Category Archives: Archbishop of Sydney
Vatican finance minister accused of child sexual abuse
From the Link: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/faith_and_values/2016/07/29/vatican-finance-minister-accused-of-child-sexual-abuse.html
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican’s finance minister, Cardinal George Pell, has strenuously rejected the latest claims that he sexually abused children many years ago as a priest.
Pell, an Australian who is third in the Vatican hierarchy after Pope Francis and Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, is the most senior figure in the Catholic Church to be accused of sexually abusing children.
“The allegations are untrue. I deny them absolutely,” the 75-year-old Pell said from Rome on Thursday.
This week, a TV report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation said police in the state of Victoria were investigating claims that Pell had touched boys inappropriately and, in a separate incident, appeared naked in front of three boys at a surfing club locker room in the late 1980s.
“Untested allegations should be put through the proper procedures,” Pell said. “I’m quite prepared to cooperate. … I won’t cooperate with trial by the media. I think it’s unjust and inappropriate.”
It’s not the first time Pell has faced similar accusations.
After an internal church investigation, Pell, the former archbishop of Sydney, was cleared of an allegation that he had abused a 12-year-old boy at a camp in the 1960s.
The Vatican declined to comment on these most recent claims.
SNAP — the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests — urged anyone “with suspicions or knowledge” of any alleged wrongdoing by Pell to speak to secular authorities, not church figures.
“After a lengthy investigation, police have deemed eight accusers’ accounts are credible enough that they’re giving the evidence to prosecutors,” said David Clohessy, SNAP president, in a statement. “That speaks volumes.”
Anthony Fisher, the archbishop of Sydney, told reporters the claims did not correspond with the Pell he knew.
“He has a record of leadership in the fight against child sexual abuse, and was the first bishop in the world to implement a process under which such claims would be investigated by an independent commissioner,” Fisher said.
Pell has wielded significant power since he was appointed prefect of the secretariat for the economy by Pope Francis in 2014.
Pell has long been accused of shielding predatory priests in Australia. Earlier this year, he gave lengthy evidence by video link to an Australian inquiry into clerical sexual abuse from Rome after doctors said he was not well enough to testify in Sydney.
At the end of his hearing, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi praised Pell for his “ dignified and coherent” testimony.
What the church documents reveal
But those aren’t the only stories revealed in some 6,000 pages of documents the church had kept confidential for decades. The documents also shed light on issues pedophile priests were dealing with both before and after they abused children. They include letters to priests from archbishops who failed to face the issue of child abuse head on. And they reveal the anguish of the victims and the victims’ parents.
The documents, which were released July 1 as part of the church’s bankruptcy case, reveal the human side of the scandal.
Some of the priests said they had been sexually abused as children. The victims were often insecure and searching for guidance. And archbishops, in addition to trying to protect the church, felt a pastoral responsibility to priests who were abusers.
Only a few of the accused priests were criminally charged; many denied they did anything wrong. Most left the priesthood with severance pay or were allowed to retire with a pension, health benefits and a place to live. Of the dozen priests included in this story, three are still alive but have been stripped of their priestly ministry: Franklyn Becker, Michael Krejci and Thomas Trepanier, according to archdiocese records.
This story is based on a close review of the pedophile priest files, which include candid letters exchanged between accused priests and archbishops; sexual abuse intake reports; psychological assessments; letters from archbishops to the Vatican seeking counsel or formal action against priests; and letters from victims and their parents.
The pedophile priests
The documents show that many of the priests did not consider themselves criminals, but victims. Some were addicted to alcohol or pornography. They did good work in the church and helped many people. But they also had a dark side they either struggled to control or did not acknowledge.
Many did not express guilt or remorse; they couldn’t understand why they were treated severely after they had accepted counseling and done everything the archdiocese asked of them. Some acknowledged conflicted sexual orientation, loneliness, self-loathing, an inability to form healthy adult relationships. Psychologists concluded that at least one priest’s emotional development was stunted.
Father Eugene Kreuzer confessed to members of an unidentified parish in an undated letter:
“…There were allegations of my sexual abuse of minors some 30 years ago in a different parish. I express remorse and repent of these actions. However, for the good of the community I have decided that my continued presence at the parish is not helpful. I have been fully cooperative with the restrictions placed upon me. I do not exercise anyministry and am living out my life in a spirit of prayer and penance.This is a strong and loving parish community and I know you will respond to thisannouncement in the manner that is most appropriate, by praying for all those involved….”
Father Andrew Doyle sought a financial settlement in a letter to then-Archbishop Rembert Weakland:
” …you had indicated that you would grant me an unspecified amount of money as a severance. Because I have regular bills and a house payment, I ask that if it becomes necessary for a release from my orders, at that time you would consider an amount of $30,000 … I have tried to cooperate with the Archdiocese…I regret any pain I have caused you; I also have been in much myself.”
