Religious Life Without Integrity

The Sexual Abuse Crisis in the Catholic Church

By Barry M Coldrey

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(Fr) John Corrigan was sentenced to five years jail, Newfoundland, Canada, 1988. He had an alcohol problem himself and would 'get the boys drunk before masturbating and performing oral and anal sex on them.'

(Fr) John Keeler (Ottawa, Canada) In 1993, he was sentenced to a minimum of four months in jail and two years probation after pleading guilty to indecently assaulting five teenage boys at rectories and at a church-run summer camp. Some of the more attractive lads he appointed as cabin boys to look after his needs, inviting them into his bed to fondle and to rub himself against them.

TV personality, Greg Evans, was sexually abused at St. Bede's College, Mentone, in the 1960s. 'One of the Brothers taught us "the facts of life" was spared...I was taken to the vestry, where I was asked to take off my pants and stand in front of the mirror...he came from behind me and fondled me.' (Johnston, D. 'I was sexually abused: Evans', Herald-Sun, 17 April 1997, p. 9.)

(Fr) Tom Pidoto, Sacred Heart, Yea (Victoria): 'an alleged victim told police that Father Pidoto raped him regularly over two years while giving him "massages" at the boy's house in a north-eastern suburb of Melbourne in the late 1970s.' (Jones, W. 'Priest probed over sex claims', Sunday Herald Sun, 15 June 1997, p.7.)

(Mr.S.X, former Christian Brother). 'During my Novitiate training at Amberley, Victoria, a Brother whose name I cannot remember would take me to his bedroom and play wrestling games with me. He used to call it a "rumble". This would involve fondling my genitalia and hugging me. This occurred frequently during this year.'

(Fr) P. Searson. "He was confronted after teachers and parents complained that he was taking children out-of-school for one-on-one sex education classes.' (Jones, W. 'Priest faces claims of child abuse', Herald-Sun, (Melbourne, Australia), 23 March 1997, p.2.

Mr. G.J.Sutton, (former Marist Brother) allegedly touched the three boys and three girls (Campbelltown and Lismore, NSW) through their clothing, rubbing their genitals, acts of masturbation, oral sex and sexual intercourse.

(Mr.C.R.) 'I was in the (orphanage) sick bay...and in walked this very grotty, dirty-looking man...and the next thing this guy has got his hands under the blankets, feeling my crotch area. I was terrified.' (Bean, P. and Melville, J. Lost Children of the Empire, Allen & Unwin, London, 1989, p. 146.)

'("Brother Mucus" = Enda Hynes) furtively took certain boys to an isolated part of the building known as the committee room. There he would take down their trousers and strike them on the bare bottom with the strap as hard as he could, meanwhile holding the victim in a savage grip on his penis and testicles.' (Griston, B. The Man on Mount Wellington, Hobart, 1988, p. 25)

(Mr. M.M. and A.B.) 'We were forced to kneel naked from the waist down with other boys in the corridor outside the Brother's bedroom at night (Castledare, WA)...he would take us into his room one by one and fiddle with our genitals.' ('They destroyed ours' Sunday Times (Perth), September 1993.)

(Br.C.Beedon, 'Monty' Castledare, 1940s) 'There was a scuffle...punishment...six of the best on the bare bum...(afterwards)...Sitting on the side of my bed, he told me to roll over and remove my pyjama pants. He then began to massage my buttocks...(also) Monty used run his hand up my shorts.' (Knight, I.A. Out of Darkness: Growing up with the Christian Brothers, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1998, p 38)

(Br.M. Thyer, Clontarf, 1940s) 'I awoke with a start one night to find someone beside my bed with their hand inside my pyjama top, tickling around the area of my navel...(Later) Reaching out to me, he suddenly pulled my pyjama pants down to my ankles. Then he began to fondle my penis...Then he stood up and removed his robe. He had nothing underneath it. Naked, we stood facing each other.' (Knight, I.A. Out of Darkness, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1998, p. 68)

Mark Cade, ne Gabor Toman, attended St Vincent's Orphanage, South Melbourne, during the 1950s. 'In Gabor's first week there, a Brother approached him as he lay he bed and kissed him on the forehead. "Don't be afraid," the Brother said, before reaching under the sheet and fondling the boy's genitals.' (Button, J. and Conroy, P. 'Crimes under the Cross,' The Age (Melbourne), 10 August 1996, p. A17.

