Category Archives: Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Melbourne

AUSTRALIAN CARDINAL ANGERS ABUSE VICTIMS


AUSTRALIAN CARDINAL ANGERS ABUSE VICTIMS

22 August 2014 | by Liz Dodd

From the Link: AUSTRALIAN CARDINAL ANGERS ABUSE VICTIMS

Cardinal George Pell

Cardinal George Pell

Abuse survivors have condemned Australian Cardinal George Pell for suggesting that the Church should not be held responsible for crimes committed by its priests.

Cardinal Pell, who was speaking to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Melbourne via a video link from Rome, suggested that the Church was no more responsible for priests’ crimes than any other organisation was for its employees.

“If the truck driver picks up some lady and then molests her, I don’t think it’s appropriate, because it is contrary to the policy, for the ownership, the leadership of that company to be held responsible. Similarly with the Church and the head of any other organisation. If every precaution has been taken, no warning has been given, it is, I think, not appropriate for legal culpability to be foisted on the authority figure,” he said yesterday.

The Royal Commission is investigating allegations of paedophilia in the Australian Church.

Adults Surviving Child Abuse president Cathy Kezelman called his comments “outrageous”, and said they denied the experience of vicitims, while Nicky Davis, from the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), told ABC radio in Australia that Cardinal Pell had made a “highly offensive” comparison.

“He shows that he really has absolutely no conception of what is appropriate or inappropriate behaviour and what are appropriate or inappropriate things to say to survivors,” she said.

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Child sex abuse inquiry: Police asked repeat abuse victim if she was wearing ‘neon sign’, royal commission hears


Child sex abuse inquiry: Police asked repeat abuse victim if she was wearing ‘neon sign’, royal commission hears

By Pat Stavropoulos and Samantha Donovan
November 25,2015
From the Link: Child sex abuse inquiry: Police asked repeat abuse victim if she was wearing ‘neon sign’, royal commission hears

Pedophile Priest Peter Searson

Pedophile Priest Peter Searson

A survivor of child sex abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest and a family member was asked by police if she was wearing a neon sign saying “come and get me” above her head when she was a teenager, an inquiry has heard.

Witness Julie Stewart broke down as she told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that she was repeatedly abused by Father Searson at Doveton, from when she was in grade three.

The inquiry heard that when she was 15, she was approached by police about allegations against Father Searson after they received reports she was a possible victim.

She said because she had also been sexually abused by a relative from the ages of five to eight, she found it hard to tell anyone she had also been abused by Father Searson.

She said her admission that she had been abused by two men prompted the police officer to remark “oh my God, what, were you wearing a neon sign above your head, ‘come and get me?'”.

The police took no further action.

She told the inquiry she would blame herself, often thinking there was something wrong with her.

Priest’s abuse began in primary school

Ms Stewart said the abuse began at the Holy Family School, where Father Searson was the parish priest.

She said he would often visit her class and hug the children, including her.

“At first I loved the attention,” she said.

“He was a priest, and it made me feel special.”

Ms Stewart told the royal commission Father Searson abused her between 12 and 14 times, beginning in 1984.

“It began with kisses on the lips,” she said.

“On about the fifth time and on each subsequent occasion, Father Searson also touched me.

“When he started to touch me, I knew it was wrong and it was sexual.”

After that, she said she would wear tracksuit pants or stockings to make it harder for him to touch her.

She told the inquiry the last time she went to confession was in 1985, when she was in grade four.

On that occasion, Father Searson placed her on his lap, so she could feel his erection against her backside.

“He pushed me hard against him. It hurt. He whispered in my ear, ‘you are a good girl, the Lord forgives you’,” she said.

“I snapped, I pushed myself off him, I ran out of the confessional, I was sobbing and hyperventilating.”

‘I will no longer be a victim’: Julie Stewart

Ms Stewart also spoke about how she tried to take her life as a young teenager.

She said she had become rebellious and hated her parents.

