Salesian Provincial Breaks Silence on Sex Abuse

Catholic News [Australia]
July 18, 2004

In his first interview since allegations against the Salesians surfaced worldwide, Salesian Provincial Fr Ian Murdoch revealed to The Age newspaper that he made two trips to Rome to persuade the Vatican to expel Fr David Rapson, who had been sentenced to two years' jail in 1992 for sex abuse of a 15-year-old student at the Salesian school Rupertswood, near Sunbury outside Melbourne.

The paper reports today that the Pope has "defrocked" Fr Rapson, who is described as "an offender of the worst kind". It says Fr Murdoch also revealed that he had prevented a former head of the order, Fr Julian Fox, from returning from Rome to Australia unless he agreed to face his accusers in a case of alleged sexual assault. The Salesians also paid $35,600 compensation following sex abuse allegations against Fr Fox.

Fr Murdoch sent the papers to Rapson at his last known address in Sydney for his signature, which is necessary to complete his expulsion. But he has not signed them and, Fr Murdoch says, probably never will. "He has disappeared. He is no longer a Salesian and no longer a priest."

After his sentencing, Rapson made veiled threats from Pentridge to the then head of the order, Julian Fox, that he had stories to tell that could implicate others in the order.

Fr Murdoch flew to Fiji to interview Fr Fox after allegations against him by two Victorians. "Each time he made complete denials and maintained his innocence," Fr Murdoch said.

The father of one alleged victim wanted to pursue the case, but the victim did not. In the other case, the alleged victim was disbelieved when he lodged a complaint, with tragic consequences for him and his family, according to Fr Murdoch. The victim became addicted to drugs and spent time in jail.

Fr Murdoch insisted that Fr Fox undergo a comprehensive, five-day psychological test. He said the assessment was not definitive. "But it asked a lot of serious questions and, on that basis, he would need to present for an intensive program to address these questions in more depth and for treatment."

Fr Fox was allowed to undergo this program in Rome, but once there he took a second assessment instead of the intensive program. "The second cast doubt on the allegations," Fr Murdoch said.

The Salesian order became engulfed in a sex abuse scandal after it was revealed recently that it had sent priest Frank Kelp to Samoa in 1998, despite him being investigated by Victorian police for sex crimes. This was two years before Fr Murdoch became head of the order.


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