St Pat's Silverstream to remove photo of ex-rector who abused boys

9:35 pm on 15 March 2019

A Wellington Catholic high school has agreed to take down a portrait in its auditorium of a proven sex abuser of multiple boys.

hands holding rosary beads

Photo: 123RF

The portrait of the rector Frank 'Fred' Durning has been displayed at St Patrick's Silverstream since he led the school back in the 1950s.

It has been on display till now, despite the Marists in 2009 upholding a complaint from an ex-student that Father Durning sexually assaulted him.

A second survivor asked eight years ago for the portrait to be taken down [

but the college refused.]

The survivor's children also wrote to the college saying they were offended when they attended a school event and saw the portrait.

"Oh, they're terrible," the survivor, an elderly man, told RNZ.

Rector Fred Durning, right, next to Father Michael Shirres, who  was recently exposed as a pedophile, with St Patrick’s College (Upper Hutt) students at a sports event in 1955.

Rector Fred Durning, right, next to Father Michael Shirres, who has been exposed as a pedophile, with St Patrick's College students at a sports event in 1955. Photo: Supplied

The current rector, Grahame Duffy, says the Board of Trustees and the Board of Proprietors' members have been discussing taking it down for months.

"This follows an active and strong plea from members and friends of the college community who have either shared their personal experience of abuse or reported their support of those abused by Father Durning," he said in a statement to parents.

"In response to the request, it has been decided to remove the photograph of Father Durning from display in our College Auditorium.

"The two Boards want to also acknowledge the pain the actions of Father Durning would have caused the young men at the time of abuse and the effects on their subsequent lives."

Previously, the Society of Mary which oversees the school told RNZ having the photo up was not a statement of approval.

"A history of the college would still name these principals as being in charge and something like a centenary booklet would also discuss their time as principal," the society said.

The church moved Fr Durning around a lot, including into teaching positions in the Pacific.

Where to get help:

For male survivors

  • Road Forward Trust, Wellington - Contact Richard on 0211181043
  • Better Blokes Auckland - 099902553
  • The Canterbury Men's Centre - 03 3776747
  • The Male Room, Nelson - 035480403
  • Male Survivors, Waikato - 07 8584112
  • Male Survivors, Otago - 0211064598

For female survivors -

  • Help Wellington - 048016655
  • Help, Auckland - 09 623 1296.
  • For urgent help: Safe To Talk 0800044334