Ex-priest claims Australian Church hid sex abuse
Wednesday, April 24, 2013 by
A Maltese man has blown the lid on the Australian Church by quitting the priesthood and claiming the Victorian Archdiocese has been deleting child sex abuse records.
Victor Buhagiar claims he “saw and heard” the Archbishop of Victoria order a secretary to turn off a recorder before discussing clerical sex abuse during a Church council meeting in April 2012.
He bowed out as a priest last January, saying his subsequent enquiries into the matter had led him to a metaphorical dead end.
“I believe there’s a devil in the hierarchy,” Mr Buhagiar has now told Australian investigative TV show Today Tonight.
“I suspect the recorder was turned off to create a black hole, so that investigators will…find nothing. Certain data is not being recorded in any way, shape or form.”
He accused the Archdiocese of operating a ‘no names’ policy in cases related to sexual abuse, saying Church superiors had turned down a request to alert nearby parishes to the presence of a suspected sexual offender.
“The secretary told me we cannot do that because we have a policy of no names. If I don’t put the name of the person, how are the other priests going to know who I’m talking about?” he said.
Pope Francis has called for the Vatican’s prosecutorial arm, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to act decisively in cases of sexual abuse and promote measures to protect minors.
While Victorian Archbishop Denis Hart has issued a statement contesting Mr Buhagiar’s claims, he has done little to directly deny them. In a statement, the Archbishop noted that, while the Archdiocese complied with privacy principles, “it is wrong to describe that as a ‘no names’ policy”.
Archbishop Hart also admitted that tape recorders were sometimes switched off during council meetings, justifying this by arguing that some discussions were either “in a preparatory stage or otherwise confidential”.
“On such occasions, the Council may elect to discuss matters that are not minuted. This allows an open discussion in advance of a formal decision or final position being reached,” the Archbishop wrote.
Mr Buhagiar’s resignation caught his former Gladstone Park congregation by surprise. Reactions to his sudden departure have been mixed: while over 300 locals have written to the Archdiocese in his support, others have said that the parish is being better run without him.