A letter from then-Archbishop Dolan to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the Vatican offered his impressions of Father Franklyn Becker, who Dolan said refused to voluntarily give up his ministry rights as a sign of repentance:
“Father Becker has admitted that a number of these acts of sexual assault occurred… While he attempts to present a defense based on cooperation and need for sustenance, in interviews with him, there is little display of repentance. His sorrow is not over what effect his immoral and abusive behaviors had on others, so much as it is remorse that he has lost a sense of status…”
Several priests were referred for intensive treatment of alcoholism and psycho-sexual issues. A treatment progress report for Father Michael Krejci concluded, among other things:
“…Normal inhibiting mechanisms, such as guilt or remorse, do not appear to impede Michael’s problematic sexual behavior…”
Each archbishop had his own way of addressing accused priests.
Archbishop William Cousins wrote terse, formal letters to inform priests they were being transferred, which occurred frequently and quietly during his tenure from 1959 to 1977. Cousins did not document much, reflecting a time when sex abuse accusations against priests were not openly discussed.
Weakland, archbishop from 1977 to 2002, consistently expressed concern for the priests’ well-being and told them he was doing what was best for them and the church. He also exchanged letters with victims, acknowledging the bad effects of what had happened and encouraging them to forgive because “forgiveness brings spiritual growth.”
Weakland resigned in 2002 amid revelations that he had used church money to pay a $450,000 settlement to a man with whom he had had a sexual relationship years earlier.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan, whose tenure from 2002 to 2007 coincided with a change in direction by the Vatican in dealing with sex abuse cases, wrote stern letters to priests about their actions, while expressing concern for their well-being. In his letters to victims, Dolan apologized for their pain and offered them counseling services.
One internal exchange at the archdiocese was especially frank. This excerpt of a 2006 letter from Archdiocese Chancellor Barbara Anne Cusack to Dolan was about Father Michael Benham:
“Although Michael has apparently expressed remorse to you, I have not seen that remorse translate into action. The victim in this case requested a token amount of money as a gesture of recognition of the harm he had caused; Michael has consistently and adamantly refused to do so…This was not a one-time incident of indiscretion.
“There have to be consequences to actions. I do not doubt that an all-merciful God has forgiven Michael but an all-just God will also probably require some purgation for these actions…Michael’s life of solitude is made possible because we are paying his subsidy and could be doing so for the next 10 years until he is eligible for pension…I am not sure how we can justify this as ‘good stewardship’ of the resources people have entrusted to us… How do I honestly look a victim-survivor in the face in mediation and say we are acting consistently with Pope John Paul II’s statement that ‘there is no place in the priesthood for those who would harm a child?'”
A letter Dolan wrote in December 2002 to parishioners at an unspecified church about Father Thomas Trepanier acknowledged the need for accountability.
“We forgive those priests who have been guilty of this crime and sin, once they admit it — as most do, painfully and admirably — ask for mercy and repent. We know God forgives them; we must forgive them too; and I hope they can forgive themselves.
“Forgiveness, however, does not eliminate the need for those accused to take responsibility, to be held accountable for their behavior.”
One month before Dolan wrote to parishioners about forgiveness for Trepanier, he wrote to Trepanier:
“…While we await clearer resolution from the Holy See and the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, I just wanted you to know that I have not forgotten about you, and that you have my love, concern, and prayerful solidarity…”
Dolan added a handwritten note in the margin: “Thanks for the green tea! I’ll be in touch soon.”
Seven years earlier, in 1995, a letter from Weakland to Father Eldred Lesniewski reflected a much different tone:
“…Every time you appear in public this way at the altar, Eldred, you risk stirring up people who have brought allegations. The network of such victims is enormous and very aggressive. You risk much unfortunate bad publicity against yourself, the priesthood and the Diocese…”
They were altar boys. Kids in need of a friend or a counselor. Boys and girls who for whatever reason caught the eye of the priest at school or in church. Perhaps the priest initially made them feel special with gifts or extra attention — a sleepover or a vacation on a Caribbean cruise. One priest invited boys to go up north on a camping trip in a hearse.
A man who said he was molested as a boy by Father Lawrence Murphy at St. John’s School for the Deaf finally confronted the priest decades later in a letter copied to Archbishop Weakland and Pope John Paul II:.
“…I cannot keep our secret about your life as a terrible molester at our school…You made us hate the Catholic church because we couldn’t understand how you could be such a hypocrite of a priest who taught us about God while you were the secret molester…
“I would lie awake every night shaking in fear that this would be a night you would touch me …Jesus on the cross on the wall saw you coming every night to molest us. He must have been shocked and grieved every time. I hope he cried like we did, because we were innocent children… The depth of your destruction is like a deep, dark, bottomless pit that has no end…The very least you could do is be sorry, but you aren’t…
“God lets no one into heaven who is not deeply, truly, and shamefully sorry for his sins — in your case, atrocities…My shame and my dirty secret are back where they belong, with you, their creator.”
The mother of one of Father Franklyn Becker’s victims wrote to Weakland in 1994, after accusations about pedophile priests began being reported by newspapers. Her son was abused by Becker at the Holy Family parish in Whitefish Bay in the 1970s, she said.
