Morgana's story

Father Cillian McCormick often used to visit Morgana’s house, sitting and drinking beer with her mother. He was an assistant priest at their local Catholic church, in the Hunter region of New South Wales.

McCormick would give Morgana 'sloppy' kisses as he left the house. In the early 1970s, when Morgana was 13, he convinced her mother she needed to have private tuition in the church presbytery. She attended these lessons a number of times, and he would kiss and hug her, putting his tongue in her mouth. As McCormick was a family friend, Morgana did not tell anyone about this abuse at the time. However, she refused to go back to the presbytery.

Morgana reported the abuse to police in the 2000s, which was a good experience for her. She learned that McCormick is deceased, so no criminal action was possible.

Soon after making this report, Morgana realised she may also have been abused by another member of the clergy too. Brother Callaghan was a teacher from the local Marist high school, who had sexually abused one of her brothers. He was also a frequent visitor to the family home when Morgana was around four years old, and would often give her presents.

She recalls being sat on Callaghan’s lap, and her brother remembers that she was often left alone in a room with him. As she was so young, she does not have clear memories of whether any abuse occurred, but reports exhibiting ‘sexualised behaviours’ that were not appropriate to her age around this time.

Morgana stopped attending church because of the abuse. This made her ‘an outsider’ to her family, as they are deeply religious. She told the Royal Commission that survivors of clerical abuse should have access to better support.

She also believes that the impacts on male survivors of this abuse are taken more seriously than female survivors, as sexual assault is seen by many people as ‘part of being a woman’.

The abuse has had an impact on Morgana’s potential employment as a teacher, as Catholic schools are a major employer in the education field. Working in this system requires a letter of support from a parish priest, and as she is uncomfortable speaking with priests she cannot obtain this.

After this, Morgana proceeded with civil action against the Catholic Church, but did not receive a financial payment. Church officials told her this was because it could not be ascertained whether the negative impacts she described where attributable to the abuse by McCormick, or the suspected abuse by Callaghan. There were different insurance bodies involved for the priest and the Brother, so without knowing who was responsible for the majority of her trauma compensation could not be worked out.

This process put Morgana out of pocket considerably. She still owes money for the psychiatric evaluations she had to try and prove the impact of the abuse, as this was to be taken out of any payment she received. The Church agreed that she could access counselling (of her choice) at their expense, but when her counsellor tried to contact them to arrange payment they did not answer.

She has since engaged legal representation, and told the Commission she had recently received an offer of compensation from the Church. The amount was such that after she had paid her legal costs she would be left with nothing. Her solicitors agreed to halve their fee, but she is still in a dilemma. She had previously received a $10,000 victims of crime payment, and is anxious that she will have to pay this back if she is accepts money from the Church.

Morgana has experienced considerable financial and emotional stress, and she is currently accessing a psychologist under a mental health plan. She is also on a disability pension due to a physical condition, but has been unable to access appropriate rehabilitation assistance to get into the workforce again.

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