1 Nov 2018

Abuse survivor urges school to remove priests' portraits

2:32 pm on 1 November 2018

An elderly victim of sex abuse at an Upper Hutt college is demanding his abusers' portraits be taken down from the school's walls.

A sexual abuse victim from Wellington.

A sexual abuse victim from Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Phil Pennington

Patrick was abused as a 12-year-old and said 70 years on he was still angry.

In August, he wrote a letter to his three children telling them about the abuse.

"I did not tell anyone for many years," he said in the letter. "Shame at my idiocy was a permanent attachment."

Patrick wanted "justice" after his complaint to Catholic authorities in 2009 and a subsequent police interview left the abuse unresolved.

His two abusers have been dead for years but said the church was no less culpable.

"I would say that's their policy, to just wait for time to bring about its own solution," he said.

"They don't seem to care at all. Their first thought is to look after the perpetrator, ignore the victim."

He was new at St Patrick's College in Silverstream, Upper Hutt, in 1951 when a senior priest began kissing him. This graduated to having him lie, clothed and on top of the man as the priest talked about St Augustine and sex.

RNZ is unable to name the priest as Catholic authorities said they had not upheld any abuse complaint against him.

Patrick was then abused by rector Fred Durning, whose offending has been previously reported by RNZ.

The rector inspected his genitals and made him massage his bare crotch, alone in his study.

"I lost all self-respect," Peter said.

Pictures of both priests are still on the walls at the college.

Patrick is demanding they be taken down.

"I can't bear the bloody adulation ... the photos are a fraud themselves, the lighting behind them has a halo effect. Oh, they're terrible."

When RNZ told him the Society of Mary, which oversees the college, had rejected his demand, he responded: "Nothing's changed... I just cannot live with that."

He and his family first asked eight years ago for the pictures to be taken down. Later, his children wrote to the school saying "we were offended, as was my father, when we recently attended the school and saw them still hanging in the portrait area in the hall."

"We feel it is a very small thing to ask."

Emails show police approached the school too. His family said officers were unsuccessful.

Police have not commented.

Eight years on, the Society of Mary said in a statement to RNZ the photos were not statements of approval.

"A history of the college would still name these principals as being in charge and something like a centenary booklet would also discuss their time as principal."

In 2017, Dunedin's Kavanagh College removed a picture of paedophile priest Magnus Murray from its walls, after pressure from his victims.

Patrick's family said the Society of Mary told them in 2009 that it had on file 30 abuse complaints against Mr Durning. The society told RNZ in September it had upheld just three complaints.

Mr Durning left St Patrick's Silverstream in 1955 to become vice-rector at St Patrick's in Wellington.

One victim from his time there, who RNZ agreed not to name, said the secondary spiritual director role enabled him to call any boy in the college up to his room to tell them "the facts of life".

"The man had a harem. And he used it."

He knows of two other boys who were abused and went on to take high-profile Church positions, and guessed Mr Durning abused hundreds of children.

"I was constantly asking myself what the hell did I do to cause this holy man to sin?"

He asked for $250,000 compensation and got $5000 from the Society, plus counselling to address his deep anger.

The rector of St Patrick's Wellington, Neal Swindells, said the as-yet unnamed priest who assaulted Patrick had served in a high position at the school and his photo was on the wall.

Where to get help:

For male survivors -

Road Forward Trust, Wellington - Contact Richard on 0211181043

Better Blokes Auckland - 099902553

The Canterbury Men's Centre - 03 3776747

The Male Room, Nelson - 035480403

Male Survivors, Waikato - 07 8584112

Male Survivors, Otago - 0211064598

For female survivors -

Help Wellington - 048016655

Help, Auckland - 09 623 1296.

For urgent help: Safe To Talk 0800044334