Craig describes himself as a ‘devout atheist’ opposed to all religion, especially in schools. His opinions come from personal experience. Back in the 1970s when Craig was a boy, he attended a high school in regional Victoria that was situated right across the road from the home of notorious paedophile priest Geoff O’Loughlin.
O’Loughlin was effectively given free rein at Craig’s Catholic school, able to come and go as he pleased, often taking boys out of class at a moment’s notice.
‘And we loved the fact that we were getting out of school’, Craig said. ‘But it would end up with, “Come and sit on my lap”, and then it just progressed from there. Hands down pants type of thing.’
Craig was 12 years old when the abuse began. It continued for about a year before he first spoke about it, confiding in his mate Mark. Mark revealed that he too was being abused by O’Loughlin.
‘We told each other everything, but we resigned ourselves to the fact. And the unfortunate bit was we didn’t think our parents, our mothers in particular, would believe us.’
Looking back, Craig sees himself as much more fortunate than Mark.
‘He’s since passed away and I blame the plight of his life on O’Loughlin. And perhaps his family circumstances were by no means perfect. He had an alcoholic father. He was vulnerable in the first instance so he was easy prey.’
Craig believes that Mark suffered more severe abuse than he did. He also suffered for longer, probably until he was 17 or 18. Craig, on the other hand, escaped to boarding school at 16. By then he’d developed a fierce distrust of authority.
‘My education suffered, and I know that I seriously rebelled against the system when I was young. I drank a lot, I used to smoke a lot of marijuana.’
Over the next decade or so, Craig confronted many of his troubles and eventually got himself back on course. He’s proud of this achievement, though his pride is mingled with regret.
‘I made it work. I got started early in a family and those things have all been successful, so that’s relieving. But, however, I’ve always regretted not finishing school properly and not going to university.’
Overall, Craig believes he recovered well from the impact of the abuse. Now he focuses on broader social issues, battling the myths and stigmas associated with survivors of child sexual abuse.
‘I’ve worked really hard to conquer the demons that do come with that sort of stuff, but if I was public about it there is certainly people that would go, “Oh, I better be careful with my children around him” and things like that. The point that I’d like to make is that more could be done socially, I think, to demonstrate or even prove … that the majority of people who were victims don’t become abusers.’
When he was in his twenties Craig got a call from his old friend Mark, who told him that O’Loughlin was being investigated by police. Craig spoke to police, adding one more story to the dozens that prosecutors used to convict O’Loughlin and send him to jail.
In the wake of the trial, Craig engaged a lawyer to take action against the Catholic Church. After some negotiation he accepted a settlement for $20,000. Craig considers the sum to be woefully inadequate, but he doesn’t fret about it. For him, money was never the issue.
‘My intention was just to go the whole hog and just expose the Church for cultivating these sort of creeps. …
‘I don’t really want anything from the Church. I just want to live in a society where an institution that can cause that much harm is actually rejected and treated similarly to tobacco companies: they’ve caused harm and then they’re not allowed to promote anywhere; they’re pushed into a corner and they’re known for the cancerous organisation that they are.’