‘The principal said, “You’d make a good little altar boy”. I said, “Oh yeah”. I think I was eight going on nine, start of the year, February. I was eight going on nine, I’m pretty sure of that. I wasn’t 10. The priest said, “You follow the other altar boys and join in”. I said, “No worries”.’
For the three years Iggy served as altar boy in his Catholic parish in Victoria he was repeatedly sexually abused by two priests, Father Mansell and Father Griffin. Mansell was ‘a dead-cert animal’, Iggy said, and Griffin was ‘just as bad’. Both men threatened Iggy that if he mentioned the abuse to anyone, he’d ‘go straight to hell’, and while they acted independently, each knew about the other’s abuse.
In spite of the threats, Iggy tried to report the abuse at the time it was occurring in the 1970s. His mother told him to speak to his father and when Iggy did so, he was called a liar. Iggy said when he complained to the priests they ‘tied me up on the cross and beat me’.
Iggy knew other boys were being abused as several of them spoke about it and they’d frequently have welt marks and cuts on their bodies from being beaten. Mansell often preceded the sexual abuse with a ritual. ‘[He’d say], “I find you guilty of disobeying the Catholic Church and disobeying me as a priest. I therefore sentence you to 12 lashes … [and] you have to perform sexual favours”.’
Iggy stopped being abused when his family moved to Queensland, but by then he was struggling and ‘had a bit of a breakdown’. He felt he ‘was a bit of a failure’ and in subsequent years made a number of suicide attempts. Although he disclosed the abuse to his wife when he was 26, he’d largely kept it to himself.
‘No one saw me. No one could feel my pain’, he said. ‘No one could see what I was talking about. I had to [keep it secret] because I didn’t want to go to Hell. Back then, when it’s drummed into you and whipped into you, or sexually penetrated into you – pardon me, but that’s what happened – you copped a flogging, you copped the sex part of things and you copped the pain. That was serious. That was the most worst thing that’s ever happened to me in my life. I mean I’m now 52 and I hide a lot, you know, I have to, because I don’t want my kids and their kids and so on and so on – I want them to be happy. You know every time I see somebody on a program it brings it right back straight away and then I have to walk out or I get steamed up.’
Iggy had recently told one of his daughters about the abuse and had found that a positive experience. He’d never reported the priests to Victoria Police.
In the 2000s, he attended a large Towards Healing meeting in Brisbane. During it, he stood up in front of 500 people and disclosed that he’d been abused and said he needed help, but no one approached him or offered any kind of assistance. He had called the offices of Towards Healing seeking information but despite telling them he didn’t use a computer, they referred him to a website.
Iggy said he still went to church sometimes but found it difficult to listen to things he disagreed with. He’d been known to stand up during services and challenge the priest, and said he kept a close eye on them and others like youth ministry workers, checking that they weren’t too familiar with children.
Iggy said he hoped the work of the Royal Commission would reach ‘the big boss, the Pope himself’.
‘I’m still hurting from this day, and I want to see action. I want to see it. I don’t want to hear. I want to see justice is served.’