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News: 'Revelation' - Beyond the pale

David Knox, TV Tonight, 10 March, 2020

Warning: Some parts of story may be distressing

EXCLUSIVE: Sarah Ferguson is keeping Episode 3 of Revelation under wraps from media for good reason.

In a series that will most surely shock viewers, the final chapter includes a bombshell of an interview.

“There was a moment where one of the paedophiles gave us the name of someone that I was not at all expecting, who had helped cover up his crimes,” she tells TV Tonight.

“When he mentioned this person’s name, the producer and I (gasped).

“This paedophile has tried to withdraw. He’s trying to get out of being in the series after having agreed to it all.”

Ferguson’s confronting 3 part documentary includes interviews with two convicted paedophiles -an ordained priest and a religious brother. There are interviews with survivors, family members, with footage filmed in courtrooms, prison, amd travel to Ireland and the Vatican.

While the content may prove distressing for many, Ferguson is determined to link a most-fractured social and criminal jigsaw together, in order to elicit an outcome.

“We don’t understand the minds of the men who did it. We don’t understand the whole story of how all of the pieces of the crime and the cover-up fit together,” she explains.

She adds, “What I wanted to understand is the much deeper topography, the motivation for the men, for the cover-up for all of the crucial elements of it.”

Filming across a 12 month period, Ferguson gains extraordinary access to two men whom she grills in lengthy and confronting interviews.

“I set the bar very high: if we’re going to do it …we’re going to have to set the threshold incredibly high and that means hearing from the people we’ve never heard from. The paedophiles. Ordained men who commit heinous crimes, and then tell us how to behave. Our moral guardians, who are also sexual predators. The apex of hypocrisy, if you like.

“The other thing that has happened in the iteration to the story is it’s turned into story of people trying to get justice.

“The clock is ticking louder and louder with every year, because the people who destroyed them are dying.”

Episode one centres around Vincent Ryan, former priest who finished a 14-year prison sentence for abusing more than 30 boys, but who faces a new trial during the course of filming. Remarkably, ABC was granted camera access for the trial without a jury.

Getting him to talk for the documentary was a major coup for Ferguson.

“Everybody has a potential reason for wanting to talk. Sometimes it’s very, very hard to work out what that reason is, and I would say this is clearly the case. You have to find that point in the person. And that’s what I had to do.”

Ryan makes some of the documentary’s most reprehensible statements in explaining his actions.

“He said, the children wanted to be with him,” says Ferguson.

“For someone who … wants it to be better understood, he is only a small way down the path of understanding the impact of what he did and what the rest of the world thinks about it.

“He is still saying ‘They wanted to be with me’ not ‘I thought they wanted to be with me.’ He is still taking a child’s enthusiasm for an adult, to be an indicator of sexual desire, which is deeply offensive.

“I had to think very carefully about putting that line in very early on, because it is offensive.”

Episode two includes an interview with Bernard McGrath, a former St. John of God brother, currently imprisoned. Again, ABC cameras go behind bars for his interview, with Ferguson facing some of the toughest interview subjects of her career.

“He ran riot in a series of institutions in New Zealand and Australia, over a long period of time. He was moved around and protected and ruined hundreds of lives and probably thousands of people’s lives by extension, because the family members are all deeply affected.

She adds, “They are literally beyond the pale. They are demons who live under bridges who are not permitted to be in polite society, if you like.”

But how did she keep her cool during her interviews? Ferguson says this was not her biggest challenge.

“If we don’t get anything out of it then all I’ve done is put a really a heinous criminal on television for no purpose. So the challenge for me is not (hearing) something that I find personally repulsive. It’s ‘Am I able, in the course of this interview, to get you to say things that enable us to understand you, an institution and how we all played a role in letting this happen?’ Because we did.

“So that’s why I can keep my cool, because I’ve got a job to do.”

But she admits during draining days of filming both she and crew had to draw upon humour, if only to cope with the grim subject. She is also full of praise for the “exquisitely good” survivors who spoke to her throughout the series.

Revelation comprises three feature-length episodes that are bound to have Australia talking. While it offers insight into the minds of convicted paedophiles, Ferguson is determined the cover-ups by institutions will also be clear-cut. Indeed there remain questions around ongoing protections and a lack of ex-communication.

“When you are an anathema to the rest of the world the Church will still protect you. This Church is capable of forgiving you and will look after you,” Ferguson insists.

“The Church is their one defender left, but the church doesn’t want them to talk.

“One of them accidentally gave us the letter that he had received from the institution to which he belongs saying ‘I’ve been approached. Do you think I should do it?’

“‘Answer? Absolutely not.'”

Revelation begins 8:30pm Tuesday March 17 on ABC.

Lifeline 13 11 14 Beyond Blue 1300 22 46 36

Bravehearts: 1800 272 831. Child Abuse Protection Hotline: 1800 688 009 Child Abuse Report Line: 131 478.

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