Latest stories

Written by a Broken Rites Australia researcher.


Three victims finally got this Jesuit convicted, 50 years after the crimes

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 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. (By a Broken Rites researcher.)

Victims bring ex-Brother Brian Cairns to justice, again

Brian Dennis Cairns was originally a Christian Brother. Later he worked as a lay teacher ("Mister" Cairns) in Catholic schools in Queensland. In 1985 he was jailed for sex-crimes against boys. Since then, more of his former male pupils have contacted Broken Rites, and therefore Broken Rites arranged for each of these victims to have a private chat with detectives in the Queensland Police. Brian Cairns pleaded guilty regarding all these additional victims and on 13 January 2014 he was jailed again. (By a Broken Rites researcher)

An ex-Marist Brother became a lay teacher and then a priest — now he is facing a crminal court trial in 2019

A Catholic priest (Father Carl Stafford, born in 1939) is listed for a trial in the Sydney District Court in 2019, charged with child-sex offences allegedly committed earlier in his priestly career. Bishop Peter A Comensoli (formerly of the Broken Bay diocese, in Sydney's north) stated publicly in 2017: "Originally a Marist Brother, Fr Stafford left this Order [the Marists] and took up a lay teaching position with St Gregory’s College Campbelltown before entering the seminary in 1989. Ordained as a priest for the Diocese of Broken Bay in 1994, Fr Stafford held appointments in Mona Vale, Gosford, Toukley/Lake Munmorah and Kincumber parishes." (According to church sources, Father Carl Stafford is still a priest and he is merely retired from parish appointments.) (Article updated on 30 December 2018.)

The Jesuits covered up for a criminal Brother and merely moved him to more victims in another school

Jesuit priests and brothers operate some of Australia's most prominent schools, with famous ex-students such as former prime minister Tony Abbott. After Brother Victor Higgs committed sexual offences against boys at one of these schools (St Ignatius College, Adelaide), the Jesuits kept Brother Higgs as a member of the Jesuit Order and moved him to other schools, including their famous Sydney school (St Ignatius College Riverview), thus putting Sydney boys in danger. One of the Adelaide victims finally reported Brother Higgs to the South Australian police and, in 2016, Higgs was jailed for some of his Adelaide offences. In November 2018 a Sydney court jailed Higgs (aged 81) for seven and a half years for sexual offences at the Sydney school. Since then, Broken Rites has learned that Brother Higgs later worked at the Jesuits' elite Melbourne school, Xavier College, where the Jesuits used him as a "spiritual director" (wink-wink) of young boys and as a boarding-house supervisor. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated on 7 January 2019)

Jailed again: The Marist Brothers inflicted this criminal Brother on more victims

This Broken Rites article is the most comprehensive account available about how the Marist Brothers allowed the sex-abuse criminal Brother Ross Francis Murrin to remain in their Order, thus giving him access to more child victims. Murrin has been jailed three times (in 2008 and 2010 and 2018) for child-sex crimes committed during his teaching career in Australian Catholic schools. There is evidence that his Marist superiors were aware many years ago about his criminal behaviour but they negligently allowed him to continue teaching, until some of Murrin's victims finally began speaking to the police detectives. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 17 December 2018.)

A priest, now 84, is jailed for two years for crimes committed 50 years ago

Two former schoolboys (both now aged in their sixties) have finally brought a Catholic priest to justice in Australia for crimes that he committed on them more than 50 years ago. On 19 December 2018, Father Thomas Fulcher (now aged 84) was jailed for a minimum of two years after pleading guilty to these crimes. After committing a sexual assault, Father Fulcher would even force a child to undergo the sacred ritual of Confession, in which the child would be committed to "secrecy" regarding the incident. Father Fulcher, who is still officially a priest (in retirement), is a member of a Catholic religious order (the Society of Mary) which has branches around Australia. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 22 December 2018.)

How the church enabled Fr Michael Glennon's life of crime

Broken Rites is continuing its research about how the Catholic Church enabled the paedophile priest Father Michael Charles Glennon to commit sexual crimes against children in Melbourne. Years later, many of his victims (and their families) are still feeling the impact of the church's negligence. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 20 December 2018.)

