The hell house
- January 13, 2013
Mark Russell and Jared Lynch
This country mansion seemingly offered an idyllic setting to educate Catholic boys, but behind closed doors, Rupertswood was anything but peaceful.
AT THE end of a winding road overlooking Sunbury is Rupertswood, an ornate 1874 mansion that today serves as a boutique hotel. But the grand residence, where butlers and doormen wait on guests paying up to $500 a night, was for decades a house of horror.
It is alleged that from 1960 to 1990, when Rupertswood was a Catholic boarding and day school, Salesian brothers, including two former school principals and a boarding master, routinely abused boys in their care.
Over the past decade, four brothers have been convicted separately of multiple counts of indecent assault, while another will face trial in August. Two other alleged offenders have left the country.
The story of Rupertswood is one of the most disturbing to emerge ahead of the royal commission on institutional child sexual abuse. Yet alleged victims and former students say the truth about what happened is yet to be fully revealed. They paint a picture of repeated assaults, both sexual and physical; of brothers habitually haunting dormitories and infirmaries for victims; and of beatings and acts of perversion that persisted for decades.
In one alleged episode aired in court recently, boys sleeping in the school’s infirmary had their drinks of Milo drugged before waking to hear the cries of a boy being abused. Another student told the court of a separate incident in which he was given a glass of lemonade before waking to find a priest raping him.
One student, who agreed to be interviewed on the condition of confidentiality, reflected on how the college’s good reputation belied its moral anarchy. ”It was like Lord of the Flies,” he said. ”There was a hierarchy of priests who had their favourites.”
FROM the outside, Rupertswood was idyllic. Built by Sir William Clarke in 1874, the beautifully situated 50-room stately home hosted many distinguished guests in its heyday, including royalty.
The Roman Catholic Salesian Order bought the mansion in 1927, and from 1929 to the early ’90s it was a school for boys. (Present-day Salesian College in Sunbury, a coeducational school located on the surrounding former Rupertswood estate, is not under suspicion or investigation.)
At its peak, Rupertswood took up to 100 student boarders, as well as day students. Parents, according to victims, were reluctant to believe their claims of abuse, not least because of the school’s good reputation. Priests were, after all, devout men of God who were beyond reproach and often invited to dinner by parents.
Yet while an atmosphere of fear pervaded many corners of the school, it was not a living hell for every boy. Nor is it alleged that every brother who worked at the school was involved in the abuse or its cover-up.
For some students, the strange behaviour of some of the brothers coexisted with happy school experiences. Former boarders reflect fondly how their day-student mates would leave them bottles of beer in a creek that ran through the property – a gesture of solidarity that was much appreciated.
Former student Michael Derrick, a border from 1971 to 1975, says he was not abused; although a brother once tried to grope him – an incident, he soon learnt, that was not unusual.
”He received a short, sharp jab via my elbow to his nether regions and this seemed to dissuade him,” Derrick says. ”He continued to try to groom me for further attempts but I was wary … I was certainly not the only one of my peers that experienced his wandering hands, nor his manipulative attempts to get us alone.
”We were all aware of him and backed each other up via a ‘safety in numbers’ policy. We knew those things were going on and we looked out for each other and kept each other worded up … It was just [one of] the strategies we put in place to survive.”
Derrick says his parents sent him to the school under the impression it was strong on ”the basics” – English, maths and science. But some of the teachers, particularly the young brothers, weren’t qualified teachers. ”I think there were some that were still studying for their teaching degrees, if they were studying at all,” he says.
Still, he says he has many fond memories of experiences shared with classmates and staff, including singing at the school’s chapel. ”If you went to Mass, it was just an expression of joy; that’s what we had and we had it on a regular basis.”
Yet just as natural as going to Mass was a wariness of certain priests and brothers.
In a statement tendered to the Melbourne Magistrates Court during a committal hearing in November for one of the school’s former priests, David Rapson, who has been charged with sexually abusing seven boys at Rupertswood, a former student described his experience as a year 7 boarder in 1976, staying with about 20 other boys in a dormitory.
The boys would be asleep in a line of single beds as one of the Catholic brothers patrolled the dorms at night. ”If we dared move or whisper, we would be whacked over the ankles with the broom handle,” the former student, now 49, said.
A violent culture was also detailed in the 2004 biography of prominent Salesian priest Father Chris Riley, Mean Streets, Kind Heart, by Sue Williams. Riley said that some of the priests at Rupertswood were ”absolute maniacs” and their violent behaviour made him question his decision to become a priest.
He remembered seeing about two dozen of the youngest students lined up outside a washroom as a group of brothers took turns to belt them on the backside with a stick.
”He was incensed,” Williams wrote. ”Chris faced up to the tormenters and shouted: ‘You can’t hit people, you’re a Salesian. This isn’t the Salesian way.”’
Riley declined to be interviewed for this story.
The recent committal hearing, however, has provided more graphic accounts. One student, who had been a boarder from 1977-78, described a night in the infirmary when he claimed up to 10 boys filed into the room before Rapson followed them in and said, ”There’s no noise, no talking, no shouting.”
”He [Rapson] then said that everyone was going to have a Milo,” the former student said. ”I remember the Milo tasted really strong and a bit acrid. I fell asleep and I remember waking up and feeling a bit groggy. Out of the blue I heard one of the kids yell out, ‘What are you doing?’ Rapson told him to shut up and be quiet or he would wake everyone up.”
The former student said Rapson began going around to each bed before another priest, Father Frank Klep, came into the room. ”Klep said: ‘What are you doing?’
