The Australian reports that lke many victims of child sexual abuse, James Setches kept the horrific memories bottled up inside for decades. But when his brother committed suicide, he decided to act.
Ray had only told James he had been abused as a boy at a Christian Brothers school in Melbourne.
"People always wondered why such a famous and successful person would kill himself," Setches says. "Sure he lost some money, his relationships broke up, and he suffered depression. But the root cause of all that was the sexual abuse he'd suffered when he was young.
"When I saw him in the coffin, it was almost like he was talking to me, saying, 'James, do something'."
That was the catalyst for a long and now public fight Setches is waging against the Catholic orders whose friars and religious brothers he claims abused him at orphanages and other institutions: the Order of Saint Francis of Assisi, and the Christian Brothers.
Setches left his home in Perth to go to Sydney, where he is living in a hostel, to mount what he says will be increasingly spectacular protests. On Sunday, he was protesting at the Franciscan church in Sydney's Paddington, handing out pamphlets about his cause and talking to anyone who would listen.
While he has received a total of $41,000 from the two orders, Setches believes this is not enough to compensate for a life he says has been ruined by sexual abuse. He is seeking another $160,000.
He has had a marriage break up, has worked in odd jobs ranging from acting to chauffeuring, and been in and out of psychiatric institutions for depression.
Setches, 61, says he was emotionally weak when he accepted an initial payout from the two orders, and signed a release agreeing to make no further claims. He did make further claims - each time receiving sums between $5,000 and $10,000.
But now the Brothers and the Franciscans have drawn the line: they commissioned a retired ombudsman to review his case and concluded that Setches has received enough.
"Like any allegation that comes forward, it is taken very seriously," says Stephen Bliss, the provincial head of the Franciscans in Australia. "We have followed all the protocols for the Catholic Church. You can review the review of the review, but somewhere along the line there has to be finality."
Setches told The Australian that his fight is not against Catholicism - he remains a believer and church goer. Rather, it is against the orders he claims still do not fully accept responsibility for past child sexual abuse in their ranks.
"It's all about protecting their assets and limiting their liability; compassion does not come into it at all," Setches says.
However, Towards Healing executive officer, Julian McDonald, said the program is not about compensation, but restitution.
McDonald told the paper that at any point up until an agreement is signed, complainants are entitled to pull out of the Towards Healing process and go down the civil damages route. The committee urges complainants to take their cases to the police, and assists them in gathering evidence, McDonald says.
McDonald says the aim of Towards Healing is to get a total outcome which provides a measure of relief and closure for victims, which can involve education, counselling, and assistance with getting jobs.
"It's not something handed down in an authoritarian way," McDonald says. "We ask: what would help you get your life back on track?" Victims, including Setches, say having enough money to live a respectable life would do the trick.
Penny-pinching justice (The Australian, 14/8/07)