“As I later found out, this priest had a record in his previous parish and after leaving Whitefish Bay, continued on his merry way in parish after parish, both here and out of state….
“At the time that his offense against my son occurred, I was (redacted) very vulnerable and very committed to seeing that my children be educated in Catholic schools. That’s how he came to know my sons; we took him into our hearts and into our family…
“At no time did it ever occur to me to sue the Archdiocese or the priest… Money could never heal the scars left by one priest’s indiscretion. However, Archbishop Weakland, don’t for a minute smugly think that the only cases of clergy abuse out there are the ones that sue/or run to the media. All I really wanted over the past years was an acknowledgment by you and the Archdiocese that this problem existed and the seriousness of it….
“In addition to a deep sense of guilt for allowing, or even encouraging this to happen to my son some years ago, I have in the past few years experienced a loss of faith, an indifference to the church I was brought up in and now a real bitterness that this particular priest had been ‘rewarded’ with early retirement for a lifetime of botched assignments due to his fondness for the altar boys.”
Father George Nuedling gained sympathy from in-the-dark parishioners one day for an injury he sustained after molesting a victim, according to this letter the victim wrote to the archdiocese:
“…I fought as hard as I could for what seemed an eternity, and fortunately when he lost his grip on me I was able to run away. He tried to give chase but must have pulled something in his calf or hamstring area and fell to the ground (Jesus must have been with me).
“The next day in church it just galled me to hear other parishioners express their concern over Father Nuedling’s ‘bad limp’ and how it must have hurt…I just wonder how many other little boys this evil man harmed?”
Father George Etzel sent a Christmas card in 1992 to a victim, who by then was an adult. “I’m sad and sorry, and I wonder why,” he wrote.
The victim responded: “Thank you for the card and thoughts at Christmas… By the tone of your note…I see that you are also reflecting on your past life…and you know exactly what I am talking about.As I stated earlier, it is a time for forgiveness and hope. I forgive you for the things you have done to me. I hope you can make peace with your god…”
When it was time for his first confession, a 9-year-old victim thought he could anonymously tell a trusted adult about Father Siegfried Widera. But something stopped him, according to a letter he wrote as an adult on Aug. 1, 2002:
“…As I entered that booth, I was determined to end this. It was only to my horror that I entered the confessional and heard that voice that could belong to only one man. I can still to this day feel the devastation that entered me that day and the thought that it was a sign from God to keep my mouth shut. I went home that night and cried. A memory that burns in me to this day.
“A sense of relief only came after I found out he was gone. No explanation to the students and none that I can remember hearing about to the adults… I already know that this man was transferred to another church and he did it again. I live with the thought that I could have stopped this if only I had come forward sooner. And now I know that this man is on the run…
“I only wish I believed enough in prayer to pray for any child he comes across.”
Less than a year after the letter was written, Widera leaped to his death from a hotel balcony in Mexico as officials closed in to arrest him. He had been on the run for more than a year, and authorities considered him one of the most wanted sex-crime fugitives in the Western Hemisphere.
The Catholic church should be outlawed forthwith
JohnB on outlawing the Catholic church today
From the link: http://www.molestedcatholics.com/
Talking whilst driving with my son today and I began to relate to him some details about a foot injury I had as a child. He had come home and shown me a blister on his foot; I told him he had not spent enough time in bare feet – that was the prompt, my topic could be my right foot or how long/harmful/life distorting the repression of the day to day Catholic cover up are – its part of the healing journey and a son who smiled today when he listened to me about this – its the story of how I had to cover up the injury even though I had to have ongoing medical attention and purpose made boots it was always done in the name of something else – my injured foot which had left me with a distinct limp because I walked with my foot turned in as it had been injured seriously when the car door was repeatedly slammed on my foot on the day the priest raped me at a little church in the beautiful hills of Central Victoria – its about how every Catholic knew what the cause was and every Catholic knew I was not permitted to speak about it – they were able to assist me with my pigeon toed-ness but they were not able to help me with my injured foot due to being slammed in the lock of the car door as that was a lie that would send me to hell – that’s why other kids parents were permitted to beat you if they heard you speak about it being what it in fact was. This was a conscious campaign by every catholic in that town, nuns and priests, knights of the Southern Cross, bishops, the local Catholic Policeman, the Editor of the local newspaper included – they all knew and participated – that to me is what the cover up was and the to me is what the cover up is today – that is what Catholic parishes across the world participate in still today – that is the Catholic cover up in action. It is bigger and stronger than just the Catholic hierarchy because so many have built their careers and their fortunes on.
The part skepticism plays in helping to clarify those truths and facts of your life – you realize that your own brothers and sisters were blackmailed in the same way over this and over dozens of other crimes that had occurred and were covered up – there was a regular murmurous uproar as another instances of sexual abuse was gossiped and whispered about and some kid bullied into fear of their life until the rules of secrecy were instilled (rather this repression was the enforcement of denial into the entire catholic population.
