Priest’s Sexual Abuse of Boys at New Zealand School in the 1950s Admitted

The Marist Fathers has admitted a priest who led one of its top secondary schools sexually abused children.

But decades on they will not release the file on Francis Durning, rector of St Patrick’s College in Silverstream, Upper Hutt, in the 1950s.

He was publicly remembered in Catholic obituaries as a man of “profound integrity” but a victim said other clergy nicknamed him “Fred the Fiddler” for his habit of abusing boys.

The victim, who RNZ will not name, is now in his 70s. He was a 13-year-old boy when the head of the school asked him into his office.

“He grabbed me and proceeded to hug me against his body,” the man told RNZ.

“I tried to push him off with my elbows and arms, and he persisted, saying into my ear ‘I don’t know what to make of you, I don’t know what to make of you’. Eventually he stopped and said, ‘Whip it [your penis] out and let me have a look at it’.”

He fled. The retaliation later from the rector and other staff, who knew abuse was going on, ruined his schooling, the man said.

Head of the Society of Mary, David Kennerley, which is Marist Fathers’ governing body, said the abuse was “criminal”.

The Marists upheld the man’s complaint in 2009 and offered him $5000. He called that an insult and demanded $125,000 – and the file on Mr Durning.

Nine years on, he has got neither.

“I believe that most survivors would take the money and go away. Remain in isolation, remain with some degree of guilt.

“I believe it’s part of the cover up to protect the Marists and the college. His file would be something we could use to reveal to other victims so they can stop becoming victims.

“A victim needs to be able to speak out and be believed. And so I believe there are other victims abused by Durning who have not had the chance to speak out because they may believe that they’re the only ones.”

He knew of two other boys who were abused by Durning, he said, and of suicides that might be related.

A brief Marist report, obtained by RNZ, notes two similar complaints but gives no details of when or where. Mr Durning moved around a lot, including throughout the Pacific.

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