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Written by a Broken Rites Australia researcher.


Ex-priest Robert Claffey is facing additional charges

A former Catholic priest, Robert Claffey, 72, is currently awaiting trial for allegedly assaulting nine children (eight boys and a girl) while he was a priest in western Victoria. The charges include 15 counts of indecent assault and one count of buggery. The Victorian County Court has been told that the number of charges could be increased because more alleged victims have contacted the Victoria Police. Later in 2016 the County Court will arrange a date for the next step in the judicial process. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 1 July 2016.)

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

According to Broken Rites research, 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. Anthony Bongiorno's child-sex crimes were covered up until some were exposed in the mid-1990s. The total number of Bongiorno's abused children is unknown. For example, in 1980, a woman in Bongiorno's parish learned that her son (aged 11) was a Bongiorno victim but this woman was murdered before she could expose Bongiorno about her son's abuse. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 24 July 2016.)

Background article: A priest from northern NSW is in court on child-sex charges

A Catholic priest in northern New South Wales, John Patrick Casey, 68, who is charged with child-sex offences allegedly committed against three young boys in the 1980s, has completed his preliminary hearings (with a Local Court magistrate) and has begun facing a jury trial (with a District Court judge) in mid-2016. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 15 July 2016)

Cover-up by the Marist Brothers: Here is a case study

The Catholic Church harboured a child-sex abuser, Marist Brother Gerard Joseph McNamara, for four decades until some of his victims brought him to justice. When the police charged McNamara with child-sex crimes, the Marists enthusiastically supported McNamara and ignored the victims. But Broken Rites supported the victims — and in 2004 McNamara finally pleaded guilty. In 2016, detectives from the Sexual Offences and Child-abuse Investigation Team (SOCIT) at Morwell (in eastern Victoria) are laying additional charges against McNamara. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 14 July 2016.)

Why is Cardinal George Pell reluctant to re-appear in Australia?

Cardinal George Pell is a frequent flyer, travelling in Business Class. During his years as Archbishop of Sydney, he would regularly make the flight to Rome so as to keep an eye on career opportunities at the Vatican. Now he has become the third most important person in the Vatican. With a Vatican passport, he still goes on plane trips from his Rome headquarters, but he is reluctant to appear in public in Australia. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 12 July 2016.)

Royal Commission is investigating how the Catholic Church handled the crimes of "Father F"

According to a church document, Catholic Church officials knew that Father John Joseph Farrell had been committing sex-crimes against children in New South Wales but the church officials preferred to conceal these crimes, so as to protect the church's image. Many years later, some of Farrell's victims (but not the church officials) reported Farrell to child-protection police, resulting in the jailing of Farrell in 2016. Now, Australia's national child-abuse Royal Commission is investigating the church's long silence about Farrell's crimes. Concealing a crime can, itself, be a criminal offence. This Broken Rites article is the most comprehensive account available about the Farrell cover-up. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 7 July 2016).

The Marists evaded the police by sending paedophile Brother Sutton overseas

The Marist Brothers headquarters in Sydney put a child-sex criminal, Brother Gregory Joseph Sutton, on a plane to Canada after learning that he was being investigated by New South Wales police, Australia's national child-abuse Royal Commission has been told. The police extradited him back to Australia, where he was jailed for sexual crimes against girls and boys. Questioned at the Royal Commission, senior Marists down-played Sutton's crimes as merely "improper conduct" or "moral lapses", rather than as crimes. This strategy helps to protect the Marist organisation from being sued by victims for compensation, a victim's lawyer told the Commission. This strategy can also be an attempt by senior Marists to avoid being accused of concealing a crime. Ex-Brother Sutton, who was jailed in 1996 for child-sex crimes committed in New South Wales, is facing additional charges in 2016 in the Australian Capital Territory. (Article updated 15 July 2016.)

The church provided a perfect cover for child-abuser Father Kevin Glover

This Broken Rites article reveals how the Catholic Church authorities in Western Australia harboured a paedophile priest (Father Kevin Glover) for many years while he committed sexual crimes against local children. When his crimes became known in one parish, the church merely transferred him to another parish. Later, the church arranged for him to transfer to a mission in the Pacific Islands (there, he was safe from any complaints by his Australian victims). (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 14 July 2016.)

A priest admitted abusing a child but the church covered up this offence for 50 years

One way in which the Catholic Church has traditionally covered up its sex-abuse crimes is by not revealing any written record about complaints. But in 2013, prominent Australian journalist Geraldine Willesee forced the Perth archdiocese to release a 1963 letter which reveals that a priest (Father Brian Gerard Harris) admitted abusing her when she was a pupil in his custody, aged 14, at a Catholic school in Perth. The priest's admission indicates that he was committing a possible criminal offence but the church managed to conceal this information from the police. The church allowed Father Harris to continue as a priest and it successfully concealed Father Harris's admission for 50 years until 2013. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 8 July 2016.)

