HUNTER child sex abuse survivors held their own remembrance day on Sunday after rejecting a diocese event at Sacred Heart Cathedral because of concerns it could become a "good news story" for the Catholic Church.
Clergy Abuse Network founder and survivor Bob O'Toole told a gathering at Souths Merewether his group rejected a diocese mass and remembrance day event in 2018 because their views on how such an event should take place were not sought or respected.
"Today is a day of remembrance," said Mr O'Toole, who revealed a register of suicides and sudden deaths of former Hunter Catholic school students had risen to 68 names.
"All 68 names on this register had links to paedophiles at Catholic schools and parishes in this region," Mr O'Toole said.
"They were without a voice at the royal commission. They will never be forgotten."
The remembrance day event included Audrey Nash, whose son Andrew was 13 when he took his own life in 1974. The Marist Brothers in 2016 accepted he was sexually abused by at least one teacher, Brother Romuald, while a Hamilton Marist student.
The event also included Louis Pirona, whose son John's suicide in July, 2012 was the catalyst for the Hunter campaign for a royal commission into institutional child sexual abuse. John Pirona was sexually abused by notorious Hunter child sex offender priest John Denham while he was a student at St Pius X College, Adamstown.
The Clergy Abuse Network was formed in 2009 after the then Maitland-Newcastle Bishop Michael Malone issued a media statement saying he welcomed priest Peter Brock back to active parish work "with considerable joy" after Brock was charged with child sex offences, but were later withdrawn. In 2017 the diocese acknowledged child sex complaints against Brock were "substantiated" after a Catholic Church investigation process.
Mr O'Toole said the group supported survivors and over six years, from 2010, held an annual Silence Against Silence event in response to church silence about the global child sexual abuse tragedy.
University of Newcastle sociologist Dr Kathleen McPhillips, who specialises in religion, gender and mental health, said remembrance was a "powerful acknowledgment of hope" even as some institutions "seem to be particularly adept at reconfiguring their reputations".
The rejection of children's and women's sexual allegations as "fantasies" for most of the 20th century was a "huge betrayal" that represented "a monumental forgetting of the reality of sexual exploitation of children", Dr McPhillips said.
Survivors wept during a roll call of Catholic paedophiles and the senior clergy who protected them.
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