A priest “had no hesitation” in breaking the seal of confession to warn a fellow pedophile priest about an altar boy’s abuse complaint, the child abuse inquiry heard on Monday. Victim BTU told Father Wilfred “Bill” Baker in a neighbouring Melbourne parish that Father Ronald Pickering was sexually abusing him in 1968. However, Baker was also a pedophile.
Baker spoke to the boy after the 13-year-old used confession to reveal what Pickering was doing to him.
Victorian principal was warned about paedophile parish priest. BTU said: “The conversation was not about the abuse that I disclosed to him; instead what Fr Baker wanted to know was where I lived … I thought this was odd.”
It got back to Pickering. “By mentioning it to Fr Pickering, Fr Baker clearly had no hesitation in breaking the seal of my confession to him and also Fr Pickering appeared to be agitated and was clearly concerned about this.”
BTU said the abuse confused him as a child. “There were mixed messages because, on the one hand, you were taught how holy priests were and they could do no wrong. “But on the other hand, what Fr Pickering was doing to me was the opposite of the church’s teachings.”
One of Baker’s victims, BTO, still struggles to accept it was the parish priest, the person “next to God”, who preyed on him. Forty years after the altar boy was abused, BTO said he was overwhelmed that someone – the royal commission – cared about the victims.
“I couldn’t save myself,” he tearfully told the commissioners on Monday. “I couldn’t save the people that, if I’d said something after me, it might have stopped. “So I’m asking you, please, please save me and please save all the other people that have been abused.” BTO was 12 when the two years of abuse started in 1976, while Baker’s parents were asleep in another room. BTO told his mother and an assistant priest in 1978.
He heard that someone met Melbourne Archbishop Frank Little, who seemed “almost equal to God”, and Baker was moved out of the Gladstone Park parish. Baker was convicted in 1999 of abusing BTO and seven other boys between 1960 and 1979. BTO received $35,000 in compensation from the archdiocese’s Melbourne Response scheme. “The money certainly helped my wife and I at the time, but it just made me feel dirty, like I was a prostitute and being bought off. It felt like hush money.”
BTO constantly struggles with the effects of the abuse. “I struggle to accept that I was preyed upon as a child and that it wasn’t my fault,” he said.