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Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Leonard’s family were devout Christians and he and his two siblings were sent to church schools. He and one of his siblings were sexually abused by priests but at the time did not confide in each other or their parents.

Leonard describes how tortured he felt by the abuse, and his distress that his parents were so cruelly deceived by people they respected and trusted.

Leonard had wanted to study for the priesthood and he and his family were invited to visit a missionary college. Here, Father David asked to speak to Leonard and his sibling individually.

Leonard described his upbringing as sheltered and protective and his memories of this encounter are extremely unpleasant. Father David spoke about sexual issues with him and then spent time with Leonard’s sibling, who was much younger than Leonard.

Afterwards, Leonard’s sibling refused to talk about the meeting with the priest, which puzzled Leonard.

Leonard entered the missionary college, which was a boarding school run by priests for boys up to the age of 16 years. His parents visited regularly, and he went home for the holidays.

One of the teachers, Father Brown, began to request that Leonard visit him in his office and his bedroom. These visits turned out to be pretexts for the priest to touch Leonard’s private parts.

Leonard says he was bewildered and found the experience extremely unpleasant, but he believes that observers would not have noticed any changes in his behaviour. He feels his education was not affected by the abuse and he has other complaints about how he was treated at the college.

However, he describes how torturing it was at night when he lay awake wondering what was going on. He felt guilty but did not feel that he could tell anyone.

The abuse stopped when Father Brown was suddenly moved from the school.  Leonard now suspects this was a result of an allegation of sexual abuse.

After he completed his education, he heard that Father Brown had been transferred to an educational facility abroad. Leonard suspects this was a result of further allegations of sexual abuse.

Leonard never discussed his sexual abuse until some years later when his sibling telephoned him and told him that they had been sexually abused by Father David at the early meeting at the missionary college. Leonard’s sibling had sought legal representation and made a complaint, and wanted to know if Leonard had been similarly abused.

Leonard told his sibling that he remembered the unpleasant interaction with Father David. An internet search revealed that Father David had been the subject of many allegations of abuse over subsequent years but frailty and later his death had prevented any judicial action.

By this time Leonard decided that he needed to address the issues of the past. He was appalled and distraught that his parents had been so cruelly deceived and that a priest had opportunistically abused his sibling while the family waited in a reception room.

Later, when Leonard had joined the college, Father Brown would welcome Leonard’s parents to the college, laughing and joking with them while all the time he was abusing their son. They would leave the college, reassured that he was well looked after. Leonard sees this as a cruel betrayal of his parents by both priests.

To try and achieve closure, Leonard felt he could not remain silent any longer and made contact with the religious order that Father Brown had belonged to. At first the order stated that there had never been any concerns about Father Brown’s conduct.

Leonard engaged a solicitor and discovered from some documents that Father Brown was considered unfit for duty and had been moved to other institutions and then abroad. Leonard submitted a significant amount of supporting material to the religious order to challenge their actions. 

Leonard emphasises that he wants to achieve more than simply venting his frustrations. He is keen to make a positive contribution to the Inquiry and wants to raise awareness of potential risks in religious orders where the protection of reputation is considered the highest priority.

He also wants the Inquiry to be aware of the hurdles that institutions deploy to obstruct attempts to get to the truth and of the ‘in-house strategies’ used by religious orders to manage personnel about whom there are major safety concerns.

Leonard recommends that any investigations of allegations of sexual abuse by children in schools should be conducted by the police, and that there should be statutory standards for all safeguarding policies in educational facilities.

He adds that there should be mandatory reporting to the police by any religious institutions who suspect one of their members of abusive behaviour.

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