”Rapson said: ‘You know what we do here.’
”Klep said: ‘You’ve really got to resist.’
”Rapson blamed God and said: ‘God made us this way and it’s his fault. You’re one to talk, you’re the same as me.”’
Another former student told the court that in a separate incident, Rapson gave him a glass of lemonade which made him feel dizzy and pass out before he woke to find the priest raping him. ”Once back at my dormitory I got back into my bed and laid there crying. At the time all I wanted was my mum.”
At the end of the hearing, Rapson, the former deputy principal, was ordered to stand trial in the County Court later this year charged with one count of rape, five counts of indecent assault, four counts of indecently assaulting a child under 16, and one count of gross indecency between 1973 and 1990.
Rapson denies all allegations made against him. He is one of seven former priests or brothers at Rupertswood to have been publicly accused of abusing boys during their time at the school.
Also accused is former college principal Frank Klep, who was moved by the Salesians to Samoa in 1998 just before he was to face court on five charges of indecent assault, having served nine months (doing community work) in 1994. He returned to Australia in 2004 and was jailed in 2006 for five years and 10 months.
Another former principal, Julian Fox, is accused of abusing students during the 1970s and ’80s. He has been banned by the Salesians from contact with children and now works for the order’s head office in Rome.
Michael Aulsebrook, who was boarding master at Rupertswood in the early 1990s, was sentenced in 2011 to two years in jail, with 15 months wholly suspended, after pleading guilty to indecently assaulting a 12-year-old Rupertswood student.
Others include Father John ”Jack” Ayres, accused of abusing students in the ’60s and ’70s, and who is believed to now live in a nursing home in Samoa; Brother Gregory Vincent Coffey, who pleaded guilty to six counts of indecent assault against two students in 1976 and 1977 at Immaculate Heart College in Preston after he left Rupertswood; and Brother Peter Paul Van Ruth, who molested two 12-year-old boys within weeks of his appointment as dormitory master in the late 1960s, and was jailed last March on three counts of indecent assault.
Victoria Police say they are now using school year-books to contact hundreds of former students to ask if they had been victims or had witnessed abuse. Their initial investigation had focused on one suspect who had been at the school between 1980 and 1981, but the inquiry has been widened to encompass 1960 to 1990.
Meanwhile, the memories linger. Derrick speaks of priests who ”just weren’t like the other men you knew”, particularly given the way they behaved in the student communal washrooms.
”There would be a line of guys waiting for showers and some of these priests or brothers who were supervising would lean over the door instead of just banging on the door and telling you to get out. They would actually be peering over the door.”
What upsets Derrick most is how others knew what was going on and chose to look the other way.
A spokesman for the Salesian order declined to comment on the school’s past. He said it now ran a co-educational day school near the old mansion of Rupertswood. ”The nature of the school is very different from what it was back then,” the spokesman said. ”It provides excellent education for local kids and their families.
”All we can do is to continue the good work that is happening there and the other places where the Salesians have educational and outreach [services] to young people and continue to work with people in an open and honest, fair way.”
Priest jailed for 8 years after 5,000 child porn images found in church office
A Roman Catholic priest who pleaded guilty last year to federal child pornography charges was sentenced on Wednesday to eight years in prison.
Bartley Sorensen, a 63-year-old former pastor of St. John Fisher Church outside Pittsburgh, Pa., pleaded guilty in May to receiving and possessing thousands of sexually explicit images of exploited children.
Investigators searched Sorensen’s church office, where they found 5,000 images on three CDs as well as additional photos and videos.
The images included young boys either posing naked or engaged in sexual activity with other prepubescent males or adult males, according to affidavits.
U.S. District Judge Alan Bloch sentenced Sorensen to serve 97 months in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release. He also ordered the suspended priest to pay a $25,000 fine.
Studio interview with Senior NSW Detective Peter Fox
Updated Thu Nov 8, 2012 11:57pm AEDT
Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox, a 30-year veteran with the NSW police force, alleges a cover-up by the Catholic church into child sexual abuse and is calling for a Royal Commission.
A link to the video is at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-11-08/studio-interview-with-senior-nsw-detective-peter/4362100?section=nsw
This is a transcript of the video:
TONY JONES, PRESENTER: Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox joined me in the studio just a short time ago.
Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox, thanks for joining us.
PETER FOX, NSW POLICE: It’s a pleasure, Tony.
TONY JONES: Let’s start with how you got so frustrated and angry that you were publicly challenging the NSW Premier. Now your letter to Premier O’Farrell begins like this: “I’ve investigated so many sexual assaults in 30 years of policing that I’ve lost count. I’ve seen the worst society can dredge up, particularly the evil of paedophilia within the Catholic Church.” What is the worst of it?
PETER FOX: Oh, Tony, I think most people would be absolutely crumpled up in tears to hear it. Just some examples of what I’ve sat and listened to is that one young boy at the hands of paedophile priest James Fletcher, he was 12 years of age when the priest drove to a secluded park outside of Maitland. He told the boy to remove his pants and the boy was totally unaware of what was going on and quite embarrassed, but that particular priest anally penetrated him.
The boy wasn’t aware at that stage that his anus had been torn and he started bleeding. He was screaming in agony on the seat and his knuckles were turning white. And as the priest continued to thrust while he screamed, he said he focused on the St Christopher’s Cross on the dashboard and watched it swaying back and forward to try and take his focus off the pain.
The priest never relented at any stage during that, and even after the act was completed, he was totally uncaring for the child and simply sat back in the driver’s seat and had a cigarette while he finished sobbing.