"Rod" says another Brother raped him at least twice and forced him to masturbate other boys in the showers. When "Rod" finally refused to submit to the Brother he became 'extremely angry' and smashed a clenched fist into the boy's face. (Dolan, S. 'Sex Brother avoids prison', Herald Sun, (Melbourne), 18 January 1997, p. 1.


In a sense, the main thrust of the church in Australia in these matters requires a major culture shift from Cover- up to Clean-up


The Inadequate Response to Child Molestation

The vignettes which follow are meant to throw shafts of light on the reasons why the church so often (not always) handled child sexual abuse cases so inadequately.

'When threatened the church often acts like a multi-national corporation and the level of its self-interest is, at times, horrifying.' (Byfield, V. 'What hope for paedophile priests ?' Western Report, Alberta Canada, 28 August 1989, p. 27)


'Prior to mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse those in authority did what they thought was the right thing for the victim and the perpetrator. In the past hockey or football coaches suspected of child sexual abuse resigned; got another job on another team; scoutmasters, cub masters, would volunteer for another scout troop or cub pack; school teachers would move to another school district; mother's boyfriend would quit dating mother and the bishop would arrange for the priest to be assigned to another diocese, many thousands of miles away. Thank God, things are different today, thank God things have changed - we have protective legislation.' (Petersen, K. 'Church response to sexual abuse called deviant' Catholic New Times, 24 June 1990, p. 7.)


'Provincials faced with cases of sexual abuse could find themselves out of their depth, floundering in a sea of shock and semi-disbelief...they cannot understand the psychological factors involved...they saw the problem as a sin which required them to act with the compassion which Christ showed for the woman taken in adultery.' (Anon. 'Facing up to child sexual abuse', The Tablet, 25 July 1992, p. 1519


(Bishop Flynn, Diocese of Achonry, Galway, Eire) 'We didn't appreciate the seriousness of the problem. In many cases it was felt that those incidents happened because of the circumstances in which the priest found himself and that if you took him out of those surroundings he would recover from the temptation'. (Watt, N. 'Church at bay over paedophile priests', The Times, London, 5 December 1994, p. 5)


(Rodney Stinson, Friends of Susanna, Sydney NSW), 'I'm not attacking the church but the presumption of bishops, priests and religious Brothers is so huge. They think they're the church, but so am I and all the other boys who have been abused and others who may be at risk. We have to protect others..' (Maynard, R. 'Abuse victim fights back', New Idea, 25 September 1993, p. 23)

(Karnik Deutmetzian, Seventh-Day Adventist Public Affairs Spokesperson, Canada in the case of "Jane Young") ''We thought we were being pro-active but back in the early 1980s when this was going on I guess there was a different view, different mentality about these types of situations and we can look at things in hindsight now.' Platiel, R. 'Woman sues church over abuse by elder', Globe and Mail, Toronto, 4 March 1994, p. A7).


'In every instance where there is a pattern of abuse, someone in authority has permitted the activity. Permission can even be given under the guise of forgiveness.' Sipe, A.W.R. 'Celibacy and power', The Tablet, 26 November 1994, p. 1504.


'Too often the church's response was to transfer the offender to another parish or diocese. The bishop is frequently tempted to become part of the conspiracy of secrecy, silence and denial.' Bell, R. 'The quest for a painless cure', British Columbia Report, 10 December 1990, p. 35.


