‘You go to church. Go to confession, confess your sins. What does he do? He sits on one side of the wall and goes to the other side and confesses to himself and then it’s all good, says “Thanks for coming”. It’s a hard thing. How are you supposed to believe in something when the actual bloke is … basically a paedophile and a predator?’
When Gordie’s parents split up in the mid-1960s, he and his brothers moved with their mother to the Australian Capital Territory. She remarried and had more children, but that marriage also didn’t last.
‘Mum obviously had her hands full. She’s got three little kids, and three older ones at that particular time. Plus trying to work, two jobs as well.’
The family attended the local Catholic church for mass, as well as first communion and confirmation, and they soon got to know the parish priest, Father Wenser.
‘My first memory is, he’d come over to the house all the time … and just, like, hang around. Usually about dinner time, actually ... come in, get a feed basically and then disappear.
‘After a while it got to a point where, “Oh no, here he is again” … He wasn’t invited, he’d just turn up. Be there, and talk, and try to help.’
When Gordie was around nine years old, Wenser would ‘help’ their mother by inviting one of the older boys over to his house, often to go sailing on the lake. Gordie said, when they came back to shower and change, the priest would sexually abuse him.
He’d get in the shower, and also fondle Gordie’s genitals when he was getting dressed. ‘I remember, like, “It’s okay, it’s okay” or something or other. “We just need to change your pants”.’
Wenser also had a house on the coast, and he soon started taking Gordie there. ‘I’d actually get out of school, and Mum’d have to write a permission slip: “He will not be at school because he’s going with the parish priest.”’
Wenser continued to sexually abuse Gordie at the beach house, getting into his bed at night.
‘That happened a few times, like a couple of trips. And then one day I just lost the plot. Started screaming and yelling. I tried to steal his car and stuff, to go home. I wanted to go home.
‘He pretty much backed off after that.’
After speaking with his brothers, Gordie discovered that they had also been abused by the priest. But they didn’t tell their mother.
‘I don’t know why we didn’t say anything, I don’t know why I didn’t say anything. I have no idea, I honestly dunno. Maybe ‘cause Mum was too strong, and she had to be strong because she had six kids so therefore I couldn’t be scared.’
After the abuse Gordie became ‘very introverted’. He’d stay away from his friends at school and sit alone. He developed trust issues, particularly with authority figures, and said his attitude has always been, ‘What are you after? There’s got to be an ulterior motive.’
His schoolwork suffered and he later dropped out of university. And while Gordie has enjoyed his working life, he believes the abuse robbed him of the chance to pursue the career he really wanted.
He said he used alcohol ‘ridiculously at times’ and took all kinds of illegal drugs, ‘pretty much anything you could name’. He stopped when his first child was born.
Gordie first disclosed the abuse to his mother in the early 80s, when they heard that Wenser had died. ‘We had a bit of a session at home … That was pretty bad. She was just going, “I didn’t know”. It’s not her fault, that’s the whole point, it’s not her fault. She didn’t know.’
Over the years Gordie has thought about counselling, but he’s always been wary of it. ‘See, that’s the thing. They can help you, or it might be $130 an hour just to go, “Hmm. Yeah. Hmm. Okay”, and tell you exactly what you know sometimes. And you go, “Why did I just give you $130, and left here with nothing?”’
One way he has of coping is to remind himself that what Wenser did to him could have been much worse.
Gordie has never reported the priest to police, but he wanted to come to the Royal Commission to tell his story, ‘to have a bit of a spit’. And even though the priest is dead, he also wanted to make sure that Wenser’s name was on the record, in case it might help someone else.
He’s in touch with a law firm too, about the possibility of making a claim against the Church.
Gordie currently lives alone, but is close to all his children. ‘We’re a good team,’ he said.