TONY JONES: Some of these stories, in fact some of statements that you’ve taken from witnesses, victims, so upset a DPP solicitor that she simply couldn’t go on with the case. Is that one of these?
PETER FOX: That was one of those cases. And, again, that was a solicitor that had dealt with many cases of sexual abuse. But the details and the graphic images that were conveyed in those statements so upset her. And she was well-known to me. She rang me up and apologised profusely, but said, “I just cannot stay with this case. I just can’t handle it.”
TONY JONES: You wouldn’t be surprised about that, would you, because in fact most people don’t want to hear these things, they’re too awful for them to even comprehend.
PETER FOX: Well as I said in my letter to the Premier today, we do block a lot of those images away and we just accept the word paedophile or molestation. But when you actually sit down with those victims and you’re looking into their eyes, police are not immune from it. And I sat there with so many of those victims and you can’t but help feel their pain. The agony is still there and it will always be there to some degree.
And to just be so cold, even though I’m in a professional role, not to have some empathy for what that individual has gone through as a child just wouldn’t be human.
TONY JONES: Some of them you saw in mental institutions, some committed suicide. You spoke to their relatives. All were terribly, terribly damaged.
PETER FOX: Oh, absolutely. And, you know, one young boy, I actually had my wife drop me off in Maitland and I went to the psychiatric ward of Maitland Hospital and I sat with that young fellow for a number of hours just reassuring him that he didn’t have to go on with the matter if he wasn’t up to it. We broke for a number of months before he was ready to come back.
These aren’t easy things and there’s got to be a lot of compassion and a lot of understanding from police. Sometimes these people aren’t up to going through to taking it to court and we’ve got to sometimes take that hard pill and sit back and say, “OK, it’s frustrating that we won’t get this guy, but we can’t put them through that ordeal.”
The degree of courage those that do come back and say, “Listen, I want to finish that statement. I want to see him taken to court.” How we can sit back and say they do not deserve our fullest support, because, my God, they’ve got some courage to be able to stand up and do what they’ve got to do and say what they’ve got to say in court and relive that ordeal.
Whether you’re the Premier of NSW or you’re just somebody sitting back watching this on TV tonight, it’s got to move you. It can’t but move you. It’s terrible.
TONY JONES: As we’ve heard, the scale of this abuse in Newcastle-Maitland Diocese over many years is truly shocking. It’s astonishing in fact. 400 victims, 14 clergy charged (inaudible), six Catholic teachers convicted, three priests currently on trial. How does this much evil get concentrated in one small area?
PETER FOX: I don’t think it takes a detective chief inspector to work that out, Tony. Alarm bells were ringing there for me many, many years ago, so much so that I actually detailed a number of reports to hierarchy within the Police Department to launch fuller investigations.
It was quite evident that something was going on. These priests were operating in adjoining parishes abusing children, they were meeting at meetings together. In many cases that I came across, one priest who had previously faced paedophile charges was donating parish money to the legal support of another priest to defend him against those charges.
I had other priests that hadn’t been charged with anything removing evidence and destroying it before we were able to secure it. And we just went around in circles.
TONY JONES: This is actually – this is – as horrific as the litany of sexual crimes against children are, to me one of the most disturbing lines in your letter was along these lines: “I can testify from my own experience the Church covers up, silences victims, hinders police investigations, alerts offenders, destroys evidence and moves priests to protect the good name of the Church.” You’re saying you have evidence of all of this?
PETER FOX: Oh, not only do I have evidence, it’s irrefutable. Most of that is fact that’s been admitted by many of them. We encounter it all the time. For people to sit back and say it’s not going on, they’ve got their head in the sand. The greatest frustration is that there is so much power and organisation behind the scenes that police don’t have the powers to be able to go in and seize documents and have them disclose things to us.
TONY JONES: If things were covered up, if there was serious cover-up, how high up the chain did it go to your sure knowledge?
PETER FOX: I have definite information that – of some covering up certainly to a number of diocese bishops. It potentially goes even higher than that.
TONY JONES: Higher than that? You mean into the top levels of the Church hierarchy, is that what you’re saying?
PETER FOX: That’s correct. I’ve got no doubt. You know, to sit back and sort of say, “Listen, each of these diocese are self-autonomous and there’s no-one above that knows what goes on at those lower levels,” we live in a real world and it would be as if, you know, I’m doing something in the police force at Raymond Terrace and I’m not accountable to somebody else at a higher level at Newcastle or in Sydney.
That’s how the chain-of-command in any organisation works. To turn around and say, “No, we work something different. We didn’t know about that,” I think most of the public are smart enough to be able to put two and two together there.
TONY JONES: Proving it of course is the other thing, the critical thing and it’s what you – I guess in a way it’s what you’ve been searching for all this time. In 2010, two years ago, new witnesses started to come forward to give evidence about the activities of one paedophile priest called Father McAlinden. Now one of those witnesses I would describe as a key Church insider, a whistleblower. You took a statement from this person. How significant was that statement?
PETER FOX: When I was directed to hand that statement over, I described her statement – and I’d never used the term about a statement in my entire career before that – but I described that statement as explosive and I still describe it as explosive.
What is disclosed in that is monumental. I’ve spent a couple of months getting that statement, typing it down in very careful detail and spending an enormous amount of time with that particular witness who was, like many victims – and I should add, Tony, that she wasn’t simply a witness; she’d also herself been a victim at a much earlier time of McAlinden.
So when she came forward and was able to give all that information, it just opened a can of worms. I was able to go to another number of witnesses who began corroborating various aspects and saying, “Yes, that is exactly what happened.” So, the credibility towards that witness was certainly being elevated.