If society does not turn away from the path of the Catholic church and if it does not freeze its assets, its businesses then the vast majority of the real crime in our society will never be addressed and the world will never have had a real chance to raise our children in a peaceful, loving and truthful environment. Lets make 2011 the year we all come together to unite in the single cause of demanding our government ceases to trade with and Catholic or religious entity until democracy is restored in our country.
There is no precedent that permits a sector of society to enact genocide on its followers on the basis of religion. That is what we have today and what we have today is insidious and at the core of the ability of society to progress in the areas of human rights, dignity, respect, individuality, freedom of expression of thought and the freedom of speech.
While ever the Catholic church continues to exist and to be able to function as an organized religion it will be in the process of enacting the genocidal practices of the religion against some portion of society and it will continue to enable wars just as any organized religion can and repeatedly to the detriment of society does. The Catholic church is our most obvious example. We can either help the Catholic church to prevail or we can help our children to prevail. For every person on the planet the real choice they have to make is whether they will support the Catholic church or will they support the children.
2011 must be the year when those of us across the world who have an understanding of this and for us to collectively demand our governments brings it to a halt and never permits it to occur again. That is a part of their moral obligation to society. Any politician who today stands in support of the Catholic church should be collectively condemned through our united and collective voices.
Make 2011 the year when you connect up with a proactive survivor who speaks clearly and directly about the needs and the means of providing the safety and the protection our children and our society need.
The Catholic church and those who follow it today need to stand back and permit reason and justice to prevail, to permit each and every person within the boundaries of their country to live with the legitimate right to live in a free and democratic country free of repression and child abuse.
The Catholic church stands condemned as a psychopathic pariah and must be rejected in all forms wherever it is not regulated and policed.
Shame on you for cheering the Pope
My letter to the Editor that appeared in the Berlin Daily Sun on Friday March 1, 2013
Church assisting paedophile priests
Richard Baker and Nick McKenzie
June 15, 2012
The archdiocese has disclosed to The Age that it is providing significant financial support to four clergy released from jail after serving sentences for child sex abuse.
Victim support groups say more clergy found either by police or internal church investigations to have abused children are likely to be receiving financial support from different Catholic orders outside the Melbourne archdiocese’s control.
A spokesman for the Melbourne archdiocese said church law required the bishop to ”ensure appropriate financial support is provided to all priests”. ”The archdiocese contributes to rental support and health insurance for four priests who have had their faculties to function as a priest withdrawn, been convicted of child sex offences and completed any term of imprisonment imposed by the courts.”
A fifth paedophile priest within the Melbourne archdiocese, Victor Rubeo, was also receiving financial support until his death in December last year, on the day he was to face a committal hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates Court over 30 fresh child sex abuse charges.
Director of victims support group In Good Faith and Associates, Helen Last, said the generous financial support to paedophile priests was unjust compared with the financial, physical and emotional hardship endured by those who have been abused.
”This seems to be a weak response in terms of discipline and there should be an examination of the archdiocese’s relationship with clerical sexual offenders,” she said. ”The victims are often left out in the cold with no ongoing financial support and help. The money the [convicted] priests get from the church makes it a very unjust situation and demonstrates no awareness by the church of the seriousness of sexual crime.”
Ms Last called on the archdiocese to disclose how many clergy it had confirmed through its own internal investigations had abused children – but were not reported to police – were also receiving financial support.
A spokesman for the Broken Rites victim support group said: ”If abusive clergy receive ongoing support from the church, this shields the offenders from the harsh reality of the long-term harm that they have done to victims.”
The issue of the handling of child sexual abuse within religious organisations is to be investigated by a Victorian parliamentary inquiry. A state government source has confirmed the inquiry will have the power to override any confidentiality agreements abuse victims have signed to receive compensation from religious organisations.
Vatican laments Irish dissent, silences priests
Apr. 26, 2012
DUBLIN, IRELAND — Just weeks after a report from a Vatican inquiry into the Irish church lamented what it described as “fairly widespread” dissent from church teaching, it was revealed that the Vatican has “silenced” Redemptorist Fr. Tony Flannery.
The Holy See’s move provoked fury among the members of the 800-strong Association of Catholic Priests, which has accused the Vatican of issuing a fatwa against liberal clerics.
It’s not exactly clear why Flannery, a popular author and retreat director, has come under Vatican suspicion. He has voiced support in the past for opening up debates around the ordination of women, a change to the church’s ban on artificial birth control and an end to mandatory celibacy. He also provoked dismay among senior Irish bishops when he publicly backed Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s 2011 attack on the Vatican in the wake of the report into the mishandling of clerical abuse in the Cloyne diocese. Kenny accused the Vatican of “dysfunction,” “disconnection,” “elitism” and “narcissism.” Flannery described the speech as “wonderful.”
By acting against Flannery now, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith may well have scored an own goal by provoking the ire of the priests’ association. As well as his retreat work, Flannery is a founder of the association, which now represents some 20 percent of Ireland’s clergy. Since its founding less than two years ago, the group has campaigned for liberal reforms in the church and is due to hold a national assembly in early May to harness momentum. Key priorities for the group include “a re-evaluation of Catholic sexual teaching” and “a redesigning of ministry in the Church, in order to incorporate the gifts, wisdom and expertise of the entire faith community, male and female.”
