Four New Catholic Abuse Victims Come Forward

By Aja Styles

August 13, 2008

MARK COLVIN: Four West Australian men are demanding justice from the Catholic Church after coming forward about their alleged sexual abuse by two priests.

The men say they have spent most of their lives feeling isolated by their childhood trauma. Even now three of them are afraid to be named.

They've accused the Church of taking insufficient action over child abuse; instead choosing to hide behind legal arguments.

The Church says it has done all it can.

Aja Styles reports.

(Sound of glasses being clinked and men saying "cheers")

AJA STYLES: These four men have been united by a childhood event that has scarred them throughout their adult lives. They say they were the victims of child sex abuse at the hands of two Catholic priests in regional Western Australia.

For years each of the four thought he was alone.

ALLEGED MALE VICTIM: When Alan came out and I'm reading it in the paper and I'm thinking for Christ sake that's exactly and really I didn't know you.


AJA STYLES: Alan Rowe brought the others together after he went public three years ago. What they all have in common is having known Father Kevin Johnston and Father Bertram Adderley, two priests who worked alongside each other in several parishes.

Mr Rowe says Father Johnston abused him while he was an altar boy at Bunbury's St Patrick's Cathedral in the 1970s. Father Johnston, who now lives in Ireland, wrote to Mr Rowe asking for forgiveness.

However the Church denies it's an admission of any criminal behaviour, which has angered Mr Rowe.

ALAN ROWE: You can not get closure without an apology, at least an apology and even an apology still doesn't give you closure but to be disrespected, be told that you are lying when we can't all be lying.

AJA STYLES: A second victim who wants to be known as Matthew alleges Father Johnston also abused him, when he was a 10-year-old Bunbury altar boy in the late '60s.

MATTHEW: Ever since that happened every time you see something in the paper about paedophiles and you know, you just sort of, it just makes you angry again.

AJA STYLES: Two more victims, who we'll call Gary and Rick say they were abused by Father Adderley. Father Adderley has since died but both are still haunted by the memory.

GARY: It all started at a wedding at the cathedral in Bunbury, I was an altar boy and after the wedding he took me to the presbytery.

I always remember walking through the lounge room with three priests there having cups of tea and they just looked at me and smiled, and he took me to his bedroom and abused me. That was the first time it happened. It happened a few times after that.

AJA STYLES: How old were you at the time?

GARY: I was about 12,13.

RICK: I was going to school in 1974 at Kearnan College in Manjimup where Dr Adderley was one of two priests that worked at the school and church. I was in a room, he came into the room and molested me. He actually paid me money, he gave me a dollar, I still remember he gave me a dollar.

AJA STYLES: Rick says he reported it at the time but to no avail.

RICK: I was called out of the classroom and I was taken down the presbytery where I was interviewed by a fellow from child welfare and he basically put me through the mill 'til I cracked up and started crying after about an hour and said I was lying just so I could get out of there.

AJA STYLES: Did anything come of the complaint and the fact that he interviewed about a dozen boys?

RICK: Adderley was moved, Adderley was never seen again after that day at the school.

AJA STYLES: All four men say the Church's only answer has been to offer money. Alan has received $15,000 and Gary, $25,000. But they insist that money's not what they want.

GARY: As the Pope said, he would like the people who caused these abuses brought to justice and that is what I'd like to see.

AJA STYLES: Matthew says the current Bunbury Bishop, Gerard Holohan, has brushed his and Alan's shared story aside.

MATTHEW: I received a letter from the Chancellery Office on the 14th of November 2005 signed by the Bishop, "In regards to Alan Rowe the Diocese has never accepted any liability for any alleged misconduct against Father Johnston. There would be no liability from the Diocese even if the allegations were true".

AJA STYLES: Bishop Holohan has refused to be interviewed because of confidentiality constraints between the church and victims.

However in a written statement he says:

GERARD HOLOHAN (voiceover): Father Johnston has strenuously denied on more than one occasion any abuse or improper action against either complainant. Regarding the letter of apology, Father Johnston has advised on more than one occasion that this letter, written without a specific context, was not an apology for any action of abuse. I advised each claimant to go to the police with any allegations and any evidence they feel they have.

AJA STYLES: Bishop Holohan does not deny the abuse claims by Adderley's victims.

GERARD HOLOHAN (voiceover): The bishop of the time, Myles McKeon, first learned of Adderley's abuse of children in 1974. Adderley was then expelled from priestly ministry in the Diocese. Subsequently he was employed as a librarian at the then WA Institute of Technology until his terminal illness.

A number of Adderley's victims have contacted the diocese and participated in the Church's Towards Healing process over the years. It is for victims of abuse who have no legal redress.

The basic purpose of the meeting is to arrive at agreement as to how the Church can assist towards the healing of the victim. Agreements often include practical assistance, including financial assistance.

AJA STYLES: The bishop agrees that Adderley admitted abusing a child when an allegation was raised and investigated in 1974. But Father Adderley was never charged. It's left his alleged victims with a sense of justice denied.

ALLEGED MALE VICTIM: To me it's about the Catholic Church and what they supposedly stand for and what they, yeah, what they have allowed to go on.

ALLEGED MALE VICTIM 2: The innocent need to be protected.

MARK COLVIN: Two alleged victims of the West Australian Catholic Priest Father Bertram Adderley, ending that report from Aja Styles.


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