TONY JONES: So, what did that witness actually bring to the table, being an insider in the Church, what was she able to say about what was happening in terms of the cover-up?
PETER FOX: Tony, I understand that Strike Force Lantle has already sent some briefs off to the DPP for consideration. I don’t want to say anything that may prejudice anything that’s going on there.
But I think it’s already been reported in the papers that some of the police that are attached to that have already indicated that there is an archbishop and at least two other priests that are implicated – or sorry, an archbishop, a bishop and a priest that are implicated in potential cover-up.
Now the DPP, I understand, has been sent those briefs and they’re considering it now.
TONY JONES: One of the most disturbing things that you said earlier was that you were directed to give this material up. As I understand it, you were also ordered to stand down from the case, to no longer investigate this case. Is that a correct way of putting it?
PETER FOX: That’s absolutely correct. That’s spot on.
TONY JONES: And the reason given to you for being taken off this case which you’d obviously worked on for, well, as long as you could remember, I’d imagine?
PETER FOX: Well I worked on it since I started investigating Denis McAlinden in 1999. I had contact with various witnesses over the years. I actually even interviewed Bishop Leo Clarke, who in 2003 told me when I asked if he had knowledge of any other victims other than the one that I already, and very clearly said to me no.
I later seen documentation, after he passed away, that clearly indicated that he had full knowledge of other victims.
Boiling it down to just simple words, he lied. I was standing there with a colleague and he just straight-out lied to me about his knowledge of other victims. Hence the reason I say that some in the Church have no reservation about lying when it comes to it to conceal the fact that they had knowledge of these crimes.
TONY JONES: But let’s just go through this because if I understand this correctly, you are the person – the investigator who knows the most about this case, you are the person who has interviewed the whistleblower, the key witness, you’ve got the statement in front of you that you think is dynamite and you are told by a superior to stand down from the case and give over your material. Is that how it happened?
PETER FOX: Yes. That’s it in a nutshell.
TONY JONES: And are you able to tell us who that superior was?
PETER FOX: It’s a very senior officer within the NSW Police and I was quite dismayed at it. That particular witness was quite distraught when I told her that I’d been told to hand the whole matter over.
TONY JONES: Because you had a personal relationship.
PETER FOX: A personal professional relationship.
TONY JONES: Of trust, a relationship of trust.
PETER FOX: Well originally she actually came forward to a newspaper reporter, Joanne McCarthy, and after many months she finally convinced this witness to come forward and speak to police. She actually said – refused and then she said, “The only police officer I will speak to is Peter Fox.”
I didn’t know her and it was explained that she had spoken to a number of other families who had dealt with me in the past and she said she would feel comfortable dealing with me. Now, on that basis of course I’m not going to turn her away, of course I’m going to say, “Yes, come in and sit down and we’ll get the statement.” I have my own thoughts on it. A lot of other people may have their thoughts.
TONY JONES: About why you were taken off the case.
PETER FOX: I was just – I was very, very disappointed. I’m not being critical of any of the investigators that are working on Strike Force Lantle. They were handed the matter. But as to the reasons why that was done when I pursued the matter for over a decade, I don’t know.
TONY JONES: Do you believe it was because you’re too independent of mind, that you couldn’t be controlled?
PETER FOX: Tony, I don’t think I’d be lying if I said that a lot in the police force would consider me rather outspoken. I’m sure that some hierarchy in the police force won’t be wanting to put me on their Christmas card list after the letter today and after speaking here tonight. I don’t care.
At the end of the day, I don’t know whether I’ll face disciplinary charges or anything in relation to the stance I’ve taken. And again, I don’t care. What I do care about is that there are so many victims out there. I can’t divorce myself – even though I’m a detective, I can’t say that I’m not human and I haven’t heard their pain.
There’s something very wrong when you have so many paedophile priests operating in such a small area for such an extended period of time with immunity. And my – I submitted report after report suggesting that we needed to do a lot more about investigating this. Why that didn’t happen, I’ve never received a response.
TONY JONES: Let me just go – there has been some response from – to questions that we asked from the police. In a statement sent to us tonight the police saying that you were informed that Strike Force Lantle would be fully investigating the allegations. It was because they were under a different operational command or local area command than the one that you worked in, that you were not appropriately meant to be part of that strike force.
PETER FOX: I don’t know who said that, Tony. That’s the first time I’ve ever had those comments made to me.
TONY JONES: This is a statement from Assistant Commissioner Carlene York of the Northern Command NSW.
PETER FOX: I – she wasn’t at the meeting when I was directed to hand all the documentation over. What I will say is that I did send her a report expressing my concern and the reasons why I felt that I should be left with carriage of that matter, detailing many of the issues you’ve raised tonight plus a lot more. Nothing changed.
TONY JONES: Does this statement seem legitimate to you? Does it seem like the real reason why you weren’t allowed to continue that investigation?
PETER FOX: I was never told why. To sort of say that I was – Raymond Terrace is a stone’s throw from Newcastle. It’s only a few kilometres. As you pointed out, I had a lot of experience and you do, you build up a very strong rapport. It wasn’t just that particular witness, but I’d also spoken to a number of other victims that had been terribly abused by McAlinden.
TONY JONES: In other words, you were a logical person to be on the taskforce? Strike force.
