Disabled boys were abused in a St John of God institution
By a Broken Rites researcher (article updated 20 December 2014)
From the link: http://brokenrites.org.au/drupal/node/57
One of Australia’s Catholic religious orders – the St John of God Brothers (SJOG) – has specialised in accommodating boys who have an educational (or intellectual) disability. This Broken Rites article is about court cases in the 1990s (and also in 2006) involving Brother Bernard Kevin McGrath, who was jailed for committing sexual crimes against disabled victims.
Bernard Kevin McGrath (born 22 May 1947) grew up in New Zealand. In the 1960s, aged 18, he joined the St John of God Brothers (SJOG), a Catholic religious order which was conducting residential institutions in Australia and New Zealand for disabled boys. For his training, he went to Sydney where the SJOG order has its headquartes for Australia and New Zealand. Most of McGrath’s working life has been spent at SJOG institutions in Australia and New Zealand.
McGrath gave details of his SJOG career in a six-hours videotaped interview with New Zealand detectives in 2003. In the videotape, which was shown in a New Zealand courtroom in 2006, McGrath tells how he was bullied by his authoritarian father who pressured him into joining a religious order at age 18. (McGrath’s father had trained for the Catholic priesthood but ended up as a manual worker.)
The court was told that, when McGrath began training with SJOG in Sydney, a senior brother there had a habit of making sexual overtures towards the trainees. (For legal reasons, we will call this man Brother X.) The sexual abuse McGrath claimed he suffered resembled the kinds of indecencies that he later inflicted on the boys in his custody.
After training in New South Wales, McGrath spent a year at a SJOG institution in Melbourne. In January 1974, he was transferred to New Zealand to be teacher and dormitory master at “Marylands“, a SJOG boarding school near Christchurch for boys with learning and behavioural difficulties. At Marylands, the court was told, McGrath again encountered Brother X. Brother X allegedly set the tone for the culture at Marylands and ensured that complaints about sexual abuse by Brothers like McGrath were covered up.
The court was told that some boys would complain to senior Brothers about sexual abuse. Not only was nothing done but they would be punished for making their complaints.
The court was told that a boy from another dorm came to McGrath to complain about being sexually abused. McGrath says on the videotape: “I didn’t do anything because I’d played up myself, you know, so what do you do? How do you go and challenge someone when you’ve committed these sins.”
About 1978, after spending nearly four years at Marylands, McGrath was sent to St John of God’s “Kendall Grange” boarding institution at Morriset, New South Wales, for boys with educational difficulties. There, McGrath admitted on the videotape, he continued to sexually abuse boys.
In 1986, McGrath transferred from Morriset back to New Zealand to establish a residential program in Christchurch, the Hebron Trust, teaching life skills to street kids.
McGrath’s first conviction
In New Zealand, two social workers raised the alarm about McGrath’s indecent advances towards four of the Christchurch street kids on his course in 1991. The social workers raised the issue with the SJOG order but the order failed to act, so the social workers contacted the police.
Four of the Hebron Trust boys, aged then between 14 and 16, told detectives that McGrath had touched them indecently. Then two of the former Marylands boys, now grown men, also complained McGrath had sexually molested them while at the school.
In 1993, McGrath was sentenced to three years jail in New Zealand for his offences at Marylands and the Hebron Trust
The story of Alex
Meanwhile, in 1992 (before Brother McGrath’s jailing), an ex-pupil of the SJOG “Kendall Grange” boarding school in Morriset, NSW — “Alex” (not his real name) — complained to SJOG headquarters in Sydney that he had encountered Brother McGrath while he was a boarder for four years from 1980 to 1984. Alex (born 1969) told Broken Rites in 1994 that his SJOG experience disillusioned him about schools. He ran away from Kendall Grange and stopped his education, with no qualifications, ending up on the dole and finally on a disability pension. Alex says that St John of God “screwed up” his life. He says the SJOG experience left him with lasting feelings of shame and anxiety, emotional turmoil, depression and an explosive temper.
Alex says that, when he told the Australian leader of SJOG about McGrath, the leader expressed no surprise about Alex’s statement.
Alex had expected that SJOG would report McGrath to the police for prosecution but (he said) this did not happen.