Flannery is the latest Irish priest to face Vatican censure. In mid-April, it was revealed that moral theologian Fr. Seán Fagan had been silenced by the Vatican two years ago. His Marist order even took the bizarre step of buying up unsold copies of his 2008 book What Happened to Sin?.
Capuchin Fr. Owen O’Sullivan also fell foul of the doctrinal congregation in late 2010 after he published an article suggesting that homosexuality is “simply a facet of the human condition.”
More of the same is likely to be in the cards given some of the findings of the apostolic visitation, published on March 19. The summary of the document — oddly, only four of Ireland’s 27 serving bishops have seen the full report — warned that “dissent from the fundamental teachings of the Church is not the authentic path towards renewal.”
The tendency “among priests, religious, and laity, to hold theological opinions at variance with the teachings of the Magisterium” required, the visitation concluded, “particular attention directed principally towards improved theological formation.”
A war of words has now broken out — of sorts, since no one of the Vatican side of the argument is speaking at all. Renowned ecologist Fr. Seán McDonagh, a member of the priests’ association’s leadership team, accused the Holy See of “outrageous” behavior in silencing of the clerics.
He accused the Vatican of “throwing a fatwa” at the priests and said that some of Rome’s recent actions were like a return to the Inquisition.
“This isn’t the time for heresy-hunting,” he warned.
The association has rallied behind Flannery, insisting, “This intervention is unfair, unwarranted and unwise.”
The association has also resisted attempts to cast it simply as a liberal pressure group. “The issues surfaced by the ACP since its foundation less than two years ago and by Tony Flannery as part of the leadership team are not an attack on or a rejection of the fundamental teachings of the Church. Rather they are an important reflection by an association of over 800 Irish priests — who have given long service to the Catholic Church in Ireland — on issues surfacing in parishes all over the country,” the group said in a statement.
A recent survey commissioned by the association seems to demonstrate that the priests are not the Irish church’s only restive members. While weekly Mass attendance is still relatively high, three out of four people who identify themselves as Catholic say they find the church’s teaching on sexuality “irrelevant.”
The survey — conducted by the respected research association Amarach — also showed that almost 90 percent of those surveyed believe that divorced or separated Catholics in a stable second relationship ought to be able to receive Communion at Mass.
The figures were compiled from a sample of 1,000 Catholics and, according to researchers, have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
According to the results, 35 percent of those surveyed attend Mass at least once a week; 51 percent attend at least once a month. Just 5 percent of Irish people who identify themselves as Catholics never attend Mass.
Eighty-seven percent disagreed with church teaching on an unmarried priesthood and said they believed that the church ought to allow priests to get married, while 77 percent said the church should admit women to the priesthood.
When asked “to what extent do you agree with the Catholic church’s teaching that any sexual expression of love between a gay couple is immoral,” 61 percent said they disagreed while 18 percent of those surveyed believed homosexual acts to be immoral.
Seeming to set himself on a collision course with the Vatican, McDonagh said the survey “confirms that those who are advocating for change in the church are not a tiny minority, but are, in fact, at the heart of the church.”
He said Irish Catholics are “crying out for change and do not want the church to go backward, but to move forward and change.”
A spokesman for the Irish bishops’ conference, pointedly not commenting directly on the findings, said, “The results of this survey confirm the importance of all in the church taking up this task in a spirit of communion and sharing the good news of the Gospel in a rapidly changing social and cultural environment in Ireland today.”
The Vatican seems to be drawing a clear line in the sand. From Rome’s point of view, whatever the future shape of Irish Catholicism will be, it must be a future marked by greater adherence to church teaching. The Association of Catholic Priests strikes a decidedly different note. This Vatican approach, it warns, “may have the unintended effect of exacerbating a growing perception of a significant ‘disconnect’ between the Irish church and Rome.”
[Michael Kelly is deputy editor of The Irish Catholic, an independent, lay-owned weekly newspaper.]
The church protected this priest who admitted
offences against children
Broken Rites Australia helps victims of church-related
By a Broken Rites researcher
- Article updated 17 February 2012
This is a classic case-study in how the Catholic Church authorities in Australia harboured a priest, despite complaints about him being a danger to children.
In one parish of the Armidale diocese in northern New South Wales in the 1980s, altar boys complained that they were being sexually abused by a certain priest (let us call him Father XYZ). But the two leaders of this diocese — Bishop Henry Kennedy and Monsignor Frank Ryan — protected this priest, helping him to avoid a criminal conviction.
Privately, Father XYZ admitted that he had indeed been committing sexual acts upon children. Later the church was forced to begin paying compensation to some of these former altar boys.
The former altar boys said that their lives were damaged not only by the abuse but also by the church’s cover-up and the code of silence.
Eventually two of the former altar boys (Damian and Daniel) no longer wished to continue living, and they died at the age of 28, each of them leaving two young children. Damian and Daniel did not know each other (they were from different parishes) but their tragic stories are remarkably similar.
