Growing up in a loving household in Sydney in the 1950s and 1960s, Glyn inherited his parents’ joy in the Catholic faith and decided at age 10 that he wanted to become a priest. He maintained that aspiration until age 15, when he encountered Father Mitchell.
Mitchell was a curate at the church where Glyn served as an altar boy. He also dropped round to Glyn’s school once in a while to hear children’s confessions.
‘The abuse began,’ Glyn said, ‘I think at the second time I went to confession to him. He used the ploy that he thought there might be something not quite right about my penis and that he should check it. And it went on from there. He then persuaded me that I had to come and see him at the sacristy … and he abused me several times there.’
When Glyn refused to meet Mitchell at either the school or the sacristy, Mitchell started visiting him at his home and abusing him there. It ended after about six months when Glyn convinced his parents that he didn’t want to see Father Mitchell anywhere ever again.
Glyn didn’t tell his parents why he disliked Father Mitchell. He didn’t tell anybody about the abuse. He was too afraid, because by this stage Glyn was convinced that the abuse was his fault. He carried this notion with him into his adult life.
‘If something was wrong I immediately assumed that the wrongness was me, and that completely buggered up my professional career because I was forever accepting blame for things … I didn’t really know how to stand up and say, “No, I’m right, you’re wrong in this particular situation”. I didn’t know how to defend myself and I had this sort of deep sense of unworthiness and being soiled.’
Glyn kept the abuse ‘completely buried’ for most of his adult life. When he was in his forties he tried to discuss it with his wife but couldn’t find the words. Around this time he participated in a personal development forum where for the first time he began to interrogate his history, looking for the ‘discontinuity’ that lay behind his troublesome life-choices and pained relationships.
‘And I came to the conclusion that the abuse was the major discontinuity for me. And then I started exploring that. It took a long time.’
As his first step Glyn attended a men’s retreat, and it was there that he was able to speak about the abuse for the first time. He was given a referral to a counsellor and started having regular sessions. Eventually he made some breakthroughs.
‘It wasn’t until about session 12 or 13 or something that I was able to begin to own the idea that it wasn’t in fact my fault.’
Healing was hard work and the process took its toll on Glyn’s psyche and his marriage, which ended in divorce. He struggled on, continuing his therapy, sustained by his faith in Christ and the Gospels.
Five or so years after his divorce Glyn felt strong enough to seek redress from the Catholic Church through its Towards Healing process. He met with a Towards Healing representative and told his story in brief. In response, the representative told him that the Church had never heard of Father Mitchell.
Glyn later found out that this was a ‘bald-faced lie’ – the Church knew exactly who Father Mitchell was, having already settled two cases against him.
‘It became clear to me … that one of the techniques that they use in obfuscating all this and in disempowering the survivors is to make them feel like they’re the only person that’s ever complained about this person before, and by making you feel more isolated they make you more vulnerable to their own manipulation.’
So Glyn went to a lawyer and sued the Church. Ultimately, he received a settlement that was far less than what he believed he deserved. ‘I’m without a doubt certain that the amount of money that was paid in settlement of my claim was less than they spent in lawyers’ fees trying to belittle it.’
Still, even after all he’s been through, Glyn doesn’t want to abandon the Church. He believes that the teachings of Jesus are ‘profoundly important for the wellbeing of humanity’, and that the Church offers one way of passing on these teachings. But, he said, the Church cannot do so with any authority until it reforms itself.
‘I think that every bishop and every priest that participated in the obfuscation of these crimes should be brought to account for it, because only by doing that, and by purging themselves of the people who’ve participated in this conspiracy over decades that affects millions of children around the world, only by purging themselves of these people is there any hope that the Gospel might develop some credibility in the future.’