Abuse Victim "Marlene (Del) Burgess"
Today's lead commentary comes from a woman in the Lismore Diocese of Northern New South Wales who has been described by one solicitor as a "Right Old Lismore Girl" and another barrister as "The Grandmother from Woop-Woop". What we publish is her story told in a letter to one of the journalists at the Telegraph newspaper in Sydney who in early January did a feature story on the Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell. Her letter would have been judged as too long to publish in the Telegraph but we don't have space restrictions here and Marlene (Del) Burgess's story will "touch the hearts" of many readers of Catholica. By way of introducing herself to me, Del, wrote: "Brian, I thought you might like to read this. I am an uneducated woman but my letters keep going out to whomever I feel should be told what is going on and I am trying to have my say and overcome the abuse that was done to me. My letters have been to the Catholic Bishops Conference of Australia, the Pope, George Pell and of course the Bishop of my own Diocese, Geoffrey Jarrett". Marlene's letter today is being published as she wrote it albeit that we have corrected a few typographical errors and shortened (mainly split) some sentences to make them more readable and grammatically correct. Links are provided in the article to the two articles in The Sunday Telegraph that stirred Del up to write to the journalist who put together the first and long feature article on George Pell.
An abuse survivor tells her story — no holds barred...
Mr Tony Vermeer
I am so glad I waited until I read what and if there was a response this week regarding your article on Cardinal George Pell so you're getting this letter now. I was a bit nervous about sending it to you. So here goes.
I am not sure whether you will just think I am a rambling old girl but I just feel that I needed to write to you regarding your article on George Pell — Man of God in the Sunday Telegraph [the actual published title of the article was "Man who draws lines in the sand". ...Ed]. What a fascinating man this bloke is? I read each week his articles and I feel what right has this man got to be telling people how they should live their lives let alone tell homosexual people what they can and can't do? And, as for the pollies, telling them how and what decisions they should make? Firstly Pell should clean up his own back yard first before telling other people what they should or shouldn't do. All you have to do is stand outside his Liverpool Street office at smoko time and see all the renowned gay priests having a cigarette!
A month before Xmas I was approached by a woman in Ballina due to her recognizing me from my own story in the Northern Star as a Sex Abuse Survivor of a priest from the Lismore Diocese. Many people have stopped me and inquired about how I am after my long journey to sanity. They commented on how well I look now after coming out the other side — as I put it, in great mental and physical health. It took me ten long years to do so because I was not going to let them beat me up anymore.
When I made my decision ten years ago to speak up and fight for myself — not just as a woman of fifty years, but as a woman who needed to have peace of mind in her later years. I've also to tried and reconcile with my Faith as a Catholic Woman so as to be able to have the peace that I needed to live whatever years I had left in this cruel world. The lady that approached me gave me the name of a book and said to me that this book is "a must" for any Catholic that has had to deal with Pell's Process and the Towards Healing Program. The book is called "Hell on the Way to Heaven" written by Chrissie Foster. You probably have heard about it or even read it. If you haven't I highly recommend that you do.
Chrissie Foster's story has shocked me through to the bones of my body and has affected me like nothing I have ever read on the Catholic Church Sex Abuse. Chrissie Foster should be commended for having the courage and the strength to continue her fight for her beautiful family. When you read about her daughters' struggles your heart and soul just goes away, you feel that you are empty inside. She is so right when she says the Catholic Church forced her to write this book to tell people just how it really is when you come forward. There truly must be something wrong with the Church and Pell if they think that people just come to them to sit there and tell this filthy, rotten story from their tormented minds for nothing. They (the Church) gave us the opportunity to tell our story through their invitation of the Towards Healing and I myself was very immature thinking, "yes, they will open their arms to me help me through this crime that was committed against me when I was just a little girl with a childhood illness and so vulnerable". Through my treatment the psychiatrist said that is why Brown picked me.
