The spotlight on paedophile clergy is gradually widening to encompass those who protected them. In particular, debate is increasing on the issue of failure to report the crime of child sexual abuse. Some jurisdictions exempt the churches from this requirement, and that situation is very likely to change after the Royal Commission.
Misprision of a felony, or cover-up, is a charge possible for some church officials, and indeed, officials of other community organisations, such as the Boy Scouts. The difficulty will be in proving the case adequately for the courts. If past practice is any guide, these officials will spend large amounts of their organisations’ money on expensive lawyers to defend them against any charges.
The giveaway that many of these organisations knew of the child sexual abuse problem is that, as early as the 1980s, they routinely took out insurance policies to cover claims of victims. This was a mistake for them.
To guarantee payouts, they normally had to inform the insurers of the risks. The Victorian enquiry has already touched on this matter. Other examples exist from the past. Since the Royal Commission can subpoena documents of this kind, they may make for interesting reading as to what exactly these officials knew about the paedophiles under their control.
Historically, the case of the Brisbane Grammar School is a clear example of what would be found from insurance documents. [Note: Church lawyer, Ian Callinan (see previous posting) is an old-boy of the school.]
Rev. Kevin Lynch, originally a Christian Brother, was “counselor” at the school, where he abused many (he had at least 70 known victims) boys. He later moved to the Brisbane Anglican St. Paul’s school, where he continued his abuses (reportedly racking up a few dozen more victims). When, in 1997, he was charged with offences, he suicided within hours.
The Brisbane Grammar school insurers refused to pay the entire compensation bill for Lynch’s victims, because of allegations the former headmaster, Maxwell Howell, was twice warned about Lynch. The school did not deny the warnings, but denied it knew it had to pass them on to the insurers.
One parent has filed an affidavit claiming, when he confronted Howell about the possibility his son was being abused, Howell allegedly replied by asking “Are you going to tell police?” Former Governor-General and former Brisbane Anglican archbishop, Peter Hollingworth, is alleged to have authorized secret cash settlements to hush up evidence of sexual abuse against Lynch.
Lynch moved on to the Anglican-run St. Paul’s school, abusing even more boys. The headmaster, Gilbert Case, resigned in disgrace in 2003 after it was revealed he dismissed a student’s allegations of abuse by Lynch. Hollingworth has been criticized for promoting St Paul’s School former headmaster, Gilbert Case, after the Brisbane Grammar allegations had surfaced, and complaints had been made that Case had not responded appropriately to complaints at his school.
If someone had known the identity of the Boston Strangler or Jack the Ripper after their first victim, but did not notify the authorities, then it would be fair to say that such person was responsible for the deaths of subsequent victims. Lynch went on to abuse boys at two more schools, but this might not have happened if the Brisbane Grammar School headmaster had done the right thing by notifying police. Many, many other examples of this form of irresponsibility have been established across Australia.
Society must make a statement that covering-up for the child molesters is a crime which will be suitably punished, if this practice is to cease. Something like the Ohio approach is needed. Any cases which surface during the NSW and Victorian enquiries would be a good place to start, since cases from the Royal Commission will not be available for at least another three years. Delays will simply produce more victims.
[Postscript: Cardinal George Pell will continue to be a non-show at the NSW enquiry, as he has chosen to remain in Rome on (northern) summer holidays at his palatial, $30 million digs at Domus Australia (see previous postings).]
Read more here:
TOMORROW: NSW enquiry, session 2, week 3
That’s all I can say
Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)