Reynard grew up in western Sydney in a large, ‘highly committed Catholic family. My father was the chairman of the parish council and my mother was in all of the Catholic organisations that women, mothers, were representative in those days. So very devout family totally committed to the Church, I would say’.
As a young Catholic in the mid-1960s, Reynard was expected to perform the duties of an altar boy, even though it wasn’t something he particularly enjoyed. ‘I would have been about eight years old, I guess, and all my brothers were altar boys too over the years, and certainly my elder brother and my next youngest brother were altar boys when I was an altar boy. I wasn’t that keen on it, to be honest.’
Around about the same year Reynard became an altar boy, a new curate, Father O’Malley, joined the parish. Reynard described O’Malley as ‘a fairly young man in those days, a pretty robust sort of guy, very athletic, had a rowing machine in the garage, and I believe an ex-boxer and, you know, that sort of thing.
‘He had some strange attributes as well. He loved to grow his stubble for a couple of days and then he would line all the altar boys up and inspect their fingernails to see if they were clean or not. If they weren't clean, he would rub his stubble all over your face. As an eight-year-old kid it wasn't a great experience, I've got to say that. Everyone knew that and I guess it was accepted. It was just a bit of a quirk with him.’
Reynard told the Commissioner that it was well-known among that parish that O’Malley had a drinking problem, and would often lose his place during church services. ‘He was still obviously still drunk probably from the night before and stunk of alcohol of course. But again, I think a lot of people knew that he was drunk and it was fairly well accepted. I guess priests were allowed to drink, you know.’
When he was nine, Reynard and his younger brother were performing altar duties when O’Malley approached them after mass, saying he wanted to talk to them.
‘He took us into the presbytery, into the interview room there … In the end he undid our flies and took out our penis et cetera, and started fondling us and talking about sexual development. I can't remember the specifics, but it was just about saying that, you know, we're growing up and asking us what stage of our development we were at. Then, somewhat surprisingly, he started running a bath in an adjoining room. You can imagine I was pretty petrified where that was heading. After about 10 minutes of running the bath, he came back into the room and the bath stopped and we went home.
‘That was the extent of my youngest brother and I. He said that as we developed more he would have some more sessions with us. That wasn't something I was particularly going to look forward to.’
Reynard and his brother never discussed the incident, and Reynard became terrified of O’Malley and the prospect of a repeat event.
‘I was scared of him, very, very scared of him. A big physical guy who said “There's going to be more sessions”. So I was worried at the time. I hadn't mentioned it to any of my family. I'm pretty sure he asked us not to mention it to anybody. He would have given some air of authority that he was doing something for the family rather than anything else. May have even implied that he had authority from the family to talk to us about it, which I doubt is true, but, you know, who knows. In those days my family would have trusted him to talk to us about it.
‘At that time, the Church had this sort of unquestioned position of honour and respect and couldn't really be challenged … To question the honour of a priest in those days was a pretty fundamental issue I think.’
Not long after the incident, and before there was another ‘session’, O’Malley was transferred to a different parish. ‘A huge sigh of relief went up. “Thank God, that's going to go nowhere”.’
As an adult Reynard married and had children, all of whom are now adults. He doesn’t believe that O’Malley’s abuse has had a dramatic impact on him, but noted that he is still in contact with a few altar boys from those days who have admitted to being abused and have experienced various impacts.
‘One has said to me a number of times how upset he is about it, and the fact that there's been no, up until now, no inquiry about it and no resolution, I think. He was also from a large Catholic family who were highly committed to the Church and feels that he was, his family was betrayed by this … The other one, he's not particularly worried about it. He remembers it well and, you know, it was like “Okay, that happened, I've moved on”.’
Reynard’s older brother recently disclosed for the first time that he was abused by O’Malley as a child, and Reynard estimates that O’Malley would have had about 30 victims from around that time. Although he is not certain of its truth, Reynard was informed that O’Malley committed suicide ‘just a few years later’.
Reynard’s wife and children are aware of the abuse but, like him, choose not to dwell on it. ‘I remember and I've moved on from it, I think … You grow up in a big family and you've got good support mechanisms around you and you see it mostly as an aberration … It's not good, but, yeah, what do you do? You move on.’
Although he was married in the Church and had his children baptised, Reynard is no longer a practising Catholic. He has never reported the abuse to the institution or the police because he believes his father, who is still active in the Church, would suffer if he knew what had happened to three of his sons.
‘It's something I've been putting off. My father is now 86 and hasn't a lot longer to go. He'd be pretty upset about it all, I think. I've only just spoken to him very briefly in a sort of very obtuse way and he would be most upset about it …
‘The thing that strikes me is I know four altar boys from [the parish]. Every one of them was abused … I still have a view every time I see Cardinal Pell or anybody else from the Church make a statement that they're very defensive. I've never convinced myself that they're keen to find out what happened. They are just keen to defend what they did. So it's very adversarial I think, and certainly not conducive to openness.’