Christian Brothers "Refuse to Believe Abuser Is Guilty"
By Jane Lee
March 2, 2013
MANY Christian Brothers still refuse to believe convicted paedophile Robert Best is guilty, a brother has told a state inquiry.
The disgraced Catholic brother was convicted in 2011 and jailed for 14 years and nine months for sex crimes against 11 boys at schools in Ballarat, Box Hill and Geelong.
Best was ordered to serve 11 years and three months in jail before he would be eligible for parole.
Brother Barry Coldrey told the parliamentary inquiry into the handling of child abuse that he was not a spokesman for any religion. But he said he believed that a culture of denial still pervaded the Christian Brothers order in Australia. ''Even at this minute there are many brothers who refuse to believe Robert Best is guilty despite overwhelming evidence,'' he said.
''He is visited in jail relentlessly … even when he's admitted offences in court.''
Brother Coldrey described the current ''mood'' among the Christian Brothers, whose average age was 75, as ''sullen and angry''.
Speaking to the family and community development committee, he said: ''I'll put it to politicians this way. No one ever won an election in the Christian Brothers by expressing sympathy … if you want to win you tend to downplay the victims.
''The mood in the order is difficult to change.''
Best was represented pro bono last year when he lost his appeal against seven counts of unlawful and indecent assault on a boy under 16 at a school where he was the principal. The Christian Brothers had previously funded much of Best's defence, which has distressed victims.
Later on Friday, Dr Joseph Poznanski, a counselling psychologist who specialises in trauma, told the committee that many of his adult clients had gone through the Catholic Church's national complaints system for child abuse, Towards Healing. He said they believed the process focused on minimising and denying their suffering. Dr Poznanski said that church-appointed psychologists who evaluated victims to calculate their compensation often reported that child abuse accounted for only 5 per cent of their dysfunction.
''It is not unusual for a psychiatrist appointed by Towards Healing to see an adult victim of childhood clergy abuse for less than an hour … and to conclude that there is no evidence of a severe psychiatric condition such as schizophrenia,'' he said. ''It appears the reported absence of severe psychiatric condition has swayed the church authorities to conclude that the abuse has not had a considerable impact on the complainant's life.''
The most common psychiatric problem among adult victims he worked with was complex post-traumatic stress disorder - a condition that was more likely to be unrecognised by both Towards Healing and its Melbourne equivalent, Melbourne Response.