Archbishop Saw Horgan Sex Report 8 Years Ago

The West Australian

July 6, 2008

Catholic Archbishop Barry Hickey, who has denied receiving any sexual misconduct complaints about the leaders of the Church-backed Bethel Covenant Community until last year, was handed written details of sexual harassment as early as 2000.

The West Australian has obtained a copy of a report signed by former members of the religious movement in August 2000, which outlined allegations of how the community’s leader Kevin Horgan asked female members their favourite sexual positions and urged one to remove her underwear.

The 13-page report, together with a request for a full-blown investigation, was handed directly to Archbishop Hickey during a meeting with a delegation of long-term Bethel members, who had decided to leave the community in disgust. Two of the report’s authors were former priests, while others included a teacher and a psychiatrist. The West Australian has interviewed three of the authors.

Some (members) have witnessed some of the Bethel men . . . touching or pinching women’s buttocks, or publicly discussing sexual freedoms a woman ought to be enjoying, or even employing with her husband, the 2000 report said. Mr Horgan said to a woman: ‘How do you have an orgasm?’. On another occasion he said to a married woman: ‘I know what position you take, you use doggy position. Your husband told me’.

But in response to a series of questions from The West Australian on May 23 this year, asking what and when the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth knew about the Bethel scandal, the Archbishop denied having any knowledge of sexual misconduct allegations until 2007.

No complaints about sexual misconduct were received until 2007 when concerns about the conduct of the leader were brought to Bishop Sproxton by a third party, the Church statement read.

The statement, which surprised those who met Archbishop Hickey in 2000, said that it had not been until February 2008 that a first-hand account of sexual misconduct against the Bethel leader was made.

Yesterday, a spokesman for the Archbishop acknowledged that the meeting took place and that a report was handed to the Archbishop. He rejected any suggestion the Church’s previous answers were now contradicted by the discovery of the 2000 report and would not respond further.

Archbishop Hickey said in May that he had been aware for a number of years of concerns about Mr Horgan’s management style and in every case they were taken up by the Archbishop or the liaison chaplain with the Bethel leadership in order to effect some change.

It was only in March this year that the Church called on Mr Horgan to stand down from the Bethel community after complaints to Auxiliary Bishop of Perth Don Sproxton about serial sexual misconduct by the wellconnected Catholic leader.

Many of the allegations were similar to the complaints brought to Archbishop Hickey seven years earlier.

Bethel members claimed Mr Horgan had pulled a woman’s blouse forward and commented on her breasts; had encouraged female members to have breast enhancement surgery; had touched women’s breasts at barbecues; had groped a young single woman from behind; and had asked female members to remove their tops and massage themselves and him during a Bethel retreat.

In the 2000 report, Archbishop Hickey was told of the cultic characteristics Bethel had adopted, the intimate nature and level of control community leaders wielded over members lives’ and of the sordid sexual behaviour of the leader.

The examples were provided under the heading Sexual Issues.

Mr Horgan suggested to a married woman, whilst at a restaurant, that she emulate the example of another married woman in the community who had taken her undies off and placed them in her husband’s pocket, the 2000 document said.

Our experiences, as indicated above, have led us to have some grave concerns.

These concerns centre around the seeming endorsement of the Bethel community by the Catholic Church, and we are particularly concerned given the experiences we have had of the influence of Bethel community over ourselves as members.

The report also raised concerns about the West Leederville-based Bethel community’s financial structure and the lack of transparency the community had with what Bethel leaders labelled the outside.

The document concluded by calling on Archbishop Hickey to order an inquiry and to consider reviewing the Church’s endorsement of Bethel.

The authors said the Church should also consider offering any affected members counselling, something that has only occurred this year.

Current Bethel community chairman Rob Crothers said he had not seen the 2000 report. But he said he would be surprised if the issues had not been followed up by the Archbishop if they had been raised.


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