Ian Gregory's story

As a child, Ian was a ‘nerdy little kid’ with a particular interest in theology. By age 13 he was considering a life in the priesthood. It was the early 1960s and Ian’s devoutly Catholic family were living in Melbourne. Their parish priest was a man named Father Weston.

During confession one day, Ian told Father Weston about his plans to become a priest. Father Weston offered to show Ian around a nearby monastery so he could get an idea of the priests’ life. When the day came, Ian met Father Weston at the monastery and the two of them strolled the grounds together.

When they stopped and sat down, Father Weston reached his hand up Ian’s shorts and grabbed his penis.

‘And he said “This thing might be a problem”. And I didn’t know I had that ability to be so angry so quickly. It was just like wild anger, but determined anger. But being a Catholic there was still the respect for him. I can’t remember my words, I can remember my response. I said something and then I was off.’

Ian didn’t mention the incident to anyone.

‘I never even thought of telling anybody. You just don’t talk about things like that. You don’t know they’re going to happen but there’s something deep in the psyche that tells you “this is wrong, savagely wrong”.’

In time, Ian’s anger faded and he took a more measured and generous view of Father Weston’s behaviour.

‘In my mind it was like the guy must have been drunk or odd – because yes what he did was wrong but he’s not a totally bad person … still a trustable person.’

That trust only went so far, however. After the incident Father Weston came round to Ian’s house a few times to take him and his little brother out for drives. On these occasions Ian was careful never to let Father Weston sit too close to his little brother.

Years passed before Ian saw Father Weston again. At age 22, Ian ran into him at the local church. Hoping to confront him about the abuse, Ian organised to meet with him in private that evening. Later, when Ian arrived for the meeting, Father Weston was ‘drunk, really drunk’. He said to Ian, ‘The first time I saw you, I wanted to fuck you’.

Hearing the priest talk like that, Ian said, was worse than the original abuse. ‘I didn’t say anything back. I was shocked. Shocked is probably not the right term. Bewildered, really … Here’s this guy saying that he has a sexual attraction to me, whereas when it originally happened I thought he was just drunk or odd or something. But now he’s saying something different, or which had been there all along, and that just left me bewildered by it and feeling sorry for him.’

Ian said it’s hard to separate the impacts of the abuse from the impacts of other traumas in his life. He never became a priest but he puts that down to reasons other than the abuse. The only thing he can say for sure is that the abuse did affect his ability to be intimate with people.

‘Sexually intimate, you know, touching, is difficult. But I’m aware of it. There’s something not right and I can sort of go – like when you’re a kid you’re scared of ghosts: “There’s no ghost there, move beyond it”.’

Overall, Ian said, the abuse has not had much of an effect on him. He suspects he probably would have kept it to himself his whole life if not for a conversation he had one day with a friend.

‘They were speaking generally, they didn’t know of my experience, and they said “Yeah, people should really report these things because it helps other people and it should” … And I thought “Crap. They’re right”.’

He reported the abuse to the Catholic Church, and found their response disappointing. Though Ian is still a devout Catholic he’s not afraid to criticise his Church and push it to improve.

‘I’m proud of my Church in lots of ways. I’m ashamed of this chapter. And the Church, if you look at its history, it’s been a leader in so many things, why did it fail in this one? It really has to ask itself that question, and I don’t think they’ve done that yet.’

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