Robert's story

Robert said he was astonished to discover in the 1990s that the priest who’d abused him as a child was living next door to a primary school.

Father Brendan was a relative of Robert’s and over a period of years in the mid to late 1960s, he abused Robert whenever he visited the presbytery in Western Australia.

The abuse included ‘everything except anal penetration, though that was once’.

In the late 1970s, Robert disclosed the abuse to his father and found out his brothers had also been sexually abused by Father Brendan. They’d each been sent separately to stay with the priest and none knew of the others’ experience.

Robert’s father had reported Father Brendan to the bishop who told him he’d be sent to Sydney for treatment. The bishop later denied knowledge of this conversation. It appeared that for the next few years, Father Brendan was moved between various states of Australia.

After discovering in the 1990s that Father Brendan was living next to the school, Robert went with his brothers to see the archbishop. They requested that Father Brendan be stopped from undertaking religious duties and also that he be moved away from the school.

Robert said that the initial response from the archbishop was to tell the men they were being vindictive, and it was only after they threatened to make the knowledge public that he agreed to take action.

The archbishop then wrote to tell Robert that Father Brendan’s priestly faculties had been removed and he was no longer permitted to undertake the duties of a priest. He also offered money for counselling.

Around that time, Robert became aware of a report that referred to Father Brendan sexually abusing boys in the early 1950s.

‘It’s quite clear that three archbishops and [a bishop] and several priests all knew about [Father Brendan].’

Robert requested a meeting with Father Brendan and asked him for a list of other boys he had abused. He wrote down the names of over two dozen boys. When it was suggested that the Church should contact those people, Father Brendan dismissed the idea saying it would be an invasion of their privacy.

When Robert asked why he’d abused him and his brothers, Father Brendan replied: ‘Because you were available’.

Robert and his brothers then made reports to police, and Father Brendan was charged with multiple child sexual abuse offences.

He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six years imprisonment.

Robert said the court process was difficult but police handled the matter well.

‘I’ll never forget walking out of that after giving my statement and I remember saying …. “I feel six inches taller”. I just felt like this huge weight had gone from me.’

He was perplexed when the police unit that investigated the matter was disbanded a short time later.

Later, Robert spoke again with the archbishop who said he’d been to see Father Brendan in jail and that he was doing well.

He’d refused to participate in therapy while in jail. The archbishop said to Robert, ‘I support him in his decision to refuse to have therapy, because it involves showing him pictures of naked women and that would be against his vow of celibacy’.

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