Why did no one in the Catholic Church object to turning a blind eye to abusers is the question one survivor needs answered.
Jennifer Ingham wants to know why one good, fearless person never stepped up against the wrongs and depravities in the Catholic Church.
Ms Ingham, 51, had been “held captive” by Father Paul Brown, a parish priest in Lismore in NSW who abused her from the time she was 16 in 1978 until 1982.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heard on Wednesday how Brown took advantage of her extreme vulnerability.
He continued his abuse after she finished school, secured a waitressing job in Sydney for her, arranged to meet her regularly at a motel in Glebe and would pay for her to fly to his home at St Joseph’s Parish Church, Tweed Heads.
Ms Ingham said she suffered bulimia, had ongoing psychiatric problems and attempted suicide.
Three decades later, in 2012, she approached the church and received information about Towards Healing – its internal facilitation process for handling sex-abuse claims.
In June this year she met Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett, who apologised for being unavailable during the facilitation.
Ms Ingham said she wanted Bishop Jarrett to answer: “Why in the Diocese of Lismore, then across all of Australia, then the world, why not one good fearless person could have stepped out against the depravities and wrongs that existed.”
She wanted to know why no one in the church spoke out against turning a blind eye to the abusers and moving clergy from town to town “to protect them and the church from being discovered.”
The second thing she wanted answered was: “Why did nothing happen when I finally acknowledged my abuse by Brown to the church?”.
She told him she thought it was “that they were given a direction by the Vatican to bury evidence and lie”.
He was shocked by this and tried to answer her “but to me it was just noise”, she said.
“He said he could not understand how a man of faith `held her captive’ for four years and could not fathom the corruptness in the church in recent years.
“I felt in reality Jarrett had no answer … he simply did not know.”
Ms Ingham, whose husband sat with her as she gave evidence, cried as she spoke of telling three senior Catholic clergy as early as 1990 and 1993 about the abuse but there had been no response.
After her initial contact with Towards Healing, she found the church’s director of professional standards in Brisbane, Patrick Mullins, very compassionate but when he left the role the facilitation “got murky”.
She was told it was an insurance matter.
A settlement was reached and Ms Ingham received $265,000, most of which was paid by Catholic Church Insurances.
Earlier the commission heard the Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge say the reforms in Towards Healing were ongoing.
He said it was if the church was hit by a tsunami when the scandals about abuse surfaced over a decade ago.
He said the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, of which he is a member, was working towards a system where the pastoral and reparation aspects of the Towards Healing process would be truly compassionate and just.