Cardinal George Pell

Cardinal George Pell

It was not until late 1996, or early 1997, after a chance meeting with a former teacher that she was told a Queen’s Counsel had been hired by then Archbishop of Melbourne George Pell to investigate Father Searson.

She said a year later, she received a cheque of $25,000 from the Archdiocese and a letter of apology from Cardinal Pell, through the Melbourne Response.

But she said the hearing to resolve her claim was distressing.

“I was made to sit facing Father Searson, and I was questioned by his lawyer for a long time,” she said.

“I was not prepared for how hostile the cross-examination was.

“I was taken into another room and asked to sign a confidentially agreement. I don’t remember what it said but I signed it. I just wanted to leave.

“When I left the hearing I broke down and cried … I felt that the whole process re-traumatised me.”

She completed her testimony, saying she still cried for the little girl she once was, but that she wanted to be a voice for survivors.

“The little girl that never got to be a normal little girl, doing all the things that little girls should do, the little girl that always wanted to fit in but always felt like a weirdo,” she said.

“Nothing can ever give that back to me. It is a life sentence and every day I make a choice to keep going.

“It is important to me to tell my story now, because I want peace for myself.

“I’m not ashamed anymore and I no longer blame myself. I will no longer be a victim.”

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.

Sex abuse royal commission: Angry victim reveals details of Pell letter apologising for suffering at hands of ‘creepy’ paedophile priest


Sex abuse royal commission: Angry victim reveals details of Pell letter apologising for suffering at hands of ‘creepy’ paedophile priest

By Louise Milligan and Andy Burns
November 26,2015
From the Link: Sex abuse royal commission: Angry victim reveals details of Pell letter apologising for suffering at hands of ‘creepy’ paedophile priest

Pedophile Priest Peter Searson

Pedophile Priest Peter Searson

A victim of notorious paedophile priest Peter Searson has revealed the contents of a letter of apology to her from former archbishop George Pell about her abuse.

The letter paints a different picture to the evidence given by Cardinal Pell to a Victorian inquiry in 2013.

Julie Stewart gave evidence on Wednesday morning to the royal commission into child sex abuse about her treatment at the hands of Father Peter Searson at the Doveton Holy Family Parish in outer Melbourne in the 1980s.

The letter, signed by the then-archbishop Pell and written in 1998, accepts that Ms Stewart was abused.

“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,” it says.

But, while being questioned in 2013 by Victorian MP Frank McGuire, Cardinal Pell defended his actions in relation to Searson.

The transcript of his evidence reads: “…No conviction was recorded for Searson for sexual misbehaviour – there might be victims…”

Ms Stewart told 7.30 she was deeply angered by the statement that “there might be victims”, so decided to tell her story to the royal commission for the first time.

“Oh, I was absolutely so angry. And I thought, ‘let’s get ’em’,” she said.

When asked by 7.30 what she thought of Cardinal Pell, she answered: “Not very much.”

Ms Stewart was abused by Searson in 1984 and 1985 at Holy Family when she was nine and 10 years old. The school was a hot spot for a succession of paedophile priests through the 1970s and 1980s.

Cardinal George Pell

Cardinal George Pell

Cardinal Pell, who has engaged personal legal representation for this royal commission, will reserve the right to cross-examine witnesses, including victims of paedophile clergy, despite a Church decision not to do so.

Evidence will also be heard this week from the principal of the Holy Family School at the time, Graeme Sleeman, who quit in disgust after he says the parish was left unprotected from Searson by the Catholic Church.

“When Searson was sent to me, priests, people, contacted me at the school to say ‘mate, you are getting this crazy guy’,” Mr Sleeman told 730.

“In all my life, I have never been frightened of anyone, but Peter Searson scared me. Because he was a really, really creepy guy.”

The former principal, whose career was left in ruins following Searson’s arrrival at the school, said the Catholic Education Office received numerous complaints about the priest but ignored them.

