As a kid who spent three years in a Catholic boarding school I was exposed to an underworld of dark sex offenses without realising what was going on around me. When I think back on it now, it was quite scary…
In 1967, due to some family problems – a book of stories on it’s own – and with moving the family home from Sylvania to Kogarah, it was decided that instead of sending me to James Cook High School, I would be taken out of the public school system, and sent to a private school. Mind you, being the era it was, I didn’t have a lot of say in this decision.
As a late applicant – and Protestant – to Marist Brothers St Gregory’s Agricultural College at Campbelltown, I had to wait for all the Catholic applications to be processed first, to see if there were any vacancies available. I was to eventually spend three years there, attaining my School Certificate un 1969. There are two events that occurred in my time there that are quire disturbing, and probably part of the current investigations and Royal Commissiom into child sexual abuse.
Being a boarding school, we all spent our mornings and nights in large open dormitories – just called dorms. Brother Brian was the Dorm Master of Dorn 2, and had an enclosed bedroom just off the entry to the dorm. He was also the Instructor for the school swimming team. As with most school swimming teams, we had our own swimming trunks – burgundy and blue – especially made. With the arrival of the swim trunks, along came their time for distribution. It took me a while to work out what was going on. As I lay in bed after lights-out, there would be a stream of kids on the swimming team individually visiting Brother Brian in his room at night. Evidently, Brother was giving the boys specialised fitting of their swim trunks, getting them to strip off, and try the trunks on to “ensure the correct fit”. Shortly after this event, Brother Brian mysteriously disappeared…transferred to somewhere or other. I had just, unwittingly, observed my first instance of sexual abuse. In keeping with the era, no explanation was given, and the incident was never discussed.
Being a Protestant – Congregational – in a Catholic environment, and voluntarily not exempting myself from Mass , rosary, Station of the Cross. Retreats etc, eventually the religion rubbed off on me. Being raised in the simplicity of Protestantism, I found the rituals, devotions and customs of the Catholic church overwhelming, and in 1969 I converted.
Reverend Father Peter Comensoli was the Parish Priest of St John the Evangelist Church in Campbelltown, and St Gregory’s College Chaplain. As such, he baptized me in the college chapel, and in fact bestowed on me his Christian name Peter as my baptismal name, and later that year I was confirmed in the Parish Church in Campbelltown. Yet another name – Francis – to add to my collection. Father Comensoli spent a lot of time at the college, and was very friendly to all the boys.
So you can only imagine my total lack of surprise, when watching the news many, many years later, at seeing Father Cominsole being arrested for molesting his altar boys.
Both incidents made me realise just how close I could have been to being a victim of sexual abuse myself!
Please – if you have been a victim of sexual abuse, or know of instances of sexual abuse please report it to authorities.
Tim Alderman (C) 2014