The church protected Father Paul Raymond Evans - but now his victims force the church to apologise

By a Broken Rites researcher

Broken Rites is doing further research about Father Paul Raymond Evans who molested vulnerable young teenagers while they were under his supervision at Boys Town (a residential institution for troubled youths) near Sydney between 1977 and 1988. At first, according to allegations by victims, the school administration ignored the abuse. After 1988, the church transferred Evans to suburban parishes, where he was permitted to associate with youth groups, a court has been told. Evans's new parishioners were not told about his problematic past. The full story came out when Evans was finally jailed in October 2008.

And in April 2009 some of Evans' victims forced the church authorities to issue — and publish — a written apology for having inflicted Evans on vulnerable youngsters. See more about the apology towards the end of this article.

Broken Rites has researched the story of Evans, based on court proceedings, transcripts, prosecution files, church publications and other records.

The offences

In the Sydney District Court on 25 July 2008, a jury found Father Evans guilty of multiple sex offences against seven teenage boys, as young as 13, while he was working as a dormitory master at Boys' Town. This institution, situated at Engadine in Sydney's south, was staffed by the Salesians of Don Bosco religious order.

Some of the offences occurred in the dormitory. Evans had a curtained-off cubicle for himself at the end of the dormitory, the court was told. Evans was alleged to have given alcohol to some of the teenagers before taking them into his curtained-off cubicle.

Some of the assaults occurred during camping trips.

Evans bought the boys' silence and loyalty by giving them alcohol and treats and allowing some to drive a car, the court was told.

The Sydney District Court jury found Evans guilty of nine counts of homosexual intercourse by a teacher, seven counts of indecent assault and two acts of indecency.

On 3 October 2008, Judge Robert Hulme sentenced Evans to 15 years' jail, with parole possible after nine and a half years.

According to statements made in court, Evans had previously been in trouble with the police in 1988, when he was charged with sexual offences involving two other teenagers but he contested the charges in court and was acquitted. After the 1988 crisis, he transferred from Boys' Town to do parish work in the Broken Bay diocese in Sydney's north, where he became known as "King of the Kids" because of his links with youth groups, the court was told.

Evans in Victoria and South Australia

Broken Rites has ascertained that Paul Evans Evans was born on 20 October 1951. He started his religious career in the Salesians of Don Bosco order as a Brother. After working for some years at Boys' Town, Brother Evans went to Melbourne (where the Salesian order has its Australian headquarters) to qualify as a priest.

Former students at Salesian secondary schools in Melbourne have told Broken Rites that they remember Brother Paul Evans being in Melbourne in the early 1980s. In Melbourne the Salesians had a theological college (at Oakleigh), two secondary schools (Salesian College at Chadstone and Salesian College "Rupertswood" at Sunbury) and the Don Bosco youth club.

According to his official Salesian history, Evans did theological studies in Melbourne from January 1980 to January 1984. While in Melbourne, he was involved in the Don Bosco Youth Club.

Then he was a teacher at Salesian College in Brooklyn Park, Adelaide, for six months — an unusually short period of time.

Next, he went to Salesian College "Rupertswood" in Sunbury, near Melbourne, for six months before going to Boys' Town, Engadine NSW.

Evans ordained as a priest

The website of the Regina Coeli parish at Beverly Hill, in the Sydney diocese, has said that Father Paul Evans was ordained as a Salesian Order priest in the Beverly Hills church on 10 June, 1983. The website said:

"Not only did the ordination continue the association of the Evans family with the parish and the suburb of Beverly Hills, it was an example of traditional ceremony at its most colourful and splendid.

"Bishop [David] Cremin and twenty six priests filled the sanctuary after a procession through the nave which was lined by a guard of honour of Boy Scouts, with whom the young man [Paul Evans] had been associated. The young Father Evans was ordained as a member of the Salesian Order, whose members devote them­selves to work among young people. Boys from a Salesian school in South Australia read the lessons, and two choirs from Sutherland parish sang the service."

