THE HERALD'S OPINION: Former Novocastrian rejects Vincentian Brothers apology

Newcastle Herald
June 14, 2017

Damien Sheridan, right, with son Zakarie.

SAINT Vincent de Paul was a French Catholic priest who died in 1660 after a life dedicated to helping the poor.

He was canonised a saint in 1737 and the modern society that bears his name was begun in France in 1833 by a lawyer and academic, Frédéric Ozanam. Known originally as the Conference of Charity, it expanded around the world during the 19th century, and today serves its mission in more than 130 countries.

Its work for the poor stands unchallenged, but as the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has shown, it has also – like many Catholic organisations – been a home to substantial numbers of paedophiles.

In its February 2017 analysis of child sexual abuse claims made against Catholic institutions, the Royal Commission, the Congregation of the Mission, as the Vincentian society is known, came 15th in a list of Catholic organisations ranked by the amount of compensation paid to victims.

All up, 49 people had made claims against the Vincentians, with 28 of these receiving a financial payment: the total of $3.7 million amounted to an average of $137,000 per person.

But as the commission heard so often during its hearings, financial compensation is only part of the package of redress that failed institutions owe to those they have allowed to be abused.

Now, a former Novocastrian, Damien Sheridan, who was abused as a child by a Vincentian priest, is speaking out about the way his former college plans to apologise to its victims on Friday – the 280th anniversary of St Vincent de Paul’s canonisation.

As Mr Sheridan puts it: “They’re saying sorry to try to make themselves look good, but putting it on that day shows it’s still all about them.”

Mr Sheridan was at St Stanislaus College, Bathurst, where allegations have been laid against 16 Vincentians, resulting in convictions against nine. As far as he is concerned, the fact the college could describe “30 years of a well-organised paedophile network” as “moments of darkness” – as it did in February when marking its 150th anniversary – shows it is yet to face up to the enormity of the wrong it allowed to flourish.

For apologies to work, they must be on terms acceptable to those receiving them.

The Vincentians are on notice that the apology they are planning for Friday has already been rejected.


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