Does George Pell still have questions to answer over his handling of child sexual abuse claims?


Does George Pell still have questions to answer over his handling of child sexual abuse claims?

By Louise Milligan
November 25,2015
From the Link: Does George Pell still have questions to answer over his handling of child sexual abuse claims?

Cardinal George Pell

Cardinal George Pell

Cardinal George Pell is due to re-appear before the Royal Commission next month over his handling of allegations of child sexual abuse. One survivor of abuse gives evidence for the first time and claims George Pell downplayed the conduct of her abuser at a previous parliamentary inquiry.

Transcript of video below:

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Next month, Catholic Cardinal George Pell will make his much-anticipated appearance before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

New evidence about the case of Victorian predatory priest Peter Searson raises new questions for Cardinal Pell about how he managed allegations of sexual abuse.

The cardinal has consistently defended his handling of abuse by the clergy, but one victim claims she has evidence he knew far more than he’s let on.

Louise Milligan has the story.

LOUISE MILLIGAN, REPORTER: Julie Stewart is coming back to Melbourne, a place she ran away from almost 20 years ago.

JULIE STEWART: I just wanted it out of my life. We moved to Cairns. Been there ever since.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: What Julie ran away from is the abuse she suffered at her Catholic primary school, Holy Family Doveton in outer Melbourne. Here abused was parish priest, one Peter Searson.

JULIE STEWART: I used to see him on the playground cuddling – he was very affectionate with children and always had a smile on his face.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: One of the milestones at Holy Family that year was Julie’s first confession.

JULIE STEWART: I went to sit on the chair next to him and he said, “Come and sit on my knee.” So of course, I was delighted. “Father’s paying attention to me. Wait till I tell Nana.” And he asked, you know, “Do you love Father?” And I said, “Oh, of course.” I’m thinking the Lord – I love Father, I love the Lord. And he said, “No, no, no, do you love me? I said, “Oh, of course I love you.” And he said, “Give Father a kiss.” So I gave him a kiss on the cheek and he said, “No, no, no, give Father a kiss on the lips,” so I gave him a kiss on the lips and that was just the beginning.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: The abuse escalated over two years every time Julie went to confession.

JULIE STEWART: And then from there, it led to touching and him placing my hand on his private parts and kissing, more kissing and him trying to put his hands inside, um, my, um, my, um, underwear. His face would always light up when I walked in the room. Oof, you know, he’d light up straight away and I was just sickened by it.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Things came to a head when Searson’s abuse became more forceful.

JULIE STEWART: I snapped. And I remember putting my hands on his knees and pushing myself off. And I just turned around and I – I looked at him and he was sort of shocked that I’d done it and I just bolted out.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: She ran sobbing to a teacher and was brought to see the school principal, Graeme Sleeman.

GRAEME SLEEMAN, PRINCIPAL: I heard this child screaming and I ran out of my office. … And she was there and absolutely unconsolable.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Julie hasn’t seen Graeme Sleeman in almost 20 years.

GRAEME SLEEMAN: G’day, Jules. How are ya? Long time no see, eh? You right? It’s not the same as talking on the phone, is it?

LOUISE MILLIGAN: The principal and his former student have come to give evidence to the Royal commission into child sexual abuse about what Peter Searson did and how the Catholic Church failed to act on it. Julie only recently discovered how hard Sleeman fought for her.

GRAEME SLEEMAN: In all my life, I’ve never been frightened of anyone, but Peter Searson scared me, because he was a really, really creepy guy.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Principal Sleeman made it his mission to ensure Searson was punished for what he did to Julie. But his efforts to spur the Catholic Education Office to act went nowhere.

GRAEME SLEEMAN: Oh, they said, “We’ve passed it on, we’ve passed it on.” And they kept constantly telling me, “We do not have – that is not concrete evidence. We need concrete evidence.” I don’t know how much more concrete evidence we could give them.”

LOUISE MILLIGAN: The Church’s failure to take action against Searson led to Graeme Sleeman resigning in 1986.