JAILED: The Christian Brothers sheltered Brother David Standen while he damaged these vulnerable young lives

A prominent Catholic educator, Christian Brother William Peter ("David") Standen, was the principal at Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral College for a decade before he retired in 2010. During his career he also spent six years as the deputy principal at St Dominic's College, Penrith, in Sydney's outer-west. On 10 June 2016, Standen was jailed for indecently assaulting vulnerable young boys at one of his earlier schools (a Catholic boarding school in south-western New South Wales between 1977 and 1981). These boys were aged 10, 11 or 12, feeling isolated and homesick in their first year away from their rural families. The Catholic Church sheltered Brother Standen during these crimes, putting the boys in danger. Overwhelmed by the church's "holy" image, the victims were forced to remain silent about the crimes for many years. Some of the victims have told the court how this cover-up damaged their later lives, ending up in family break-ups and/or life-long struggles with drug and/or alcohol abuse and damaged careers. This Broken Rites article includes a link to a video showing how this case began when detectives arrested Standen at Sydney airport in August 2014. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 1 July 2016)

Marist Brother Michael Gerard Rush in court in Victoria

A Marist Brother (Br. Michael Gerard Rush, now aged 76) has been charged in the Melbourne Magistrates Court in 2016 with child-sex offences allegedly committed, earlier in his teaching career, while he was working at Catholic schools in Victoria. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article posted 14 July 2016.)

The Church knew about Father Michael Aulsebrook's child-abuse, a court was told

Catholic Church authorities knew that Father Michael Aulsebrook was a child-sex offender in the 1980s and 1990s but they retained him in the priesthood and even promoted him, according to statements made in an Australian court. Aulsebrook was a member of the Australia-wide order of Salesian priests and brothers, which has operated Catholic schools in several Australian states. In the Melbourne County Court in 2011, Aulsebrook was jailed for child-sex crimes committed in the 1980s at a Catholic boarding school in Victoria. This prompted more of his victims to speak to Victoria Police detectives, and therefore he was jailed again in the same court on 21 June 2016. Despite knowing about Aulsebrook's life of crime in Victoria, the Salesian leaders promoted him in the 1990s to be in charge of another Catholic school — in South Australia. The Salesian order is notorious for having tolerated multiple child-abusers in its ranks, and several of these Salesians have been brought to justice by the Victoria Police. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 22 June 2016.)

This priest (a supporter of George Pell) goes "on leave" after a problem re "celibacy"

Australia's national child-abuse Royal Commission has learned how George Pell recruited supporters from among suburban priests when he began his rise to power in Melbourne in the 1980s and 1990s. Broken Rites understands that Pell was welcomed particularly by conservative (as distinct from moderate-minded) priests. One of these traditionalist supporters, Father John Walshe, has given evidence to the Royal Commission on behalf of Cardinal Pell's lawyers. Father Walshe said he supports the tradition of "celibacy" for Catholic priests. A week after his evidence, it was revealed that the Melbourne Catholic archdiocese has apologised to a former student who says he was sexually abused (at the age of 18) by Father Walshe. Therefore, some of Father Walshe's parishioners in a Melbourne suburb began demanding Fr Walshe's removal from this parish. Now, in mid-2016, Fr Walshe is having an overseas trip on "sabbatical leave". (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 8 June 2016.)

This priest is in jail in one State and will soon face court in another State

Catholic priest Father Glenn Humphreys, who has ministered in several places around Australia, is currently in jail in Western Australia for child-sex crimes committed in that State. When he finishes his West Australian jail term in 2016, he is to be extradited to New South Wales to face a court there on charges relating to child-sex crimes allegedly committed in NSW. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 24 June 2016.)

The church gave this Sydney paedophile priest a new parish, plus more children

In the early 1970s, a boy (this article will refer to him as "Boy A") complained to the Catholic Church about being sexually abused by a Sydney priest, but the church merely transferred the priest to a new parish, thus giving him easy access to more victims, a Sydney court has been told. Many years later, one of the later victims (we will call him "Dwayne", not his real name) contacted Broken Rites, which advised him to speak to police detectives, not to the church. Police then charged the priest, Father Robert Flaherty, who pleaded guilty in court in 2015 regarding two of his victims (Boy A and Boy B). A jury found Flaherty guilty of assaulting the third boy (Dwayne). In February 2016, Father Flaherty (aged 72) was sentenced to jail regarding these three victims. Now Flaherty is appealing against the sentence, claiming that it is too harsh, while the Director of Public Prosecutions is claiming that sentence is too lenient. Meanwhile, the news about Flaherty has prompted more alleged victims of Flaherty to contact the detectives. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 12 July 2016.)

