Marshal’s overbearing father dominated his family and rarely had a good word to say to his son. His ‘domineered’ mother, who may have suffered from postnatal depression, ‘created a hell of a lot of turmoil’ for her kids by taking her frustrations out on them. The family dynamic was ‘not good, never has been’, Marshal said. ‘We were never close.’
On weekends, the family would leave their Melbourne home and visit the Catholic side of the family who lived in country Victoria which, in the 1960s and 1970s, he described as a place where people ‘didn’t think’, and didn’t ‘dare talk about politics’ or ‘against Menzies’.
In the late 1970s, when Marshal was about 12, Father Greg and Father Ryan were to serve at mass together. They were prominent priests, and this news caused some excitement among Marshal’s relatives.
After mass, as people gathered around the priests, Father Greg stood behind Marshal and ‘manhandled’ him. ‘He’s got his hand on my head, he’s got his hand on my chest and stomach’, Marshal said. Then he turned to Father Ryan and said, ‘Oh, what a lovely boy. We’d like to take him away for Bible study. Wouldn’t that be nice, Ryan?’ Father Ryan smiled, and then turned to his nephew Peter and asked, ‘Peter, wouldn’t that be nice?’
Meanwhile, Father Greg got ‘a half-hearted erection, and he’s rubbing me into his crotch. With that, my mother … grabbed me and said, “Oh well, that’s it, we’ve got to go now”. So there was no direct conflict … but there was certainly an observation’, Marshal said.
In Marshal’s eyes, the Catholicism in his family typified a post-war arrogance and religiosity. His grandparents had been ‘so religious in a beautiful way’, but their adult children were ‘impinged on by the Church’, ‘extremely closed to the outside world’, and ‘didn’t have open minds’.
‘They were going along to honour their parents’, Marshal said. ‘It was about this honour code that runs within that Church that is so brainwashing.’
Marshal estimates that, as a child, he ‘probably met 15 priests, brothers, who are now convicted’. He also recalled family visits to an outback location which, he now knows, was a place where Father Ryan molested children. After one trip, ‘I began to put a wall up between myself and my parents’, Marshal said, ‘and I have no real recollection as to why and what for’.
‘What did people in this community know? What did people understand? Why didn’t they all mass together and go … “hang on, we should actually do something”? … Haven’t they even thought about their own need for respect? No, they obviously haven’t. So what’s hanging over their head?’
Marshal felt like his family had been feeding him ‘something sour’ which didn’t ‘sit well’. So, a few years ago, he decided to add his modest piece to the puzzle, and report his experience of abuse to the police and the Royal Commission.
First of all, he attended a hearing in which some of the priests he had known were giving evidence. ‘Every time one of these A-holes would pick up a Bible … we were just smitten with this bullshit. It was like, hang on… this is ludicrous. Asking these guys to swear on the Bible … We were falling apart in the back killing ourselves laughing. Yeah, very funny moment, surreal funny.’
About a month later, he reported the incident with Father Greg to the police. He is not sure what the police intend to do with his statement, but he would like to contact them again and add a photo of the priest attending a family function to his file.
Hindsight has made Marshal ‘a cynic like from hell’ with little tolerance for hypocrisy. ‘In my eyes, there is a manipulation within the Catholic Church that is not kosher. That’s a really bad way of putting but … it’s not okay, especially if you turn around and, you know, spruik the finer details of “Thou shall not commit” ... Well hang on, what right do you people have to announce that, say any of that?’
Marshal’s family is not happy that he has been critical of the Church and brought unwanted attention to their connection with clergy convicted of sexual abuse. He is estranged from many of his family members, and if the police come calling for the photo, he expects that he will go from being a ‘black sheep’ to an ‘outcast’.
Meanwhile, Marshal is homeless. ‘I’m sort of couch-hopping, and in and out of my car at the moment, just until this Commission stuff gets out of the way, and I can sort of go somewhere, relocate to somewhere I feel safe.’