The story of Jimmy — and McGrath’s second conviction
In Sydney in 1989, another McGrath victim (“Jimmy“, born in 1970) was having adolescent behavioural difficulties. He disclosed to his mother what McGrath had done to him in 1982-3 while at Kendall Grange. At the time of the offences, Jimmy was aged 11 to 13. In 1992, Jimmy’s mother (“Jill”) told the Australian head of SJOG who admitted that this was not the first complaint against McGrath.
In 1995, Jimmy made a police statement at Sydney’s Chatswood Crime Squad. After McGrath completed his New Zealand jail term, the police took him back to Sydney, where he pleaded guilty and was sentenced in 1997 to nine months jail for the offences against Jimmy.
With the help of lawyers, and after 10 years of protracted proceedings constantly delayed by the stalling of lawyers for the SJOG order, Jimmy was forced to accept an out-of-court settlement amount for compensation. The amount seemed reasonable compared to other victims but his legal costs took a big bite out of his payout. Jimmy wasn’t happy with an out-of-court settlement — he would have preferred to have his day in court.
Jill has been in frequent contact with Broken Rites.
In March 2006, “Jill”, explained how she sent Jimmy to the Morriset school because his dyslexia was making him too disruptive to remain in the school he was attending.
“I didn’t want him to go, but a teacher told me that my son needed more help than his school could give him. I went to all the other schools in the local area and they refused to take him,” Jill said.
“I knew nothing about (the abuse) until my son told me years later. I knew he wasn’t happy at Morriset, but they covered it up so well and scared the kids so much.
“I used to ring Brother McGrath who was the Prior at Kendall Grange school, Morriset. I would tell McGrath that my son isn’t happy and he’s crying. McGrath just said all the boys do that; he just doesn’t want the discipline and they need discipline.
“I didn’t learn about the abuse until 1989. My son had a girlfriend and their relationship was pretty volatile and he was on drugs pretty heavily in his teenage years.
“She’d charged him with assault and when we were going to court he said `I’ve got something terrible to tell you’ and that’s when it all came out. I didn’t believe him at first. Talk about naive — I couldn’t believe it could happen.”
Jill says there were hints that McGrath’s proclivities were known to the St John of God order, but nothing was done.
“Their conspiracy of silence is terrible. A psychiatrist at the school said (at the time) there were problems at this school and to try to get my son out as soon as I could. I said there was nowhere else to go. In those days there was no onus on schools to accept pupils as there is today.
“When I told the psychiatrist later about McGrath, she said `I wouldn’t have picked him’. There were others there she must have known about.
“I now know of five boys who were molested at Morriset. I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface. The tragedy is that my son must have felt so alone.
“My life hasn’t been the same since. I’ve tried to get on with my life but it hits me sometimes. I feel very remorseful about my son – it’s like a knife going in.
“In the early years, he blamed me for putting him in that school. He went violent one night and I had to run next door to a neighbour and bolt the door. I know if I’d stayed in the house, he’d have done something to me.”
Third conviction — in 2006
In 2002, more complainants contacted the New Zealand police concerning sexual assaults by Bernard McGrath and other SJOG Brothers at the Marylands institution, dating back several decades.
In the New Zealand High Court in Christchurch in March 2006, Brother McGrath, then 58, was found guilty of 21 charges, including eight charges of inducing an indecent act and 13 charges of indecent assault, relating to his time at Marylands between 1974 and 1977. He was acquitted of some other charges, including charges of sodomy.
The court sentenced McGrath to five years jail. The court took into account McGrath’s two earlier prison terms — the three years in New Zealand in 1993 and the nine months in Australia in 1997.
According to the New Zealand Herald newspaper on 7 April 2010, McGrath was released from his New Zealand jail on parole in February 2008, just less than two years into his five-year term.
Broken Rites is continuing to do research about Brother Bernard McGrath and other SJOG Brothers.
Meanwhile, any Australian victims of Bernard Kevin McGrath should have a chat with the Lake Macquarie detectives office in New South Wales, telephone 02-49429968.
Unholy Silence – The book that launched a Royal Commission, even before it was published by Father Kevin Lee
Unholy Silence –
The book that launched a Royal Commission, even before it was published
by Father Kevin Lee
From the link: http://unholysilence.com/
A Catholic priest exposes systematic cover-ups of pedophilia and predatory homosexuality in his own Church
Father Kevin’s claim to have forced a Royal Commission into sexual abuse of children in Australia is not without foundation. He had been agitating about it for over a decade. And if you analyse the chronology of events, Father Kevin’s admission on Channel 7’s 6pm news on April 31st was the catalyst that sparked media interest into why a successful priest would commit sacerdotal suicide by telling everyone he had been living a lie for over a year.
