Australian Lawyers Alliance NSW
The allegations of failure to disclose serious sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in Australia now go right to the top.
The Four Corners program on 2 July disclosed that ‘Father F’ had sexually abused five altar boys between 1982 and 1984, in Moree. An inquiry by three senior clergy in 1992 led to Father F being told not to practise as a priest.
One of the priests, Father Peters, wrote to his bishop eight days later, quoting express and serious admissions of misconduct. Another of the three, Father Lucas, said on ABC’s AM that admissions of serious misconduct were made but no names were identified. However Father Peters’s letter identified one of the victims as the boy who took his complaint to court, Damien Jurd.
Cardinal Pell told Four Corners (no doubt without knowing of Father Peters’s report to Bishop Manning) that there were no admissions and he would believe a priest over a 15-year-old boy. Cardinal Pell must have been unaware that Father F had said in open court he made admissions to the three priests and had abused these boys.
The ABC 7.30 program on Monday disclosed that another victim wrote to Cardinal Pell personally, in 2002, saying that he also had been abused by Father F. Following his earlier complaint, Father F was transferred to Moree where he continued his abuse. The church did not tell anyone in Moree of the earlier complaint against Father F.
What did Cardinal Pell do in 2002 on receiving this letter?
He told the victim that the matter was outside his jurisdiction and he (the victim) should take it to the police. Cardinal Pell did not refer the victim’s complaint to the police himself. Cardinal Pell should then have known of Father F’s sorry history and the fact that the 1992 meeting had decided that Father F should cease to practise as a priest. As ALA spokesperson Dr Andrew Morrison SC said on 7.30 on Tuesday night, ‘this is not an acceptable response to the legal obligation to report to police’.
On the face of it, the failure by Cardinal Pell to go to the police may be a breach of s316 of the Crimes Act. The Australian Lawyers Alliance calls upon the police to investigate Cardinal Pell’s conduct with a view to preparing a brief for the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider prosecution.
In addition, Cardinal Pell should explain how he could defend Father F on the Four Corners program, when he had personally received a complaint of abuse by him, and had not disputed it in his response to the victim. He should then have known that Father F had been prevented from practising as a priest.
Perhaps these complaints of abuse are so commonplace in the church that they are easily forgotten. They are certainly not easily forgotten by the victims.
Tragically, this victim, like Damien Jurd, ultimately took his own life.
‘Cardinal Pell has much to explain,’ Dr Morrison said. ‘The ALA renews its call for a national inquiry.’