Nathaniel and his brothers David and Peter were raised in a family ‘devoted’ to the Catholic Church. ‘We attended church every Sunday and were choir boys … We took confession and communion regularly and we had a faith in God.’
In the mid-1950s Nathaniel and David were in primary school and Peter was in the early years of high school at a De La Salle Brothers college in Sydney.
In a statement to the Royal Commission Nathaniel wrote, ‘Their teaching method was by intimidation and hurt … if by chance you gave a wrong answer you were called down in front of everyone, required to bend over and given the leather strap on your backside … It was extremely scary and we were such little innocent kids.
‘On a number of occasions I was called down to the front of the class and asked by Brother Benedict to sit on his knee … While talking to the class he would rub and stroke my leg and up into my groin. He did this at varying frequency as a form of self-stimulation I believe.
‘Clearly the Brothers considered they could do anything they wanted to us as the Catholic Church was invincible, above suspicion and without accountability to authorities.
‘I am aware that both David and Peter were also sexually abused.’ (With Nathaniel’s private session, all three men have now spoken to the Royal Commission about their time at the college.)
Nathaniel recalled being abused a number of times. After one incident, and still not really understanding what it meant, the boys told their parents what Brother Benedict was doing.
‘My father went to De La Salle to see the headmaster to discuss our assertions. We did not get feedback of that meeting. We were, however, immediately taken out of De La Salle by our parents …
‘[Our father] didn’t give us the opportunity to say work out the term or work out the year … and I would’ve done the same.’
The boys were enrolled in a nearby state school, but the family’s dealings with the De La Salle Brothers were not over.
‘One evening … a priest appeared at the front door of our house. We were ushered away and not to be part of the discussion. Our mother told us years later that our complaints were discussed and that the priest had told them that if we were taken out of De La Salle then as a family we would be excommunicated from the Catholic Church.
‘As strict Catholics this threat must have been devastating on my parents ... It was unconscionable and evil conduct ... We were never invited back to Catholic Church.’
And while there was no abuse at their new school, Nathaniel and his brothers struggled academically and socially. ‘We were clearly traumatised by the change in school ... We always had done really well at De La Salle … We lost all our close mates … we were vilified as “tykes” at the public school and were ostracised. It took time to make new friends.’
Nathaniel wrote, ‘As my life matured the events at De La Salle have always been with me and are distressing to this date’. He said, however, that there was one impact above all others.
‘I don’t have a faith. Yeah, I don’t have that. They shouldn’t have done what they done … it was a crime and they weren’t entitled to that. And they weren’t entitled to take my faith. And to appreciate the significance of that, do you believe in God? I don’t.’
He wrote, ‘There have been times in my life when a faith would have helped my grieving during crises around family deaths, illnesses and personal struggles. Others have this benefit in their life but this important ingredient is missing in my life … I am upset and feel grossly deprived because of this. The Catholic Church had no right to take this away from us’.
Nathaniel has never had counselling for the sexual abuse. He said he doesn’t ‘ponder over it, but it’s always there’. He has also never sought compensation, but said in his statement that he and his brothers are now ready to take action.
‘I want the teaching Brother/priest, De La Salle and the Catholic Church named and shamed publicly over allowing and ignoring the paedophilia to occur and be inflicted on us. I want each of them prosecuted by the police. I suspect it was endemic throughout De La Salle and hopefully others have come forward as well to the Commission.
‘There are damages to be paid for the abuse, loss of earnings and the prolonged impact of personal distress caused to me and the loss of my faith.
‘As well the Church and De La Salle are accountable for the distress caused to my parents and the impact this had on their lives.
‘In the full knowledge of physical and sexual abuse at De La Salle neither the school nor the Catholic Church have ever offered us comfort or psychological assistance.’
But while Nathaniel was grateful for the Royal Commission’s work, he doesn’t believe that it will cause significant change to the culture of the Catholic Church.
‘That’s probably the reason I don’t ask for an apology. I don’t see it changing … like, there are a whole lot of people haven’t been brought to account on this.’