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Written by a Broken Rites Australia researcher.


Just released from jail, a priest is in court again re more children from his early career

In March 2015, Victorian Catholic priest Father Leslie Sheahan, now 84, was jailed for three months for indecently assaulting a nine-year-old girl in one of his parishes forty years ago. In July 2015, immediately after leaving jail, he was charged in court again with indecently assaulting two more girls from another of his early parishes. He is now awaiting the outcome of this new court case (court file number F12143001). (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 28 July 2015.)

A bishop has a memory lapse about the alleged crimes of an ex-priest

A retired Australian Catholic bishop, Most Reverend Ronald Mulkearns, has been forced to appear in court to answer questions about a former priest, Robert Claffey (now aged 70), who is charged with multiple incidents of indecent assault against seven children. In court on 29 July 2015, Mulkearns was forced to admit that, yes, he had known about Father Claffey's "misbehaviour" but claimed that he could not remember the details. (Article updated 29 July 2015.)

This priest assaulted two boys after their sister died in a road accident

A Catholic priest, Father Robert Claffey, indecently assaulted two boys after their sister died in a road accident, a court was told in 1998. The priest started visiting the boys' house after the accident in 1978 to "comfort" them at bed-time. (Article published in 1998, updated in July 2015.)

A prominent Marist Brother is jailed — 40 years after the crime

One of the Marist Brothers' most senior educators in Australia, Brother Peter Pemble, was jailed on 23 July 2015 (aged 67) for a child-sex crime which he committed 40 years earlier when he was in his twenties. In court, Pemble pleaded guilty to the offence, which was committed against a junior boy in a Marist school at Maitland (in the Hunter region, north of Sydney) in the early 1970s. Eventually, Brother Peter Pemble became the principal of several Catholic schools in Sydney. The victim finally spoke to police, 40 years after the crime, because he still feels hurt by the sexual abuse and the cover-up. (Article updated 23 July 2015.)

A Catholic religious Brother is jailed at the end of his long career

The Catholic Church harboured a sexually abusive religious Brother, Bernard Hartman, throughout his long career in Australia and the United States. In Australia, the Melbourne Catholic diocese learned that Brother Hartman had committed crimes against Melbourne school-children but it did not report these crimes to the police. Finally, on 24 July 2015, some of his Melbourne victims got Brother Hartman (aged 75) jailed for his crimes. (Article by a Broken Rites researcher, updated 24 July 2015)

A Jesuit priest is jailed after admitting offences against children

Broken Rites is doing further research about Father David Rankin, a Catholic priest in the Jesuit religious order, who was jailed in 2014 after pleading guilty to acts of indecency committed against three young boys in Sydney. These particular offences occurred in the 1960s when Rankin was a school teacher (by 1970, he was ordained as a Jesuit priest). These three boys are not necessarily Rankin's only victims during his 50-year career; they are merely three who took the opportunity to speak with a New South Wales Police detective. This shows that, even after 50 years, it is never too late to report a child-abuse crime to the child-protection police. After becoming a priest, Father Rankin ministered in Melbourne and Tasmania — and in Canada. (Article updated 22 July 2015.)

A De La Salle Brother is in court on charges re BoysTown, Queensland

A 60-year old De La Salle Brother is involved in court proceedings in 2015, charged with having sexually abused children in the 1980s at BoysTown in Queensland. This was a Catholic residential institution for disadvantaged or homeless boys. It was operated by the De La Salle Brothers at Beaudesert, south-west of Brisbane. (Article updated 27 July 2015)

A priest abused two boys aged 9 and 11, police allege

A Catholic priest in northern New South Wales, John Patrick Casey, 67, appeared in court on 10 July 2015, charged with sexual offences, allegedly committed against two young boys in the 1980s. Casey has been denied bail. A magistrate said the charges are serious and could bring a custodial sentence if there is a conviction. (Article updated 11 July 2015.)