PETER FOX: You can say that, but it’s something that I think most police are trained. We’re instructed when you go to detectives courses is that you don’t hand victims around like numbers. When they sit down and a victim talks to you, they open up to you, they pour their heart and soul out and they tell you things that they’ve never told another living soul. And then you’ve got to turn around say, “Well, I’m not going to talk to you anymore. You have got to go down and see these people.” I know from my training that is something that I’d never encountered before.
TONY JONES: It’s going to seem passing strange to most observers, as it does to me, I must say.
But let me just move on because you’ve actually called for a Royal Commission. If there were a Royal Commission, would this whistleblower, the insider who seems to know so much be prepared to talk at the Royal Commission, to give evidence and to lay out all of this in front of the public?
PETER FOX: Tony, I don’t know. I was directed not to contact them again. My last contact with her was – she was virtually in tears when I handed her a copy of a statement and told her to hang on to it and that was my last contact with her. I don’t mind saying that there was a lot more that was said at that meeting that I won’t say here. I think that it is best left for another forum.
But to say that that was a very difficult moment and something that quite saddened me as an investigator of well over 30 years in this job.
TONY JONES: But do you believe that a Royal Commission is necessary for people like this to be able to come forward. Is that the only environment in which it would really work?
PETER FOX: There’s so much that the police force can’t do. We don’t have power. I have gone to other government departments, I’ve gone to the Ombudsman over aspects of it. Still today there are some antiquated rules and laws where priests, for argument’s sake, that have had allegations of abusing and molesting children, that is kept by the bishop.
If it’s a school teacher in the Catholic school system, it goes to a different department. But the bishops still retain that. I don’t know why. There’s no obligation on them to pass that information on to police. And I don’t think that’s a secret.
The Victorian inquiry and I think the inquiries overseas and just history itself says that that doesn’t happen. There’s so much evidence on the basis that paedophile priests, once they become known by their hierarchy, the hierarchy has a systemic pattern of not forwarding that information on.
We need to get around that, because as I said in that letter to the Premier – and I don’t want the issue to become adversarial, I don’t want to enter into …
TONY JONES: OK. Well, let’s put it this way: I’m sure Barry O’Farrell will see this interview. He’s up until now said no Royal Commission, he doesn’t want to be pressure into having a Royal Commission. He, I understand, won’t even reply to your letter. Here’s your chance to say something to him. What do you say?
PETER FOX: Well, on that basis, I have three children at home. Probably like most families, I’ve got some of their photographs on the wall. They’re now grown adults, but we still have the photos of when they were growing up on our wall. Two of them are now – have our grandchildren. I’m sure Mr O’Farrell has children. I understand he has two boys. A lot of these victims’ families have similar photos. I’ve walked into their homes and I’ve seen them.
We’re lucky. We haven’t had to go through what some of those other families have gone through. If Mr O’Farrell just sits back and he can look up on that wall and see those pictures of his boys, he has a lot of thanks to give that his boys were never ever abused in the way that some of these other families have.
And if he has any compassion and humanity for some of these victims, he’s got to turn around. Why can we have an inquiry in Victoria – and the police down there have been fantastic. We’ve seen the evidence that the Commissioner and the assistant commissioners have been right behind it and they’re tabling stuff and yet I’m dismayed here in a state of NSW that we’re saying it stops at the Murray River, they don’t come up here.
When we can make a change that is going to stop more victims from being abused, that’s the real difference. We can actually impact upon the number. And to sit back and say, “Listen, we’re not going to do that,” something is wrong in the state of NSW if that’s the attitude.
TONY JONES: Detective chief inspector Peter Fox, an extraordinary story. We thank you very much for coming on Lateline to talk to us.
PETER FOX: Thank you very much, Tony, for airing it.
TONY JONES: And the full responses of the NSW Police to Lateline’s questions will be posted on our website.
NSW POLICE STATEMENT
Responses to Lateline’s questions from Assistant Commissioner Carlene York, Northern Region Commander.
1. What is your response to the letter and article in the Newcastle Herald today in particular the concerns raised by Detective Inspector Peter Fox?
The views of Detective Chief Inspector Fox are not necessarily the views of the NSWP Force. All matters referred to NSWP have and will continue to be investigated to their full extent. NSW Police Force are not in a position to comment on the call for a judicial enquiry, this issue should be referred to the appropriate authority.
2. Are you 100 per cent happy with how the NSW Police are handling the allegations of cover ups and concealing crimes by members of the clergy?
NSW Police Force has investigated matters relating to Strike Force Lantle thoroughly. I am satisfied that all avenues of enquiry that we are aware of have been followed through and appropriate referrals made. I am not in a position to comment on any other investigations that may have occurred.
3. Is the Catholic Church and its senior officers fully cooperating with your investigations including Strike Force Lantle?
It is my understanding that as a whole the church have cooperated with police. All potential witnesses were offered an opportunity to provide information, one of whom declined to be interviewed.
4. Do you believe a judicial Inquiry would jeopardise current police investigations?
Unless further evidence comes to light, the NSWP Force has fully investigated Strike Force Lantle matters. There are no further lines of enquiry to investigate thus any Judicial Inquiry should have no effect on current investigations. I cannot however comment on any other investigations that may be underway within NSW Police Force and any impact on them.
This matter now rests with the ODPP for a decision as to whether the matter can progress. The NSWP Force cannot comment on the effect any judicial inquiry may have on a successful prosecution should the ODPP determine there that a prosecution may proceed
5. Have your officers been impeded in their investigations by any member of the clergy ? or officers or employees of the Catholic Church?
See question 3.
6. Why was Chief Inspector, Peter Fox asked to cease investigating the clergy matter and hand over all his evidence to other police?
