There is another cover-up in an investigation made by three senior Catholic clergy of a sexual abuse complaint at a priest in New South Wales. The priest was accused of sexual assault by five young altar boys in the 1980s.
Members of the Armenian and Greek Orthodox clergy used their brooms as weapons during the flare-up at the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem.
The three-member panel that investigated the complaint was made up of Brian Lucas, the general-secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Wayne Peters, current vicar-general of Armidale and John Usher, a priest.
The TV programme Four Corners of ABC said at its airing Monday night that there are inconsistencies between the group’s internal report and a file note which was publicized. Fathers Lucas and Usher said the accused priest did not admit any wrongdoing when the panel met on Sept 3, 1992, while Fr Peters said the cleric admitted to instances of misconduct but would not incriminate the priest.
The file note said no admission was made by the accused, but the panel recommended that he should no longer be allowed to say mass due to lack of credibility. However, the panel report which ABC obtained from separate court proceedings, said the priest admitted to his sexual misconduct. His victims were then aged 10 and 11 at the time he was assistant priest at Moree. He allegedly admitted performing oral sex and fondling the genitals of two of the altar servers.
One of the alleged victims, Daniel Powell, hanged himself in 2007. Reports said that Mr Powell allegedly attempted to extort from the priest, who previously violated him when he was still a young boy. The church paid Mr Powell a compensation of $135,000 after he filed a civil case. In the hearing, the priest admitted performing oral sex on young Daniel.
The erring priest was later transferred to the parish in Parramatta, where he also allegedly abused other altar boys in the 1980s. In 1992, the Catholic Church ordered an investigation into the sexual abuse complaints.
University of Sydney law professor Patrick Parkinson said the members of the panel could have breached the law by not referring the complaint to the police.
“I wish I could tell you that this was an isolated example, but the reality is that this kind of story has been surfacing all over the world and it’s a repeated pattern of criminal behaviour being dealt with as an in-house matter by the church,” ABC quoted Mr Parkinson.
Peter Jurd, a brother of one of the victims who later committed suicide, accused the panel of sweeping the complaint under the carpet. Mr Jurd’s brother, Damian, claimed that the priest sodomised him thrice while they drove to a presbytery in Narrabi. Damian received $198,000 compensation from the church in 1998 but was found unconscious and eventually died on Jan 1, 2001 at the age of 28.
The priest, referred to as Father F, was removed by the church from the priesthood in 2005 and now lives in Armidale where he is even a prominent figure in the community.