In this book Chrissie Foster writes and tells all the lies and cruelty that came from George Pell's mouth and how he and all his mates just got up and walked out on a room full of People that were looking for answers regarding these priests who have had a feast on their children. Anyone would think that the monies allocated for victims and survivors in Australia was coming out of George Pell's own bank account!
In my letters to George Pell I asked him if I could meet him so I could talk about my Catholic Faith, as a "disconnected Catholic" who feels the need to reunite with her Church as I feel that I do not belong anywhere else. After trying the Anglican Church, standing outside other Churches in Ballina thinking if I go inside there I will be committing a sin! At sixty you would think that I would know better, but I am like so many others who were told that we as "Catholics" are the only ones worthwhile and, if we don't do this or that, "Hell" will be there waiting for us.
I was born in Lismore and was the eighth child born out of ten. My mother, Isabel, was a devoted Catholic woman and was well-known to the Catholic Church so I thought that the Church would open their arms to me. That didn't happen at all. As the solicitor I retained — and yes he was a Catholic called me "A Right Old Lismore Girl" — that was when I realized I was f**ked, excuse the language ... also when Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett told me when I first had my meeting with him that he had been a Pastor in the High Church of England up until he was about 27years old before he "SAW THE LIGHT" and came home. I knew then that I was not going to be heard because what would this bloke know about us, he was not born one of us and when you are born a Catholic it is "in your bones" so they tell us.
When I realized that the Bishop of Lismore, Geoffrey Jarrett, was not going to be the "Man of God", humble and generous with his time as most Bishops were in my days, that is when my fight really began. After I came out in the media with the Northern Star in Lismore face first without shame. He, the Bishop, waited for two weeks then commented, which he had the right to do so. I was by then in St John of God's Detox Ward in Sydney in my second week of my recovery and his comments "Case goes for the Church and against Ms. Burgess" destroyed me as I thought I had won my case due to the Church giving me seven weeks in two private Hospitals, paid my Legal fees and $8,800 dollars on-going treatment when I came home. (That money carried over to $15,000 dollars due to me writing letter after letter trying to find out how I lost the case).
I was so angry that as soon as I got back to Ballina I started to write letter after letter regarding my treatment at the hands of Bishop Jarrett when he knew quiet well that this priest, Rex Brown, was removed from Lismore fourteen years earlier for child abuse. Moved to Tweed Heads and was allowed to carry on his duties as a priest. They then allowed him to be the Spiritual Adviser at a Refuge for Boys, he was then given permission to take two beautiful little boys from the refuge in Tweed Heads by the then Bishop of Lismore to live with him to be abused, this was printed in the Northern Star while the Pope was here for World Youth Day, one of these little boys committed suicide. The Northern Star gave the other boy/man my phone number and we spoke at length on the phone afterwards.
My first letter was to Pell, then to the Nuncio, and then to the Pope himself. When I read these letters today I wonder why they did not try and stop me as these letters were strong about Jarrett and his shocking behaviour. Pell did not respond but asked the Chancellor, Father John Usher, to respond on his behalf. These letters went two and fro with me getting bolder by the minute even to the point that I wrote to the Bishops Conference of Australia to demand that Bishop Jarrett be investigated for his abuse of power, his abuse of the victims that had to sit there in front of him and tell their story. In the end I got so mad that I got a plane ticket to Sydney, turned up at Liverpool Street to demand to see Pell. The lady on the front desk said that was impossible and I told her that I would sit here all day, come back the next day and however long it took I would be staying put. In ten minutes they said I could see Father Usher which I did at eleven o'clock that day. When Father Usher appeared out of the lift on the fourth floor he looked a humble man and when we entered the lift he took out a set of keys, unlocked the floor that we were going to so I actually was locked in on the floor when we got to his office. We spoke for several hours and then I left with him saying they would contact me which they did and flew me back down to Sydney for a meeting which got me nowhere.
My battle went on. Being very much alone while I was struggling to come to terms that the Catholic Church didn't care about me. They certainly didn't care if I wanted to come back and be "one of them or not" shocked me. I felt so spiritually damaged because I thought they would love to have a victim/survivor back on their side when that was not the case.
