Several years ago, Floyd heard that the priest who sexually abused him when he was six years old was due to be released from jail on parole. The priest, Father Thomas Lefage, had committed hundreds of offences against children over about 25 years and he’d been convicted and jailed several times.
Floyd decided to add his name to the list of additional victims who had come forward, and these complaints formed the basis of a new case against the priest.
Floyd had been abused in the late 1970s and had told his mother at the time. She had reported Lefage to Church authorities and was told he had admitted his guilt. But nothing more was done and Lefage’s abuse of children continued.
Brought to court once more in the early 2010s, Lefage pleaded guilty to offences against Floyd and other victims and was sent back to jail. For Floyd, the court case and the process leading up to it were deeply traumatic.
‘The only thing which has actually driven me through this is I guess my outrage that he abused more people after me and the Church didn’t do anything to stop that. And of those people, some have killed themselves, some of them have got truly smashed up lives and they can’t talk for themselves in a way that I’m fortunate enough to be able to.’
It is that same outrage that brought him to the Royal Commission, he said.
‘I’m just so determined that this doesn’t happen again and whatever it takes, if it means talking to you, then that’s part of it.’
Floyd’s first step in reporting Lefage was calling the NSW Rape Crisis Line. That led him to police, and his first ever detailed disclosure of the abuse. The Rape Crisis Line also put him in touch with a psychologist. Floyd needed her support throughout the court process and still sees her regularly. He is also now taking anti-depressants and a nightly sedative as he continues a struggle with drinking.
In many respects he feels he is effectively coming to terms with the abuse – the result of years of personal development work that has ‘helped phenomenally’. This has involved both therapy and empowerment training, he said. Through the empowerment training he has come to understand that it’s largely how one interprets the events of a life that gives them meaning, not the events themselves.
He believes the environment in which his abuse took place made the trauma of it worse, because of the way it shaped his interpretation of what had happened.
‘The fact that it was a Catholic environment where, you know, it’s like man’s got original sin and you’re always guilty of something and you should be ashamed of, you know, getting up in the morning – that absolutely compounded it, the grief and the trauma and so on …
‘It’s been the biggest thing that’s made a lot of difference for me was realising it wasn’t my fault. There was nothing for me to be ashamed of and all of the meaning that I added to the actual act was an interpretation [that] is by no means the truth. … Just that moment of being able to go, wow, okay, I’ve really got to ease up on myself – that was a huge moment for me.’
Floyd feels that without significant change, the Catholic Church will continue to shelter paedophiles such as Lefage. Poor structures and inadequate governance mean it’s inevitable that people go off the rails. In the case of Lefage: ‘On the one hand, you’d start off as a paedophile … and on the other hand he was in an environment that did nothing to help him or protect the rest of us.’
He nominated celibacy as the biggest problem. Introduced relatively recently, he pointed out - and primarily as a way for the Church to retain wealth - it required people to fight against their natures in an ongoing way.
‘I think that celibacy is asking for trouble - and I’ve got no scientific proof for this one, but I would imagine that creating an environment like that would then become a magnet for people who go, “That’s an environment that would work for me”.’
He also believes the Church in Australia is yet to fully accept its culpability. ‘There seems to be this massive lack of action and when they are taking action, it’s to obfuscate and cloud’, he told the Commissioner.
Floyd is currently seeking compensation for the abuse he experienced. ‘Something that would be great would be if the Church would be able to cover my psychology costs for a start, you know. It’s $180 a time. I’m going to be doing it for a while.’
More generally, he says it’s impossible to calculate how much compensation would be enough.
‘It’s like, how do I make up for the fact of my first failed marriage and the impact that my behaviour at the time had on my ex-wife and the fact that I was completely emotionally unavailable, didn’t know why, and all of the dynamics that led to the slow and inevitable dissolution of that and then the next relationship, and then the workplaces where I’ve been a prick to people, you know, for whatever reason …
‘It’s like I’ve got no way of quantifying all of that kind of stuff and there’s no way I can go and make it up to those people.’
Floyd is now successful professionally, happily married and planning a family. ‘There’s a massive amount of upside’, he said, ‘and then there’s the other stuff.’ Shame, despite his best efforts, is still an issue.
‘On the one hand I would love to go on TV and go, “What the Church did is absolutely wrong and if you’re a victim like I am, then you should feel absolutely no shame and you should come forward.”
‘On the other side, I’m terrified of the prospect of doing that because of … how then people would change the way they looked at me – in my family, in my professional circles, people that I met in the street. So there’s a strange dichotomy going on inside of me in terms of the desire to speak out for others and the terror of being seen to be doing that.
‘So, you know, I don’t have an answer for that one yet.’