“It makes me sick to see my wedding photos,” Grace* confesses to Mamamia.
“That man ruined the memories of what was supposed to be the happiest day of our life.”
The man that Grace, 30, is talking about is Father John Fleming, an Anglican priest in Adelaide, whom the South Australian Supreme Court ruled in 2016 had engaged in criminal sexual behaviour with a minor.
And now, it’s all that Grace can see when she looks at photos of her church wedding ceremony: Fleming’s abhorrent actions, and his deceit.
Grace’s association with Fleming began in 2014, when he gave Grace and her then fiance, Mike*, the standard church marriage counselling in the lead-up to their wedding. But she says the priest would also take the opportunity to disparage Grace, who worked in the field of reproductive medicine, for her “unholy occupation that was against the will of God.”
Such remarks would upset the then 28-year-old. But it meant a lot to her and Mike to be married in a church, and so they persisted with the ‘counselling’ sessions.
But when Fleming’s crimes were publicly revealed two years after the wedding, the priest’s role of representing God took on a different meaning for Grace.
“Of course, I was devastated to read about what Fleming had done to his victims. And of course, anything I feel about him doesn’t come close to what they have endured at his hand,” she says.
“But I feel very betrayed. He’s in all of our church photos. And every time I look at them, instead of remembering the happiness I felt on the day, I feel disgust and sadness thinking about his victims.”