'Still hurting and still angry'

Fr Magnus Murray was an assistant priest curate at St Bernedette's church in Forbury Rd. Photo:...
Fr Magnus Murray was an assistant priest curate at St Bernedette's church in Forbury Rd. Photo: Linda Robertson

The "green'' 10-year-old boy targeted by Catholic priest Fr Magnus Murray has told his story once before.

In 2002, the man asked to be known as "Patrick'' as he described visits by the priest, and the abuse which followed, as it increased in severity and regularity over more than a decade.

Eventually, it was simply an accepted part of the Dunedin schoolboy's life, as he was sodomised or abused in his own bed, as his parents sat unaware in a room elsewhere in the house.

"Sometimes I said it hurt and he would stop. All the time he'd be saying, 'remember I love you, remember I love you','' Patrick told the Otago Daily Times at the time.

Now, 60 years on from the start of his nightmare, life is still tough for Patrick.

He told ODT Insight the impact of the offending on his life continued to this day.

Fr Magnus Murray. Photo: supplied
Fr Magnus Murray. Photo: supplied
He had been on a benefit for 35 years, struggling to hold down part-time jobs as he battled mental illness, while keeping his dark secret from his wife and their children.

"When the kids were young, they didn't know me as a true father. I was like a zombie,'' he said.

"My son now has really been affected by all this abuse. He's under psychiatric treatment, his marriage broke up . . . she just couldn't put up with it.''

The abuse began when Patrick's parents, both proud Catholics, welcomed Fr Murray into their home.

Fr Murray was then the assistant priest curate at St Bernedette's Church in Forbury Rd, but "lived at our place all the time, and took advantage of it''.

His parents would not take kindly to criticism of the Church or clergy, and Fr Murray was treated as a "sixth son''.

"Murray was so close to my parents - a pillar of the Church - and they had no idea that he was abusing me.''

Years later, he was to find out his younger brother had also been a victim, but had opted not to speak up.

In a police statement, Patrick described how the offending by Fr Murray began in his family home but extended to include the nearby presbytery.

The offending only reduced when Fr Murray transferred to St Mary's Church in Mosgiel in 1969, and stopped when the priest was moved to Australia for counselling in 1972.

By then, the offending had become so normalised that when Patrick went to Australia on holiday in 1974, he visited Fr Murray and the sexual activity resumed.

There was further contact when Fr Murray climbed into bed with Patrick while staying the night with Patrick and his wife in their Dunedin home in 1982.

The couple had married in 1981, but in a registry office, after the Catholic Church refused to let the couple - both Catholics - marry in a church.

Consent was withheld because of Patrick's mental health problems, which he attributed to his years of abuse, and despite an appeal to Bishop Kavanagh, he said.

In 1990, Patrick was admitted again, this time to Cherry Farm, where he stayed for more than a year following a nervous breakdown.

It was only in 1997 he finally admitted to being a victim of abuse, encouraged by his wife, who raised the topic after seeing news coverage of a paedophile priest in Australia.

"If it hadn't have been for my wife . . . I wouldn't be here today.''

Patrick sought counselling and the couple made a complaint to the Dunedin diocese, leading to meetings with then-Bishop Len Boyle.

He asked for Fr Murray to be brought to Dunedin to "face up to what he had done'', which Bishop Boyle arranged.

The meeting took place in Dunedin, and Fr Murray admitted his crimes and apologised, Patrick told police.

Fr Murray then offered payments totalling $5000 towards counselling costs, which Patrick accepted - after Bishop Boyle stood up and left the room.

In 2002, he spoke to the Otago Daily Times, which ran a front-page story that prompted more victims to contact police.

But, 15 years on from Fr Murray's conviction, Patrick told ODT Insight he was still hurting, and still angry.

He was "amazed'' Fr Murray received only a five-year sentence, and deeply skeptical of Church claims nobody else knew what was happening at the time.

"There are priests in Dunedin that knew this was going on. They must have.''

He had received $12,000 in total from Fr Murray, and $25,000 from the Church, but believed victims like him deserved more.

"I lost job after job because of this abuse.

"Today I should have my own home, but how can I have my own home when I've been on a social welfare benefit for 35 years?''

Add a Comment