Our say | One man’s evil can’t define a whole school

THE terrible crimes of former priest Brian Spillane make difficult reading for any audience.

Successive court cases have found Spillane guilty of depraved crimes against children over several decades as he purported to be spreading the word of God.

Spillane’s position as a priest made him an honoured and trusted man in society, particularly the many regional towns and small cities where he was stationed, and many devout families sought out his friendship and counsel.

They turned to him when they needed support or a friendly face. They trusted him with their children and he betrayed them in the most horrendous way.

The District Court on Thursday sentenced Spillane to 13 more years behind bars for abusing young boys in his care at St Stanislaus’ College.

Judge Robyn Tupman said he preyed on boys who were homesick and whose devout upbringings meant they revered priests.

Spillane used their faith against them, performing sick rituals he told his young victims were a form of exorcism to drive the devil from them. A more appalling abuse of power and position is hard to imagine and few would be sorry to see Spillane behind bars until he is a very old man.

Spillane is not the only former St Stanislaus’ priest convicted of these terrible crimes but the scale of his offending makes him the worst.

Now, though, is the time to turn a new leaf and begin a time of healing.

It will be hard to erase the dark stain on Stannies’ history as the result of the appalling actions of a few, but the school and its students deserve better than to be judged by the past.

St Stanislaus’ College is a very different school to the one darkened by Brian Spillane and is now a leader in our region in terms of pastoral and educational achievement.

Stannies’ HSC results in 2017 were the best of any Bathurst school and the current school leadership should be praised for the way it is seeking to acknowledge the sins of the past while looking to a brighter future.

Spillane’s sentencing on Thursday comes as St Stanislaus’ College is preparing to celebrate a sesquicentary mass and family day on Sunday.

The sentencing should not be allowed to over-shadow the school’s great history and great contribution to our community.

St Stanislaus’ College will remain long after Brian Spillane is forgotten.