As Father Kevin told the journalists who were sent into a feeding frenzy over the discovery that a proclaimed celibate priest was actually married, he did it because of his frustration that his constant complaints of pedophilia and sexual abuse among members of the Church were being continually denied or concealed by both police and Church hierarchy. “It is not possible to live a double life” he was told by his Bishop, “there is too much scrutiny of priests”. So he set out to show how it is done.
He wanted to prove how priests can appear to be living celibately but can actually be living a total lie.
This book will explain how, after six years of preparation and twenty years of ordained ministry, Father Kevin Lee gradually came to realize that the Church he was born into, was not as it appeared.
It took him a while to recognise that the reason the church expects total loyalty and intellectual ascent to all its dogmas and practices is not entirely altruistic.
The justification for its demand of abstemious living was to keep the church cheap to run and its workers totally obedient.
For many years Fr Kevin was happy to make the total sacrifice of his sexuality “for the sake of the Kingdom” but events that he witnessed caused him to question the institution that he had blindly promised obedience to for all his adult life.
His decision to record these events and eventually allow their publication takes great courage and resulted in his expulsion from the Church he had served diligently for almost a quarter of a century. The termination of his priestly ministry sparked a wave of allegations of abuses and cover ups that eventuated in Prime Minister Gillard issuing the call for a full Royal Commission into sexual abuse in Australia which began on 13th February 2012 and is expected to continue for at least three years.
Father Kevin had intimate knowledge of fellow priests who were living a celibate lie.
But everywhere he turned within the Church and outside it, he was being told to “keep quiet” and “don’t create a scandal”.
No one wanted to know.
Fr Kevin comes to appreciate that the unholy silence which muzzles the priests from revealing the depraved actions of fellow priests can have a detrimental effect on the whole church. The fear of ‘causing scandal’ is less damaging than the emotional and psychological destruction these abuses were causing in the lives of the trusting young people who oftentimes came to priests for help.
The Church would have you believe that the number of offending clerics is small and not out of proportion with other professions but these stories and Fr Kevin’s personal testimony will challenge that blanket statement and as a result, question the relevance of priestly celibacy.
This book will unsettle your own religious convictions as you read the painfully recorded details of the many incidents of abuse and attempts by the hierarchy to cover up or compensate the abused victims of pretend priests.
As the Catholic hierarchy flounders with diminishing numbers of priests and depleting income sources it wrestles to retain the respect and reverence that it once demanded of its adherents.
Fr Kevin Lee hopes this book will force the Catholic Church members to readdress the issue of mandatory priestly celibacy by calling the Church to greater accountability and openness into the secret lives of priests..
To buy the book Unholy Silence click on the following link:
Calling for inquiry to focus in on courts
- The Daily Telegraph
- April 26, 2013
From the link: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/calling-for-inquiry-to-focus-in-on-courts/story-e6freuy9-1226629596902
CHILDREN will remain at risk unless the royal commission into institutionalised child sex abuse includes the Family Court in its investigations, Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston has warned.
Ms Johnston said it would be a missed opportunity if the court was not included.
“Thousands of children and their families are depending on it,” she said yesterday.
In a submission sent by Bravehearts to the royal commission, the organisation said improvements to practices, policies and procedures within the court would have a positive impact on a “large number of Australian abuse survivors”.
Ms Johnston said it was a “no-brainer” that the court came under the commission’s terms of reference.
“As an institution, the Family Court deals extensively with child sexual assault,” Ms Johnston said, adding it was critical that the commission did its “job properly”.
Ms Johnston said Bravehearts was aware of instances where the court’s practices were deficient and had led to children being placed at serious risk of sexual harm.
The Family Court has hit back, saying Bravehearts had misunderstood what an “institution” is in the context of the royal commission.
“The abuse being investigated by the royal commission specifically ‘does not include the family’,” a spokesperson for the Family Court said.
“There are other obvious reasons why courts do not fall within the remit of the royal commission and to suggest they do is to fundamentally misunderstand the role of courts.”
She said there were many courts where the issue of child sexual assault and the contact children should have with parents arose, not only in family law proceedings.
She said the reasons for every decision made by the court were published and the reasons behind every decision were open to scrutiny.
