Former nun gives account of priest's sexual abuse
A former nun plans to claim compensation from the Archdiocese of Melbourne for a priest's alleged sexual abuse. The woman says Fr James Barry Whelan kissed, fondled and partially stripped her of her habit.
The woman, 30 at the time of the alleged sex, met Fr Whelan when she was a patient at St Vincent's Hospital. She later went to him for religious and personal guidance relating to her vocation. But she says she was shocked when he kissed her, fondled her breasts and groped her under her habit. They never had penetrative sex.
The woman, from the country, was 17 when she entered a strict congregation. She had never had a boyfriend or sex of any kind before entering the convent, where she believed she would save souls. But her commitment to prayer and the Christian rites was shattered as the priest groped and tongue-kissed her at his Melbourne apartment, which she visited when in the city for outpatient care. She later left the congregation, believing she was a sinner who had broken her vow of chastity.
"I did not fully comprehend the basic facts of life at the time," she says. "I was so naive . . . I was 30 going on 13. I thought he was kind and friendly."
Her visits to the priest in the early 1970s took place about once a fortnight and continued for 18 months to two years. She says she was "sick, vulnerable and weak" but also "a bit infatuated" with the priest. "He made me feel like a valuable person," she says.
"The first couple of times with him, I was angry and I felt cheated by him. He said it was normal for nuns and priests to do it.
Then came depression and a painful end to her vocation and her life as a nun.
15 Jul 2002