'Although Brother Mc Hugh (Province Leader, Christian Brothers, Canada) was apparently diligent about delving into the crisis (Mt Cashel, Newfoundland) with the Brothers themselves, he did not interview a single boy at Mount Cashel to identify alleged victims, discover the precise nature and scope of the allegations or find out how the children were coping with the situation. Based on his one-sided investigation, he concluded that, although the allegations of sexual abuse were well-founded , they were only isolated incidents.' (Harris, M. Unholy orders: tragedy at Mount Cashel, Viking, Ontario, 1990, p. 116)


(Brother Greg Carter, Marist Brother, St Augustine's, Cairns) The Marist Brothers learned that Br G Carter had committed child abuse crimes and they then appointed him a headmaster, according to prosecution documents tabled in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on 17 December 1997. Carter pleaded guilty to fifteen counts of indecent treatment of a fifteen-year-old teenager and was sentenced to 18 months jail with a minimum of six months. Carter's offences against "Mike" were finally exposed one night in the late 1980s, when Carter went to Mike's bed in the dormitory again and touched the boy sexually. Mike then punched the erring Brother...afraid of getting expelled for punching a teacher, "Mike" complained to the principal about the abuse. Mike's parents were asked to remove the boy from the school.Meanwhile, Brother Carter was appointed principal of St. Francis Primary School at Ayr, near Townsville, but eventually Mike's parents reported Brother Carter's crimes to the police. ('Another Marist Brother', Broken Rites Newsletter, No. 15, October 1998, Supplement, p. 1)


Alcohol in Sexual Abuse of Children

(Father Michael Curran, Belfast, Northern Ireland) 'After getting drunk on vodka himself he would ply the youngsters with beer and cider before sending them off to bed where he would climb in beside them.' ('Priest gets seven years for sex assaults on children', Irish Times, 15 June 1995, p.7)

(Father John Corrigan, St. John's Newfoundland, Canada, 1988) '...he would get the boys drunk before masturbating and performing oral and anal sex.'

(Father Peter Commensoli, Wollongong, NSW) 'Six young Wollongong men have accused a Catholic parish priest and a former college principal of sexual abuse...manipulating boys and young men into compromising situations...arrange a situation where they and the boy would be alone together...the boy would usually be plied with alcohol and shown pornographic weaken resistance. 'Mark' said: "They pumped us full of grog to the point where I couldn't walk. Then I crashed and I was put to bed. When I came to, Evans was sitting on the bed with his hands wrapped around my penis.' (Martin, B. 'Brother, parish priest molested us', Illawarra Mercury, 27 October 1993, p. 1.

'I was starting sixth form at St. Patrick's College, Strathfield. We had an orientation camp on a property at Orford. I was sleeping in the dormitory. Evans woke me up and said: 'Come with me.' In his room he had a bottle of scotch and a bottle of coke...(later) he got me to come over and sit on the bed...By that time we had had quite a few drinks and I was a bit wobbly. Then he put his hands down my pants and tried to pull my pants down.' (Martin, B. 'Evans named in new sex assault claims', Illawarra Mercury, 19 October 1993, p.2.

(Frank Arkell, Wollongong). 'At Arkell's committal hearing this man who was 19 when Arkell allegedly lured him to his home and gave him a stupefying alcoholic beverage...'I was laid on the bed. He took his clothes off. He started rubbing me with oil or moisturising cream. He rubbed it all over my back and my body. He had sexual intercourse with me.' (Carty, L. 'Victims wanted their day in court', Illawarra Mercury, 29 June 1998, p.2)

(Fr. Eric Taylor, Father Hudson's Homes, Coleshill, Birmingham) 'Another man sobbed (to Warwick Crown Court) that he had been lured into Father Taylor's tent with the promise of alcohol and cigarettes. He said that after consuming some alcohol with the priest he was told to perform an indecent act.' ('Priest tells of abuse at home' The Independent, London, 17 April 1998, p. 5)

'A schoolboy who killed a gay teacher who savagely raped him...Benjamin Andrew, 16, a boarding pupil at St. Gregory's College in Campbelltown even told the school cook and another teacher what had happened, but both failed to alert the authorities...Wayne Tonks (the abuser) had used alcohol and played pornographic videos before he raped Andrew, his counsel said.' (Barlass, T. 'Boy killer kept his secret for seven years', Daily Telegraph, 1 May 1999, p. 15)

(Brother of Charity, Denis Quirke, Waterford Circuit Court, 2 years gaol, sexual abuse, 13 year old boy). 'Judge Olive Buttimer said: 'I cannot ignore that you abused your position of trust. I cannot ignore the fact that you used alcohol on your victim 'Brother jailed for two years for boy's sex abuse', The Irish Times, 14 July 1999, p. 3.