Father XYZ grew up in Armidale and attended school there. When he was a young adult, he was recruited by Bishop Henry Kennedy to go to a New South Wales seminary to be trained for the priesthood.
After being ordained, Father XYZ belonged specifically to the Armidale diocese and normally he would be expected to spend his career in the parishes of this diocese.
The Armidale diocese comprised about 30 parishes in a vast rural area. The biggest town in the diocese is Tamworth. The town of Armidale is merely where the bishop is located — at the Cathedral of St Mary and St Joseph, Armidale. Tamworth and Armidale are prominently located on the New England Highway. Further inland are outlying towns such as Moree and Narrabri.
Bishop Henry Kennedy and Monsignor Frank Ryan were significant figures in the Australian church.
- Bishop Henry Kennedy, as a young priest, had been the private secretary to Cardinal Norman Gilroy in Sydney, and had eventually became vice-chancellor of the archdiocese of Sydney. After being an auxiliary bishop in Brisbane, he became bishop of the Armidale diocese in 1971, aged 56.
- Monsignor Francis Patrick Ryan was born in the Armidale diocese. He was a pupil at De La Salle College in Armidale city, and later served as the school’s chaplain. He became one of Australia’s youngest monsignors (the rank immediately below a bishop). He became the Armidale diocese’s vicar-general (that is, the bishop’s deputy) throughout Bishop Kennedy’s reign. As well as being vicar-general, Monsignor Frank Ryan simultaneously worked in parishes (for example, St Francis Xavier parish at Moree).
In the early 1980s Father XYZ spent three years working as an assistant priest in a rural parish. He gave much attention to the altar boys.
By early 1984, at least one family complained to the Armidale diocese leadership that Father XYZ had sexually abused their son (“Max” — not his real name), who was an altar boy. This complaint was “handled” internally by Bishop Kennedy and Monsignor Ryan and it was not passed on to the police.
The Armidale diocese leadership merely granted Father XYZ a short period of leave from the diocese. Later in 1984, they brought him back to the Armidale diocese, where they appointed him to a parish in a much larger town than his previous town. The families in his new parish were not told about the previous trouble in the rural parish.
Meanwhile, other boys from Father XYZ’s earlier town (where the above-mentioned “Max” lived) revealed that they, too, had had an encounter with this priest. But, again, none of this information reached the police.
Eventually, in 1987, one of Father XYZ’s earlier altar boys (Damian James Jurd, born on 7 March 1972) was in distress in Sydney, aged 15. He was interviewed by child-protection workers and by a children’s psychiatrist. Damian revealed that he had been sexually assaulted by Father XYZ while he was in this priest’s custody in early 1984, when he was aged eleven (or turning twelve). The child-protection experts agreed that the sexual assaults (plus the breach of trust and the accompanying cover-up) had disrupted Damian’s adolescence, resulting in severe personal damage.
On 11 August 1987, specialist detectives from Sydney arrested Father XYZ in Tamworth and charged him with having committed sexual crimes on Damian. Damian’s police statement alleged that these assaults occurred during a weekend car-trip to Narrabri(St Francis Xavier parish). Father XYZ and Damien stayed in Narrabri overnight, so that Father XYZ could conduct the weekend Mass for a priest who was away. Damian acted as the altar boy. Damian’s Catholic family had presumed that the child would be safe while in the custody of a Catholic priest.
Early on the evening of 11 August 1987, the arrest of Father XYZ was reported on the Tamworth local regional commercial television news bulletin. The news item gave the priest’s full name, plus the charges. But, also on that same date, church lawyers obtained an injunction from a Supreme Court judge, preventing the next morning’s newspaper from publishing the name of the defendant or any details. Thus, the newspapers could not mention the Catholic Church or the fact that “the man charged” was a clergyman. However, many people had already heard the priest’s name on the earlier TV bulletin.
Supported by the church leadership, Father XYZ indicated that he would plead “not guilty”. The church’s legal team was well resourced. It was headed by a prominent Sydney Queen’s Counsel, whose long career has included defending a number of high-profile criminal cases.
Father XYZ’s case, held in a closed court on 18 February 1988, was heard by a Catholic magistrate who was personally acquainted with Father XYZ.
This magistrate dismissed the charges, saying that he preferred to believe a Catholic priest (who had “no previous convictions”), rather than a delinquent youth.
The magistrate imposed an order, prohibiting the media from publishing the priest’s name, which is why this Broken Rites article refers to him as “Father XYZ”.
After the court’s acquittal, the Armidale diocese arranged for Father XYZ to live in a presbytery (the home of a very senior cleric), instead of ministering in a parish. Father XYZ spent this time doing some university studies.
In 1989 it was arranged that Father XYZ would transfer to minister in a parish in the Parramatta diocese(in Sydney’s west), although he still belonged officially to Armidale.
The Parramatta diocese, which comprised 60 parishes, was administered from 1986 to 1997 by Bishop Bede Heather.