Broken Rites has ascertained that the 1988 edition of the annual Australian Catholic Directory listed "Rev. P. Evans, SDB" — that is, as a member of the Salesians of Don Bosco religious order. This edition gave his address as Boys' Town, Engadine. The 1988 directory confirms emphatically that Boys' Town was a school of the Salesians of Don Bosco.

Life at Boys Town

During Evans's trial in 2008, the court heard evidence about what life was like at Boys Town when Evans was there in the 1970s and 1980s. Father Chris Riley, a Salesian priest who later developed the "Youth Off The Streets" program, told the court on 17 June 2008 that he came to Boys' Town as school principal in 1986 and the school was "out of control".

"It was a culture shock for me," Riley said. "Boundaries were being crossed on so many levels."

He said there were many examples of "inappropriate touching" between teachers and pupils while Paul Evans allowed teenage boys to sit on his knee, pull his beard and give him piggy backs in the school yard.

"Any child that's attached to one person puts up red signals for me," Riley said. "I find that bizarre."

He said certain students would be difficult, rude and arrogant with other teachers but displayed "loyalty" to Paul Evans.

Riley said he raised concerns with his Salesian superior about teachers taking a sole student away for the weekend but nothing changed.

The court heard similar evidence from other witnesses. One of Evans's alleged victims told the court that he told other boys about his abuse, and was soon asked to see the Boys' Town rector, Father W. Fleming who encouraged him to forget the incident, saying: "Nothing happened. Men have got urges. It does not mean anything.'' The court heard that Father Fleming had also allegedly assaulted another boy. (Father W. Fleming is now deceased.)

One victim said he once ran away from Boys' Town to tell police what had happened to him but was immediately taken back to the school.

Evans in trouble in 1988

By 1988, one of Evans's victims went to the police, who then launched an investigation. Police allege that, during the 1988 investigation, Evans contacted some of his alleged victims. Evans was charged in 1988 with sexual offences involving two teenage boys but he contested the charges in court in 1988 and was acquitted.

Realising that Evans could still become a public embarrassment or a legal liability, the Salesian order did not give Evans any further placement in Salesian institutions after 1988. Officially, however, he was still a Catholic priest — and the 1988 crisis did not mean the end of his priestly career.

Evans gets promotion in parish work

The annual Australian Catholic directories indicate that, after leaving Boys' Town, Evans was permitted to do parish work in the Broken Bay diocese (in Sydney's north). In the 1991 directory, he was listed as Rev. Paul Evans SDB at St Patrick's parish, Gosford (Broken Bay diocese). At Gosford, he was an assistant priest under Father Michael Malone, who became the bishop of Maitland-Newcastle in 1995.

Later in the 1990s, the directory stopped putting "SDB" after Evans's name, as he had apparently become a priest of the Broken Bay diocese. His later Broken Bay Diocese parish listings included Narrabeen (St Joseph's parish) and Wyong (St Cecilia's parish) in the 1990s directories, Collaroy Plateau (St Rose of Lima parish) in the 2001 directory and Kincumber (Holy Cross parish) in the directories for 2002-2004. In these later parishes he was promoted to the rank of Parish Priest, not just an assistant. He was therefore unsupervised.

How police nabbed Evans

In 2003 a former resident of Boys Town (let us call him "Boris") contacted the Catholic Church with allegations that he had been abused by Evans (in 1987 or 1988) when he was 13 or 14. The church, following its "Towards Healing" process, investigated the claims but the church process dragged on. Eventually, Boris and another man contacted police, whose investigation and resulting publicity brought forward more alleged victims.

In early 2005 the Broken Bay diocese arranged for Evans to go "on leave" from parish work (and the 2005 edition of the Directory of Australian Catholic Clergy gave his forwarding address as care of the diocesan office). When leaving the Kincumber parish, Evans told parishioners that his departure was because of a "health" problem.