The royal commission has made a point of not commenting outside public hearings.
The unholy conspiracy
Will an inquiry into decades of child sex abuse in Australia and alleged cover-ups by the Catholic Church serve justice?
In late 2012, Australia was rocked by fresh allegations of Catholic clergy child sex abuse by whistleblower, New South Wales Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox.
Fox has pursued allegations of child sex abuse by Catholic clergy for more than a decade, and he claims that as his investigations continued, a frightening picture emerged of a widespread cover-up by the Catholic Church of the child sex crimes committed by its clergy.
Fox repeated those claims publicly, and also accused the Catholic Church of deliberately obstructing police investigations, destroying evidence, and protecting paedophile priests, sparking calls for a national inquiry.
At the same time as Fox’s investigation, The Newcastle Herald’s senior journalist Joanne McCarthy, had also picked up the scent of a wider conspiracy by senior church officials to conceal sex abuse by its clergy.
Searching for clues – Joanne delved into the case of Father Vincent Ryan – a paedophile priest convicted in 1996.
Her first discovery was a police record of interview with Monsignor Patrick Cotter, who was Maitland’s acting Bishop in the 1970s.
She was stunned to learn Cotter had known for 20 years that Ryan was a paedophile, and that when it was first reported to him by parents of a victim – he had simply shunted the priest interstate – concealing the issue, rather than reporting it to the police.
She then discovered another bishop’s letter, outlining a plan to cover-up the crimes of one of the most dangerous paedophile priests in the Maitland-Newcastle area, Father Denis McAlinden.
Bishop Leo Clarke wrote to McAlinden with an offer – if he agreed to be laicised or, defrocked as a priest, the church would protect him: “Your good name will be protected by the confidential nature of this process.”
At the end of his letter, Bishop Clark urged McAlinden to agree to be defrocked because “some people are threatening seriously to take this whole matter to the police”.
The offer to conceal McAlinden’s crimes was proof of the church’s veil of secrecy and soon Joanne ascertained that the clergy members involved were amongst the most senior in the Australian Catholic church.
Now, a special commission of inquiry has been set-up by the New South Wales state government to determine whether their actions amounted to criminal conduct. The special government-appointed inquiry, known in Australia as a Royal Commission, has also been charged with investigating how the NSW police force handled the complaints.
The trigger for the Royal Commission came in July last year, when John Pirona, a 45-year-old firefighter in the city of Newcastle, ended his life after years of mental torment stemming from the sex abuse that he suffered as a child at the hands of a paedophile priest.
The abuse occurred at St Pius X High School, a Catholic boys’ school in Newcastle. Pirona’s suicide followed about a dozen suicides and many more attempted suicides by former students at the school. Shockingly, many people reported the abuse to the school principal who kept silent, punishing children who dared to complain.
As the impact of John Pirona’s suicide reverberated throughout the community, demands for a Royal Commission gained new impetus and in Newcastle, a public rally was held to boost the campaign.
Detective Peter Fox was at the rally and felt inspired to speak out about his struggle to expose crimes concealed by the church. Emboldened by speaking at the rally, he repeated his claims two months later on national television.
Four days later, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the establishment of a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. This historic judicial inquiry will be the biggest in Australia’s history.
It will hear testimonies, not only about the original sex crimes, but also the subsequent crimes of concealment by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, and other organisations.
The Australian inquiry goes way beyond the brief of any such inquiry anywhere in the world by promising to follow up with prosecuting sex offenders, and those guilty of concealing or covering up their crimes. A special investigation unit has been established to gather further evidence and prepare briefs for the police.
Although the commission itself cannot prosecute, the early establishment of these units means this important work in bringing about accountability can commence quite soon.
The effects of the royal commission could have widespread and unforeseen outcomes – such has been the force of religion in Australia, threatening to shake Australia’s social and political life when its findings are published.
Second Australian Catholic priest charged
By JOANNE MCCARTHY
Jan. 29, 2013, 10:14 a.m.
RETIRED Maitland-Newcastle catholic priest Lew Fenton has appeared in Newcastle local court as the second Australian Catholic priest charged with concealing the child sex crimes of another person.
Mr Fenton, 81, did not enter a plea to a charge of misprision of a felony – concealing a serious crime -related to events in the mid-1980s.
He was supported in court by a small group of people and did not make a statement outside the court.
The matter was adjourned until March.