After the sudden death of their father in the late 1940s, Seamus and his brothers were placed in an orphanage in Victoria. Seamus was about three when he entered and then when he was eight years old his mother was told to remove him from the premises. He said the circumstances of his sudden departure related to him being seen with another boy engaged in ‘sexual behaviour’.
‘There was two types of sexual behaviour’, Seamus said. ‘There was quite voluntary sexual behaviour between the very small kids in the nursery and I would have been involved in that because just for sheer loneliness – the place was terrifying. But then as you moved up the grades, the farm boys who were pubescent, they would come down and they select a kid. The nuns would go to mass and the farm boys would come down and pick the boys that were to be molested. They would have been going onto teenagers from what I remember.
‘The first contact I had with one of them, I was in the nursery and he showed me his penis, and I can still remember him saying, “Hey Seamus, look at this”. It’s funny the things you can still remember quite graphically. And then from that then there was the beginning of a program where there were different types of sexual activities.
‘When the nuns went to the church the boys would take the boys into the toilets and order you to take your clothes off. I can’t remember any intrusion in the sense of any entry to the body, but I can remember many times having my testicles played with and that sort of thing.’
Seamus thought children in the orphanage were vulnerable because they received no affection from the Sisters of Nazareth nuns in charge.
‘The nuns were ruthless, they were cold, they were brutal and so you were just on your own. And the consequence of that is if there was any form of attraction, any form of just somebody putting their hand on you, you’d just do anything to get away from the isolation, the loneliness of the place. That meant that I was hopeless. I had no chance at all.’
He said there was ‘no doubt’ that he had ‘homosexual inclinations’ and during his teens he became concerned about them. He wanted to be more like his father who he ‘adored’, and marry and have children. At about the age of 16, Seamus sought out counselling with a priest attached to a Catholic welfare organisation. ‘Big mistake’, he said. At the first session the priest asked Seamus to show him his penis.
‘I knew enough about psychology at that age to know there was no reason why.’
Seamus didn’t see the priest for long and was next referred to a psychologist who then in turn sent him to one of his colleagues in Melbourne.
Matthew Yates was also a psychologist and for several years, Seamus saw Yates, initially in a public hospital ward and later in a private facility. Yates asked to see Seamus’s genitals and talked to him about sex. Although he was suspicious, Seamus was keen to find out how to live what he regarded as a ‘normal life’, one in which he didn’t feel same-sex attraction.
As part of therapy, Yates administered LSD and on one occasion Seamus woke after a treatment to find Yates lying on top of him and playing with his penis. Seamus complained to the first psychologist he’d seen but when confronted, Yates insisted it was a figment of Seamus’s imagination while under the effect of LSD.
In his late 20s Seamus saw a psychiatrist and this he said had helped him to understand his sexuality.
‘When I’m really, really lonely I’m a homosexual’, Seamus said. ‘I just have nowhere to go. I can’t form relationships with women. I just can’t trust them because of what happened.’
Although he’d had a successful career, it remained a source of regret to Seamus that he’d never married and had children. He attributed this to his years in the orphanage which ‘completely stuffed my life’.
Apart from the mention he made to the psychologist about Yates, Seamus’s first disclosure of the sexual abuse was to his psychiatrist. He’d never made any reports to Victoria Police nor sought compensation from the Catholic Church, even though he thought it a good idea in theory ‘because the thing that the Church knows better than anybody else is the value of a dollar’.
‘I think the whole notion of the Royal Commission has been fantastic’, Seamus said. ‘I don’t give a damn what anybody says about Julia Gillard, she’s the next saint in the Catholic Church. Never mind Mackillop and the rest of them. I mean it was just so vital to get to the fundamentals. The second thing is - and I’ve thought about this a lot - it tells you an enormous amount about the Catholic Church and it’s not going to change, it’s not going to change unless a number of things are done. It’s no wonder the Church is so vigorously opposed to any form of publication of its finances and these sorts of things. And until you look at what’s happened in England, the way the English government responded, to me that was the remarkable thing.
‘All publication of the assets and liabilities of all the religious orders is vital. Get rid of the secrecy altogether. Today we’ve got the internet, we can publish the trading results of every religious order etc so no longer any secrecy. Any argument that this would be damaging to the Church is absolutely shot down in discussion. You go straight to the internet site for the New York archdiocese and there are all the finances of the archdiocese fully exposed etc, and a completely different approach. The secrecy has been the biggest problem.’