One of the earliest claims made by victims of clerical abuse by the Catholic Church was that the offenders were simply sent to Ireland when things became too hot for comfort. These claims are confirmed by the case of Father “Rion” (the name given to him by the Murphy Enquiry in Ireland, into the Cloyne diocese, to protect his real identity).
Father Rion was a priest in the Brisbane archdiocese. In 2002, 2003 and 2009, claims of abuse were made against Fr. Rion from his time in Brisbane. The Catholic Church made payments of $20,000 to each complainant, although the Brisbane Archdiocese has refused to say who approved the payments.
Under the pretext of ill health, Fr. Rion was sent to Ireland. There, he abused an altar boy, a fact which was uncovered by the Murphy enquiry. In 2006, the Brisbane Archdiocese paid $20,000 for the cost of counseling the victim, which is a form of admission of culpability for Fr. Rion’s behaviour.
The Murphy enquiry, which ran from 2006 to 2009, found that Brisbane Archdiocese failed to reveal the two previous Australian complaints made against Fr Rion in 2002 and 2003. The Murphy enquiry said it was “astonished” that Brisbane church officials did not tell the Diocese of Cloyne, where Fr. Rion was posted, or Fr. Rion’s victim, about these complainants. Prior knowledge of Fr. Rion’s Brisbane history may have saved his Irish victim, or at least given credibility to his claims.
The Brisbane Archdiocese, under Bishop Mark Coleridge (see previous posting) who is on the Catholic Church’s PR unit charged with dealing with the fall-out of the Royal Commission, denies prior knowledge of Fr. Rion’s offences.
This “Brisbane Connection” case highlights the need for the Royal Commission to investigate the shifting of abusive priests, not only between parishes in Australia, but also to parishes in other countries.
Another similar case, raised by Professor Patrick Parkinson, was that of Fr. Klep, who was sent to Samoa for safe-keeping from his Australian offences. The Samoan Government deported Klep, and expressed outrage that Australia had sent a known paedophile to that country. The Archbishop of Samoa had also apparently not been made aware of Klep’s history. He was prosecuted on his return to Australia in 2005.
Offenders who are uncovered in Australia, who are now in other countries, such as PNG or Cambodia, should be reported to the authorities in those countries. This is, if nothing else, a diplomatic responsibility for the Australian Government. We would not make many friends if it surfaces that we have been sending our paedophiles to other countries, where they re-offend against local children.
[Postscript: The budget for the Royal Commission has been raised from $200 million to $434 million].
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TOMORROW: David Curtain, QC
That’s all I can say
Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)