Ex-priest John Farrell (from Armidale/Moree, NSW) fails to get his name suppressed in a Sydney court on 26 charges

Former Catholic priest John Joseph Farrell appeared in Sydney's Central Local Court on 30 June 2015, charged with 26 sexual offences which were allegedly committed against five boys between 1981 and 1984 in northern New South Wales. According to court documents, some of these 26 offences allegedly occurred while Father Farrell was based at the Moree parish (within the Armidale Catholic diocese); and some allegedly occurred when Father Farrell visited a parish at Tweed Heads (in the Lismore diocese) on the NSW north coast. The Sydney magistrate refused to suppress Farrell's name. This court case is confined to these five children (and these 26 charges) and it does not include any charges which Farrell might face regarding any other children. Farrell was refused bail and will remain in custody. He is scheduled to face court proceedings in early 2016. (Article updated by a Broken Rites researcher, 1 July 2015)

An ex-priest from Moree/Armidale NSW (name suppressed in an Armidale court) has been ordered to face a higher court on 76 sex-abuse charges

A former Catholic priest (from Moree and Armidale in northern New South Wales) faced 76 sex-abuse charges in the Armidale Local Court in 2012-2014. The charges involved offences which he allegedly committed against boys and girls. For legal reasons, the Armidale magistrate imposed a media-suppression order, prohibiting publication of the ex-priest's name (at present) in relation to these Armidale Local Court charges. The ex-priest pleaded "Guilty" to 45 of these charges, and he will eventually be sentenced on those. He pleaded "Not Guilty" to 31 other charges, and these contested charges are scheduled to go to trial in a higher court, the Sydney District Court in Sydney, beginning in early 2016. The Sydney judge will decide whether the Armidale magistrate's name-suppression order should be continued, or removed, during the Sydney District Court proceedings. Later, the ex-priest will be sentenced by the Sydney District Court regarding all the relevant charges that originated in the Armidale court, including the charges to which he has already pleaded "Guilty". Meanwhile, the ex-priest has been refused bail and he remains in custody, awaiting his court proceedings. (Article updated 29 May 2015)

The church covered up for "Father F" for 30 years

Research by Broken Rites has demonstrated how Catholic Church leaders kept quiet about a certain Australian priest, "Father F" (from the Armidale diocese in northern New South Wales), for THIRTY years until the matter was finally revealed by the media (not by the church) in 2012. Church leaders now need to explain why they remained silent for so long. (Article updated 23 April 2014).

Broken Rites helped to nab Marist Brother 'Romuald' for his crimes (including buggery)

Broken Rites has helped to obtain justice for schoolboys who were sexually assaulted by Marist Brother Francis William Cable (also known as "Brother Romuald") in Catholic schools around Sydney and the Newcastle region. During Brother Romuald's life of crime, his Marist colleagues and superiors looked the other way, protecting him from the police and giving him access to more victims. Eventually, some of his victims (acting separately) began to contact Broken Rites and/or the New South Wales Police. Detectives from Newcastle then found more victims. On 18 June 2015 "Romuald" Cable, aged 83, was sentenced to at least eight years jail regarding 19 victims. These 19 were not Brother Romuald's only victims — these are merely those who have spoken to the detectives. Other victims have remained silent. (Article updated 21 June 2015)

A Catholic Brother is in court in Victoria and is being investigated in NSW

Many years ago, Broken Rites began researching Brother "Gabriel" Mount, who had worked in Catholic children's homes conducted by the St John of God Brothers in New South Wales and Victoria. We discovered that he eventually became a priest (Father Roger Mount), working in Papua New Guinea. In October 2014 he was brought back to Australia, where Victorian police charged him with multiple child-sex offences allegedly committed within Victoria. He is in custody in Victoria, where a magistrate has committed Mount to face a trial (due to begin on 3 July 2015). New South Wales police, also, are investigating Father Mount concerning incidents that are alleged to have occurred in NSW. (Article updated 2 July 2015.)

A victim brings Father Kelvin Sharkey to justice, with help from Broken Rites

The Catholic Church in Australia harboured this sexually-abusive priest, Father Kelvin Gerald Sharkey, for 50 years until he was brought to justice by one of his victims, with help from Broken Rites. This victim contacted Broken Rites (and then the police) in 2007, telling us how he was raped by Sharkey as a ten-year-old altar boy in 1969. In 2010, Sharkey was jailed for the rape of this boy. And when he was locked up in jail, Sharkey was still officially a priest (still "Reverend Father Sharkey"). Research by Broken Rites has shown that this boy was not Sharkey's only victim. (Article updated 10 July 2015)

He has been convicted and jailed but he is STILL a Marist Brother

A Marist Brother (Terry Gilsenan) has served time in jail for committing child-sex crimes while he was on the staff of a Catholic school in Sydney but, despite this, he is STILL a Marist Brother in 2015 and he is cited as a contact person on a church website, selling comic books and school resources for the Marist Brothers. (Article posted 13 June 2015.)

