Cedric John's story

Growing up in a Catholic family Cedric was encouraged by his father to take up a religious vocation. At 13 he spoke to the parish priest about this, but was told he was too young to be thinking about such things. Despite this, Cedric soon found himself at a Christian Brothers juniorate school in New South Wales.

It was the late 1940s and Cedric came to believe the aim of the religious training was to ‘take the persona out of the person’. He felt ‘stripped’ of his individuality and the four years he spent there were like being in ‘an emotional desert’. Boys were ‘heavily monitored’ to the extent that letters from home had ‘parts cut out’ by the Brothers. The teaching was strict.

‘There were four tenets that were really hammered to us. They were magnum silencium, which meant “the great silence”, and that was the base right through your life in the system. So from night prayers to the next morning you daren’t talk. The second tenet was noli me tangere which was “don’t touch me”. The third tenet was the guarding of the eyes, and the fourth tenet was particular friendships … That’s not God, it’s sex.’

Not long after he’d turned 14, Cedric was sexually abused by a Brother who worked in the kitchen. The Brother pulled down Cedric’s pants and touched his genitals.

‘He got me and took me down behind the handball courts. The pants came down and [he touched me] ... I took flight and ran.’

After the abuse Cedric would run away whenever he’d see the Brother. He didn’t disclose what had happened because he was ‘too young to know where to go’. He thinks he might have mentioned it in confession to a priest, but doesn’t remember if anything occurred after that.

When he was 18 he progressed from the juniorate to the novitiate. Here he met a novice master who was ‘an evil man’. The man introduced a fifth tenet that he said referred to alcohol or women. He told the young men: ‘You will lose your vocation because of either punch or Judy’.

Cedric remembers ‘everything was done in the name of God’ and his superiors were ‘deemed to be the voice of God’. This included sex education, a ‘very basic’ form of which was taught but which referred only to ‘where babies came from’.

Cedric became a teacher and in his early 20s he was sent to a regional town in Victoria where he taught classes of over 100 students. He complained to his superior about the workload, but was told to ‘suck it up’.

In spite of being moved to a new school which also had a heavy workload, Cedric still felt enormous pressure to stay with the Christian Brothers. As final vows approached, he expressed doubts to his superior about staying, but was told that leaving would ‘be a mortal sin’ and he would be ‘damned forever’.

By the early 1960s Cedric was ‘in a mess’ and he was sent to see a psychologist. To leave the Christian Brothers he needed written approval. After being assessed twice he was finally told he was ‘going home’.

But it was a ‘horrendous’ time because he didn’t know how to cope in the world and was ‘terribly scared’. He had few ideas about life outside the order and felt ‘emotionally immature’. He worked in a bar for several years before going on to teach in state schools.

Concerned about his sexuality when he was in his late 20s, Cedric discussed it with his parish priest who told him to ‘get married and it will go away’. Based on this he married Eliza, but the marriage broke down and they were granted an annulment.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that Cedric recognised that what happened to him at the juniorate was abuse. He reported the offending Brother to the Christian Brothers who asked if he’d been ‘penetrated’, and what it was that he wanted from them. He told them he wanted the truth, but no further action was taken.

Cedric came to the Royal Commission to get his experience ‘out there’. He wasn’t aware of any ‘prolific behaviour’ regarding child sexual abuse from the Christian Brothers when he was with them, only learning afterwards that many others had been abused over decades.

‘What I do appreciate is being able to go through it, I’ll walk out of here and I’ll say that’s it. I can burn this as it’s finished.’

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