of my mind, particularly later on in life in fact.’ He’d been angry ‘in so many different ways all my life’, he said. ‘But now I’m older and hopefully I’ve gotten wiser.’
‘If anything better can be done for the next generations to know and to understand that this does happen. The people who tried to do these things – people can be educated in a way. I mean that’s where you’ve got to start. You’ve got to start with the priests in the Catholic Church and educate them bastards of the reality of what the Catholic Church is supposed to be about.
‘God doesn’t mention paedophiles. He doesn’t mention tampering with kids. This is where I believe the next generations may have some benefit when it comes to these institutional deceptions and lies. And these paedophiles have been able to get away with whatever they feel like doing. And everyone knows; their own peers, their own colleagues have an idea and have known all along what these people have been perpetrating. I just hope some education comes out of it.’