A Catholic Marist Brother told a girl he sexually assaulted to push rotten tomatoes into her face because she was so “ugly”.

The victim no longer lives in New Zealand, but the toxic memories of Kevin Healy’s offending are a constant reminder of betrayal, fear and anger.

The 81 year old, previously known as ”Brother Gordon”, was sentenced to nine months of home detention when he appeared in the Napier District Court on June 5, after pleading guilty to four charges of indecency between a man and boys aged 12 and 13, and one of indecency with a girl aged under 12.

The offending occurred between 1976 and 1977 when Healy was a member of the Marist Brothers and an active school teacher in Wairarapa.

Published in Stuff

The female victim was just nine years old when he began assaulting her and her father notified the church about Healy’s offending.

“Parents of the parish had a meeting about it and as a result highlighted it to church officials, my father being one of them. Brother Gordon was moved on from the school and parish, as was another offending Marist Brother,” she said.

Healy was confronted by the church in 2003 after the victim made an official complaint, but denied all knowledge of the offending, including knowing her family.

“This angered me into proceeding with charges as my father and mother were very prominent, faithful members of our parish,” she said.

The woman said she felt as though the church had “turned their back” on her.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and a breakdown followed her throughout life. The Church offered counselling at the time of her complaint and, later, a $5000 payout..

“I believe the church knew about the abuse. He [Healy], like others, was simply moved on. I was one in a long chain of abuse.”

“One has to understand that being a Catholic is not like a membership into a tennis club or something similar. It is a way of life, it is spiritually that one is taught to live by.”

The woman said Healy “normalised” his actions in that the children believed “he was a man of God”.

“I heard others talking about him and how he had touched them, and somehow that normalised it. However, I could not make sense of the fear I had around him.”

The Catholic Church’s National Office for Professional Standards (NOPS) said it would look at all aspects of how the Marists dealt with complaints about Healy and another Marist brother, Michael Beaumont, in the 1970s.

Beaumont, a former Marist Brother, had been teaching and working in the Masterton community when he sexually abused the children.

He abused the 9-year-old girl while her family had their eyes closed in prayer.

Beaumont was sentenced at the North Shore District Court last year to 12 months’ home detention for indecent assault and possessing obscene fantasy literature.

NOPS National Director Virginia Noonan said “Ms A” made formal complaints against the two men in the early 2000s to the Marist Brothers’ own abuse protocol body, but they were not upheld when the men denied them.

“We will get an outside reviewer to look thoroughly at what was done and not done with Ms A’s complaints,” Noonan said.

“The Church has nothing but compassion and regret for what happened to Ms A. It is deeply disturbing that her ordeal has gone on for so many decades. We want to assure her that we will work with the Marist Brothers to address her very valid concerns.”

The Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care was also investigating issues and neglect in faith-based institutions, including the Catholic Church.

“We encourage all victims/survivors of abuse in care to contact the commission with information that will assist our investigation,” a spokesperson said.

” I offered to speak to them directly but that was declined. Their lawyers offered $5000 (for Healy and Beaumont’s crimes) if I signed a wavier,” the victim said.

She tried to speak to the Marist order directly, but her request was declined by its lawyers.

Ken Clearwater, from the National Advocate for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust, said he had spoken to “hundreds if not thousands of male victims” of sexual abuse from the Church during the years.

“Imagine if you’re a 5-9 year old boy and you’ve got a priest telling you all these things [sexual acts] are bad, then they’re made to do them, they have nowhere to go.”

Clearwater said many victims from a church background who confronted their parents often “got a hiding” for saying “horrible things” about the priests.

“It’s hard enough for your average survivor in general to come back from abuse, but to have that added burden of clergy embedded in you is absolutely horrendous and one of the biggest betrayals of trust to ever happen.”

By Georgia-May Gilbertson
Published in Stuff
13 June 2020