“They said ‘we’ve passed it on’. And they kept constantly telling me, ‘that is not concrete evidence, we need concrete evidence’. I don’t know how much more concrete evidence we could give them,” Mr Sleeman said.

The commission has received in evidence dozens of letters from the time Mr Sleeman left the school from concerned parents and parishioners who wanted Searson out.

Mr Sleeman told 7.30 the Church failed the students of Holy Family School.

“I signed a contract to be a principal at that school which said I would uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church and I would provide a safe environment for children. And the diocese really did not assist me in providing a safe environment for any of the students in that school,” he said.

The Catholic Church substantiated four complaints of child sexual abuse against Searson. He was also convicted in 1997 of hitting an altar boy. He died in 2009.

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

Sex abuse royal commission: People intimidated by priest who pointed a gun at student


Sex abuse royal commission: People intimidated by priest who pointed a gun at student

By Parthena Stavropoulos
November 26,2015
From the Link: Sex abuse royal commission: People intimidated by priest who pointed a gun at student

Pedophile Priest Peter Searson

Pedophile Priest Peter Searson

A former director of Catholic Education at the Archdiocese of Melbourne has been questioned over why he did not take action against a parish priest who pointed a gun at students.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse heard more evidence about Father Peter Searson, when he was parish priest at a Doveton school in the 1980’s.

On Tuesday, a former principal of Holy Family Primary School told the hearing Father Searson once terrified year 12 students when he pointed a gun at them.

The students, from the local secondary school, were working as cleaners at the Doveton school.

Monsignor Thomas Doyle, the former director of Catholic Education at the Archdiocese of Melbourne, admitted to being alarmed about the accusations, but did little about them.

The hearing was told that a letter of complaint was sent to the then-archbishop, Frank Little, about the incident.

The letter said people would not come forward because they were intimidated by Father Searson and were worried it could happen again.

Monsignor Doyle said he would have gone to the archbishop but there was no response to the letter of complaint.

Justice Peter McClellan questioned him closely over the incident.

“You’ve got reports of extraordinary behaviour, an archbishop who’s not responding and you didn’t go to the regional bishop?” Justice McClellan asked.

“I would have thought it no use to go to the regional bishop,” Monsignor Doyle said.

“If I couldn’t convince the archbishop then I don’t think the regional bishop could’ve either.”

“So you didn’t even try?” Justice McClellan said.

“Not that I remember,” Monsignor Doyle said.

He said he was aware police carried out a search warrant to find the gun after a number of complaints.

Father Searson eventually handed it to police several years later during a gun amnesty.

The former school principal, Graeme Sleeman, told the commission on Tuesday that he had confronted Father Searson about the incident.

Father Searson replied he was licensed to carry a gun and Mr Sleeman was told not to question him.

He said Father Searson told him “you can’t be too careful”.

Child abuse royal commission: Melbourne Archbishop defends George Pell, but admits bishops ‘did not do enough’ to remove abusive priests


Child abuse royal commission: Melbourne Archbishop defends George Pell, but admits bishops ‘did not do enough’ to remove abusive priests

By Danny Morgan
November 30,2015
From the Link: Child abuse royal commission: Melbourne Archbishop defends George Pell, but admits bishops ‘did not do enough’ to remove abusive priests

Archbishop Denis Hart

Archbishop Denis Hart

The Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne has defended his predecessor, Cardinal George Pell, against allegations he did not properly follow up child sexual abuse complaints against priests.

Denis Hart has told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that during the 1980s and early 1990s senior bishops did not do enough to convince Archbishop Frank Little to remove priests who were molesting children.

Archbishop Hart said it was a complete failure of process on the part of the bishops.

“So that includes Archbishop, now Cardinal, Pell?” he was asked by counsel assisting, Gail Furness SC.

Archbishop Hart replied: “I would exclude him.”

The commission had earlier heard Cardinal Pell, as an auxiliary bishop based in Melbourne in 1989, received complaints about paedophile priest Peter Searson.