Evans was charged formally by police on 31 August 2006. At this stage, the charges involved four victims, all aged 14. The alleged offences, committed between 1986 and 1988, comprised eight counts of "homosexual intercourse with a child aged between 10 and 18 years" and eleven counts of gross indecency. Preliminary proceedings (before a magistrate) began at Gosford Local Court on 3 October 2006. Police opposed the granting of bail because, they said, Evans had contacted some of his alleged victims during the 1988 prosecution. However, the 2006 magistrate granted bail.

On 11 October 2007, after committal proceedings, Evans was ordered to stand trial.

After Evans was finally jailed on 2 October 1998, the original complainant ("Boris") said outside the court that the five-year process adopted by the Catholic Church was "like being abused all over again". Boris was grateful to the police for their more determined completion of the case.

Some questions for the church

The police prosecution of Evans raised questions for both the Salesian religious order and the Broken Bay diocese:
 

  • When the Salesians parted company from Evans, was this the end of the Salesians' responsibility for Evans's past record?
     
  • When the Broken Bay diocese recruited Evans to do parish work in that diocese, did the diocese obtain a character reference from Evans's previous superiors, the Salesians?
     
  • Did the Salesians tell the Broken Bay diocese everything about Evans's record at Boys' Town?
     
  • Did the Broken Bay diocese check Evans's record thoroughly?
     
  • Did the Broken Bay diocese care, anyway?
     
  • With Evans's transfer to Broken Bay, did the Salesians presume that they had heard the last of him?
     
  • Did the Salesians presume that the Boys' Town victims, like most church-abuse victims, would continue to remain silent?

After the police charged Evans, the Salesian order reported to its priests and brothers in a document dated 8 - 13 April 2007: "Abuse Cases:...As you are all aware, once the Paul Evans case reaches the courts, the Salesian name will again be in the news for the wrong reasons. Paul has done very well to keep our name out of the public arena in all the pre-court hearings, but that will eventually be impossible to avoid."

How Evans targeted his victims

Evans's pattern of behaviour was outlined in pre-trial proceedings in the Sydney District Court in early 2008. Evans was applying to have a separate jury for each of the complainants. (This meant that each jury would think that there was only one complainant against Evans, making an acquittal more possible.) However, on 26 February 2008, Judge Sweeney rejected this application.

Broken Rites obtained a transcript of Judge Sweeney's judgement. He said that the proposed evidence (by the alleged victims) showed "a pattern of behaviour of striking similarity" consisting of Evans doing the following things:

  • singling out a boy to make him feel favoured or special, giving him sweets or privileges or latitude, taking him on outings and camping trips,
     
  • talking to most of the boys at night in the dorm room progressing to non-sexual touching and then to sexual activity,
     
  • progressing to sexual activity either on camping trips or outings or in the dormitory, first in the boy's own bed then at an escalated level in the accused's curtained off cubicle in the dormitory,
     
  • giving the boys plane rides,
     
  • taking them fishing, allowing them to drive a Boys Town car in the case of two of them, the Boys Town boat in the case of one of them, and a gift of a motorbike to another, seemingly as a form of reward after the sexual behaviour had commenced,
     
  • drinking alcohol, port, with some of the boys, either on trips away or in the accused's room, seemingly to disinhibit the boys."

The Evans trial, before Judge Robert Hulme, was scheduled to start in February 2008 but was adjourned for a while as police had located more alleged victims, making a total of seven boys. Eventually a single jury was selected, comprising five men and seven women.

Guilty verdict

The trial, including evidence plus legal submissions, spanned five weeks. The jury then spent a week behind closed doors considering its verdict, and that week co-incided with Pope Benedict's visit to Sydney for the Catholic Church's "World Youth Week". During Youth Week, there was much public discussion about youth abuse in the Catholic Church.

On Monday 21 July 2008, while the Evans jury was still "out", the Catholic Church authorities in Sydney held a media event at which the Pope apologised (during a private church service) for church sexual abuse. The Sydney church authorities selected four church-friendly victims to witness the Pope's apology. But no victims from Boys' Town were invited.

