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Kelvin Arthur's story

Kelvin watched the early deliberations of the Royal Commission and decided he had to come forward. A Catholic priest for much of his life, Kelvin did not like what he was hearing from the Church elders. ‘I just get so – it's frustration – of just simply covering you with crap that they want you to hear, which is not the truth’, Kelvin told the Commissioner.

‘To say the bishops lie, I mean, they are masters of deceit. I mean, they are masters of it. Shakespeare couldn't do a better job than that lot. But they've got 2000 years on you of cover-up.’

Kelvin grew up in a large Catholic family in the 1950s. As a teenager he was sent to board at a school run by the De La Salle Brothers, where he was physically and sexually abused. The boys were frequently beaten with thick leather straps.

‘If you were in the dormitory at night, they'd hit you through your pyjamas. It would take the skin off your backside. They were viciously cruel and I always thought if I ever had a child I would every day tell him that I loved him.’

The elderly Latin master would also regularly take Kelvin into his office and sexually abuse him.

All of this Kelvin kept from his fervently Catholic parents. When visiting home ‘I wore long shirts and that’, Kelvin told the Commissioner, ‘and Mum would say, "Put shorts on and a shirt", and I just wouldn't because I had bruises all over me. And I was scared that they would find out what had happened and I could never tell them’.

A few years after leaving school Kelvin joined a small Catholic order based in New South Wales. Sexual abuse was endemic in the order, with several paedophiles among the senior priests.

Kelvin was sexually assaulted many times by the head of the order, Father Brian Todd. He quickly learnt to avoid Todd, and reports pushing a wardrobe in front of his bedroom door at night to stop Todd’s intrusions.

Kelvin trained and worked as a teacher, initially in government schools but then in the Catholic system from the late 1960s. He lived communally within his order, knowing that all around him sexual abuse was occurring. The boys in the novitiate were particularly targeted.

‘Those places, it was just a survival for me … I was young and that's no excuse, but, I was just – you just looked at it as you tried to blanket it, blanket stuff out and that's how you survived. It was a survival.’

Kelvin recalls picking up a novice from the station. ‘This young boy was there and he got in the car and he said, "Are you going to suck me off now?" and I said, "I beg – what did you –what are you on about?" "Oh", he said, "Paul does”’. The boy was referring to Father Paul Gilbert, master of the order’s novitiate.

After 15 years in the order Kelvin was abruptly moved to a regional area interstate. He believes he’d started asking ‘too many questions’, and he was given the task of keeping an eye on Father Paul Gilbert, who was also dispatched to a regional area. ‘I was sent there to cover up his paedophile lifestyle.’

Kelvin was given his orders by Father Todd. ‘He was a tall man and he'd look down at me and he said to me, "I'm sending you, Kelvin, I'm sending you … to make sure that we are not disgraced there with Paul, and you know what I'm saying to you".’

The practice of moving troublesome priests around the country, and even overseas, is one Kelvin has seen many times in his years with the Catholic Church.

Kelvin served his order throughout the 1980s. Again he found himself working with many paedophile priests. He believes a large majority of the priests in his diocese there were paedophiles. ‘I’d say 95 per cent – 95 per cent. I’m not joking.’

Disgrace did eventually catch up with the priests of Kelvin’s order. Non-paedophile priests who had left the order began to speak up, and victims came forward. The local bishop asked a canon lawyer to investigate and produce a report on the order. Kelvin believes one of the bishop’s ‘henchmen’ fed that report into a shredding machine when the police finally became involved and visited the bishop’s offices.

The order was dissolved by the bishop in the early 1990s. Kelvin was still in a regional area when both Father Todd and Paul Gilbert came to see Church authorities there. Kelvin was summoned to a meeting with church barristers.

‘So I went … and they made me sign a document that I would never say anything, and that was one of the reasons, I guess, I clammed up, but I signed that document there, from the archbishop's lawyers.’

Todd, Gilbert and others were eventually charged with child sex offences and jailed.

Kelvin left the priesthood after the order was disbanded. He married and became a lay teacher at a Christian Brothers school. Again Kelvin encountered endemic paedophilia and was frustrated by the Church’s indifference to the problem.

Kelvin discovered a member of staff had placed a hidden camera in the showers and had been filming the boys naked. He confiscated the tape and confronted the man. ‘And I said, "I've got the tape". And he said, "What are you going to do with it?" I said, "I've given it to the principal". And they did nothing. They did absolutely nothing.’

The principal at that time was also a paedophile. He was caught sexually assaulting two children, but the Church provided Queens Counsel to run his defence at trial and he was acquitted.

‘They sent him to [South East Asia]. I mean, are we talking smorgasbord or not?’

Kelvin was a department head by this time and tried to dismiss known paedophiles working in his part of the school. One man he was suspicious of turned out to be a Brother who was facing 200 child sexual abuse allegations from his time working in the Northern Territory. Kelvin believes he’d been moved as part of a cover-up. When Kelvin complained the man was moved again – to a junior school also run by the Christian Brothers.

Kelvin argues that the lack of will to act in the Catholic Church rests with the bishops. Orders like the Christian Brothers, which have had so many problems with paedophiles, only work in a diocese at the invitation of the local bishop. ‘And that is where they refuse to take responsibility … for the corruption there. [The bishop] would say "Oh, well, you've got the problem … Just get rid of him, will you, and send him over to [regional areas]".’

He also insists the Church will strongly resist paying serious compensation to victims, because the Church’s wealth is tied up in property and they do not believe in selling property at any time.

Kelvin sees the Catholic Church’s representations to the Royal Commission as a ‘gloss-over’. He likes to quote his old mother to describe the Church hierarchy. ‘I refer to her all the time at 90. She said, “They're wedding cakes. The icing is that thick and the cake inside is a dough banger”.’

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