Priest guilty of child-sex crimes in New South Wales

On 1 June 2015 a Catholic priest was found guilty of 31 child sex offences committed against boys in the Hunter Region, north of Sydney, in the 1980s. The priest was remanded in custody. He will be sentenced on a later date.

Cardinal George Pell instructed his lawyers to crush this victim - and other victims

Cardinal George Pell is claiming now that he has "helped" the Catholic Church's sex-abuse victims. Therefore, let's look  at how Pell treated one of the church's victims — a former altar boy, John Ellis. Cardinal Pell (as head of the Sydney Catholic archdiocese) instigated the archdiocese's legal battle against John Ellis, according to evidence and documents presented to Australia's child-abuse Royal Commission. Pell's legal victory in 2007 (known as the "Ellis defence") now forces church-victims to accept a discounted in-house "Towards Healing" settlement instead of suing for proper compensation, the Commission was told. And this Broken Rites article demonstrates that John Ellis was not the only victim of his abuser, Sydney priest Father Aidan Duggan. (Article updated 8 June 2015.)

A classic case: The church protected Father Stockdale, thus putting children at risk

The Catholic Church sheltered Father John Stockdale for 31 years in parishes in northern Victoria while he committed sexual crimes against boys. Parishioners complained about Father Stockdale being a danger to children but these warnings were ignored. The church "just didn't want to know" about Stockdale, victims say. Publicly, Father Stockdale upheld the strict morality which the church imposed on all lay Catholics. Privately, Father Stockdale was going to a gay club to have casual sex. On New Year's Eve in 1995, Fr Stockdale was found dead in a sex cubicle at the "Club 80" gay venue in Melbourne. The church then gave him a pious funeral, not realising that the truth about Stockdale would eventually become public. The church then gave him a pious funeral, but (with help from Broken Rites) the church's hypocrisy about Stockdale was soon exposed. (Article updated 8 June 2015)

'Towards Healing' helps the church, rather than the victims

Broken Rites is pleased that Australia's national Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is investigating the Catholic Church's so-called "Towards Healing" process, which claims to "help" the church's abuse-victims.  Broken Rites has been researching "Towards Healing" since 1996, and this article sums up some of our main findings so far. This Broken Rites article demonstrates how "Towards Healing" is really a business strategy, designed to protect the church from the legal liability of compensating some victims or, at least, to limit any compensation.

This paedophile, Monsignor John Day, was defended by Bishop Mulkearns

Broken Rites has forced the Catholic Church to admit that it protected one of Australia's worst paedophile priests, Monsignor John Day, for many years while he was committing sexual crimes against children. One church leader — Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, of the Ballarat diocese — spoke in defence of Monsignor Day. At one stage, Monsignor Day had another criminal priest, Father Gerald Ridsdale, working under him — two criminal priests in the one parish. And later a eulogy of Monsignor Day was published in the diocese's magazine (about this time, Father George Pell became editor of this magazine). (Article updated 5 June 2015)

George Pell praised this paedophile priest, Fr Kevin O'Donnell

One of Australia's most notorious paedophile priests, Father Kevin O'Donnell, committed sexual crimes against children throughout his 50-year career in Melbourne Catholic parishes while his superiors and colleagues looked the other way. In his final years, he even received public praise from one of his superiors, Bishop (later Cardinal) George Pell (see further down in this article, under the sub-heading "Praise from George Pell"). Eventually some of O'Donnell's victims (with help from Broken Rites) contacted the police and got O'Donnell convicted and jailed. Cardinal George Pell has some explaining to do about how the church covered up for Father Kevin O'Donnell. (Article updated 1 June 2015.)