Christian Brother Obbens admits crimes against schoolboys in New South Wales

Christian Brother William John Obbens (also known as Brother "Dominic" Obbens), now aged 70 and living in Sydney, has pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting boys at a school in a regional town in the late 1980s. On 9 May 2016, Brother Obbens appeared in Goulburn District Court (in south-western New South Wales) on three charges of sexual assault or indecent assault on three boys (then aged 11-13) while the boys were under his authority at St Patrick's Christian Brothers College, Goulburn (this school is known now as Trinity Catholic College Goulburn). (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 23 June 2016)

Is this case a classic example of a church cover-up?

Broken Rites has done research about Christian Brother William John Obbens (known as Brother "Dominic" Obbens), who was convicted in court in 1989 for sexually abusing a boy (let's call him "Gus") at St Patrick’s College, Goulburn, in south-western New South Wales. The Christian Brothers covered-up the crime and the court case. They did not tell the school's students or parents about it and did not ask if any victims needed help. The victim, "Gus", went on to have a damaged adult life. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 23 June.)

The Christian Brothers harboured this child-sex offender, Brother Chris Roberts

The Christian Brothers sheltered Brother John Vincent ("Chris") Roberts throughout his long teaching career in New South Wales, while he was a danger to young schoolboys. Although Catholic Church sex crimes were usually concealed from the police, the police finally charged Roberts in 2015 with multiple offences (including rape) against one of his victims, who was aged 12 when abused in the 1980s. The information about this victim reached the police via Australia's national Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The Royal Commission informs each victim that he or she is entitled to have a private interview with police detectives. In court on 15 June 2016, Roberts (aged 74) pleaded guilty regarding this boy. Now Roberts is awaiting the court's sentence. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 17 June 2016.)

Broken Rites helped the victims of Marist Brother 'Romuald' Cable to obtain justice

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 in New South Wales. 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, instead of merely telling Romuald Cable's church colleagues. NSW Police detectives then found some more of his victims. "Rom" Cable was jailed in 2015 regarding 19 of his victims. But these are not his only victims — these 19 are merely those who have spoken to the detectives. Other victims have remained silent, thereby helping Rom Cable to evade the full force of the law (Article updated 1 June 2016.)

A Catholic religious Brother is charged with assaulting a Sydney schoolboy

A retired Catholic religious Brother (Brother Peter Higgins, now 77) is facing a Sydney magistrates court, charged with sexually assaulting an 11-year-old boy at a Patrician Brothers school in the mid-1970s. Police allege that the primary head teacher (Brother Basil Downey) knew about Higgins' offending at the time, and therefore Downey (now 89) is charged with having been "an accessory after the fact". Originally, lawyers for the Patrician Brothers obtained a court order prohibiting the media from referring to the Patrician Brothers or naming the two defendants but this order was later defeated by the Director of Public Prosecutions. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 24 May 2016.)

Does the public have a right to know?

In court in late 2012, a Catholic religious Brother (Br Martin Harmata, of the Patrician Brothers order) was charged with sexually abusing children at a school in Sydney's west (Patrician Brothers College, Blacktown). The question arose about whether Brother Harmata could be granted a media-suppression order. (This would prevent the public — and any other victims — from learning Harmata's name and the name of the school.) However, the suppression order was removed. Thus, the people of Sydney have been allowed to learn about this case. (Article by a Broken Rites researcher.)

The Virgin Mary was not allowed to witness these child-abuse crimes

Broken Rites is continuing its research about a Catholic religious order — the Patrician Brothers — who have been prominent in Catholic boys' schools in western Sydney. One of the Patrician Brothers' most senior members in Australia (Thomas William Grealy, known as "Brother Augustine") has admitted in court that, as a school principal, he indecently assaulted young boys, either in his office or in the classroom. In his office, according to court evidence, he would cover a statue of the Virgin Mary with a coat to hide his shame before assaulting a pupil. Grealy served a jail sentence but, after leaving jail, he was still accepted as a member of the Patrician Brothers. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 24 May 2016.)

"Guilty" 44 times: Father David O'Hearn is in jail, awaiting another sentencing

Breaking News: It can now be revealed that Catholic priest David Anthony O’Hearn, 55, has been in jail in New South Wales for the past four years, and he is awaiting a further sentence for more of his crimes. In jury trials during the past four years, he has been found guilty of 44 child-sex offences against six victims. For legal reasons, those trials have not been reported in the media - until now. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 20 May 2016).

Background article: Father David O'Hearn was 'tipped off' during a church "investigation"

A private investigator hired by a Catholic Church panel to "investigate" sexual abuse allegations against Father David Anthony O'Hearn "tipped off" this priest during the church's inquiry, according to a police document tendered to an Australian criminal court. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article posted 1 July 2010.)

