Revelation Sarah Ferguson ABC
Title: ABC journalist Sarah Ferguson on making Revelation and coming face to face with two of the Catholic church’s worst serial paedophiles
Author: Natasha Johnson
YOUTUBE: Revelation is a ground-breaking documentary featuring interviews with a convicted paedophile priest and religious brother, survivors of clergy abuse and senior figures in the Catholic church.
Sarah Ferguson spends her working life wading through murky waters, tackling difficult, confronting and harrowing stories but none has tested her like the project that consumed her for the past year: Revelation — a three-part documentary investigation into child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, in which she comes face to face with two of Australia’s most notorious serial paedophiles.
“I’m used to intense projects but this one has been more intense and more challenging than anything I have ever done,” says Ferguson.
“Throughout the long-running scandal of clerical abuse in Australia, there was one voice we hadn’t heard and that was the perpetrators.
“I wanted to ask them how they led their double lives and how the Church enabled them, but how do you interview men whose crimes are so vile and disturbing, who’ve committed crimes against vulnerable children?
“It was a struggle not to let my revulsion at their crimes drag me off course.”
In a series of television firsts, Revelation (airing weekly from Tuesday, March 17 at 8.30pm on ABC TV and iview), features in-depth interviews with an ordained priest and a religious brother convicted of historical child sexual abuse, and, with unprecedented access granted by the courts, films their trials as they unfold.
“Apart from an excellent US documentary in 2006, as far as I know, this is the only time it’s happened in the world — certainly, long interviews with child-abusing priests still in the priesthood we have never seen. And this is the first time we have seen their trials on camera,” says Ferguson.
One of the interviews was done behind bars in a maximum-security prison where Bernard McGrath, a former St John of God brother, teacher and headmaster in residential schools in Australia and New Zealand, is serving 39 years for crimes against children.
“A prison warden brought McGrath into a secure room where we’d set up the cameras and he tried immediately to draw me into a whispered private conversation,” recalls Ferguson.
“I moved backwards on my stool, making him lean in and shifting the power balance.
“I was apprehensive, not because of who he was but because of the professional challenge of drawing him out.”