Sunday, 6 March 2016

An Instance Of Failure To Contact Civil Authorities In Relation To Allegations Of Child Sexual Abuse In Ballarat, Victoria

The subject of child sexual abuse is always distressing and nevermore so than during the four days in February-March 2016 when Cardinal Prefect George Pell gave evidence from Rome to the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Below is a brief background of one of the convicted paedophiles, excerpts from Cardinal Pell's evidence with regard to this former Christian Brother and the Vatican response to the evidence.

This is not the only recorded instance where Cardinal Pell and the Catholic Church failed to contact civil authorities after it was discovered that schoolchildren were being sexually abused.

BACKGROUND - Edward Vernon "Ted" Dowlan

The Age, 9 February 2015:

A former Christian Brother who was part of a notorious paedophile ring involving the clergy should be returned to jail for a "significant" period of time, a court has heard.

Ted Dowlan found himself in a Melbourne courtroom this month, nearly 20 years since his first appearance in a dock, after more of his victims came forward during the state's parliamentary inquiry into child sex abuse last year.  

Dowlan, who changed his name by deed poll to Bales in 2011, has pleaded guilty to 33 counts of indecently assaulting boys under the age of 16 and one count of gross indecency between 1971 and 1986 involving 20 victims……

Dowlan, 65, was teaching at Ballarat's St Alpius primary school in 1971 with other convicted paedophile brothers including Robert Best, Stephen Farrell and Gerald Fitzgerald. Gerald Ridsdale, who is regarded as one of Australia's worst paedophile priests, was the school's chaplain.

Dowlan admitted abusing boys at St Alpius in 1971; St Thomas More College in Forest Hills (1972); St Patrick's College in Ballarat (1973-74); Warrnambool Christian Brothers College (1975-76); Chanel College, Geelong (1980); and Cathedral College, East Melbourne (1982-1988).

Mr Sonnet said the Christian Brothers were aware of what Dowlan was doing and failed to act to stop him, instead moving him from school to school, which only "aggravated the problem".

Dowlan was eventually sentenced in 1996 to six and a half years jail for abusing 11 boys between 1971 and 1982.

He was not thrown out of the Christian Brothers order until 2008……

DPP v Bales [2015] VSCA 261, Supreme Court of Victoria, Court of Appeal, 18 September 2015, extension of the six year sentence imposed on 27 March 2015:

60 When added to the sentence imposed in respect of the first set of offences, the total term of imprisonment is 14 years and 11 months, with a non-parole period of 9 years and 8 months. In our opinion, bearing in mind the mitigating factors referred to, this is a proportionate sentence for 50 offences committed over about 15 years against 31 young boys who were entitled to expect that their teacher and religious instructor would not dishonour his position of trust towards them in the way he did.

Family And Community Development Committee, Inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other organisations, Melbourne 3 May 2013:

As Mr O’Brien highlighted on Monday in his question relating to another witness, he said: The principal and grade 6 teacher was convicted paedophile Christian Brother Robert Charles Best. The grade 5 teacher was convicted paedophile Christian Brother Stephen Francis Farrell. The grade 5 teacher in 1971, before Farrell, was convicted paedophile Christian Brother Edward Vernon Dowlan. The grade 3 teacher was alleged paedophile Christian Brother Fitzgerald, who passed away before any charges were laid. The St Alipius Primary School chaplain and assistant Catholic priest was convicted paedophile Gerald Francis Ridsdale.

So it is evident that in the 1970s, when these men were teaching at St Alipius in Ballarat, there were paedophiles that were engaged in the abuse of children and, as I said, the chaplain attached was also a paedophile. It appears that the only person who was working at that time who did not offend against children was the sole female lay teacher……

Excerpts from evidence given by Cardinal-Prefect George Pell on Day 159Day 161 and [sic] Day 163 of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse:

Q. Some of the Brothers who were at the school when you were assistant priest, Brother Dowlan?
A. Yes, I remember Dowlan, not –
Q. I beg your pardon, I'm sorry, Cardinal; you remember Dowlan but?
A. But not well. Not extensively, but I certainly knew him…..