Paedophile priest Peter Searson worked under various bishops, including George Pell

For years, the Melbourne Catholic Archdiocese knew that Father Peter Searson was committing sexual offences against boys, girls and women but he was allowed to continue in parishes, including at the Doveton parish (in Melbourne's south-east), where he survived for years under the supervision of the regional bishop for the south-eastern suburbs, Auxiliary Bishop George Pell. The Victoria Police investigated Searson for sexual offences in parishes but found it difficult to extract evidence from "loyal" church people. Eventually, after 35 years as a priest, when Searson's record was about to become public, the church authorities dumped Searson from parish work. Later, hoping to protect the church's public image, the church also removed his name from the published list of retired priests. (Article by a Broken Rites researcher, updated 1 June 2015)

George Pell and Denis Hart became archbishops but Father Tony Bongiorno didn't

The Melbourne Catholic archdiocese has finally been forced to admit that Father Anthony Bongiorno committed sexual crimes against children during his 30 years working in Melbourne parishes. Anthony Salvatore Bongiorno began training for the priesthood about 1960, aged 25, in the same trainee group as George Pell and Denis Hart, both of whom eventually became archbishops of Melbourne. In 1994, Pell (then an auxiliary bishop in Melbourne) officiated at a requiem mass for Bongiorno's brother Sam. Bongiorno's crimes were covered up until the mid-1990s.

This bishop helped the careers of Cardinal George Pell and Father Gerald Ridsdale

Australia’s famous Cardinal George Pell has acknowledged that his early career was helped by a generous mentor — the late Bishop James Patrick O'Collins. Research by Broken Rites has shown that Bishop O’Collins also helped certain other priests — for example, the child-abuse criminal Father Gerald Ridsdale. Pell and Ridsdale eventually became two of the most widely publicised Catholics in Australia.

Full story: How the church concealed Father Ridsdale's crimes

This Broken Rites article is the most comprehensive account available about how the Catholic Church harboured this child-abuse criminal — Father Gerald Francis Ridsdale — for 30 years while his superiors and fellow-priests remained silent to protect the church's public image. Eventually some of his victims (encouraged by Broken Rites and other investigators) spoke to detectives in the Victoria Police sex-crimes squad. In his four court cases between 1993 and 2014, Ridsdale has been jailed for a minimum of 24 years for assaulting 54 of his victims, but other victims of his have not yet contacted the detectives. (Background article, updated on 18 May 2015.)

A former Christian Brother is brought to justice - again

After committing sexual crimes against boys, Christian Brother Stephen Francis Farrell left his religious order. He then taught in other Catholic schools as "Mister" Farrell and he married three times. But, by December 2013, three of his earlier pupils had got him convicted for his crimes. In one of the court hearings (in 1997), Farrell was supported in court by Jesuit priest Michael McGirr (this made Farrell's victims feel that they were being abused again). In May 2015, several of Farrell's victims gave evidence at a public hearing of Australia's national child-abuse Royal Commission. (Article updated 21 May 2015.)

A Christian Brother molested students in public in their classroom

A Christian Brother, Peter John Toomey, had a habit of indecently assaulting students at a Melbourne Catholic secondary school in the presence of other students, a court has been told. Toomey also taught in other schools including in Ballarat, in regional Victoria. In May 2015, Brother Toomey was mentioned by a Ballarat victim at a public hearing of Australia's national child-abuse Royal Commission. (Article by a Broken Rites researcher, updated on 21 May 2015.)

A Sydney priest abused children, police allege

A retired Catholic priest, Father Robert James Hickman (now aged 70), was listed for Sydney's Parramatta Local Court on Thursday 14 May 2015, where he was being charged with multiple offences relating to the sexual and indecent assault of children while he was ministering (in parish work or, at one stage, as a full-time chaplain for some disadvantaged people) in the Sydney archdiocese during the 1970s and 1980s and 1990s. Father Hickman was listed in the annual printed editions of the Australian Catholic Directory until the year 2000 but he has not been listed in any edition since then. The case number in the court is 2015/00126145. (Article updated 14 May 2015)

Father David Rapson's crimes were covered up by his colleagues and superiors

While Father David Rapson was committing sexual crimes (including rape) against boys at a Victorian Catholic boarding school, his religious order promoted him to be the vice-principal of the school at one stage, the Melbourne County Court has been told. On 11 May 2015, the court sentenced Rapson (aged 61) to a maximum of twelve-and-a-half years jail (with parole possible after nine years and four months) regarding six of his victims. (Article updated 12 May 2015)

A Christian Brother pleads guilty to some of the charges in court

Christian Brother William Peter Standen (known as Brother "David" Standen), who has taught at Catholic schools in Sydney and regional New South Wales, appeared in court on 13 May 2015 to answer 32 charges of indecent assault, allegedly committed against 18 schoolboys. Standen pleaded Guilty to 11 charges and Not Guilty to 15 charges, while the remaining six charges were withdrawn. The Standen case will go to the Sydney District Court in 2016. (Article updated 17 June 2015)

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