A victim who will be awarded $2.45 million in compensation for sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of a Catholic priest has spoken out about the “severe” impact the abuse continues to have on his life.
Warning: This story deals with child abuse and rape.
Published in ABC News
Perth’s Catholic archbishop consented to pay the compensation after the victim, who is now aged in his 50s, described being raped by Father Bertram Adderley in the 1970s.
The landmark judgement was approved by a District Court judge last week and is believed to be one of the highest known sums paid by any Catholic church in Australia to a survivor of historic sex abuse.
Peter* spoke to the ABC about the abuse he suffered at the hands of the now-deceased priest, who was a lay teacher at Perth’s prestigious Aquinas College in the 1950s, before serving as a priest in the Catholic Diocese in Bunbury.
Adderley also served in Perth at the parish in Hamilton Hill, where he met Peter when he was a nine-year-old altar boy around 1977.
Peter, who did not want to be identified, said it was scary to re-live the worst time of his life in court, but he pushed through because he felt the church’s response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was “arrogant”.
“As much as it hurt, I steeled myself to pursue this and contacted the lawyers,” Peter said.
He said the church had not behaved fairly towards victims.
“You guys have affected so many lives, mine included, and you’re just brushing us under the carpet,” he said.
Victim recounts trauma in court
Peter said he felt comfortable talking with those close to him about the abuse he suffered as a boy but when he had to recount the harrowing details in court, it was traumatising.
He said he left the court feeling extremely anxious, with feelings he hadn’t felt for years.
“It brought it home to me just how much it still affects me,” he said.
“But when you have to delve back into the nitty gritty … it really does rip the scabs open and all the scars were laid bare again.
“I left the court that day in shellshock.”
He said relief flooded through him when his legal team advised that not only had the church make a financially acceptable settlement, they had also accepted how traumatic it was for him to relive his abuse.
“I’ve spent 43 years battling with conditions, I had no idea I had,” Peter said.
“PTSD, depressive disorder, major anxiety, and now I can afford to get it all treated properly, I can find the help I’ve always needed.”
He said the impact the abuse had throughout his life had been severe.
“Not being able to hold relationships, my moral compass was completely destroyed by what happened to me as a child, and the people who loved me and have loved me, and I have loved bore the brunt of that,” he said.
“I’ve had anger management issues, which has not only affected my work life, but my love life.”
‘Church knew of prior abuse’
Peter’s lawyer Michael Magazanik said Adderley had “dozens and dozens” of other victims, including boys at Aquinas College where he worked as a lay teacher in the 1950s.
Mr Magazanik said Adderley abused “many boys” in the Bunbury region in the sixties and seventies, and the Church was made aware of these allegations.
Rather than taking action, Mr Magazanik said the Church “shifted him up the road to Perth” where he met Peter when he was an altar boy at the Hamilton Hill parish.
“Adderley abused (Peter) horrifically in 1978 and 1980,” he said.
“Really the claim was the Catholic Church knew Adderley was a child abuser, yet allowed him to move up to Perth and serve at the Church where he abused my client.
“We know he abused boys in the Bunbury region, he abused boys in Perth, he targeted boys he met at the beach, school boys, altar boys and he especially targeted boys at Aquinas College in Perth,” he said.
“He had many victims and I know some of those victims haven’t made it.”
Mr Magazanik described the judgement as “enormously significant”.
“This is the largest sum of compensation the Catholic Church has paid to an abuse survivor in Australia ever,” he said.
‘Evil prospers in darkness’
Peter said: “What happened to me should never have happened, because [the Catholic Church] was aware of his sickness, his illness of the mind, before he got to me.”
He said this “dereliction of their duty of care” pushed him to bring his case forward.
“The thing that fortified me to go ahead with this process is a firm belief that evil prospers in the darkness,” he said.
He said while he did not feel “happy” about the judgement, it has led him to find some closure and relief.
He said every morning when he woke up, the first thing he saw was his abuser.
But he said he took solace in the historic judgement.
“You didn’t win, you didn’t beat me,” he said of his abuser.
Fears for other victims
While Peter survived, he feared what had happened to other victims of Father Adderley.
“I’m so frightful of how many people didn’t make it this far in life, I nearly didn’t make it a couple of times because of him,” he said.
“But I just couldn’t let him win and couldn’t let [the Catholic Church] win.
Going forward Peter said he wanted other victims to seek help and know it is not their fault.
“Do not feel guilty about it, don’t be ashamed of it,” he said.
“If you’re still with us, if you haven’t succumbed to that guilt and shame, go and see a lawyer.
Peter said in the early 2000s, the Church embarked on what it called the Towards Healing process where it acknowledged that some of the priests had “done heinous things to the children in their flock”.
He said he received $50,000 in financial regress and was muffled by a legal document stating he could not talk about what had happened to him, which had left him feeling hopeless.
Once ordained as a priest, Adderley served as a priest in the Catholic Diocese in Bunbury from 1959 to 1974.
He died in 1983 before any charges could be laid against him.
Archbishop apologises for ‘deplorable history’ of sexual abuse against young and vulnerable
The Perth Catholic Archbishop Timothy Costelloe said in a statement he was “glad the survivor of this shocking abuse has had the opportunity to have his story told and believed and has been financially compensated”
“The Catholic Church has a deplorable history in relation to the sexual abuse of the young and vulnerable,” Reverend Costelloe said.
“The Royal Commission shone a much-needed light on this dark chapter in the Church’s history here in Australia.
“Nothing can justify or cancel out the dreadful mistakes of the past.
“What the Church can do today and into the future is to commit itself to treating those who have been abused with dignity, respect and integrity.
“The Church can and must also take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that, as far as humanly possible, such abuse never again occurs within Catholic settings.”
He said the church had established two bodies that were “functionally independent” to ensure the safety of constituents, and ensure complainants were supported when they reported abuse.
He said the church was a full participant in the Commonwealth Redress Scheme, which was set up in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
‘Business as usual’ despite Royal Commission
But Peter said the Australian Catholic Church’s response to the Royal Commission was not enough.
“Their refusal to change the sanctity of the confessional, and their refusal to report paedophiles within their own ranks, when they become aware of it, says to me that they have not changed … to them it’s business as usual and this is just a minor inconvenience,” he said.
“The hubris and arrogance of the Catholic church in the past had to be accounted for … for there to be any real justice in life.
“The laws are against me, the statute of limitations are against me, so I begrudgingly accepted it and tried to move on with my life,” he said.
Peter urged the public to stay vigilant over protecting children, as the Royal Commission found they’re commonly abused by people in trusted positions like a priest of family member.
*The victim’s name has been changed to protect his identity.
By Keane Bourke and Amelia Searson
Published in ABC News
22 Jan 2021