Q. When did you first hear of Christian Brothers in Ballarat offending against children?
A. That's a very good question. Perhaps in the early 1970s I heard things about Dowlan.
Q. What did you hear about Dowlan?
A. I heard that there were problems at St Pat's College.
Q. What sort of problems?
A. Unspecified, but harsh discipline and possibly other infractions also.
Q. When you say "possibly other infractions", you mean of a sexual nature?
A. I do.
Q. Who did you hear that from?
A. Once again, it's difficult to recall accurately. I could have heard it from one or two of the students and certainly I think one or two of the priests mentioned that there were problems and some of them believed they were very - because of harsh discipline.
Q. And the problems described to you were problems of a sexual kind with children?
A. None of the activities were described to me, they were just referred to briefly.
Q. But you answered the question of, "When you say possibly other infractions, you mean of a sexual nature?", you agreed with that proposition?
A. Yes, that was a - that's correct.
Q. And it could only have been sexual with children, couldn't it?
A. That's correct, with minors.
Q. When you heard about those problems, did you do anything with that information?
A. It was, they were - it was unspecific, but in fact I did; I mentioned to the school chaplain, a priest whom I greatly respected, I said, "There is talk about problems at St Pat's College with Dowlan", and I said, "Is there any truth in them?" He said, "Yes, there are problems, certainly discipline problems, but I think the Brothers have got the matter in hand". And in fact, he left at the end of 1974…..

Q. Did you hear about what happened to Dowlan, if anything, after those people you've described came to you?
A. I heard he had left, I had no recollection of where he went until I started to prepare for this.
Q. Was it your understanding that he left not long after those problems had emerged?
A. That is my understanding, and I think that is what in fact happened, I think.
Q. Did you draw the conclusion that he left because of the allegations of sexual impropriety with minors?
A. Yes, I didn't know the nature of those, whether they were indiscretions or crimes.
Q. Did his leaving say anything to you about the likelihood those allegations were true?
A. Well, I certainly concluded there must have been - he must have been, at the very minimum, unwise and imprudent, at the very minimum…..

Q. Who spoke to you about Dowlan?
A. It was a St Pat's boy.
Q. Just one?
A. A fellow at the school. Yes, one that I remember.
Q. So there might have been more than one, but you particularly remember that one?
A. I remember one in particular.
Q. Do you remember his name? I'm not asking you to say it at the moment, but do you remember his name?
A. Yes, I do, and he recollected it years later, but I remembered him as a good and honest lad and I didn't think he'd be telling - I couldn't remember the actual incident, but I didn't think he'd be telling lies….

Q. Did you understand that the allegations that you indicated were told to you were admitted or otherwise by Brother Dowlan?
A. No, I didn't know what his response was other than eventually the effect.
Q. The effect being that he was moved?
A. Correct.
Q. And did you know whether that was to another - I'm sorry, Cardinal?
A. I - I would say that in the light of my present 39 understandings, although - I would concede I should have done more.
Q. What do you now say you should have done?
A. Well, I should have consulted Brother Nangle and just ensured that the matter was properly treated.
Q. Can you tell us why you didn't do that?
A. Because, one, I didn't think of it and, when I was told that they were dealing with it, at that time I was quite content……

Q. Did you tell the Bishop?
A. No, I did not.
Q. Can you tell us why you didn't tell the Bishop about this issue?
A. Firstly, because it came under the control of the 8 Christian Brothers and I was told that they were dealing with it.
Q. You were the Bishop's representative in relation to education, weren't you?
A. I - I was. 
Q. But you say that, even in that role, you didn't feel any necessity or responsibility to tell the Bishop about this problem?
A. No, I - I didn't. I - I certainly would not have presumed that he definitely would not have known, but anyhow, I didn't. I regret that I didn't do more at that stage……

Q. And you said in your evidence, transcript page 16241: He -- Being the boy who complained to you -- recollected it years later, but I remembered him as a good and honest lad and I didn't think he'd be telling - I couldn't remember the actual incident, but I didn't think he'd be telling lies . Do you mean to say by that that you didn't have a recollection about it until he told you?
A. I didn't have a recollection of him speaking to me very briefly and fleetingly about an accusation about Dowlan.
 Q. When did this boy come to you and complain to you about Dowlan?
A. He never came to me and complained. We happened to be together and he just mentioned it in passing.
Q. When did he come to tell you about this complaint? When did you come to know that this complaint had been made, or these conversations –
A. He just mentioned it casually in conversation. He never asked me to do anything. It wasn't technically - well, I suppose it was technically a complaint, a lament, but entirely different from this alleged event, of which I had no part…..