Strike Force Lantle was established to ensure that a thorough and coordinated investigation was undertaken in relation to the allegations raised. At that time Detective Chief Inspector Fox was a Crime Manager at Port Stephens Local Area Command and was informed the Strike Force would be fully investigating the allegations. The Strike Force was undertaken by Detectives from the Local Area Command responsible for the investigation, that being Newcastle City. It would be unusual for a Crime Manager from a neighbouring LAC to work on a Strike Force in another LAC, particularly one like Newcastle City LAC where there were already 2 Detective Inspectors overseeing investigative issues. Detective Chief Inspector Fox was consulted on numerous occasions and asked to provide information to assist the investigation.
Catholic Church upheld 618 child sex abuse cases
September 22, 2012
THE Catholic Church in Victoria yesterday admitted that it had upheld 618 cases of criminal child abuse by clergy in the past 16 years.
All but 13 of the cases were before 1990, some dating back to the 1930s, church spokesman Father Shane Mackinlay said. The four Victorian dioceses of the church yesterday lodged a joint submission to the State Parliament inquiry into the handling of child abuse cases by religious and non-government organisations.
Father Mackinlay told The Saturday Age 302 of the 330 cases upheld by the Melbourne Response of the Melbourne Archdiocese applied to criminal child abuse and 310 from the Towards Healing response, which covers the dioceses of Ballarat, Sale and Sandhurst (Bendigo) and the various religious orders. Another 45 cases, though not all children, are still being investigated.
Submissions to the inquiry closed yesterday, with ”hundreds” received, according to Georgie Crozier, the chairwoman of the Parliament’s family and community development committee, which is hearing the inquiry. They came from victims, advocates, churches and other interested groups. Ms Crozier said public hearings would begin next month, continuing in Melbourne and regional areas into next year. The committee is due to report by April 30.
Judy Courtin, a lawyer supporting several victims in their submissions, said that, according to the Victorian Law Reform Commission, only one in 10 victims ever came forward, suggesting a real toll closer to 6500 Victorian victims of clergy sexual abuse.
The Catholic Church yesterday launched a website dedicated to the inquiry, facingthetruth.org.au, and held meetings on Thursday and yesterday to brief clergy, church workers and members of religious orders.
Father Mackinlay said more than 100 turned up yesterday. ”There are 1.5 million Catholics in Victoria, and they all have a stake, they are all affected and many know victims. The message I hear consistently is that hiding behind closed doors makes the problem worse,” he said. In a joint statement about their submission, titled Facing the Truth, the four Victorian diocesan bishops say they will co-operate fully with the inquiry, and they have been open about the horrific abuse. They say they will waive any confidentiality requirements victims may have signed.
”In our submission we discuss the church’s commitment to caring for children, the failures of the church and the developments in society’s and the church’s understanding of the pernicious nature of paedophilia,” the bishops say. ”The submission shows how the church of today is committed to facing up to the truth and to not disguising, diminishing or avoiding the actions of those who have betrayed a sacred trust.”
The Law Institute of Victoria has echoed calls for a full royal commission into clergy abuse, arguing that the parliamentary committee does not have the powers, resources or time to complete a thorough review.
In its submission to the inquiry, the institute also calls for mandatory reporting, legislation requiring organisations to establish compensation funds, and an independent statutory body to monitor how churches respond to complaints of clergy abuse.
8 more sex-abuse suits filed against Archdiocese
BY DANA DiFILIPPO
Philadelphia Daily News
Daily News Staff Writer
ANDY DRUDING has a lot to say to the priest who he says repeatedly raped him when he was a middle-school choir boy.
So he wrote the Rev. Francis S. Feret a letter. He wanted to give it to him personally, but hasn’t – still scared, after 40 years, to see Feret again.
But Tuesday, Druding read his letter in the most public of venues: a news conference at which it was announced that eight more lawsuits have been filed, including one by Druding, against the Philadelphia Archdiocese, its leaders and seven priests accused of sexually abusing children.
A flushed, sweating, trembling Druding took the podium and read, as if addressing Feret, his former choir director at St. Timothy’s Catholic School in Mayfair: “You took advantage of a 9-year-old boy who loved to sing and was afraid to tell because you were a priest, God’s messenger on Earth, the most holy person in my life. But I’ve never forgotten what you did to me. I remember every day of my life, the details so graphic and so horrific. I see your face all the time in my mind, in strangers’ faces, in scary dreams and even in terrible flashbacks that I have to this day.”
The eight lawsuits filed Tuesday by attorneys Dan Monahan, Marci Hamilton and Jeffrey Anderson follow eight others the legal trio filed earlier in Common Pleas Court. Altogether, the legal team represents 17 people who say they were sexually abused as children by Philadelphia-area priests.
The cases cite Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop Charles Chaput and Monsignor William Lynn, in addition to the accused priests.
In most of the cases, the victims are listed as John Does. But plaintiffs Druding and Michael McDonnell, 44, of Bristol Borough, Bucks County, attended the Center City news conference because they want their names out there.
“It’s important to put a face to the cost – show the doubting public that these victims do exist. We do live our lives. Although we struggle on a daily basis, we are real people who have countless issues,” said McDonnell, as his fiancée, Debra, cried and their 6-year-old son, Sean, sang and played with a Thomas the Tank Engine toy.
McDonnell accuses two priests, John P. Schmeer and Francis X. Trauger, of molesting him when he was an altar boy and worked at the rectory at St. Titus Catholic School in East Norriton.
