Freddie grew up in a strict Catholic family. When he was about 10, his brother Joe, who was then 21 and away studying to become a priest, came home for a visit and abused Freddie over a few nights.
Joe told Freddie to keep it to himself and Freddie never told his parents.
Freddie told the Commissioner, ‘I don’t think I ever recovered from that. I couldn’t tell Mum or Dad because Joe was the apple of their eye … he was brilliant but a wasted man that caused a lot of damage to so many’.
Sometime later Freddie started as a boarder at a Catholic high school. While there, he was abused by one of the teachers, a frightening and brutal man who inspired fear and loyalty in in the students in equal measure.
‘This guy was outrageous … He had a leather strap that he would not hesitate in using. I feared him no end and I know many others did … Those like myself who were vulnerable, he knew it, when I reflect back on it … I was a scared, skinny little kid.’
After about six or nine months, Freddie begged his mother to let him leave the school, which she allowed, but he did not feel able to tell her or anyone else about the abuse.
About 15 years later the Church sent Joe overseas, where he continued to work as a priest. Ten years after that Joe left the Church and changed his name, but remained abroad.
Eventually, allegations started coming out about Joe, and Freddie was approached by the media for information. It was only then that Freddie found out there had been allegations of child sexual abuse against his brother by at least 17 victims. The attacks occurred at various schools and parishes in Australia. Freddie said he had had no idea about the abuse, but was not surprised, given what his brother had done to him.
Soon after the allegations became public, Joe killed himself. Just before he died, he sent Freddie an email saying, ‘Freddie, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry’.
Freddie has been deeply affected by the sexual abuse. His marriage broke down, his two children do not speak to him, and he suffers from severe anxiety.
Since he found out about his brother, he has conducted extensive research into the Church’s handling of his case and believes there was a campaign to cover up Joe’s actions.
He has copies of letters indicating senior members of the Church knew what Joe had done, including offers of ex-gratia payments to victims, and letters from Joe to priests here discussing his own actions. He believes Joe was defrocked for refusing to return to Australia to face charges. Yet after he died, the Church gave Joe a requiem mass, paid for his mother to travel to the funeral accompanied by a priest, and interred Joe’s ashes in a local chapel, where they still lie.
Freddie said the police had statements from victims and a substantial file on Joe, but he never faced any charges because he was ‘too gutless to come back here’. He feels terrible that Joe died without having to face his victims.
‘The research I’ve done has been so traumatising but I had to do it, because I knew I just had to help these people’, said Freddie.
Freddie told the Commissioner he was grateful for the opportunity to talk about something he had held silent and secret for so long.
‘He may be my brother but he was an evil man.’