On 25 July 2008, four days after the Pope left Australia, the jury found Evans guilty.

What the judge said

In his sentencing remarks on 3 October 2008, Judge Robert Hulme said the offences were committed against troubled boys who were "more vulnerable than most", while two had been sexually abused previously. Evans exploited the power that he held over the boys, the judge said.

Judge Hulme said that the memory of Evans's abuse had haunted each of the victims ever since they left Boys' Town.
 

  • The judge said that one of the boys tried to burn his leg with "molten plastic" and later tried to cut off circulation in an attempt to have it amputated, following an episode when Evans ejaculated on him. The victim still bears the scars, Justice Hume said.
     
  • The judge referred to another victim who stated in evidence that he was sexually assaulted by Paul Evans in 1977 and afterwards "just went to bed and cried''. Evans told the boy to say nothing because he would not be believed. The teenager later ran away from Boys' Town and told his father but the father laughed at his son's claims in disbelief. As a response, the boy burned the family's house down and then had to live on the streets.

Judge Hulme said that the victims had explained credibly in court why they had not come forward earlier. Many of Evans's young victims, he said, would not have had the psychological resources to complain. And, he said, "even if a boy was to complain [at the time of the abuse] there was a fair chance nothing would come of it".

The judge said: "Who would believe that a priest would do such things to a boy in his care?"

Judge Hulme said that, in calculating the length of the jail sentence, he took into account the severity and frequency of the offences, the position of authority the priest held at Boys' Town and the possibility for his rehabilitation, which the judge described as "reasonable but not good". The judge said he took into account in sentencing that (according to the charges laid in court, dating up to 1988) "there is no suggestion that in the intervening period he has committed any further offences". At this remark, a gasp was heard in the court room, packed with Evans's victims. [In fact, police have received complaints about further offences allegedly committed by Evans while he was working in Victoria.]

Further victims

Evans's jail sentence in 2008 is merely for offences committed against seven of his victims within New South Wales. At this trial, a witness gave evidence about an offence that Evans allegedly committed within Victoria. The NSW court accepted this as "tendency" evidence, as the Victorian incident could not be dealt with by NSW courts.

Any complaints about Paul Evans in Victoria or South Australia would be investigated by Victorian or South Australian police. For example, any Victorian complainants could have a chat with the Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (SOCA) units of the Victoria Police. There are SOCA branches around Melbourne and in Victoria's provincial cities.

Any additional victims in New South Wales could begin by contacting CrimeStoppers or the Sutherland Detectives Office: 02 9542 0762.

Church apology

After Evans' jailing, some of his victims tackled the Australian office of the Salesian religious order about its negligence in turning Evans loose on vulnerable young people. Eventually, the Salesian headquarters provided a written apology. The apology, which appeared on the Salesians' website on 15 April 2009, was headed: "Apology to all the victims of Paul Evans from Fr. Frank Moloney, Provincial Superior of the Salesians".

The apology stated:

"As the Provincial Superior of all the Salesians in Australia and the Pacific, I am revulsed by the damage done to a group of young people by the sexual abuse perpetrated by Paul Evans while he was a Salesian. The fact that he performed these horrific acts while he was supposed to be living as a religious person and a Priest makes these offenses even more disgusting, and discouraging to all of us who do our best for young people.

"I sincerely apologise to all the victims of Paul Evans, many of whom I have met and have come to admire. I also want to apologise to their families, friends, and all who have stood by them in the difficult years subsequent to the offences.

"Paul Evans is now in jail, facing the legal consequences of his behaviour. This has happened because many of these men who have suffered at his hands have courageously pursued these matters in the courts. In the name of the Salesians, I join them in expressing satisfaction that Evans is now feeling the full weight of the law."

And the apology is not enough to constitute full justice for the victims of the Salesians' negligence regarding Evans.