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Dimitri's story

Despite a 17-year age gap, Dimitri and Howard formed a strong friendship during their first months in the seminary where they’d come to train for the priesthood. It was the 1980s, and Dimitri was 17.

‘The friendship seemed fine until the seminary administrator called me into his office one day and said it was too exclusive, and that I needed to have my eyes open. He spoke to Howard as well, but Howard said the administrator didn’t understand what relationships were about and that he was jealous of what we had.’

Dimitri told the Commissioner that he attempted to distance himself from Howard after that, and said he was relieved when he was able to transfer to a seminary interstate. Then Howard turned up a few months later.

‘I thought, "What the hell do I do?" We’d play indoor soccer with juveniles and at the end of the match we’d shower, and he’d make comments about seeing me naked. I actually went to see one of the Vincentian priests for advice, but he was just trying to increase my empathy for Howard’s needs, so I never went back.’

Throughout this time, Dimitri said there was ‘a lot of hugging’ with Howard.

‘It wouldn’t go on for two or three minutes, it would go on for ages and he’d have an erection. He’d say I was the only one who understood his needs, and there was a sense of guilt if I broke up the friendship. The next person I spoke to was a priest who was also a social worker, and he gave me techniques to try and break the relationship – but his advice didn’t work.’

In the mid-1980s, Dimitri joined an order, and recalled Howard again following him, but leaving three months later. That was the last Dimitri saw of Howard until he was overseas in the 1990s.

‘I went there to complete my two years prac, and he travelled over to visit me for a week at Christmas. One night after showering in different cubicles, we had just our towels on and he gave me a hug, then suggested we drop our towels and hug.’

Dimitri rejected the suggestion and confronted Howard the following day.

‘Howard basically said I was afraid of intimacy and of relationships. I lost it verbally and said, "No, homosexuality was not an option for me, it wasn’t in me".’

Dimitri left the order soon after and married. After undergoing therapy and marriage counselling, he eventually contacted Towards Healing to report Howard’s actions. He was later questioned by two assessors.

‘One of them said, “You’re bigger and stronger than Howard, why didn’t you push him away?” My response was that the exercising of power through manipulation is far more destructive than physical power. The only reason they were concerned was because Howard had become a priest by then.’

Dimitri recalled rejecting the first offer he received from Towards Healing.

‘They accepted my claim fairly readily, and came back with $5,000 if I signed this non-disclosure. There was a sense that I needed to pray for Howard and his failings.

'Two weeks later they rang and offered me $10,000 if I flew to Perth to meet with the priests, counsellors and Howard. I said they had to be kidding – they thought it was okay that I meet in the room with a group of people I’ve never met and the perp! So that was the end of that.’

Dimitri felt the Towards Healing process served only to ‘cultivate despair’, but said that with counselling he was feeling much better now.

‘Towards Healing should get rid of the title because it’s directly the opposite. The assessors they have are attached to the Church – there needs to be a level of independence in the interviewing process. Assessors should be chosen outside the Church structure.’

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