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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.

The awful legacy of rape by Catholic priests and suicides of their victims in Australia’s Ballarat Diocese

The awful legacy of rape by Catholic priests and suicides of their victims in Australia’s Ballarat Diocese

From the link:

These are the sorts of truths you don’t even want to write about. These are the stories you take in, you bury your head in your hands, and then you want to forget you ever heard them.

Bishop Peter Connor

Bishop Peter Connor

And I might just pass on all of it, the Catholic church’s child sex abuse scandal being so planet-encompassing and seemingly unending. But for the damningly black-hearted carelessness of the Ballarat Bishop, Peter Connors, I might have. But I can scarcely tell you how violently angry I got in reading his breezy opinions. This is a person too irresponsible to have ever been properly put in charge of anything. He deserves to be removed immediately and sent to the terminally boiling Diocese of Greater Sahara.

This is the latest reminder that the Catholic church hasn’t come close to realizing what, perhaps for centuries, it had become: a cabal that conspired to successfully and extra-legally abuse, molest and rape children and teens. It is only now — now that they can no longer get away with it — that they’re pretending to give a damn about addressing who they’ve been and what their victims have been forced to endure.

Infuriatingly, in this case — again – pretending is all they’re prepared to do:

Church sex abuse inquiry ‘not needed’
Kellee Nolan | Herald Sun | August 3, 2011

An inquiry into suicides among victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and brothers in Victoria would achieve little, a Catholic bishop says.

Police investigating the case of convicted pedophile Brother Robert Best believe at least 26 victims of sexual abuse at schools in which he taught have committed suicide.

So, let us get this straight: 26 dead bodies, but no wider investigation? And you’re not stonewalling anything, Bishop? If 26 nuns had been raped and later killed themselves, wouldn’t you want to know how such an immense tragedy came to be?

“I don’t think they’ll learn very much more … I’m convinced we’ve done the best we can in more recent years.”

Best, who taught at schools throughout Victoria, including Ballarat, will be sentenced on Monday after pleading guilty to 27 charges of abusing 11 boys between 1969 and 1988.

. . and that’s the end of the story? That’s the beginning, Bishop Connors. How is it Best managed to get away with it for so long? Who else knew about it? Somebody knew about it, that’s guaranteed. When kids were killing themselves, no one thought twice about it?

But Bishop Connors on Tuesday said not even revelations from Detective Sergeant Kevin Carson that 26 young men had killed themselves after being abused by priests and brothers in Ballarat convinced him that more would be learnt from an inquiry.

“I think we’ve learnt a lot of things about what is appropriate behaviour and what’s not appropriate behaviour,” Bishop Connors said.

“I think people are very well informed nowadays as to what’s inappropriate approaches from a male.”

What the FUCK does THAT mean? This Connors guy might be the single most ill-equipped individual to deal with these horrific issues. Sadly, one of Best’s fellow pedophiles (there were more, of course) would be better suited to respond with a mote’s bit of compassion.

While conceding the abuse of children was wrong, he said that in the past it had not always been clear to everyone what was appropriate and inappropriate behaviour.

“In the past a lot of ignorance was there on the part of lots of people. Parents didn’t understand, sometimes bishops didn’t understand. We have no excuse now.”

It’s like the darkest bit of sketch comedy ever staged. Except it keeps going on and on.

Among the charges laid against Best in Victoria’s County Court last month were details of him raping a nine-year-old boy in his office.

The court heard that after Best raped him, the boy thought he was going to die and blacked out.

Bishop Connors said in the past 14 years he had spoken to more than 30 victims of [convicted child molester Father Gerald] Ridsdale and other priests in the Ballarat diocese.

But he said none had told him they were also abused by Best.

“I can’t remember them saying they were victims of Brother Best as well,” he said.

The bishop said he had no reason to meet Best’s victims “because he being a Christian Brother, I’m not responsible for him.”

