|Abuse Claim Priest Gives Seminar in Boys' School
Fr Julian Fox Left Australia under a Cloud after Student Rape Accusation
By Maeve Sheehan
March 1, 2009
A CATHOLIC priest who left Australia under a cloud after being accused of child sexual abuse gave a computer seminar to an unsuspecting audience in Kildare yesterday.
Fr Julian Fox, who has denied allegations that he raped a former student, was in the Salesian College in Celbridge giving a talk to a small group of students, teachers and one family who came with teenage children.
The Salesian priest left Australia in the late 1990s after the abuse allegations surfaced. Although Fr Fox told an internal Church inquiry that the claims were untrue, the Salesian Order gave the alleged victim, Luke Quilligan, A$36,000 (€18,000) in a non-liability settlement in 2000. Fr Fox now works in the communications office of the order's headquarters in Rome.
Mr Quilligan died a year later of liver failure brought on by drug abuse.
While relatives of the alleged victim said they were led to believe Fr Fox has been living a restricted lifestyle in Rome, Fr Fox, a linguistic expert, has been on the seminar circuit, addressing Salesian congregations worldwide.
Fr Fox's latest stop-off was at the Salesian College yesterday where he addressed students on open source computer software. The priest spoke about his latest book on open source software at the boys' secondary school.
His travels have not brought him back to Australia, where the sexual abuse allegations were investigated by police in Victoria.
A spokeswoman for the Victoria Police in Australia said this weekend that "an allegation was made against Fr Fox alleging sexual misconduct" but "as he was in Rome, he has not been questioned".
Fr Fox was asked to return from Rome to be interviewed about the allegations in 2005, but the priest declined to do so, police said.
That claim was denied by Fr Fox yesterday. Speaking outside the Salesian College in Celbridge, he said it was untrue that he declined to return to Australia. "I didn't decline to do so at all. They gave the impression that the case was closed," he told the Sunday Independent.
Fr Fox said the sexual abuse allegations were untrue, and that an internal church inquiry had concluded that there was "no feeling that I was involved in the situation". He added that he had "no idea" as to why the Salesian Order decided to compensate Luke Quilligan, despite his denials.
"That whole situation was bizarre as far as I was concerned because it was completely untrue," he said. He added that the Salesian Order in Rome left him free to pursue his work and travel. He said he is also willing to return to Australia although he has no immediate plans to do so.
Luke Quilligan's relatives were horrified to learn that Fr Fox was in Ireland this weekend. His mother, Margaret, said she was disgusted to know that Fr Fox was touring the world while the allegations were unanswered.
She said she had been led to believe that Fr Fox lived a restricted lifestyle in Rome. "That's what I was told some years ago. I was told not to worry, he was a virtual house prisoner," she said.
Margaret Quilligan attributed her late son's drug problems to the alleged sexual abuse he suffered as a student at Rupertswood College, north of Melbourne, in the late 1970s.
He alleged that he was raped by Fr Fox when he was sent to his office to be disciplined. He complained at the time, but a Salesians supervisor accused the boy of lying and the case went no further, his mother said.
Luke Quilligan went on to live a troubled life, becoming a heroin addict in his twenties. He did not disclose the abuse until 1997, when he confided in a jail counsellor while serving time for robbery.
The order was notified and in 1999 Fr Fox was assigned overseas to Fiji and later to Rome. The Salesians gave Mr Quilligan a $36,000 settlement in 2000, which was made without liability and to avoid litigation. According to the settlement deed, Mr Quilligan alleged he was "unlawfully sexually and/or physically assaulted by Fr Fox".
Police from Victoria's sex crimes unit interviewed Mr Quilligan about the allegations of abuse in the years before his death. Fr Fox has never been interviewed about the claims as he has not returned to Australia.
The case of Fr Fox has been widely covered by Australian media and has been tracked by an advocacy group for victims of clerical abuse in Australia, Broken Rites
The Quilligans have several issues with how the Salesian Order handled Mr Quilligan's complaint. They question why the order gave $36,000 to Luke -- a heroin addict -- when what he needed was rehabilitation and counselling. They also question why the Salesians have not compelled Fr Fox to return to answer the allegations which were made to police before his death.
"I am hoping. I want the Salesians to make him come back to Australia," said Margaret Quilligan.
Luke's brother, Mark Quilligan, a wing commander in the Australian Air Force, said: "When I hear that he is out and about, I am concerned. What it says to me is that he is free and my brother is dead. It took my brother a long time to tell us what had happened. I guess the question is, if he has nothing to hide why is he not back?"
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