THE CHAIR: Q. Cardinal, what did that boy say to you?
A. He - he said something like, "Dowlan is misbehaving with - with boys."
Q. That was a very serious matter to be raised with you, wasn't it?
A. Yes, in - that is - that is the case.
Q. What did you do about it?
A. I - I didn't do anything about it.
Q. Should you have done something about it?
A. Well, I eventually did. I eventually inquired of the school chaplain.
Q. What about at the time you received the allegation from the boy, didn't it occur to you --
A. It would have been fairly close together.
Q. Well, you didn't go straight to the school and say, "I've got this allegation, what's going on?"
A. No, I didn't.
Q. Should you have?
A. With the experience of 40 years later, certainly I would agree that I should have - should have done more.
Q. Why do you need the experience of 40 years later? Wasn't it a serious matter then?
A. Yes, but people had a different attitude then. There were no specifics about the activity, how serious it was, and the boy wasn't asking me to do anything about it, but just lamenting and mentioning it.
Q. Cardinal, you and I –
A. It was quite unspecific.
Q. Cardinal, you and I have had this discussion on more than one occasion. Why was it necessary for people to ask you to do something, rather than for you to accept the information and initiate your own response?
A. Obviously, that - that is not - not the case, and my responsibilities as an Auxiliary Bishop and the director of an educational institute, an Archbishop, obviously I was more aware of those obligations in those situations than I was as a young cleric, but I don't - I don't - I don't excuse my comparative lack of activity, the fact that I only went to the school chaplain and inquired what was the truth of these rumours……

Q. And as late as last week, the headmaster at 5 St Patrick's College in 1973/74, Brother Nangle, denied any knowledge or denied having received any complaint or knowing of any rumours associated with alleged molestation or sexual offences against children by Dowlan. Are you aware of that?
A. I - I haven't studied the evidence in detail, but I am aware of that.
Q. And he was interviewed by a number of officers from the insurance companies, he was interviewed by police officers and by lawyers all the way until 2004 and, again, in every single instance he denied having any knowledge, denied having received any complaint about Dowlan's molestation of children; do you understand that?
A. I - yes.
Q. So why on earth, Cardinal, didn't you take the information that you had about the complaint that had been made to you by this St Patrick's school boy in 1973 to the police, to the investigators, to the insurance companies or to the Christian Brothers themselves? Why do we hear about it this week for the first time?
A. That is because I had no idea that the Christian Brothers were covering up in the way in which it's now apparent, and I did - as I repeat again, I mentioned it to the principal and he said the matter was being looked after, and I presumed that it was being looked after appropriately, not just denied. 
Q. You had essential –
A. And this man –
Q. You had –
A. I'm sorry, the only other thing.
Q. Go ahead.
A. May I just say, by way of completion, and also I was aware that at the end of that year Dowlan was shifted. Now, in the light of subsequent events, that was radically insufficient, but at that time that was regarded - given the unspecified nature of the accusations, I thought that was - well, that was something that was fair enough.
Q. Well, Dowlan went on to sexually abuse children in a teaching capacity all the way through to 1985 - dozens of them. Do you understand that?
A. I do.
Q. You could have done something which would have put a stop to that, potentially, couldn't you?  
A. No, with due respect, I think that's a vast overstatement. I did take the opportunity to ascertain the reliability of the rumours. I was told that there was something in them and that it was being dealt with…..

During the course of those four days of video links between Rome and Sydney, the Royal Commissioner appeared at times sceptical of George Pell’s frequent memory loss and constant denials of responsibility, Counsel Assisting often found his answers implausible and aimed at deflecting blame, a lawyer for one victim suggested that Pell was lying under oath to protect his own reputation and, victims who were in Rome to witness the cardinal giving evidence were not impressed.

So it came as no surprise to find the Vatican rushing to defend Pell and its own response to the sexual abuse of children in the Catholic school system:

Vatican City, 4 March 2016 – The director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., today issued the following note regarding the protection of minors from sexual abuse:
"The depositions of Cardinal Pell before the Royal Commission as part of its inquiry carried out by live connection between Australia and Rome, and the contemporary presentation of the Oscar award for best film to 'Spotlight', on the role of the Boston Globe in denouncing the cover-up of crimes by numerous paedophile priests in Boston (especially during the years 1960 to 1980) have been accompanied by a new wave of attention from the media and public opinion on the dramatic issue of sexual abuse of minors, especially by members of the clergy.
The sensationalist presentation of these two events has ensured that, for a significant part of the public, especially those who are least informed or have a short memory, it is thought that the Church has done nothing, or very little, to respond to these terrible problems, and that it is necessary to start anew. Objective consideration shows that this is not the case. The previous archbishop of Boston resigned in 2002 following the events considered in “Spotlight” (and after a famous meeting of American cardinals convoked in Rome by Pope John Paul II in April 2002), and since 2003 (that is, for 13 years) the archdiocese has been governed by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, universally known for his rigour and wisdom in confronting the issue of sexual abuse, to the extent of being appointed by the Pope as one of his advisers and as president of the Commission instituted by the Holy Father for the protection of minors.
The tragic events of sexual abuse in Australia, too, have been the subject of inquiries and legal and canonical procedures for many years. When Pope Benedict XVI visited Sydney for World Youth Day in 2008 (eight years ago), he met with a small group of victims at the seat of the archdiocese governed by Cardinal Pell, since the issue was also of great importance at the time and the archbishop considered a meeting of this type to be very timely.
Merely to offer an idea of the attention with which these problems have been followed, the section of the Vatican website dedicated to 'Abuse of minors: the Church’s response', established around ten years ago, contains over 60 documents and interventions.
The courageous commitment of the Popes to facing the crises that subsequently emerged in various situations and countries – such as the United States, Ireland, Germany, Belgium and Holland, and in the Legionaries of Christ – has been neither limited nor indifferent. The universal procedures and canonical norms have been renewed; guidelines have been required and drawn up by the Episcopal Conferences, not only to respond to abuses committed but also to ensure adequate prevention measures; apostolic visitations have taken place to intervene in the most serious situations; and the Congregation of the Legionaries has been radically reformed. These are all actions intended to respond fully and with far-sightedness to a wound that has manifested itself with surprising and devastating gravity, especially in certain regions and certain periods. Benedict XVI’s Letter to the Irish faithful in March 2010 probably remains the most eloquent document of reference, relevant beyond Ireland, for understanding the attitude and the legal, pastoral and spiritual response of the Popes to these upheavals in the Church in our time; recognition of the grave errors committed and a request for forgiveness, priority action and justice for victims, conversion and purification, commitment to prevention and renewed human and spiritual formation.
The encounters held by Benedict XVI and Francis with groups of victims have accompanied this by now long road with the example of listening, the request for forgiveness, consolation and the direct involvement of the Popes.
In many countries the results of this commitment to renewal are comforting; cases of abuse have become very rare and therefore the majority of those considered nowadays and which continue to come to light belong to a relatively distant past of several decades ago. In other countries, usually due to very different cultural contexts that are still characterised by silence, much remains to be done and there is no lack of resistance and difficulties, but the road to follow has become clearer.
The constitution of the Commission for the protection of minors announced by Pope Francis in December 2013, made up of members from every continent, indicates how the path of the Catholic Church has matured. After establishing and developing internally a decisive response to the problems of sexual abuse of minors (by priests or other ecclesial workers), it is necessary to face systematically the problem of how to respond not only to the problem in every part of the Church, but also more broadly how to help the society in which the Church lives to face the problems of abuse of minors, given that – as we should all be aware, even though there is still a significant reluctance to admit this – in every part of the world the overwhelming majority of cases of abuse take place not in ecclesiastical contexts, but rather outside them (in Asia, for instance, tens of millions of minors are abused, certainly not in a Catholic context).
In summary, the Church, wounded and humiliated by the wound of abuse, intends to react not only to heal herself, but also to make her difficult experience in this field available to others, to enrich her educational and pastoral service to society as a whole, which generally still has a long path to take to realise the seriousness of these problems and to deal with them.
From this perspective the events in Rome of the last few days may be interpreted in a positive light. Cardinal Pell must be accorded the appropriate acknowledgement for his dignified and coherent personal testimony (twenty hours of dialogue with the Royal Commission), from which yet again there emerges an objective and lucid picture of the errors committed in many ecclesial environments (this time in Australia) during the past decades. This is certainly useful with a view to a common 'purification of memory'. {my red bolding}
Recognition is also due to many members of the group of victims who came from Australia for demonstrating their willingness to establish constructive dialogue with Cardinal Pell and with the representative of the Commission for the protection of minors, Fr. Hans Zollner S.J., of the Pontifical Gregorian University, with whom they further developed prospects for effective commitment to the prevention of abuse.
If the appeals subsequent to 'Spotlight' and the mobilisation of victims and organisations on the occasion of the depositions of Cardinal Pell are able to contribute to supporting and intensifying the long march in the battle against abuse of minors in the universal Catholic Church and in today’s world (where the dimensions of these tragedies are endless), then they are welcome.


Vatican on the Purification Of Memory:

Liberation from the weight of this responsibility comes above all through imploring God’s forgiveness for the wrongs of the past, and then, where appropriate, through the “purification of memory” culminating in a mutual pardoning of sins and offenses in the present.
Purifying the memory means eliminating from personal and collective conscience all forms of resentment or violence left by the inheritance of the past, on the basis of a new and rigorous historical-theological judgement, which becomes the foundation for a renewed moral way of acting. This occurs whenever it becomes possible to attribute to past historical deeds a different quality, having a new and different effect on the present, in view of progress in reconciliation in truth, justice, and charity among human beings…..

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