Cardinal George Pell was prosecuted by a Melbourne court and sentenced to six years for sexual offending against young choirboys.
Cardinal George Pell was prosecuted by a Melbourne court and sentenced to six years for sexual offending against young choirboys. Asanka Brendon Ratnayake

'Pell was blatant, it was no secret': Victim speaks out

AN Ipswich-based survivor of sexual abuse has spoken out about his horrific experience in the Catholic church and condemned Cardinal George Pell.

Pell was found guilty of sexual offences against two young choirboys while serving as Melbourne's Archbishop in 1996.

He was sentenced to six years in prison for his crimes earlier this week.

Francis Douglas, now in his 70s, is privy to the kinds of offending that he believes, still goes on, within the Catholic church.

Mr Douglas now leads a quiet life in Ipswich, trying to recover from the years of abuse he copped under the church's roof. Before he arrived here, he was a monk within the Catholic religion and a teacher in public schools in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia for 20 years.

He was also a prolific Catholic educator and held high roles within the institution.

"My background is Catholic, big family obviously. I joined a religious order in Sydney and was in George Pell's diocese eventually," Douglas said.

"But before that I was in Swan Hill, where he was (an assistant) parish priest."

Records indicate Pell was an assistant parish priest in Swan Hill from 1971-1972.

As a member of a Catholic order, Mr Douglas was asked to attend a dinner with the local clergy and discovered some of Pell's proclivities, which ultimately became indicative of most men in power in the Catholic church.

"I was 19, I was going on 14 sexually. In the middle of dinner, I was sitting next to him at the table, he put this hand on my leg and I had a fork, and he soon took his hand off my leg - with a fork in it.

"I just went 'foomph'," he said, making a stabbing motion with his hand.

It hasn't been easy for Mr Douglas, who said he has been inundated with calls since he received the news of Pell's guilt.

"I have a psychiatrist in Sydney ... who says I have post-traumatic stress (disorder) from it.

"I wrote a letter to the detectives in Melbourne and I just said from there I just had to escape Swan Hill, I just got out and went.

"It was blatant. And everything must be his (Pell's) way.

"The bottom line is I knew of his guilt, I was there.

"I came to (Ipswich), it's a place where I've had time to, or tried to get above the years of abuse of others."

Because he bucked the system, he asked questions and stood up for himself he was considered a 'problem' and moved from diocese to diocese.

"I was sent to Western Australia because I was asking too many questions," he said.

"Within the group I was with and being part of a religious order sent from Sydney, I was sent the bishop's palace (at the education facility).

It was there he came to believe that 90 per cent of priests were "into males of any description".

"I eventually had so many young kids come to me (about sexual abuse) that I left, I had nothing, they (the kids) gave me $12, I lived in King's Park in Perth with the aboriginals - I survived, somehow, I don't know."

When he was still a part of the seminary Mr Douglas said he had several interactions with senior members of the clergy who requested sexual favours.

"The head of (the order) is the Superior General, then there is a group of four whom run the show," he explained.

Another instance was when Mr Douglas was around 20 and he had his appendix out with some complications. The Superior General requested Mr Douglas be let out of the hospital early to return to the seminary.

"I asked the matron, I hadn't had my stitches out or anything, he said he would take them out.

"He said I'll rub your stomach for you, of course the rubbing got lower and lower, and I said, 'Any further down and you won't have any balls mate, if I can't kick them I'll bite them, now get the f--k out of my room.'"

Mr Douglas tells another story of a Provincial in Western Australian school who as "full on" with boys from a local Catholic college, however they refused to report the Provincial.

"I was mental over it, because I had no authority in the place whatsoever, I knew the bishop wouldn't do anything," he said.

"If I went to anybody..." he shudders and continues with another story, "I went to a Catholic confession in St Stephens Cathedral, Elizabeth St (Brisbane)."

Mr Douglas hadn't been to confession for quite some time - and has not returned since.

"(The priest) asked me where I was staying, I said I was living at the back of the Arch Bishop's house in New Farm.

"Of course, he said I'd like to get to know you, I said, 'Oh yeah' but thought, 'Let me out of here - f--k'.

"I got to the cathedral car park and he was waiting by my car, and said, 'Do you want to suck on this?'"

During the interview, Mr Douglas brings out a card he received for his submissions to the Royal Commission which finished in December, 2017.

"Thank you for sharing your story with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse," the card reads.

"Your contribution by attending a private session is an important part of Australia bearing witness to the stories of survivors of institutional child sexual abuse. We acknowledge and value your courage in coming forward.

"Your story also assists the Royal Commission in making recommendations to protect children, to improve laws, policies and practices and to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse in institutions."

The card, written on thick stock, is signed by Justice Peter McClellan AM, Commissioner Bob Atkinson AO APM, Justice Jennifer Coate, Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald AM, Commissioner Helen Milroy and Commissioner Andrew Murray.

Pell has been jailed until at least 2022, however his lawyers have already appealed the judgment. If they fail, the former Vatican treasurer will be defrocked immediately.

Pell is the most senior member of the Catholic church to ever be convicted of child sexual offending.