Hamilton said Druding, McDonnell and the unnamed victims gained the courage to come forward after Lynn’s July conviction. Lynn, 61, who investigated abuse complaints against priests as the Archdiocese’s former secretary of clergy from 1992 to 2004, is the first U.S. church official convicted of endangering children by keeping predator priests in the ministry. He was sentenced to three to six years in prison.
The lawsuits, Hamilton said, are the only way to hold the Archdiocese accountable.
“The coverup, the incompetence in handling reports of abuse, must stop,” said Hamilton, a national expert on clergy sex abuse and law professor at Yeshiva University in New York. “No one knew more about abuse than the Archdiocese itself, and no one did less to protect children. . . . The only way to protect children is the criminal-justice system.”
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the Archdiocese responded: “We have not received copies of the cases . . . so we cannot provide more detailed information on those particular lawsuits at this time. We believe lawsuits are not the best mechanism to promote healing in the context of the very private and difficult circumstances of sexual abuse. We will work to assure all victims of sexual abuse receive appropriate assistance.”
Besides Feret, Schmeer and Trauger, the priests named in the lawsuits are John H. Mulholland, Robert L. Brennan, Joseph J. Gallagher and Edward V. Avery (defrocked).
Two men come forward as litigants in priest-sex-abuse suits
By Joseph A. Slobodzian
Inquirer Staff Writer
Breaking with anonymity – but not loosening the tenacious hold of childhood sexual abuse – two men announced Tuesday that they had sued the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, church officials, and three priests.
The emotional statements by Andrew Druding and Michael W. McDonnell highlighted a Center City news conference where their lawyers also announced six other lawsuits on behalf of seven victims purportedly abused as children by archdiocesan priests.
“What you did didn’t define me,” said Druding. “I may be damaged goods, but I’m not going to allow you to beat me.”
Druding, 51, of Holmesburg, struggled to control his voice as he said he had been sexually abused in the early 1970s by the Rev. Francis S. Feret, then choir director at St. Timothy parish in Mayfair.
“You took advantage of a 9-year-old boy who loved to sing and who was afraid to tell because you were a priest, God’s messenger on Earth and the most holy person in my life,” Druding said as his wife, Denise, wept in the front row of seats.
Feret, 75, was an archdiocesan priest from 1963 until March 2011, when he was suspended from active ministry while at St. Adalbert parish in Port Richmond. In May, he was found “unsuitable for ministry.”
McDonnell, 44, of Bristol, described growing up as the youngest of eight children, all of whom attended St. Titus parish and school near Norristown.
McDonnell said that in the late 1970s and early ’80s when he was an altar boy, he was sexually abused by two priests – the Rev. John P. Schmeer and the now-defrocked Francis X. Trauger.
“We were taught that the hands raised over us in blessing were those that represented the hands of Christ here on Earth,” McDonnell said. “Never did I imagine then, and struggle to believe it today, that those hands could abuse a child of God.”
McDonnell, who described years of mental-health and addiction problems, spent a year in prison after pleading guilty in 2010 to defrauding the archdiocese by submitting more than $100,000 in bills for psychotherapy sessions that never occurred. He also admitted stealing $9,000 in donations and payments to the Bucks County Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, where he worked.
Trauger, 67, was laicized in 2005 after complaints of sexually abusing children and spent almost two years at St. John Vianney, the archdiocesan hospital for priests with sex, alcohol, or drug problems. Schmeer, 77, was removed from public ministry in 2004 and then agreed to a supervised life of “prayer and penance” at Villa St. Joseph, a retirement home for priests.
The eight lawsuits join eight others involving different victims filed earlier in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court by Marci Hamilton, a legal advocate and expert on child sexual abuse; Malvern lawyer Daniel F. Monahan; and Jeffrey R. Anderson, a veteran litigator involving church sex-abuse cases, based in St. Paul, Minn.
Although the criminal statute of limitations has passed for all nine victims, Hamilton said there was a basis for a civil conspiracy lawsuit because “the church’s cover-up continued right up to the start” of this year’s trial of Msgr. William J. Lynn.
Lynn, 61, the first church official charged for his supervision of a priest accused of sexually abusing children, was convicted of child endangerment and is serving three to six years in prison.
“The abuse must stop,” Hamilton said. “The cover-up, the incompetent handling of reports of abuse, must stop.”
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia in a statement said that church officials had not seen the new lawsuits and could not comment.
“We believe lawsuits are not the best mechanism to promote healing in the context of the very private and difficult circumstances of sexual abuse. We will work to assure all victims of sexual abuse receive appropriate assistance,” the statement read.
Dressed in suits, Druding and McDonnell also wore a veneer of poise that proved very thin.
After the news conference ended, Druding sat in a chair, shoulders rising and falling with sighs, as he tried to control himself, and as his wife held an arm around him and dabbed his tears.
McDonnell’s voice cracked as he referred to the “love and light of my life” – wife Debra Bashwinger and their 6-year-old son, Sean, in the audience. Bashwinger was weeping; Sean, unimpressed with the television cameras and photographers clicking away, played on the floor with a Thomas the Tank Engine locomotive.
“No one understands what the families of victims go through,” said Bashwinger, who added that without the support of her husband’s family, she would have become homeless while McDonnell was in prison.
“I think it’s important to put a face to the cost,” McDonnell said, referring to his reason for going public. “It’s important to show a doubting public that these victims do exist. We do live our lives, although we struggle on a daily basis. We are real people.”
Prosecutors refile felony charges dropped against Philly priest
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Prosecutors have refiled felony sex-assault charges against a suspended Philadelphia priest, days after a judge dropped them for lack of evidence.