So Tony after rambling on a bit here, the line in your article regarding Pell, "Your either one of us or you're not", has set me off today.
As a results of these letters that were written between 1994 and 1997 I was able to get Bishop Jarrett to come down to Ballina from Lismore — which was unheard of; the priests were laughing at me when it got back to them that I was going to do this — to have a meeting with me at the Parish office. Mr Michael Salmon and Sister Angela Ryan flew to Ballina to be with the Bishop. (So I probably would not attack him as they thought they better deal with me due to thinking I was mad) and I had a three hour meeting with them telling the Bishop what he had done to me as a Catholic woman when all I really wanted was to reconcile with the Church.
So with all that said I still have not be able to reconcile with the Church and go back to the sacraments, realizing one less Catholic is nothing to them so I will wait until Jarrett retires and leaves the Diocese which will not be long then. I will go back to the "Crime Scene" our beautiful Cathedral in Lismore where they brought this mongrel Rex Brown back as a priest, gave him a wonderful send off when he died after they had sacked him due to the incident with the two boys. You do not believe that if a big business sacks a man for abusing children that they would bring him back and idolize him in death! Do you?
As for Pell going on about all the gay people: why doesn't he look inside his own business, they're everywhere? I certainly have no problems with people's choices who they sleep with — it is nobody else's business. Pell knows who his gay priests are, when it is supposed to be against our teachings he continues to talk about our "teachings" as if this is not going on not just under his very nose but under everyone else's, which I find very hypocritical. Don't you agree?
Abuse from other lay Catholics...
Last Xmas I got hold of a copy of a letter that Bishop Jarrett sent out to all his Priests and Nuns. This letter was regarding porn and the internet. I went berzerk regarding this issue just a few months before so I felt it was quiet interesting that he, the Bishop, wrote about this. Priests sending photos of naked young men to each other (and I saw these photos of handsome young men, and I mean young) through the net also putting up their photos asking for sex and looking for a boyfriend. If I dare type what I have done in the past two years they might sue me, as I said do it come and take my flat screen TV and my car I don't care. I am not having these priests preaching one thing on the altar and doing the opposite when I as a Catholic Woman was treated so badly after Jarrett's comments, feeling that I am unable to walk down the road to go to Mass on Sunday due to the abuse that was hurled at me by some of the Catholics here in Ballina with one saying to me "If I cannot carry the cross Jesus gave me, go off and die somewhere" (I had this printed in the Northern Star as well) and another spitting in my face while I stood at the side door one Sunday trying to go inside.
I have written my own story and with any luck I will get it published, if Chrissie Foster can write down for the world to see I can too so keep an eye out for "DELLIE DARLING'S TORMENTED MIND" and "LETTERS TO MY CHURCH". I look forward to the battle to get them published, I actually have my own words and how I was feeling on a dictaphone to have put on a CD in the back of my story. I am so over my struggle to be re-united with my Church and now am taking on the role as mother/carer for my seven and half year old grandson who has Asperger's. At the age of sixty I am far too busy to worry about being "ONE OF US" when deep inside I am just a Christian Woman who believes she deserves her space in this world, has her arms open to anyone who has or is deciding to come forward, rid themselves of their "LITTLE FRIEND THAT HAS BEEN HIDDEN INSIDE THEIR TORMENTED MINDS". That is how I felt after I first spoke the words for the first time at 52 years, it was like I had a special friend and I missed them, missed having the secret that nobody knew about but me.
I will look out for more of your stories it was very interesting, thank you, it helped me rid my mind of more thoughts that keep popping up inside every now and then, sorry mate that you received them all.
Marlene (Del) Burgess
PS When I beat DOCS [NSW Government 'Department of Community Services'] and was given my grandson their barrister called me: "The Grandmother from Woop-Woop". I didn't know I had so many nicknames. One just has to laugh, Eh?
Marlene (Del) Burgess submitted to Catholica on 11Mar2011
NOTES & LINKS:
What are your thoughts on this commentary?