The church re-abused this victim of Marist Brother Raymond Foster

By a Broken Rites researcher

A sex-abuse victim has told a Royal Commission that he was made to feel like he was robbing the Catholic Church when he applied for compensation for his damaged life.

In Sydney on 16 December 2013, this victim (who is being referred to as "Mister DG") gave evidence at Australia's national Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The commission has begun examining the "Towards Healing" process established by the Catholic Church to handle the church's sex-abuse victims.

"Mr DG" said he was sexually abused in his family home by Brother Raymond Foster in 1970, when he was 13 years old. DG was attending a Marist Brothers school in Queensland at the time.

And Broken Rites knows that DG was not Brother Foster's only victim.

Broken Rites research

During the 1990s, Broken Rites ascertained that  Raymond Sidney Foster was born on 26 November 1931. He was originally called by an alias  ("Brother Celestine") but eventually the Marist Brothers began changing back to their real names. Foster taught at Catholic schools in Queensland and New South Wales.

In early 1999, Broken Rites learned that police had recently interviewed Foster (then aged 67) at a Marist Brothers retirement home in Mittagong, NSW) and charged him with indecent assaults, committed at a Queensland Catholic school in the 1970s.

On 23 March 1999 Foster was found dead (hanged with a bed-sheet), just hours before he was due to appear in a New South Wales court to be extradited to Queensland. Thus, he avoided facing justice.

Broken Rites alerted the media about Foster's criminal charges, and several news items about Foster were published in newspapers.

As a result, other victims of Brother Foster contacted Broken Rites, including two who were boarders at a "prestigious" Marist Brothers college - St Joseph's College in Hunters Hill, Sydney.

Royal Commission hearing

Mr DG told the Royal Commission on 16 December 2013 that on one occasion in 1971,  he was called to  Brother Foster's residence to carry books to a classroom, and was "wrestled" onto the man's lap.

The abuse continued until he left the college in 1973, taking place in a school science lab and in the storeroom of the school canteen.

DG, aged 55 in 2013, says he told police in 1993.

DG told the hearing that the abuse affected his sexual abilities and led to the breakdown of his first marriage. He also felt alienated from his parents, engaged in substance abuse, and experienced a "destruction" of his religious beliefs.

Marist Brother's suicide

DG told the commission: "I was really angry with Brother Foster for choosing suicide over facing me or the Queensland courts about the abuse he inflicted on me."

"I felt like he had chosen a path designed to free him from prosecution and inflict guilt upon me."

In the aftermath of Foster's death, DG says fellow Marist Brothers were quoted in newspapers as saying he had not committed suicide but had died of "natural" causes. They described him as a "wonderful man".

Foster left a suicide note, which was held by a leader of the Australian Marist Brothers, Brother Michael Hill.

"I bear no ill will against the person who had me charged, as he had every right to do so," the suicide note said.

The note then asked for "forgiveness".

DG told the hearing that he has never been told Brother Foster's expression of regret in this suicide note.

"When I got the documents from the Commission, that was the first time that I had any acknowledgment that he had acknowledged the abuse in any way, shape or form," he said.

"Compensation"

DG was later paid a relatively small amount in a settlement agreement, which he entered into reluctantly, as this amount did not make up for the damage which the church-related abuse had done to his life.

He says he received legal advice that  the Catholic Church, unlike other corporations, was immune from being tackled in a civil court for damages. Therefore, Towards Healing was the "only process available".

DG says he entered into the Towards Healing process optimistically after discovering that a former Marist Brother at the college would be taking part, as he remembered the man fondly.

At the 2002 mediation session in Brisbane, the Brother said he had interviewed Foster, but made no notes and could not recall the conversation.

DG recalled how he felt at the time.

"That's a blatant lie," he said.

"That you could go and interview a Brother of yours over a sexual abuse case and then say you can't remember a word that was spoken."

He says a representative from Catholic Church Insurance also acted appallingly.

"She made me feel like I was there to rob the Catholic Church," he said.

"The payment was made on the condition that DG not pursue any more action against Brother Foster. I found the whole thing pretty disgusting.

"I could never quite work out where the healing part came into it, because I certainly didn't feel healed by that process."

An apology, eventually

On 3 July 2002 the Marists' new Australian head, Brother John Thompson, sent a written apology to DG for Brother Raymond Foster's sexual abuse and also for the Brothers' 1998 attempt to cover-up the suicide.

The letter stated: "I understand that some erroneous and misleading comments were made during the eulogy at the Mass for Br Foster. I apologise for any hurt which these may have caused or intensified."

Broken Rites is continuing its research into how the Marist Brothers harboured Brother Raymond Foster throughout his career.