GRAEME SLEEMAN: The diocese really did not assist me in providing a safe environment for any of the students in that school.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Parents sent dozens of letters supporting Sleeman and begging the Church to remove Father Searson. One letter from a 10-year-old student said, “If anyone should leave, it should be Father, as he sexually assaulted my friend”.

GAIL FURNESS, Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission: No investigation was undertaken. Indeed, there was no serious investigation of any complaint made during the ’80s and early-’90s.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Out of the blue, five years after her abuse when Julie was in high school, Julie received a visit from a police officer in 1990, a police officer who interviewed her about Searson. He seemed determined to prosecute. This is her statement:

JULIE STEWART: As he was leaving, actually, my Dad saw him out and he turned around and he said to my Dad, “We’ll get him.”

LOUISE MILLIGAN: We’ll get Searson.

JULIE STEWART: “We’ll get him. We’ll get him,” is what he said. And then a few days later, he rang and said there, “Wasn’t enough evidence, Julie.”

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Julie also told her high school principal. The principal contacted the detective and called Julie in a week later.

JULIE STEWART: And he said, “Well, there’s not much we can do about it.”

LOUISE MILLIGAN: The week after she spoke to the principal, Father Searson was invited to the high school to give communion to students, including Julie, at mass. She took an overdose of tablets the following week.

JULIE STEWART: I was alone in this whole journey and that’s how I felt totally and broken. … I’ve always felt there was a cover-up.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: It was the evidence of Cardinal George Pell to a Victorian parliamentary inquiry in 2013 that jolted Julie into anger.

QUESTIONER (May 27, 2013): Can you understand how victims regard what happened during this period as there was really hear no evil, see no evil, say nothing about evil from the Church?

GEORGE PELL, CARDINAL: I think that’s an objectionable suggestion with no foundation in the truth and I’ve – as I – no conviction was recorded for Searson on sexual misbehaviour. There might be victims.

JULIE STEWART: That pissed me off.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: “There might be victims.”

JULIE STEWART: Yeah, I was absolutely so angry … and I thought, “Let’s get ’em.”

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Julie Stewart was given a payout by the Catholic Church’s Melbourne response, set up by George Pell. She’s asking why, if George Pell believed only that there might be victims, he sent her this letter in 1998 which accepts that she had been abused:

GEORGE PELL (letter, male voiceover): “On behalf of the Catholic Church and personally, I apologise to you and to those around you for the wrongs and hurt you have suffered at the hands of Father Searson.”

LOUISE MILLIGAN: What do you think about George Pell?

JULIE STEWART: Not very much.

GRAEME SLEEMAN: It would be impossible for him not to know what was happening in Doveton.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: But it wasn’t until 1997 that Searson was finally prosecuted after he hit an altar boy. He was removed from all priestly duties.

Julie Stewart is determined the Church is now called to account for its failures.

JULIE STEWART: I was a victim as a child and I was a little girl, but I’m not gonna be a victim as an adult. And I’ll be buggered if they’re gonna try and shut me down and cover it up anymore.

LEIGH SALES: Louise Milligan reporting.

Video is online with link to story.

About victimsofrapebythercc

The Catechism offers a clear moral teaching: "Rape is the forcible violation of the sexual intimacy of another person. It does injury to justice and charity. Rape deeply wounds the respect, freedom, and physical and moral integrity to which every person has a right. It causes grave damage that can mark the victim for life. It is always an intrinsically evil act. Graver still is the rape of children committed by parents (incest) or those responsible for the education of the children entrusted to them." (no. 2356) Note that rape is "an intrinsically evil act," meaning that it is evil at its very root, nothing justifies it, and it is objectively a mortal sin. An evil act was done against me, a crime, by a priest at St Thomas More Parish in Durham, NH. An evil and a crime I will no longer keep silent about. Those who perpetrate crimes against children, especially those of the Roman Catholic Church, should all be punished for their crimes against children. Anything less would be criminal.

Posted on January 18, 2016, in Cardinal George Pell, Child Sex Abuse, Clergy Abuse, Clergy Sex Abuse, Father Peter Searson, Melbourne Response, Priest Child Sex Abuse, Religion, Roman Catholic Church, Roman Catholic Church Sex Abuse, Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Melbourne and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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