A former student is suing the Jesuits, alleging sexual abuse at age 12

  • By a Broken Rites researcher, article posted on 17 December 2019

A former student of Melbourne's Xavier College is suing the Catholic religious order of Jesuit priests and brothers, seeking compensation for sexual and physical abuse which he allegedly suffered when he was a 12-year-old boarder at this school in the 1960s.

Xavier College, in the Melbourne suburb of Kew, was establisihed by the Society of Jesus -- an international religious order popularly known as the Jesuits (as distinct from any merely local organisation such as the Melbourne archdiocese).

The former student in this law suit is being represented by Melbourne law firm Ryan Carlisle Thomas, which is referring to the student as "Albert" (to protect his privacy). RCT Law has lodged a statement of claim with the Supreme Court of Victoria, alleging that "Albert" was subject to a series of perverse, humiliating and abusive acts by three persons:

  • by a Jesuit scholastic who later became a priest (Father Celso Romanin),
  • by a teacher employed at the College, and
  • by a former student in the 1960s and 1970s.

Albert alleges that he was dragged out of bed at night by his dormitory master and was indecently handled in the presence of other students.

A public statement by RCT Law says:

"Albert’s allegations have been corroborated by students who were witness to the abuse and some report being subject to abuse themselves.

"Albert alleges that he witnessed years of abuse by priests and teachers while attending Burke Hall (Xavier's junior school) and Xavier College in grades 7 to 12, from 1965 to 1971.

"Albert alleges that he reported the abuse to authorities at the College at the time, and that his complaints were dismissed and not acted on."

A senior associate at RCT Law, Amy Olver, told Broken Rites that Albert's bad experience as a victim at Xavier College had a lasting impact on his life.

"We are seeking compensation for loss of wages and for pain and suffering incurred over the course of his life,” Ms Olver said.

“The sex abuse in this Xavier case is especially unusual because the abuse was so alarmingly public and humiliating. In most cases sex abuse is behind closed doors but, in this case, imagine the additional trauma of being assaulted in front of your peers, who were all also innocent young boys at the time and were forced to continue on with school and boarding.

“We are calling on other witnesses or survivors of abuse at Xavier to come forward, because when survivors’ stories support one another, claims are made stronger and the truth can be told."

Footnote

A Jesuit webpage says that Father Celso Romanin was born in Melbourne in 1941. His parents came from the north of Italy, migrating to. Australia in the 1930s. The Melbourne Age newspaper says that, in his later career as a Jesuit priest, Father Romanin became a parish priest in Melbourne suburbs such as Richmond and Hawthorn, as well as the Adelaide suburb of Norwood and the Lavender Bay-Kirribilli parish in Sydney. He also was the first co-ordinator for the Jesuit Refuge Service, a role which took him to Africa in the 1990s.