(Fr Barry Glendinning, 1974, London, Ontario, Canada, convicted of acts of gross indecency) Lorraine Harvey-Bourque, a mother of one of the boys, said the priest would ply the boys with liquor and dirty songs on camps before abusing them. (Barrett, T. 'Priest being sued by the boys he molested', Edmonton Journal, 2 June 1999, p. 3)


Sexual Abuse & Wrestling Matches

'KCBS News in San Francisco had learned that a priest has resigned as pastor. Fr James Edward was discovered wrestling on the floor with a teenage boy.' ('Black Collar crimes', Missing Link (US), Summer-Fall, 1998, p.4)

'At the presbytery, Father Commensoli would go and hire pornos...On a couple of occasions it degenerated into a wrestling match - we'd be drunk and the video would be going - sometimes - he'd pin you and suddenly have a grab at your genitals.' (Martin, B. 'Brother, parish priest molested us', Illawarra Mercury, 27 October 1993, p.1)


Conduct Unbecoming a Priest/Brother

By using this old-fashioned but relevant term, the author wishes to convey the idea of behaviour which is coarse but not illegal; not clearly immoral either but the sort of conduct through which a priest or Brother brings contempt on his calling and the church., the sort of conduct which in a layman might pass unnoticed, although the sort of behaviour which has been used as evidence that a priest or Brother was prone to abuse children.

(Fr Sean Fortune, Wexford, Eire, suicide, 15 March 1999) 'The Irish Times was contacted during the week and said that one of the "worst kept secrets" in St. Peter's College, Wexford was that Father Fortune, who supervised the first-year boarders, gave a Mars bar each night to the boy who could tell "the dirtiest joke". (O'Connor, A "Many lived in fear of the priest who caused pain', Irish Times, 20 March 1999)

(Fr.P.C. Wollongong, NSW) 'In Year 9, I was involved in the youth group in West Wollongong and got to know Father C. pretty well. On the odd occasion he would invite us back to the presbytery. He used to pull out pornographic videos - hard core hetero porn - full on stuff...Once he snuck me and another guy into the Lakelands Drive-In in the boot of his car to watch the all-night porno-show.' (Martin, B. 'Brother, parish priest molested us', Illawarra Mercury, 27 October 1993, p.2)

Consider the following example which is developed from an event the author recalls from some years ago:

Brother X remembered (with a smile) that in his last years in school he found the class annual Christian Living Camp a trial, especially the noise of the teenagers in the evenings so he hired a room in a motel not far away from the camp and in the early evening left the supervision to the two young lay teachers accompanying him and disappeared to return fresh the following morning.

One morning he returned and one of the lads mentioned inter alia that after Brother had disappeared the lay teachers had organised a competition ('went for two hours' !) as to who could do the best 'heavy sexual breathing'.

Now suppose Brother himself had organised that competition (to the amazed delight of his teenage charges) he would have been doing in my view an action 'unbecoming a Religious Brother;... on the other hand, the Catholic lay teacher's behaviour was - in my view - inappropriate, but not as reprehensible as if Brother did so.

Moreover, years later it would be the sort of behaviour remembered by Brother's former teenage charges - and not in a complimentary way, when they were no longer teenagers.

However, suppose at a 'bucks night' someone had organised that competition. No one would turn a hair. It would be very mild foolery at entertainments renowned for their coa[r]seness, bad taste and heavy sexual flavour.


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