Melbourne's Xavier College Renames Sports Hall Following Child Abuse Allegations
March 22, 2016
The name of a high-profile Melbourne Jesuit is being removed from a sports complex at the prestigious Xavier College after child abuse allegations.
Four former Xavier College students have made complaints about inappropriate touching during interviews with the late Father Patrick “Paddy” Stephenson, the college says.
The school believes the complaints could be based on misunderstandings but college rector Father Chris Middleton said historical abuse at the college meant it was appropriate to rename the Stephenson centre at the Kew campus as the Xavier sports centre.
The school does not believe the complaints against Stephenson have been substantiated but have not dismissed the allegations as wrong, he said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The Jesuits believe that, on the available evidence, there is room for genuine misunderstanding as to his intentions, as is explicitly acknowledged by one complainant.
“This being said, given that abuse has occurred at Xavier, and that many victims of abuse suffered further at the hands of institutions such as the church and the Jesuits by not being believed and/or responded to, we accept that it is appropriate to change the name of the Stephenson centre.”
The school has accepted 17 cases of historical sexual abuse at Xavier College, all occurring more than 30 years ago.
Stephenson, who died in 1990, interviewed thousands of students during his 60-year association with the college.
One former student told a 2013 Victorian parliamentary inquiry he was abused by two Jesuits, one of whom interviewed every Xavier pupil individually for years and targeted weak and vulnerable children.
“I was dealing with another one, who just had impunity wherever he went, because his reputation preceded him as the famous, well-known Jesuit who knew everybody,” the survivor said.
Stephenson was a teacher and mentor in the Old Xaverians’ association who was prominent in the general Melbourne community, victims’ advocacy group Broken Rites’ website says.
“Being involved in the education of thousands of boys, he was perhaps the school’s most famous teacher, like Britain’s legendary ‘Mr Chips’, and was one of the most widely known Jesuits in the city of Melbourne,” it said.
Middleton said the 138-year-old college was also erecting two memorial plaques to acknowledge the historical sexual and other abuse, including bullying, experienced by students in its care.