Archbishop Hart was questioned on whether Cardinal Pell had done enough to follow them up.

“It’s the case isn’t it that the Auxiliary Bishop was part of a complete failure of process?” Ms Furness asked.

Archbishop Hart said: “He’d have to explain what he did and didn’t know.”

Archbishop Frank Little

Archbishop Frank Little

At one point the Archbishop was challenged on why he had not referred to a series of documents relating to Cardinal Pell’s conduct in his statement to the commission.

Ms Furness: Why aren’t they referred to in your statement?

Archbishop Hart: I’d say that’s just an omission, that’s all.

Ms Furness: A deliberate one?

Archbishop Hart: No

Ms Furness: Inadvertent?

Archbishop Hart: Inadvertent yes.

More women within church ‘might have prevented damage’

During his evidence, Archbishop Hart acknowledged having more women in senior positions within the church might have prevented the damaged caused by paedophile priests.

The commission was told just two of the 31 Catholic archdiocese in Australia have women in senior administrative positions.

Cardinal George Pell

Cardinal George Pell

Archbishop Hart said while the numbers were low, the advice of women was increasing sought by senior church officials.

“The movement may be glacial, but it is movement,” he told the hearing.

The Archbishop also acknowledged criticism the Vatican tried to minimise the risk of scandal to the church by initiating a lengthy and complicated process to remove people from the priesthood.

“I would certainly respect that criticism. I know that the people I have been in contact with don’t have that view, but I think it’s a valid criticism,” Archbishop Hart said.

“I would hope that replies from Rome would come more quickly because you’ve got a situation where you’ve stood a priest aside, there is a whole important question of protection of people, and you don’t like to leave it in suspended animation.”

Cardinal Pell is due to give evidence before the commission in mid-December.

Child abuse royal commission: Archbishop Denis Hart admits he was aware of complaints against abusive priest


Child abuse royal commission: Archbishop Denis Hart admits he was aware of complaints against abusive priest

By Danny Morgan
December 1,2015
From the Link: Child abuse royal commission: Archbishop Denis Hart admits he was aware of complaints against abusive priest

Archbishop Denis Hart

Archbishop Denis Hart

The Archbishop of Melbourne has admitted he should have done more to remove a violent priest who was alleged to have sexually abused children.

In 1996 Denis Hart received a complaint that Father Peter Searson, a parish priest, had hit a boy in the head.

Archbishop Hart told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that at the time, he would have checked Searson’s file and been aware of a long list of other complaints, including child sexual abuse.

However, he let Searson remain as parish priest in charge of a local primary school for another four months, only restricting his contact with altar boys.

Archbishop Hart told the hearing that in hindsight, more should have been done at the time.

Commission chair Justice Peter McClellan: You would have realised from the file it wasn’t just that group that was in danger, it was everyone?

Archbishop Denis Hart: I’d have to say that now, your honour, yes.

Justice McClellan: You didn’t realise that then?

Archbishop Hart: Well, I was relying very much on proper advice because there were a number of matters coming across the desk and I think I did what I thought at the time. On reflection, of course I’d have to say more should have been done.

The commission has previously heard that the Melbourne Archdiocese lied about the reasons behind the resignation of some paedophile priests in order to protect its reputation and avoid scandal.

In 1993, a group of senior bishops including Archbishop Frank Little allowed Father Narazeno Fasciale to resign for health reasons, despite knowing the real reason was an admission he had molested children.

In 1996 the Church put out a statement denying it had ever covered-up paedophilia.

Counsel assisting Gail Furness: That’s just a lie in relation to Fasciale, isn’t it?

Archbishop Hart: Well, I think that the facts of what was done and weren’t done put the lie to that sentence.

Ms Furness: And this is 1996. That’s appalling Archbishop, isn’t it?

Archbishop Hart: I think it’s indicative of the mentality.

The commission confirmed Rome-based Cardinal George Pell will give evidence to the hearing on December 16.

