In the 1960s Roy was part of a big family who attended a Catholic church in Sydney’s west. As an altar boy, 10-year-old Roy regularly attended an early Latin mass conducted by Father Joseph Seymour. He was ‘quite a character – very outgoing and jolly’, Roy said. ‘He’d sort of make you think he was your best buddy.’
When they were alone Seymour would rub his whiskers against Roy’s face, sit him on his lap and fondle his genitals. Sometimes he smelled of alcohol. Seymour would ask Roy if he was embarrassed by what was happening and he was told not to tell anyone. The abuse happened a number of times over three months until Seymour was transferred to another parish.
‘I didn’t realise what had happened until many years later … One of the things he did was to make you think this was all normal.’ Roy kept the abuse a secret but believed that it happened to other altar boys, too. As an adult, one of his friends disclosed that he had also been abused by Seymour.
In the early 1980s, Roy told his fiancée about the priest. They went on to have a large family and were always mindful of potential abuse. ‘I said there’s no way they’re going to a Catholic school or anywhere near a Catholic church, full stop.’ They home schooled their children until their early teens.
Roy has had trouble managing his anger and suffers anxiety. ‘I can remember kids goading me because they knew I’d go off.’ He made some poor life choices early on, but later had counselling. He now knows his triggers and understands he needs predictability around him.
Roy would have liked to explain to his children why they could never go on sleep-overs or attend functions at Catholic schools or churches. They’re adults now and Roy has still not revealed the abuse to them. His wife doesn’t think it fair to burden them with the knowledge. Roy would like his children to understand some of his behaviour towards them and his grandchildren, and believes he might share the truth if he outlives his wife.
Out of respect for his parents Roy waited until they had died before he approached the Catholic Church to disclose the abuse. When he first named his abuser he was told, ‘Oh yeah, that’s the way Joey [Seymour] used to work’. Roy was furious. ‘At that point I just completely lost it. I thought, “How on Earth can I talk to a person who has this attitude?”’
Later he was told he would need to meet with a priest to discuss the issue of compensation. Roy refused, and has not pursued the Church for redress since.
He believes he’s now coping with the impacts of the abuse, and was keen to tell his story to the Royal Commission. ‘I did want to contribute, and add to the story, and add to the pressure for recommendations that may come.’
Roy believes any apology from the Church will be meaningless without structural change. ‘What they’re saying is, “We’re really sorry this happened to you – and they might mean it – but we’re just going to keep doing the same thing”.
‘My greatest wish is that the Church sort of says, “We are going to change everything. We’re going to sell all our property, we’re going to compensate all the victims and we’re going to set up a whole new system. Priests can live normal married lives”. You won’t have males living in communities, and then the attraction for paedophiles to get into that goes.’