The Real-life Angel: the Rebel Priest Who Has Helped More Than 80 Victims of Church Paedophiles Deal with the Trauma of Abuse at the Hands of Evil Clergy
By John Carney
May 22, 2015
|Fr Kevin Dillon has been Parish Priest for St Mary of the Angels Catholic Parish in Geelong for the past 15 years|
| In 2008 Neil Mitchell’s 3AW radio show in Melbourne was holding a live phone-in about a Catholic priest who sexually abused Emma and Katie Foster. Fr Dillon called to say that the Catholic Church had not done enough for the family|
It is a role he never planned for, but which now provides essential support and trust to the victims.
It all began in 2008 on Neil Mitchell’s 3AW radio show in Melbourne. A live phone-in was taking place about the Foster family.
Christine and Anthony Foster had three daughters. Two of them, Emma and Katie, were sexually abused at a young age by a Catholic priest.
In 2008, Emma Foster died of an overdose aged 26. Katie developed an alcohol problem and was hit by a drunk driver in 1999, leaving her with brain damage requiring 24-hour care.
The girls’ tragic lives stemmed from the child abuse they suffered. Like the Royal Commission inquiry it was a major news story at the time.
|Christine and Anthony Foster's (pictured) daughters Emma and Katie were sexually abused at a young age by a Catholic priest. Fr Dillon called into a phone-in that was discussing the issue in 2008|
This was a particularly tragic case, but the church response showed nowhere near enough empathy to the Foster family who had suffered so much,’ Fr Dillon told Daily Mail Australia.
‘I got a rush of blood to the head and called in. It’s the only time I’ve ventured proactively in such a way into the media on this subject. But I said what I felt – that the Catholic Church had to do more.’
But his spontaneous appearance on the program and stance that he took got noticed.
‘What I did was totally unplanned, but it catapulted me into a serious and intense situation. People who had been abused by Catholic clergy from all over Australia began contacting me,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
|Anthony and Christine Foster with their daughters Katie (centre), and Aimee. The couple's other daughter Emma died of a drug overdose as the result of child abuse. It was their story that prompted Fr Dillon into action|
|After the phone-in the 70-year-old priest was contacted by people who had been abused by Catholic priests |
Some I now speak to victims daily. Some suffer from post-traumatic stress from what they endured.
‘Just today I spoke or texted with five people. That’s more than normal, but the Royal Commission has stirred up all the old fears.
‘What is humbling is that they are still looking to the church, or me as a priest, for support. It’s terrific they'll speak to me yet tragic at the same time. You’d think the last person they’d want to be speak with is a priest.
‘But in spite of all they’ve been through they still have faith. I have been contacted by them as they feel there is someone in the institution that believes them, understands them, respects them and cares for them.
|For years Fr Dillon has been helping a victim of the man known as Australia's worst paedophile, former Catholic priest Gerald Ridsdale (pictured) |
|Ridsdale bused more than 50 children as he was moved between nine Victorian parishes over three decades|
Fr Dillon, 70, has been ordained for 46 years but believes this is the most important work he’s ever done, and that it is divine providence that it has happened.
One of the abused that he has been helping for years was a victim of Gerald Ridsdale. Commonly known as Australia’s worst paedophile, the vile priest abused more than 50 children as he was moved between nine Victorian parishes over three decades.
‘Ridsdale sexually abused this man, but I would consider this man a very good friend now and an amazing person. Thanks to my involvement in this issue in recent years I have also met quite a few of the men who will give evidence at the inquiry,’ Fr Dillon says.
One of these was Stephen Woods whose harrowing evidence to the inquiry on Thursday included how he had been raped by Ridsdale as a schoolboy at St Patrick’s College when he had gone to him for help and advice.
|Stephen Woods gave evidence at the Royal Comission inquiry on Thursday. Mr Woods was raped by Ridsdale as a schoolboy at St Patrick’s College in Ballarat|
‘I met Stephen at a public meeting and initially he was quite aggressive to me. But by the end of the meeting we shook hands and we have got on very well since,’ Fr Dillon says.
‘Naturally he’s very hurt at what happened to him. But thank goodness he’s able to express himself in the way that he does. He’s an intelligent and articulate person who has suffered enormously.’
Fr Dillon also said that Cardinal George Pell should appear in person at the inquiry, but only if the Royal Commission decided he should do so. Church documents revealed Cardinal Pell may have helped move move Ridsdale between parishes at the height of his reign of terror.
|Cardinal George Pell should appear in person at the Royal Commission inquiry but only if they order him to, says Fr Dillon|
But Fr Dillon was adamant that the way the Catholic Church treated those who suffered horrific clerical abuse must change drastically if there will ever be any progress.
‘What the Catholic Church needs to be saying to victims of abuse is what do you need for your life to be put back together? We just don’t do that,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘We make those abused follow our process, and our process is so flawed that we’ve now got a Royal Commission into it all.’
|Fr Dillon is currently helping and advising more than 80 people across Australia who have suffered physical and sexual child abuse from Catholic clergy|