It is expected he will be questioned for up to three days on his response to child sexual abuse in his time as Archbishop of Melbourne and earlier in his career in Ballarat.

 

Child abuse royal commission: Senior Melbourne clergy ‘motivated to protect church’s reputation’ over abuse complaints


Child abuse royal commission: Senior Melbourne clergy ‘motivated to protect church’s reputation’ over abuse complaints

By Danny Morgan
December 2, 2015
From the Link: Child abuse royal commission: Senior Melbourne clergy ‘motivated to protect church’s reputation’ over abuse complaints

Pedophile Priest Peter Searson

Pedophile Priest Peter Searson

A senior Catholic Bishop has admitted he and other leaders of the Archdiocese of Melbourne had not properly addressed child sexual abuse complaints because they wanted to protect the church’s reputation.

Appearing before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Bishop Peter Connors also conceded senior clergy have considered whether they may be guilty of concealing a crime.

As a former Vicar-General of the Melbourne Archdiocese, Bishop Connors was aware of multiple cases of priests abusing children dating back to 1978.

He told the commission he should have done more to convince former Archbishop Frank Little to remove the priests.

It was put to the Bishop that church leaders were motivated by a desire to protect the church from scandal.

“That could well have been the case. Yes, I accept that view,” he replied.

Commission chair Justice Peter McClennan: It’s a fundamentally damning allegation of the church, isn’t it?

Bishop Connors: It is indeed, I accept.

Justice McClennan: Do you accept it’s entirely contrary to the church’s purpose and mission?

Bishop Connors: Yes, I accept that your honour.

The Bishop was asked about the implications of the failure to act on complaints.

“My question really is whether the men ever discussed the fact that they may be concealing crimes?” Commissioner Andrew Murray said.

Bishop Connors answered: “I would expect that the other bishops particularly would have raised the issue that we were concealing a crime.”

Senior officer ‘disagrees’ with decision not to charge priest

Earlier, a senior Victorian police officer has criticised an investigation into child sexual abuse allegations levelled at Melbourne Catholic priest Father Peter Searson.

Julie Stewart had previously told the child abuse royal commission that in 1985 she was made to sit on Father Searson’s knee in the confession box.

She said he initiated sexual contact and she ran away screaming.

Ms Stewart told authorities about the incident, but a police report in 1990 concluded the priest had not committed an offence and he was never charged.

Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Stephen Fontana said on Wednesday he believed Father Searson could have been charged with indecent assault.

“Reading the statement, I thought quite clearly there was an indecency around it,” Assistant Commissioner Fontana said.

“To suggest that there was none and even, I think somewhere in the documentation or report that suggests it wasn’t a sex offence, I disagree with.

“I think the whole circumstance was surrounded with indecency.”

Justice system needs to ‘change attitude’ towards victims

Commission chair Justice Peter McClennan said the case showed those in the justice system needed to change their attitude to circumstances where there were no witnesses to the sexual assault of a child.

“We have to address this issue: why is it that there is a reluctance to prosecute or accept the evidence of complainants where there is only one person complaining?” Justice McClellan said.

Father Searson died in 2009 without ever being charged with child sex offences.

The Catholic Church has paid compensation of $291,000 to three of his victims.

The commission had previously heard that aside from sexual abuse allegations against Searson, the priest was also accused of pointing a gun at students, showing children a dead body in a coffin and holding a knife to the chest of a child.

Despite the long list of complaints in the 1980s and early 1990s, the Catholic Church never properly investigated.

His faculties as a priest were removed in 1998 after he had pleaded guilty to assaulting an altar boy.

The hearing continues.

Sex abuse royal commission: Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart defends role of celibacy in Catholic Church


Sex abuse royal commission: Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart defends role of celibacy in Catholic Church

Updated 26 Aug 2014, 10:02am

From the link: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-26/royal-commission-catholic-archbishop-denis-hart-defends-celibacy/5697364

Pedophile Pimp, Archbishop Denis Hart

Archbishop Denis Hart

 

The Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, has defended the place of celibacy in the church, even though he says it is a burden for some priests.

