Sunday, January 20, 2013

Alleged abusers still paid by Catholic church

ALLEGATIONS of child sexual abuse have been made against 23 priests in the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, many of whom continue to receive financial support at the discretion of the Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell. 
The revelation of the number of priests facing such allegations is contained in a file note prepared for the cardinal last year by his chancellor, John Usher.

This document is itself contained in the Whitlam report into the church's handling of a pedophile priest -- identified only as "F" -- released yesterday.

The file note suggests all the child abuse allegations against the 23 priests were made since the establishment in 1997 of the church's Towards Healing protocol for dealing with such claims, although this could not be verified.

"Fourteen of those priests are deceased and the nine remaining priests have all been removed from active ministry," the document states.

The Australian has confirmed the allegations against these nine were made since 1997, and largely within the past three years.

There are 95 priests serving in the archdiocese of Sydney, while a further 65 are retired.

The allegations against each of the nine living priests have been referred to NSW police by the archdiocese, although only one, Robert Macgregor Fuller, has since been prosecuted.

Father Fuller, who served at All Saints parish at Liverpool, in western Sydney, was jailed in 2010 for attempting to groom a 13-year-old girl for sex over the internet.

Each of the nine has been barred from performing active ministry, although they are still priests and eight continue to receive a financial stipend from the diocese.

It is not known whether Father Fuller continues to receive financial support from the archdiocese. Cardinal Pell, who has the authority to stop the financial support, would not comment yesterday.

Church sources yesterday said that without formal convictions against the men, it would be difficult to pursue further action against them.

"Nevertheless, a disclosure of a child sexual abuse is rarely fabricated. On the balance of probabilities, when an allegation is made, an assault of some description did occur," the file note states.

The Whitlam report, into the management of F by two dioceses in NSW, also says the church's child protection policies changed dramatically when the Towards Healing protocol was introduced.

Senior clergy, including one bishop, received a series of allegations F was abusing children during the 1980s and 90s, the report found, but "apparently did nothing" and he was able to continue to abuse children.

Had the changes laid out under Towards Healing "been in force in 1984 and observed . . . at the time, F would have been stopped in his tracks". The bishops of both dioceses identified in the report have told The Australian they have instituted reviews of their archives in an attempt to uncover evidence of other historical child abuse.

The Bishop of Parramatta, Anthony Fisher, said "there were some changes in respect to personnel and to processes" as a result of this review, although he declined to provide any more detail.

"It's purifying for us to face this," he said, describing the findings of the Whitlam report. "It's hard -- nowhere near as hard as it is for the families -- but it's hard for us to face up to these things having been done by people acting in God's name."

Monsignor Usher could not be contacted last night.

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