This "chaplain" committed sexual offences in a girls’ orphanage (and his crimes were helped by the Catholic ritual of Confession)

Broken Rites is doing further research about a Catholic priest, Father Bernard Maxwell Day, who was living at a girls' orphanage in Victoria in the early 1960s. Father Day was one of a series of "chaplains" who occupied a flat at the orphanage. His "duties" including hearing each girl's Confession; this sacred ritual enabled a priest to talk to a girl about sex. A senior nun got Father Day removed after allegations that he was molesting girls at the orphanage. In a submission to a Victorian Parliamentary inquiry in 2013, the Melbourne Catholic archdiocese admitted that Fr Day committed sexual offences against children. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 29 December 2018.)

Christian Brother Obbens indecently assaulted homesick boys in a boarding school

Broken Rites is continuing its research regarding Christian Brother William John Obbens (also known as Brother "Dominic" Obbens). Brother Obbens was jailed on 13 October 2016 (then aged 70) after he admitted indecently assaulting three boys (aged 11 to 13) who were under his authority in a boarding school. The offences occurred in the late 1980s at the former St Patrick's College (now called Trinity College) in Goulburn, south-western New South Wales, where Obbens was a teacher and a boarding master. According to court documents, Obbens preyed on the boarders’ homesickness to sexually abuse the boys. (By a Broken Rites researcher)

Church paid huge sums to lawyers to defend a criminal priest, Father James Fletcher: Background article

The Catholic diocese of Maitland-Newcastle in New South Wales has admitted that it paid an expensive team of lawyers to defend a paedophile priest in a child-abuse court case. The priest, Father James Patrick Fletcher, pleaded not guilty in 2004 to multiple counts of anal and oral sexual penetration of an altar boy, Daniel Feenan. The offences began in 1990, when Daniel was 12. A jury found Fletcher guilty on all charges. Legal experts have told the media that Fletcher's legal costs for the 11-day trial exceeded $200,000. The church's defence team included a Queen's Counsel, plus a second barrister and a solicitor. Fletcher had various victims, most of whom were still remaining silent. This court case in 2004 was about one victim, Daniel. (Background article by a Broken Rites researcher.)

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)

Background article: The career of Archbishop Philip Wilson

This Broken Rites article is about the career of Australia's Archbishop Philip Wilson. Late in his career, police alleged that Wilson had covered up for a priest (Father James Fletcher) who indecently assaulted a ten-year-old boy (Peter Creigh). Police alleged that, when they were investigating Father Fletcher in 2003-2004 regarding a different victim (Daniel Feenan), Archbishop Wilson possessed information (about the abuse of Peter) which might help the case against Fletcher but Wilson concealed this information, thus protecting the criminal Fletcher. A court convicted Archbishop Wilson regarding his concealment of Peter's abuse. On 6 December 2018, a court quashed Wilson's conviction. This court case, however, was regarding only one of the church's victims, Peter Creigh. What did Wilson know about other criminal priests? (By a Broken Rites researcher, updated on 14 December 2018.)

The crimes of this Franciscan Brother were covered up

The Australian headquarters of the Franciscans (the Order of Friars Minor) have been forced to acknowledge that Brother Paschal Bartlett was a child-abuser. This Brother joined the Franciscan Order in the 1920s, moving through parishes in Victoria, Tasmania, New Zealand and Sydney. He supervised altar boys for almost 50 years in these parishes, exploiting his position of authority to sexually abuse them. (By a Broken Rites researcher.)

This priest was a danger to young schoolgirls

Broken Rites is doing research about Father Damian Colbourne, who has spent many years as a priest in the Catholic order of Capuchin Franciscan Friars, ministering in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. In Brisbane in May 2017, Colbourne (then aged 75) was jailed for sexually abusing an eight-year-old Brisbane schoolgirl in 1974 (when he was in his thirties). Colbourne was charged by Queensland police in 2016 after the victim reported him to Australia's national child-abuse Royal Commission. In court, he pleaded guilty regarding the Brisbane girl. How many other children were victims of Father Colbourne? (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 8 December 2018)

The church finally admits the child-sex crimes of Father Tony Bongiorno

According to Broken Rites research, the Melbourne Catholic archdiocese has been forced to admit that Father Anthony Bongiorno committed sexual crimes against children during his 30 years working in Melbourne parishes. Anthony (Tony) Bongiorno began training for the priesthood about 1960, aged 25. Anthony Bongiorno's child-sex crimes were covered up until some of his victims exposed him in the mid-1990s. The total number of Father Bongiorno's victims is unknown. For example, in 1980, a woman (named Maria James) 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 on 1 December 2018.)

