In the 1980s, Fabian was 16 years old and an active participant in sporting and youth activities organised by Father Morrison at a Catholic parish in Melbourne. Morrison was a sports coach who surrounded himself with teenagers and often took them to a rural property outside Melbourne. On one occasion, Fabian went there with a group of boys for a training camp. On the first night, Morrison sent the other boys to sleep in huts on the property, leaving him and Fabian alone in the main house.
Morrison said, as part of a strength test, Fabian needed to smoke marijuana. ‘When I smoked this cigarette with him, this marijuana cigarette, I felt really, really sick in the stomach’, Fabian said. ‘And he said he had tablets that would make me feel better and I took about six of these tablets, and I’m pretty sure now, looking back as an adult, that it was some kind of muscle relaxant because I couldn’t move. I couldn’t physically move, you know.’
After Fabian got into bed, Morrison came into his room and violently sexually assaulted him.
Fabian didn’t tell the other boys on the camp nor anyone else about the abuse. ‘The only way I could deal with it was to pretend it didn’t happen.’
A month later, Fabian was with friends at home minding his younger siblings when Morrison arrived with a carton of beer.
‘My friends left and I was petrified’, he said. He pleaded not to be assaulted again, at which point Morrison began crying and spent the next hour telling Fabian all his problems.
Several years later, Fabian went to Morrison’s house, concerned that a friend was inside. When Morrison didn’t answer the door, Fabian broke it down. A fight ensued, the police were called, and he was charged with assault. During questioning, Fabian disclosed that he’d been sexually abused by Morrison five years earlier. One officer asked why they should believe him.
‘And I said, “Well, the only evidence I do have is I have a letter that he wrote to me afterwards telling me to shut up and don’t tell anyone, and he told me to burn the letter after I read it, but I didn’t, I kept it and hid it from my parents.’
The letter later became evidence in a court case against Morrison, but technicalities meant that it had to be aborted. Some years later, it went back to court. ‘It took me an hour and a half to give my evidence and then I was cross-examined for two days’, Fabian said. It still haunted him that he was the one who seemed to be on trial.
In the 90s Fabian spoke to lawyers but was told he couldn’t sue because the Catholic Church didn’t exist as a legal entity. The Church also denied that Morrison was a priest, even though he wore clergy attire and signed his name with the word ‘Father’, and ‘Roman Catholic priest’.
In the early 2000s, Fabian applied through the Church’s Towards Healing program for compensation. By then, Morrison had been convicted of more than 50 sexual assault charges against children. The Church paid Fabian $35,000 on the proviso he sign a confidentiality agreement. ‘I felt it was an insult’, Fabian said. ‘$35,000. I mean, it’s not even a year’s wages, you know. But because I had been through all these other avenues, I felt that there was nothing else open to me and if that was the best I could do, well, that would do.’
He also received a letter of apology but was disappointed by it. ‘There’s two lines of apology and then the rest is all about how great they are. So to me it’s just an absolute insult.’
During court proceedings and subsequently it emerged that, three days after his ordination, Morrison abused several choir boys and had been moved to another parish. By the time Fabian’s allegations came to court, Morrison had been imprisoned and released several times. He died in jail.
Fabian remained angry that Church officials moved Morrison around and then denied he belonged to them, while they ‘allowed him to run around for years and years professing his “Father Morrison”, signing everything “Roman Catholic priest” …
‘It does help to talk but nobody wants to hear it’, Fabian said. ‘Even family, friends, they don’t know how to deal with it.’