Catholic Church ‘two-faced’ for refusing to help abuse survivor’s bid share experiences in Rome

The Press [Christchurch, NZ]

August 28, 2023

By Shannon Redstall

A Christchurch man who suffered sexual abuse as a child at the hands of the Brothers of St John of God has criticised the Catholic Church for publicly offering help to survivors and then turning down his request for financial aid.

Darryl Smith was one of dozens of boys who suffered “extreme abuse and neglect” at Marylands School in Halswell between 1955 and the late 1980s.

On his first night at the school, in 1971, he was woken from his sleep, taken to an office and raped. He was 6 years old.

Now 59, Smith is raising money to go to an international summit for sexual assault survivors in Rome next month.

A beneficiary, he said he is so determined to get there that he’s been skipping meals and doctor’s appointments to save every cent possible. He said he is also trying to raise at least $6000 through Givealittle to help cover his costs.

Smith has also approached the Catholic Diocese of Christchurch for financial assistance, but was told: “Unfortunately, the diocese is declining the opportunity to raise money for your trip”.

Smith called the church “two-faced” because he said the decision flies in the face of a comment the church made following a recent damning report into the Marylands School and the associated Hebron Trust, run by the Brothers of St John of God.

Following the report, Archbishop Paul Martin said: “We must continue to monitor and improve the practices put in place throughout the Church to prevent harm, as well as supporting survivors of abuse. We know there is more we need to do and we are committed to doing it.”

Smith said: “They made us all a promise that this will never happen again and that they would help us, do the things that we need to do, and they lied.”

In a statement, the Catholic Church said Smith had been provided previous support, redress payments and support for a previous trip to a survivors’ event, and that the bishops wish him well.

Smith hopes to act as an ambassador for all New Zealand survivors of abuse at the upcoming summit.

He said the group will talk about progress being made in different countries, share ideas and discuss how they can work toward continued change in the Catholic Church.

Smith plans to take copies of the Marylands School report with him to share with other survivors, and said despite the Royal Commission of Inquiry process being “scary”, he felt very positive about what the Abuse in Care report has found.

Smith attended the same summit in 2019 and said it was healing to meet survivors from around the world and exchange stories.

He said he felt like he got some of his power back by being there.