A city judge had found the victim’s testimony at a preliminary hearing last week failed to support the most serious charges against the Rev. Andrew McCormick. The judge upheld misdemeanor charges, including indecent exposure and indecent assault.
But prosecutors insist the 56-year-old priest’s actions amount to felony sexual assault.
The 25-year-old accuser says McCormick molested him at his rectory in 1997, when the boy was 10.
The charges refiled Tuesday include sexual assault and deviate intercourse.
Defense lawyer William Brennan says he’s disappointed by the prosecutors’ decision, but is ready to defend the case.
McCormick remains free on bail. It’s not yet clear when he’ll return to court.
Priest accused of sexual misconduct again
A priest that was a member of the Glenmary Home Missioners, a Catholic society in Fairfield of priests and brothers who are dedicated to establishing a Catholic presence in rural areas and small towns of the United States, has been alleged to have engaged in sexual misconduct for a second time.
Authorities allege that Father Bob Poandl was involved in an incident that took place in the 1980s in the diocese of Savannah, Georgia. A police report containing these allegations was filed on July 14 with the Union County (Ga.) Sheriff’s Department.
Poandl had originally been accused in February of child sex abuse that occurred 30 years ago in West Virginia.
Poandl was brought back to Cincinnati and relieved of his duties following the first set of allegations, the charges of which were dismissed by a West Virginia judge. Poandl has been living at Glenmary’s Cincinnati residence since then and has not been functioning as a priest.
“I have requested a copy of the July 14 police report,” Father Artysiewicz, president of the Glenmary Home Missioners, said. “We have also been in contact with the district attorney in Blairsville, Ga., who was also not aware of the police report. Once I receive the report, Glenmary will begin a preliminary investigation. We don’t know anything about the accuser at this time, but it’s my hope that I can find a way to reach out to this person as soon as possible.”
“Glenmary is committed, first and foremost, to making every possible effort to prevent misconduct by any of its members,” Father Artysiewicz said. “And we also remain committed to facilitating healing for all those involved in any instances of sexual misconduct by providing an open, compassionate pastoral response.”
Report filed against Catholic Priest for child abuse
SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) –
A sex abuse report has been filed against a Catholic Priest with ties to Southeast Georgia.
An Atlanta man filed the report, stating that Father Robert Roandl molested him when he was a child.
Leaders of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests want Roandl put in a secure treatment center.
The priest served churches in Pembroke and Claxton under Glenmary Missions of Cincinnati. He has not served with the Diocese of Savannah. He also worked in seven other states
A new scandal is shaking the Aussie Church
Police are currently looking into alleged cover-ups involving three senior churchmen
By Jill Duchess of Hamilton on Wednesday, 22 August 2012
Accusations of cover-ups and blame-shifting by the Catholic Church in its handling of allegations of child sexual abuse by priests have been front-page news in Australia. Newspaper headlines such as “Senior Catholic Priests in Child Sex Cover-Up Inquiry” point to claims that the Church has attempted to hide possible sex abuse within its walls rather than reporting it to the police.
Whether these cases will stand up is yet to be proved, but investigators in the states of New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria are currently searching for evidence that in many instances priests were merely moved on. This is not unique to Australia. There have been far-reaching repercussions from court cases involving cover-ups in Ireland, Germany and America.
Two dedicated investigations by the NSW police, Strike Force Lantle and Strike Force Glenroe, are currently looking into alleged cover-ups involving three senior churchmen, including a bishop and an archbishop
An MP has renewed calls for a royal commission. Last April in Victoria, following revelations of 40 suicides of abuse victims by two priests, the state government initiated a parliamentary inquiry into the failure of the Catholic Church to protect children from sexual abuse.
All members of the hierarchy vehemently deny the allegations. But even if subsequent court hearings come to nothing, they are re-focusing attention on the many priests already jailed for paedophilia.
There are no official figures, but since 1993 the charity Broken Rites alone has supported 150 cases which ended in prosecutions and are currently aiding another eight court cases. They have also handled 15 cases that ended without convictions and 128 out-of-court settlements. The abuse was so extensive that Pope Benedict, when visiting Sydney in 2008 on World Youth Day, made a public apology to victims in Australia.
Whether mandatory celibacy has contributed to abuse is now much debated. One lawyer remarked: “Total denial of sexuality can have terrible repercussions. Pent-up sexual tensions sometimes find an outlet with the easiest available target – sadly this is often children.”
The fact that celibacy is a matter of Church discipline, not part of Church doctrine, has been emphasised in the recent revelations of 49-year-old Fr Kevin Lee of Sydney, who has been married to a woman in the Philippines for a year.
While in Australia I made inquiries into how all this will adversely affect congregations. The answer is that Mass attendance is now similar to that in Dublin, with less than one in five Catholics kneeling in pews each Sunday. But with 5.5 million Catholics – that is, 25.3 per cent of the population – the Catholic Church, despite the growth of Pentecostal churches, is Australia’s largest religion.
Along with diminishing churchgoers, the drop in the number of Australian-born priests continues. In the 2012 directory of Catholic priests in Australia once again the most common name is Vietnamese. There are 40 priests called Nguyen.
But one positive trend is the vibrancy of Australia’s Catholic schools – mostly run by lay teachers. With 650,000 students and around 21 per cent of all secondary school enrolments, they rank second after government schools. As non-Catholic admissions are kept at around seven per cent, parish priests are sometimes asked by Catholic parents who never got around to having their babies baptised to perform late baptisms on children aged between four and 11. These christenings are, alas, for expediency, not for faith.