Image: Fr. Robinson
The case of Fr. Richard John James Robinson, although occurring in the U.K., gives a clear indication of just how the Catholic Church has adopted the same strategy for its paedophile priests world-wide.
Robinson was shifted from parish to parish over a period of 25 years where he abused many boys, despite clear evidence that church officials knew of his offending. When, eventually, charges were mooted, the church sent him out of the country, to the U.S., in 1985.
About twenty years later, a victim tracked him down to California, but it was not possible to extradite him to the U.K. because of an American law placing a 10 year limit on extraditable offences. It was only when this law was changed, and a victim alerted U.K. authorities to that change, that Robinson was taken back to the U.K. He received a 21 year sentence for his offences, some dating back to 1959.
According to Anna Wheeler, a senior prosecutor with West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service’s Complex Casework Unit, who finally extradited Robinson back to Britain to face justice, it is likely that Robinson had offended in the 20 years he was in the U.S. She thinks more victims will eventually come forward.
In a curious fact of the U.K. justice system, two victims who came forward after Robinson’s extradition were unable to have their case prosecuted in the courts. However, they were permitted to give evidence in the case against Robinson by other victims.
The arrogance of Robinson’s attitude was revealed in letters to a victim revealed in the trial. They were inappropriate, odd letters for the local parish priest to be sending to a young boy. “They were almost love letters, highly inappropriate,” Ms Wheeler said
In a tape-recorded conversation, which was a key piece of evidence, Robinson indicated he thought he and the victim were in a relationship. “That’s not what you say to somebody when they were 11,” Ms. Wheeler said.
When Robinson went to America there was certainly some disclosure to the American Catholic Church that there had been an allegation. His bishop referred to an ‘unfortunate allegation that was really not going to go anywhere.” Robinson continued to work as a priest in the U.S. and continued to receive a monthly allowance of several hundred dollars per month from his home diocese. As late as 2000, he was sent a cheque for £8,400 from his diocese, despite his superiors knowing of his history.
He has not yet been laicized (defrocked) despite the diocese saying the process has been commenced. This is typical. Referring to an Australian case where there was an 18 year delay in initiating the process, Archbishop Hart made the extraordinary statement to the Victorian Parliamentary enquiry that it was “better late than never”.(see previous posting).
The effects on victims, and the church’s attitude to them, is also typical in the Robinson case. When describing Robinson’s first victim’s claim that the priest had repeatedly raped him, the church officials referred to it as “an unfortunate relationship”. One victim told of repeated nightmares, while another thought, for many years, that he must be homosexual.
When passing sentence, Judge Patrick Thomas QC, described Robinson as “devious and manipulative.”
He told Robinson: “The offences you committed were unimaginably wicked and caused immense and long-lasting – we can only hope not permanent – damage to the six victims.”
The Robinson saga will be very familiar to victims in Australia. When considering the cover-ups in Australia, the Royal Commission would be wise to look at the wider context of cover-ups throughout the Catholic Church’s organisation around the world.
The findings cannot be limited to the Australian branch of the church. Culpability must include the Vatican and Pope Francis himself.
[Postscript: Geoff Smith has established a website on Robinson. It is http://abusedbyrobinson.com/tag/exhaustion/ Many thanks, Geoff, for your inputs.]
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TOMORROW: Kinchela (Aboriginal) Boys Home [Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised the article contains images and names of people who are deceased.]
That’s all I can say
Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)