Eddie grew up in a Catholic family in Melbourne and attended a local Catholic primary school in the 1960s. ‘My mother was very Catholic. My father was less so.’
At his primary school, ‘there was a priest … [who] was very touchy-feely with most of us … It was basically through clothing, things like that, that occurred, and it was only later that I realised that [he] was … sexually assaulting us’.
Eddie told the Commissioner, ‘The actual predator that I went to the Church about, complained about, was Father Michael Johnson. He was associated with [another parish] and I was in cubs and scouts [there] …’
Eddie thinks that Father Johnson targeted vulnerable children. ‘It’s a little bit like being punched until you drop to the ground and then someone else comes along and kicks you …
‘His method of operation was to prey on families in crisis. My father was an alcoholic. He was violent towards the kids, never violent towards my mother … He’d come home trashed on a Friday night and you didn’t know whether he was going to hand you 20 dollar notes, or beat the crap out of you type thing.’
Father Johnson became involved with the family in the 70s, when Eddie and a group of boys started travelling by train to a cubs and scouts group that the priest was associated with. ‘He sometimes drove us home and he came in contact with my mother, and my mother sort of talked it out and stuff, because he was a priest …’
When Father Johnson offered to take Eddie for weekend visits to his parents’ place, Eddie’s mother let him go. Eddie went with Father Johnson two or three times, and each time the priest climbed into bed and sexually abused him.
In the late 90s Johnson was convicted of sexually abusing a number of boys and spent several years in jail. When Eddie spoke to the police in the mid-2000s, they were accumulating evidence against Johnson for other charges, but Eddie didn’t know if there had ever been another court case. He was informed recently that Johnson passed away in the early 2010s.
When Eddie was 17 he began experiencing depression, and tried to take his own life. He had two bouts of major depression during the 2000s and was unable to work for long periods.
Eddie doesn’t believe that he would have spoken to anyone about the sexual abuse, even if he had the opportunity at the time, because of ‘the drummed-in infallibility of a priest and … because I was taught in a Catholic school system, the … huge, “We won’t believe you” thing …’
Eddie told the Commissioner, ‘I’ve got no respect for the Catholic Church … A bunch of silly old farts dressing up in funny costumes … [but] I think there’s nothing that can break the power model that they hold’.