A convicted priest appears on TV but is still ignorant about how the church's cover-up can damage the victims and their families

In the early 1970s, a boy complained to the Catholic Church about being sexually abused by a Sydney priest (Father Robert Flaherty) but the church merely transferred the priest to a new parish, thus giving him easy access to more children, a Sydney court has been told. This victim then reported Flaherty to the police. Years later, another victim contacted the police, followed later by a third boy (all from different parishes). In court in 2016, Father Flaherty (then aged 72) was jailed regarding the three boys. In July 2018, a television program ("A Current Affair" on the Nine Network) interviewed Father Flaherty (after his release from jail) and also interviewed one of his victims. On TV, Flaherty is still ignorant about how the church's culture of cover-up can damage the lives (and family relationships) of the church's victims many years later. If you click a link at the end of this article, you can watch the interviews. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 2 December 2018.)

This priest became the deputy to a bishop, then was jailed and now is in court again

In the 1970s and 1980s, Father Richard Cattell was a Catholic priest in western Sydney. In the early 1990s, the Catholic Church promoted Cattell to become the Vicar-General of the Parramatta diocese, supervising 48 parishes in western Sydney on behalf of the bishop. In 2015, Cattell was jailed for sexual crimes committed against boys during his time in western Sydney. Since then, detectives have received additional information about Cattell's career. Therefore, in late 2018, police filed additional charges against Cattell in a magistrates court. Next, the new charges will go to a judge in a higher court, the New South Wales District Court (see details towards the end of this article). (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 23 November 2018.)

A priest pleads guilty in Victoria regarding two girls

Fr Bernard Mahony, aged 75, a priest in the Sale diocese (covering the Gippsland region in the state of Victoria), pleaded guilty in court on 2 November 2018 regarding indecent assaults of two girls, committed 40 years ago in one of Mahony's earlier parishes. In the Latrobe Valley Magistrates Court at Morwell, a magistrate sentenced him to a wholly suspended sentence of six months. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article posted on 4 November 2018.)

A New South Wales priest is jailed for sexually assaulting boys in his parish house

In a Sydney court on 30 October 2018, a Catholic priest in northern New South Wales (Father John Patrick Casey, 70) was sentenced to four years and ten months jail on charges of sexually assaulting two teenage boys who stayed with him at the priest's parish-house in the 1980s. The allegations against Father Casey included performing oral sex on one of the boys, masturbating in the boy’s presence, and digitally penetrating the other boy’s anus. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated on 1 November 2018)

These three victims forced the Marist Brothers to apologise

The leaders of Australia's Marist Brothers have apologised to three ex-pupils of a very senior Marist, who was known as Brother Bertinus. These three ex-pupils went to different schools (in different Australian states) and they do not know each other. In a co-incidence, two of the three have each written a book in which each describes his encounter with Brother Bertinus. (By a Broken Rites researcher)

Part-time "celibacy": How Jane was left holding a priest's baby

The Catholic Church in Australia has apologized to a vulnerable woman who was a victim of "nine-to-five" priestly celibacy. The Melbourne Catholic archdiocese has accepted the woman's complaint that one of its priests had fathered her child. This priest allegedly had been living with the woman and her child in a de facto relationship but he later abandoned the woman and the child. (By a Broken Rites researcher.)

Suicide #1: How the church destroyed the life of altar boy Damian Jurd in northern NSW

In the late 1990s, the Catholic Church paid a small amount to a former altar boy, Damian Jurd, to settle his complaint about having been sexually abused (at the age of 11) by a local priest, Father John Joseph Farrell (sometimes referred to as "Father F"). Damian said his life had been disrupted by this abuse and by the way the church protected Father Farrell. At the age of 28 (not long after this settlement), Damian took his own life, leaving two children of his own. This Broken Rites article gives some more information about Damian's tragic life. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 1 November 2018.)

Suicide #2: The church left an ex-altar boy, Daniel Powell, to take his own life in Sydney

The Catholic Church authorities have accepted a complaint from a former altar boy, Daniel Powell, that he was sexually abused in a Sydney parish at the age of 12 by a Catholic priest, Father John Joseph Farrell (sometimes referred to as "Father F"). Daniel, who was aged 25 at the time of the settlement (in 2005), received a relatively small amount of compensation from the church. But he was still severely damaged by the abuse (and by the church's cover-up). Daniel Powell ended up dying by suicide in 2007, aged 28. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 1 November 2018.)

