I Was One of the Boys Orsmond Tried to Molest

The Times
October 7, 2007

I was a student at Boys Town Magaliesberg from mid-1965 to the end of 1968.

Your article "Boys Town bishop accused of molestation" (September 30), is indeed true. The so-called "counselling" by Father Orsmond of boys was an idea I did not take kindly to.

It is a pity this came out only after Orsmond passed away.

At the time I was there we were 99 boys, with most of the boys being Catholic and about 10% from other denominations.

I am of the Anglican faith and was one of the few boys at Boys Town by choice. The Catholic boys were committed by social welfare.

There were different citizenships for the school, depending on how well one behaved oneself and how one played the game with Father Orsmond's cronies.

We called them Father's pretty boys and, believe me, there were quite a few. They were allowed to go to his room at night and drink wine, and those who smoked were given cigarettes (pipe and tobacco smoking was allowed after age 15 with your parents' written permission).

LEGEND OR ABUSER? Father Reginald Orsmond with a teenage Mario D’Offizi in a picture on a promotional Boys Town flyer. As a grown man, D’Offizi, right, has written a book in which he accuses the priest of sexually molesting him as a boy

I ran away from the institution because of the sexual advances made by Father Orsmond and some of the senior counsellors. I withhold names.

When I got home, I told my parents what was going on there, but was told it was a figment of my imagination as a Roman Catholic priest would not do this.

At that time, a Mr Haywood was the school secretary and he denied to my parents that there was any abuse of boys. In fact, the conversation became so heated that my father almost assaulted him when we got to Boys Town.

I was taken back there and, in a private session with my parents, Father Orsmond denied all my allegations. I was then told that my suitcase was being packed and that I was going home.

'We called them Father's pretty boys and, believe me, there were quite a few. They were allowed to go to his room at night'

When I was ready to go, Father Orsmond changed his mind. I will never forget his words. I quote: "Brian is easily influenced and misle d by others, and we will give him one last chance."

I was dismayed and upset and told them I would run away again and this time go to the police or social welfare if any sexual advances were made to me by any person.

I was left alone for a while, but then some counsellors tried to get clever with me again. One evening two of them cornered me while I was showering and they tried to get funny with me. I screamed. A few of the other boys came to my rescue.

I immediately reported this to Father Orsmond, but no action was taken. He did not believe me even after asking the other boys what they had seen when they came to the showers.

An Anglican priest, Cannon Heath, came to Boys Town to conduct a retreat with us, during which we were asked if anything was bothering us. I told him of my experiences.

He promised to take up the matter with senior Catholic church members in the diocese of Johannesburg. Whether he did or not I do not know but the harassment continued. I did not succumb to it.

I decided to leave Boys Town at the end of 1968, with or without my parents' permission, and was glad to put those years behind me.

Many years later, I was involved in a motor vehicle accident and broke my neck.

In Edenvale Hospital one early morning there was a priest praying over me. I thought I was being given the last rites. To my surprise it was Cannon Heath — he had been admitted for a kidney problem.

Later in the day we got talking and I asked him whether he had, in fact, taken the matter up with the bishop. He informed me that he had taken Father Orsmond on directly as I was not the only Anglican that they were trying to abuse. He had warned Father Orsmond that if he received any more complaints about this he would indeed take it further.

All in all, Father Orsmond was a legend and I do not want to see a smear campaign against the man.

With regard to Joe Araujo, he has worked tirelessly to promote Boys Town and I have great respect for the man. — Brian MacKenzie, by e-mail


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