Connan has never forgiven his parents. ‘I depended on them for my protection, and I felt they didn’t do that. They basically looked the other way.’
He was born into a devout Catholic family in country Victoria in the mid-1950s. Like his brothers, he was an altar boy.
Around the age of 11, Connan was sexually abused a number of times by his priest, Father Mervyn Scanley. But it wasn’t until another boy came forward that Scanley was removed from the parish.
‘I think someone else made a complaint, some parent who was probably stronger than mine stood up,’ Connan said.
‘My father, he was too timid, he was too afraid of the Church.
‘He let other people take action. And he just stood to the sideline, and did nothing, basically.
I’ve got a certain amount of bitterness over that. I mean, why didn’t he stick up for me? I suppose he cared but he didn’t have the courage to come forward.’
As well as affecting the relationship with his parents, Connan said the abuse took a terrible toll on his confidence and self-esteem, making him extremely wary of letting anyone get close. His faith, which was such an important part of his childhood, was also shaken.
‘I was only young. And they took advantage of my innocence, and nearly destroyed it, and the Church tried to cover it up.’
Connan later found out that Scanley was simply moved to another parish, where he preyed on more children.
It wasn’t until the early 2000s that Connan spoke about the abuse, when he became involved in the Catholic Church’s Towards Healing program.
‘I heard about it and thought that it was about time for me to talk about it, my experience … to heal. And I also wanted to tell my story because I want that priest to pay for what he’s done. It’s not just hidden, he’s named and he’s on file, that’s basically what I want.’
Connan said Towards Healing was helpful, particularly meeting other survivors and realising he wasn’t alone. Another important step was being contacted by the Church.
‘I got a letter from the bishop, saying that they knew Father Scanley was that type of person who abused children; that it happened elsewhere, and basically apologised.
‘Yeah, that was a positive.’
Connan has never sought compensation but admitted he didn’t really know much about the process. After speaking with the Commissioner, he was going to get in touch with the free legal service, knowmore. ‘I’m not after money as such but I’d just like to know what my rights are in relation to that’, he said.
In relation to the Church’s responsibility, Connan had several recommendations. ‘The bishop must be made more accountable. It’s fair enough you prosecute the priest who’s been abusing the child, what about the bishop who knew?’
He also thinks bishops should be given the power to dismiss priests without having to go through the Vatican. But while there has to be progress, Connan said that some tenets are too important to be changed.
‘I believe the confessional seal of silence should remain. That’s a central part of the Church.’
Coming to the Royal Commission wasn’t easy but, as he has for many years, Connan drew strength from his faith.
‘Unless I speak about it, other people that have been abused may not want to speak out, so it’s important for me to come forward and present my case about this particular priest.
‘I know the law will change. Hopefully they will protect children in the future.’