Archbishop Hart took the stand for a second day at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Melbourne on Tuesday, where he was questioned about the causes of abuse by the clergy.

He told the commission celibacy was fulfilling for many priests.

“I believe that celibacy, supported by prayer… is a wonderful vocation and a wonderful engagement with people,” Archbishop Hart said.

“Once it becomes limited, or once it becomes turned in upon itself, then there is a danger, but celibacy rightly lived and prepared for with proper formation, I do believe has a valid function.

“I’ve had sufficient experience with people who’ve found celibacy a burden and have asked the Pope to dispense them from priesthood.

“But on the other hand, I have a much wider experience of people living a celibate life as priests and finding it fulfilling.”

Archbishop Hart said people who trained in the church had high ideals.

“I’m a celibate, I’m not married, I need to have a link to God in prayer,” he said.

“I need to have a balance in my life of proper friendships with other people.”

He said a priest could develop “wrong attitudes” if any of those things fell aside.

“[If] keeping himself focused on who he is and what he does is being neglected, or relationships with people, there’s not a balanced relationship with a group of people and a person becomes isolated,” he said.

“So that they seek out situations which are plain wrong, and they minimise the consequences of that.”

Abuse victims received almost identical letters

The royal commission heard letters of apology signed by the Archbishop and sent to survivors of child sexual abuse were almost identical.

Archbishop Hart said the reason for the identical letters was that the compensation panel for the Melbourne Response was independent and constrained by confidentiality.

“That has the undesirable effect upon me when I write a letter of apology, that I can only refer to the suffering that they’ve undertaken for the burden, that it may be in fairly general terms,” he said.

“I do read all those letters and my apology is sincere.

“I always read them carefully, and for me it’s an important way of my saying how I am shocked by what has happened, how I share in their pain, but there are limitations about what I can do.”

Archbishop Hart said the church tried to change that in the past year.

“We’ve sought to try and get some minimal information, which wouldn’t be a violation of confidence, that might try and take away the pain that a person who’s suffered might feel if they feel they’re just being fobbed off,” he said.

“That was never my intention, and if that happened, I certainly would apologise for it.

“It was never indicated to me that this was unhelpful, had it been, I would certainly have acted sooner.”

 

Confession should be excluded from mandatory reporting: Church

The royal commission heard the church believes mandatory reporting of abuse should exclude the confessional.

“If that were to be swept away, and I don’t believe that it can be, the possibility of offenders confessing is completely gone. They just wouldn’t go,” Archbishop Hart said.

“In the present situation, it may be the last opportunity that an offender has to face the reality of his or her offences, to be led by the priest, either to give themselves up or to report and confront the enormity of their crimes.”

He said he saw it as an opportunity for a priest to try to persuade an abuser to report themselves to the police.

“I would see that as a valuable opportunity, because if the person in going to confession has at least shown that amount of good to admit that they’ve done wrong, well then, if the priest can lead them to the consequences of that, well that would be of benefit,” he said.

But Archbishop Hart told the royal commission he did not know if that was happening in reality, because of the secrecy of the confessional.

“I don’t know that it’s happened, I don’t know that it hasn’t happened either,” he said.

He told the inquiry he did not subscribe to the view held by some in the past that the abuse of a child was considered a moral failing, not a crime.

“People sometimes had a greater deal of sympathy for a church person than they should have, and they didn’t sufficiently identify the crime that that person had committed for what it was,” he said.

“I would have to admit that, with what we’ve been doing now shows there was too much of a tendency to minimise the seriousness of the matter, and I repudiate that totally,” he said.

“I would say that these crimes occurred to some degree, and that direct and serious enough action was not taken.”

“There was too much of a tendency to minimise the seriousness of the matter, and I repudiate that totally.”

Archbishop Denis Hart