Unbelievable. Just unbelievable.

One in 20 priests an abuser, inquiry told

One in 20 priests an abuser, inquiry told

October 23, 2012

Barney Zwartz

From the link:

AT LEAST one in 20 Catholic priests in Melbourne is a child sex abuser, although the real figure is probably one in 15, the state inquiry into the churches’ handling of sex abuse was told yesterday.

RMIT professor Des Cahill said his figures, based on analyzing conviction rates of priests ordained from Melbourne’s Corpus Christi College, closely matched a much larger American analysis of 105,000 priests which found that 4362 were child sex offenders.

The intercultural studies professor also told the inquiry that the Catholic Church was incapable of reforming itself because of its internal culture. He said the Church’s Melbourne Response abuse protocol had to go, and the state would have to intervene to achieve it.

In other key testimony, Professor Cahill:

  • Called for married priests, as are being allowed now in the Anglican ordinariate within the Catholic Church, as a “circuit-breaker” that would reduce child sex abuse. The state should remove the Equal Opportunity Act exemption letting the church discriminate on grounds of marital status, he said.
  • Described the Church as “a holy and unholy mess, except where religious sisters or laypeople are in charge, for example schools and welfare agencies”.
  • Called for an “eminent Catholic task force” of lay people to work with the Church on reform and transparency.
  • Said other religions were not immune from child sex abuse, including credible anecdotal evidence of two incidents within Melbourne’s Hindu community where the offending monks were “shipped back to the home country”.

Professor Cahill said that 14 of 378 Corpus Christi priests graduating between 1940 and 1966 were convicted of child sexual abuse, and church authorities had admitted that another four who had died were also abusers, a rate of 4.76 per cent.

But the actual figure was much higher when under-reporting was taken into account, along with cases dealt with in secret by the Catholic Church. “One in 20 is a minimum. It might be one in 15, perhaps not as high as one in 10,” he said.

He suggested that, though the Church tried to “fudge the figures” by including other church workers, Catholic priests offended at a much higher rate than other men. If the general male population now over 65 offended at the same rate, there would be 65,614 men living in Australia who had been convicted of child sex abuse — very far from the case.

Professor Cahill said the Church’s “culture of caste clericalism” and its pyramid structure rendered it incapable of the systemic reform needed. The organisational culture was “verging on the pathological”.

“Bishops are caught between canon law and civil law, and Rome has put a lot of pressure on bishops to make sure canon law and the rights of priests are being observed, but canon law has nothing to say about the rights of child victims,” he said.

The Melbourne Response — the internal protocol used by the Melbourne archdiocese — was designed to protect the image and reputation of the church and to contain financial liability, and had to be changed. “The church is incapable of reform, so the state will have to do it,” he said

He suggested a new structure involving the Office of the Child Safety Commissioner and a new “eminent Catholics task force”, appointed by the Government, to work with Church leadership. Possible candidates included former Supreme Court judge Frank Vincent, La Trobe professor Joseph Camilleri, former Geelong mayor Frank Costa, former deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer, Mrs Diana Grollo, state chief health officer Rosemary Lester, retired Ballarat bishop Peter Connors, retired Melbourne priest Eric Hodgens and Australian Catholic University professor Gabrielle McMullin.

Professor Cahill said child sex abuse had existed in all ages, cultures and religions, shrouded in secrecy and poorly responded to by religious authorities. He said a church council in 309 AD was concerned about child sex abuse in monasteries.

One in 11 Victorians identified with a religion other than Christianity, up 68 per cent in 10 years, and Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Jews all had issues to do with sex abuse, especially in other countries.

In Sri Lanka, child sex abuse was rampant in Buddhist monasteries, and more than 100 monks had been charged in the past decade. Child sex abuse had been called “India’s time bomb”, especially the plight of street children, while many Muslim communities were in denial, he said. Melbourne Jewish groups were making their own submission to the inquiry.