Cormac was raised in suburban Perth, and attended the local Catholic church during the 1970s. One of the parish priests, Father Clancy, sexually abused him for approximately three years, starting when he was seven.
Father Clancy molested Cormac while hearing his confession. ‘He would have me sit on his thighs while he rubbed his hands between my legs, rub his face against mine while moving me back and forth. When there was a moaning sound started from him I forced myself from him and escaped.’
Cormac was an altar boy, and while attending to his duties Father Clancy would take every chance to get close to and rub up against him. The priest also used to take boys for rides in his sports car, often with a number of them on the front bench seat. At least one time Cormac was sitting close to Father Clancy, who then touched his thigh in an inappropriate way. Cormac reacted angrily, and the touching stopped.
Sometimes the priest would take boys away on camps. On one of these excursions Cormac was swimming when Father Clancy anally penetrated him. Cormac was very angry and hysterical, and when he got out of the water some other people tried to calm him down.
He was then driven to the house of a friend, whose family also belonged to the parish. He told his friend’s parents what Father Clancy had done. They advised him not to say any more about it, and not to tell his own parents.
While on another camp Cormac saw a boy come out of the water crying after he had been playing with Father Clancy. He suspects this boy had also been abused. ‘It brought back memories. I went into hysterics swearing and cursing him. A couple of adults intervened and tried to calm me down. That night while trying to sleep he came into the room, I laid there frozen while he stood there breathing heavily over me for a period of time, he left – I feared he would hurt me.’
It appears that Father Clancy may have also sexually abused Cormac’s brother, who once played a game with Cormac that involved inappropriate touching. He’d said the priest had taught it to him. His brother later came out as gay, and Cormac believes this may have been the result of such abuse.
The sexual abuse stopped when Father Clancy was suddenly moved from the parish. Cormac thinks the boy he saw crying at the camp may have made a complaint, as it was shortly after this incident that the priest was sent away.
Cormac tried to block out the abuse, and didn’t disclose it to anyone when he was young. ‘I pretty much kept myself focussed as a kid, applied myself at school. I always keep myself busy, even now, multitasking and stuff like that.’ He became anxious, over-sensitive, and was a loner. In the longer term he has had trust issues, lost his faith, abused alcohol and used illicit drugs. He has worked hard in his career to cope with these perceived inadequacies.
In the 1990s Cormac was contacted by police who were investigating Father Clancy, as another person had made a complaint against him and they were looking for corroborating evidence. Cormac made a statement about the molestation in the confessional, but did not disclose the later penetration. At that stage Father Clancy was living overseas and in poor health, and Cormac assumed he was now deceased.
Cormac has not applied for compensation, and is not sure whether he wishes to do so. He does not think money would help him, but believes that having to pay compensation may be an incentive to the Church to protect children from abusive clergy in the future.
Cormac provided a number of suggestions about preventing and dealing with child sexual abuse. These included: consistent mandatory reporting guidelines across the country; support for survivors by specialist services with expertise in this kind of trauma; staff working with children should receive training to recognise signs of abuse and respond appropriately; and barriers to seeking compensation from institutions (such as statute of limitations legislation) should be removed.
He also recommended that a national education and prevention program be put in place, and delivered not only in schools but to the wider community via radio, television, print and social media.