This criminal was a "very respected" member of the Christian Brothers

The Catholic order of Christian Brothers sheltered a pedophile (Brother John Climacus Kissane) during his long teaching career while he committed sexual assaults on boys in Catholic schools in Victoria and Tasmania. The Christian Brothers have recently paid compensation to some of Kissane's victims. When Kissane died in October 2018 (aged 96), the Christian Brothers published an obituary notice in the Melbourne Herald Sun newspaper, describing him as a "highly respected" member of their Order. His victims feel hurt by this "respect" being shown to a child-abuser. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article posted on 1 November 2018)

How Father John 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"). 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. On 2 November 2018, after more of his victims contacted the police, a judge sentenced Farrell to more time in jail regarding these additional victims. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 2 November 2018.).

Marist Brothers said they don't have a duty of care to their victims

The Marist Brothers' lawyers have claimed that Catholic religious orders do not owe a duty of care to protect pupils from sexually-abusive religious Brothers, because (unlike lay teachers who are employed on salaries) the Brothers are not, technically, "employees". 

A senior priest covered up other priests' crimes — and he, too, abused children

In 2009, a senior clergyman in the Australian Catholic diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, Father Thomas Brennan, was convicted of making a false written statement, saying that he could not remember a series of child sex-abuse complaints (in the 1970s) about other clergy. Brennan was the Vicar-General of the diocese (that is, the second-highest ranking clergyman in the diocese) from 2005 until he was charged in August 2008. Bishop Michael Malone told the media in August 2008: "As the Vicar-General, he's my right-hand man and is very close to me. He's the bishop when I'm away." And now in 2018 the Maitland-Newcastle diocese has admitted that, as well as covering up other clergymen's crimes, Father Brennan himself committed child-sex offences. (Article updated on 20 September 2018.)

The Confessional can enable a priest to abuse a young child

After being silent for eighty years, an elderly Australian woman ('Pamela") has revealed how the Catholic ritual of Confession enabled a priest to indecently assault her in 1938 when she was aged eight. Pamela contacted Broken Rites in 2018 after noticing media reports about Catholic bishops who were defending the secrecy pf the Catholic ritual of Confession. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article posted on 15 September 2018.)

Full story: The church harboured this pedophile Marist Brother and now he is finally jailed

This Broken Rites article reveals how the Catholic Church harboured a child-sex abuser, Marist Brother Gerard Joseph McNamara, teaching in Catholic schools, for four decades until eventually some of his victims began speaking (separately) to the Victoria Police child-protection detectives. When the police finally charged McNamara regarding the first batch of these victims, the Marists enthusiastically supported McNamara and ignored the victims. But Broken Rites supported the victims — and in 2004-2005 McNamara pleaded guilty to this first batch of victims and was convicted. This prompted more of McNamara's former students to contact the detectives. In 2016, McNamara pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting two more of his victims, resulting in another conviction. For each of these convictions (to 2016), he was given a suspended sentence. But on 3 September 2018, McNamara (aged 80) was jailed after he pleaded guilty to sexual offences against five more of his former schoolboys. The 2018 court case is reported towards the end of this Broken Rites article. Meanwhile, after his life of crime, McNamara is officially still a Marist Brother, even while he is in jail. (By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 8 September 2018.)

Pedophile priest Finian Egan is fighting deportation — and he has support from Archbishop Peter Comensoli

Irish-born Catholic priest Finian Egan was transferred to Australia in 1959, and he soon began committing sexual crimes against Australian children. The Catholic Church protected him in Australia for the next five decades until some of his victims (with help from Broken Rites) succeeded in getting him convicted. A Sydney court sentenced Egan to a minimum of four years in jail, and this sentence expired on 19 December 2017, when Egan was released, aged 82. According to church law, Father Egan still retains his priestly status (but is retired from parish work). In 2018, the Australian immigration authorities tried to deport Father Egan back to Ireland but Egan contested this order with support from church sources, including support from his previous superior in Sydney, Bishop Peter Comensoli. In 2018, Bishop Comensoli has become the new archbishop of Melbourne. (Article updated on 4 September 2018.)

Pages

Subscribe to Broken Rites Australia RSS