As Parramatta is 500 kilometres away from Armidale, the Parramatta congregations were unlikely to have heard about the 1987 court case. The people of the Armidale diocese were not told why Father XYZ was not being given any more parishes in the Armidale diocese, and his new parishioners in the Parramatta diocese were not told why he was arriving there.
Father XYZ worked (during 1989 until late 1990) in one of Parramatta diocese’s parishes and then (from late 1990 to early 1992) in a second parish. Again, he befriended boys in the same way as before. Eventually, some parishioners in the Parramatta diocese became concerned about Father XYZ.
One parent spoke to a prominent priest of the Parramatta diocese, Father Roderick Bray (of St Margaret Mary parish in Merrylands), and threatened to “go public” about Father XYZ. Furthermore, someone in the Parramatta diocese learned about Father XYZ’s previous trouble in the Armidale diocese, and this information began to circulate in the Parramatta diocese.
In late 1991, while he was still on loan to the Parramatta diocese, the church authorities were finally forced to re-assess their previous protection of Father XYZ.
On 3 September 1991 (according to an official document in the possession of Broken Rites) Father XYZ was called to a meeting at the Sydney Cathedral presbytery, attended by three church officials:
- Reverend Brian Lucas(then based at the Sydney Cathedral), who was involved in the administration of the Sydney archdiocese.
- Reverend John Usher, of the Sydney archdiocese, chairperson of the Australian Catholic Welfare Commission.
- Reverend Wayne Peters, a senior priest of the Armidale diocese, whose responsibilities then included the Armidale diocese Tribunal (Peters later became Armidale’s vicar-general).
Interviewed by the three officials, Father XYZ admitted that he had been committing sexual acts on young boys in his parishes.
[According to the New South Wales criminal laws, these offences would constitute the crime of indecent assault of a child.]
By mid-1992, Father XYZ’s term in the Parramatta diocese had expired. He returned to the Armidale diocese, living in a private house (not a church-owned house). The church authorities did not strip him of his priesthood but they did not appoint him to minister in any more parishes. Thus he became plain “Mister” XYZ, instead of “Father” XYZ. Despite his record, the Armidale diocese allowed him to continue playing an active role (as a layman) in church affairs in this diocese.
After Bishop Henry Kennedy retired in 1991 (aged 76), he was succeeded as bishop of Armidale by Bishop Kevin Manning. In 1997, Bishop Manning transferred to the Parramatta diocese, and Bishop Luc Matthys later took over in Armidale.
After Father XYZ’s return to civilian life, some of his former altar boys tackled the church authorities about the damage that had been done to their lives. The church resisted these applications but it eventually had to make confidential financial settlements with several of the former altar boys. The settlements served a business purpose — in order to end (and limit) the diocese’s financial liability to each of these persons.
Broken Rites has obtained the details of three settlements regarding Father XYZ:
- Damian Jurd, the altar boy in the 1987 court case, hired a Sydney legal firm in the mid-1990s to bring the Armidale diocese to justice. Damian finally extracted a settlement from the diocese in 1998, when he was aged 26. He used this compensation as a deposit on a house for his partner and his two young children. But he was still feeling damaged by the church-abuse and the cover-up. At the end of 2000 his depression became particularly bad and he was feeling worn out. He was found unconscious in bed. He died on New Year’s Day, 2001, aged 28, when his children were aged about nine and eight.
- Daniel William Powell(born on 28 May 1979) was an altar boy in the Parramatta diocese during Father XYZ’s final months there in 1991-92. In October 2003 Daniel (then aged 24) signed a 24-page statement, alleging multiple incidents of sexual abuse by Father XYZ. The church contested Daniel’s claim for reparations. A settlement was reached in 2005 when Daniel was 26. But Daniel never recovered from the disruption of his adolescence and he took his own life, by hanging, on 25 November 2007, aged 28. He was the father of two young children.
- “Basil” (not his real name), who had been an altar boy for Father XYZ in the same parish as Damian Jurd, won a settlement from the Armidale diocese in 2002 when he was 29. Before seeking this settlement, Basil had written to Cardinal George Pell (the archbishop of Sydney), complaining about Father XYZ and the church’s cover-up. Pell replied that this was not a matter for the Sydney archdiocese. Pell forwarded Basil’s complaint to the Armidale diocese. This indicates that Pell now knows about the Father XYZ cover-up — and so do other church leaders.
Broken Rites has heard about a settlement to another complainant (“Max“, in the Armidale diocese in the same parish as Damian Jurd). Also, there may have been other settlements that Broken Rites has not heard about.
The church authorities have some explaining to do:
WHY did the church tolerate Father XYZ for so long in the Armidale diocese in the 1980s, thereby putting children in danger?
WHY did the Armidale diocese transfer him to the Parramatta diocese for 1989-92, thereby putting more children in danger?
WHY did the Parramatta diocese agree to accept this priest, despite his history of complaints about him in the Armidale diocese?
WHEN Father XYZ admitted in his interview with church authorities on 3 September 1991 that he had indeed been committing sexual acts on children, did the church authorities pass this information on to the New South Wales police? If not, why not?
