Ex-priest says child-sex offences were normal among his colleagues

By a Broken Rites researcher

A convicted priest (Father David Edwin Rapson, who belonged to one of Australia's most prominent Catholic religious orders, the Salesians) has "blown the whistle" on his colleagues in this religious order, declaring that they too were committing sexual offences on schoolboys. Broken Rites has discovered Rapson's claim in some court documents.

The priests and brothers of the Salesian religious order operate schools and parishes around Australia. That is, they do not belong to a specific geographic entity such as the Melbourne archdiocese).

Broken Rites has just obtained a transcript of proceedings at the Melbourne County Court (on 17 October 2013), when Judge Liz Gaynor sentenced Rapson on charges involving eight boys at a Melbourne Catholic boys' school (this school was operated by Rapson's religious order).

Before sentencing Rapson (for multiple rapes and indecent assaults), Judge Gaynor acknowledged that Rapson's lawyer wanted the judge to take some other things into account on behalf of Rapson. For example:

  • According to the defence lawyer (quoted in Paragraph 28 of Judge Gaynor's sentencing remarks), "it was clear [that] older and more experienced priests were engaging in sexual abuse of the students" [at this school]."
  • Judge Gaynor noted [in Paragraph 31] that Rapson began his teaching career at this boarding school, "which, I accept, harboured priests and brothers engaged in sexual abuse of their students."
  • Judge Gaynor told Rapson [in Paragraph 33]:  "...These were dreadful crimes against powerless and vulnerable victims who were entirely in your power as residents of the school and by virtue of the enormous authority and stature granted to Catholic priests by Catholic congregations and by parents who unwittingly placed their sons in your entirely predatory hands."
  • Judge Gaynor told Rapson that, at this (his first) school, "you very soon became an enthusiastic member of the sexually deviant group of religious [people] operating at the school at the time."

Judge Gaynor was sentencing Rapson after a jury found him guilty of 14 charges (five charges of rape and nine charges of indecent assault), during Rapson's two periods of work at this Melbourne Catholic boys' school (firstly from 1973 to 1977 and secondly from 1987 to 1990).