A Maronite Catholic priest facing court in Sydney about a 2005 alleged assault

Often, people remain silent for many years before exercising their right to contact the police regarding allegations of church sexual abuse but in January 2014 Sydney police charged a Catholic priest regarding an incident that allegedly occurred relatively recently - in 2005. The priest (from the Maronite rite, a branch of the Catholic Church originating in Lebanon) is scheduled to face a trial in 2016 in Sydney's Downing Centre District Court. (Article updated 30 April 2016.)

Catholic Church received a sex-abuse allegation against George Pell (and there is no mention of exoneration)

In October 2002, the Catholic Church in Australia paid a senior barrister, Mr Alex Southwell QC, to examine an allegation that, about forty years earlier, a trainee priest named George had sexually abused a twelve-year-old altar boy at a holiday camp for young boys in tents on Phillip Island, south-east of Melbourne. According to Mr Southwell's report, the former altar boy (referred to in this article as "C ", for Complainant) has alleged that, on several occasions, the trainee priest George thrust his hand down the inside of C's pants and got "a good handful" of the boy's penis and testicles; and C also alleged that, on other occasions, George tried to guide C's hand into the front of George's pants. In the year 2000, when C was aged 50, he discovered (from television news footage) that the trainee priest George had risen to become the archbishop of Melbourne. C was shocked — "he did not think it right that someone who had behaved indecently towards children should lead the church," the Southwell report says. So, beginning in 2000, C wanted to alert the church authorities. C emphasised that he was not seeking compensation; he merely wanted the church authorities to note the alleged incidents.  Mr Southwell concluded that C "appeared to speak honestly from an actual recollection", while Archbishop George Pell (who was indeed present at the altar boys' camp) denied the alleged abuse.

How Father John Joseph Farrell's crimes (and the church's cover-up) were exposed in court

This Broken Rites article summarises the court proceedings against John Joseph Farrell (also known as "Father F"). The court process continued from 2012 until he was sentenced in 2016. Father Farrell targeted numerous children (mostly boys, plus some girls) in northern New South Wales in the 1980s (and later in western Sydney until 1992). On 2 May 2016 he was sentenced to a minimum of 18 years jail for 62 of his crimes, committed against 12 of his victims. A further 17 incidents were taken into account at sentencing, making a total of 79 incidents. These were not Farrell's only victims — Farrell is currently scheduled to appear in court again in 2016 regarding several more children from the 1980s. And other children from the 1980s have not yet spoken to the NSW Police detectives. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 9 May 2016).

This senior priest (who became the deputy to a bishop) was a child-abuse criminal

According to police, a senior Catholic priest from western Sydney, Father Richard Cattell, committed sexual crimes against boys in the 1970s and 1980s. Later, in the early 1990s, the Catholic Church promoted this priest to become the Vicar-General of his diocese, supervising 48 parishes in western Sydney on behalf of the bishop. In 1994, Cattell was jailed regarding one of his victims (from the 1970s). In February 2015 (aged 74) he was jailed again regarding another of his victims (from the 1980s). The February 2015 victim (Broken Rites will call him "Zachary") submitted a written impact statement to the judge, outlining how the church provided Cattell with easy access to vulnerable children, causing long-term damage to the victim's later life. The impact statement is included in this Broken Rites article. In 2016, Cattell is being charged again in Campbelltown Local Court after another alleged victim contacted the police; this case (number 2016/00101011) will proceed further during 2016. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated on 15 May 2016.)

The Christian Brothers punished these orphan boys for revealing a Brother's crimes

In the 1960s, Christian Brother William Stuart Houston (born 18 February 1939) committed sexual crimes against numerous boys whom he was supervising at St Augustine's orphanage, Geelong, Victoria. He managed to evade justice for the next fifty years but on 17 May 2016 six of his victims finally succeeded in getting him jailed for his crimes. At the sentencing, Judge Peter Kidd said that some of these victims had tried to tell other Christian Brothers at the orphanage about Houston's offences but were punished for doing so. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 17 May 2016.)

This victim got his sex-abuse allegations raised in Parliament

In 1963-1970 Christian Brother William Stuart Houston worked at St Augustine's orphanage, Geelong, Victoria. In 1997 the Geelong Magistrates Court ordered Houston to stand trial at the Victorian County Court for sexual offences allegedly committed against one boy (surnamed F*****) at the orphanage in the 1960s but, for legal reasons, the County Court case concerning this boy did not proceed. However, in 1999, a member of the Victorian Parliament made a speech in the Legislative Assembly, telling this boy's story. (Posted by a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 16 May 2016.).

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