DO the church authorities feel any responsibility towards the children of Damian Jurd and the children of Daniel Powell? The lives of these orphans have been damaged by the church’s behaviour in harbouring and protecting Father XYZ. The next generation is still feeling the impact of the church’s cover-up.
Article by John Farrell
Bishop Henry Kennedy and Monsignor Frank Ryan are mentioned in an article by John Farrell, of Armidale, which was published in a local newspaper, the Armidale Independent, on (10 February 2011 (on page 4). The article was headed:
A weekly history column by John Farrell
No. 85: The ten Catholic bishops of ArmidaleJohn Farrell’s article includes a brief outline of the career of Bishop Henry Kennedy, plus an anecdote about Kennedy’s early travels in the remote parts of the diocese. The article also mentions that, after Bishop Kevin Manning retired in 1997, Monsignor Frank Ryan was the head of the diocese for two years until Bishop Luc Matthys arrived in 1999. John Farrell’s article is favourable towards Kennedy and Ryan.
John Farrell, who is associated with the Armidale and District Historical Society, is a prominent citizen in the city of Armidale. He writes articles about local history in the Armidale press, including articles about church history.
According to the website of the Armidale Catholic diocese, Father John Farrell was a priest in the Armidale diocese in the 1980s (e.g., at St Nicholas’s parish, Tamworth, in 1985).
Perhaps some day this same newspaper, the Armidale Independent, will publish an article about how the Catholic Church leadership harboured Father XYZ.
Priest ‘a violent bully and coward’
April 20, 2012
THE former priest Brian Spillane has been sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment for a series of sexual assaults on young girls – attacks described as “serious, planned and callous” by Judge Michael Finnane of the NSW District Court.
“The offender used his position as a priest to gain access to the homes in which each of his victims lived,” said the judge. “He was very trusted and the parents of each of the victims readily gave him access to their daughters because of that trust and the esteem in which he was held.”
The assaults began in the late 1970s when Spillane was on the staff of St Stanislaus College, a boys’ boarding school in Bathurst. They continued when he became a parish priest in Sydney. He later returned to St Stanislaus as school chaplain.
Spillane, 69, continues to deny all the charges that have been brought against him, not only those involving these young girls but some 100 charges he has yet to face relating to assaults on boys at the school.
A heavy-set redhead, Spillane trained for the priesthood in the Vincentian Order and was sent to teach at St Stanislaus in the late 1960s. At his trial he described himself as a modern priest – joyful and enthusiastic, a hugger and kisser, a man at ease with families and their children.
In the late 1970s, he ingratiated himself into a family with boys at the school and abused their sister, then aged 11.
“This was the conduct of a violent bully and coward, done without regard to the effect it would have on the young girl,” Judge Finnane said at sentencing. “It was sexual abuse carried out by a trusted priest, and was a major breach of trust.”
The Vincentians posted Spillane to Sydney in the late 1970s and for a time he was acting parish priest at St Anthony’s Marsfield. There he befriended another devout Catholic family and, under the guise of hearing their daughters’ bedtime prayers, abused both for more than a year. The judge called this: “Predatory and a major abuse of trust.”
One of those victims, known as Miss M, told the court of the devastating impact on her life of Spillane’s abuse: of guilt, panic, mistrust, anger, depression, estrangement, drinking, drugs, loss of interest in study and, now, fearfulness for her daughter. She said: “It changed my fate and all that I wanted to be.”
In those years in Sydney, Spillane also assaulted and wrote love letters to a 16-year-old student at a western suburbs Catholic school. Judge Finnane called the assault “predatory and heartless” and the letters “maudlin, full of false piety and completely inappropriate”.
Spillane left the priesthood in 2004 and a son was born after his marriage that year. The first complaints about him were made to Bathurst police three years later. He was charged in 2008 and convicted by a District Court jury in 2010.
Sentencing was delayed until yesterday by the defence solicitor Greg Walsh attempting to have his old friend Judge Finnane disqualify himself from this and any future proceedings involving Spillane.
Mr Walsh claimed that after the swearing-in of a new District Court judge in March last year, Judge Finnane remarked over a cup of tea that paedophiles were “all guilty” and “should be put on an island and starved to death”.
Judge Finnane denied saying those words and declined to disqualify himself. The dispute reached the NSW Court of Appeal in November and the decision upholding the judge’s right to sit was delivered a fortnight ago.
The court found the words, if uttered, might have been incautious but couldn’t be taken seriously and would not be regarded by a fair-minded bystander as prejudging the former priest’s position.
Lawyers estimate about $700,000 has been spent on the former priest’s defence so far. But who is footing that bill is a mystery. A spokeswoman for the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Pell, says it is not the church. The Vincentian Order has refused to take the Herald‘s calls.
At Spillane’s sentencing, Judge Finnane spoke of receiving glowing testimonials to his good character. But, he added, “it has also to be said that he used his eminence in the community and his role as a priest to gain access to his victims and to carry out sexual offences on them.”
Miss M sobbed with relief when the judge sent her abuser to prison for nine years with a non-parole period of five.