Abuse victim’s anger at church mediation

The Catholic Church’s response to sex abuse was “Towards Hurting” rather than “Towards Healing” one of the victims has told an inquiry.


The man said he had no faith left after being abused by three Marist Brothers at school and then participating in the church’s mediation process Towards Healing, which he called a “sham.”

He felt this way when he learned that the order of brothers withheld the fact that an independent mediator in his case actually worked for the Catholic Church.

The 49-year-old identified as DK, who was abused while a boarder at St Augustine’s Marist College in Cairns from 1976-81, told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse of his desire to forgive, and to educate his children in the Catholic system.

But this had changed because of the process to which he was subjected.

In 1999, DK reported the abuse, which included one brother fondling him when he was 11, another watching him while he showered and a third, Brother Ross Murrin, whom he considered a friend, molesting him twice. Murrin is in jail for unrelated abuse offences.

He was offered a Towards Healing process arranged by Brother Alexis Turton, the Marist Brothers’ professional standards director in 2010, with an “independent mediator”, Michael Salmon.

DK found out later from a TV program that Mr Salmon was the director of the NSW Professional Standards Office (PSO).

He said this “made me really, really angry because I felt I was lied to”.

Under the protocols of Towards Healing, which was set up by the Catholic Church in the early 1990s to deal pastorally with abuse victims, it is recommended that a PSO director not be a mediator.

The March 2010 mediation, which started on an angry note as DK confronted two brothers he believed knew of the abuse, ended amicably, with all parties agreeing to a settlement of $88,000. This was negotiated away from the mediation.

In a statement which he read, DK said the mediation made him feel “really dirty and filthy”.

“From 1976 to 1981, I was sexually abused; there was horrendous physical abuse and there was control and emotional abuse by angry, cruel men, who ruled my life and had more control over me than my parents,” he said.

He added that he had put his trust back in them for Towards Healing and, by three o’clock that afternoon: “I just felt that the same angry, cruel men had done the same thing to me 25 years later. It’s the same abuse.

“I don’t call it Towards Healing, I call it ‘Towards Hurting’.”

Under questioning by Angus Stewart, counsel assisting the commission, Br Turton admitted he had not formally handed the complaint to Mr Salmon, who as director of the Catholic Church’s PSO, should have managed it, not mediated it.

Br Turton said he prepared a draft email to DK on February 22 explaining Mr Salmon’s position in the church but he never sent it because DK happened to ring and he told him.

DK said that he was now experiencing healing because, although the documents before the commission were searing and painful to read, he was finally getting the truth.

The hearing continues on Thursday.