Australia: Sex-abuse Victim Sentenced for ‘Revenge’ Burglaries at Catholic Churches

Sounds more like a copout:

A man sexually abused by a priest as a six-year-old who exacted revenge – unleashing his “deeply entrenched hatred” for the Catholic order by burgling dozens of its churches across suburban Melbourne – was today jailed for a maximum of four years.

A judge earlier heard the man’s “rancour and rage” against the Catholic Church surfaced 20 years ago in South Australia when he was first convicted of the offence of “sacrilege”.

His barrister told the County Court earlier this month that after his client’s removal a year ago as a worker with the St Vincent de Paul Society, the “rage and anger that has so dominated his life took over and he became unstable”.

The barrister Mark Regan said the man, now 44, had a “deeply entrenched belief system of the wrong perpetrated against him” by the priest and the Catholic Church which he resented.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty to 59 charges of mostly aggravated burglary, burglary and theft that involved more than 30 churches, parish houses, a respite school and a presbytery.

Prosecutor Catharine Sedgwick detailed how the man offended against “soft targets” over seven months from Camberwell to Dandenong, Essendon to Ringwood and Epping, Balwyn and Coburg until his arrest last May.

Ms Sedgwick said he ransacked offices and stole money from safes, cash boxes, donation envelopes and raffle payments, sometimes while priests slept.

He told police he felt his crimes were “payback” for being molested and was handed a phone book in custody to mark the churches he burgled.

Mr Regan distinguished the nature of the burglaries from domestic-related, residential targets and submitted the man acted covertly and avoided confrontations.

His mother confirmed in evidence her son was about six when he told her a priest had molested him by “playing with parts of my body he shouldn’t be touching”.

She reported the matter to police but “nothing was ever done” and told the judge much of his obsessiveness and unresolved anger stemmed from that.

“I should have done a lot more than I did,” she lamented.

The judge today told the man he had harboured a great resentment against the church.

She said that on the balance of probabilities, there was “force behind” his assertions about being molested as a young child.

The judge said that the man cannot keep “utilising” his past as a reason for offending.

She described the offences as non-confrontational, and the impact had been of property loss only, but the seriousness was in the repitition of the offences.

He was ordered to serve a minimum of two and a half years.

But yes, it would indeed seem as if there are various ways in which one can exact your ‘revenge’ Down-Under…


Archbishop Phillip Aspinall: Priests ‘Can Report Child Abuse’

The spiritual leader of Australia’s 3.5 million Anglicans, Phillip Aspinall, believes that priests may be able to report child abuse revealed during the rite of confession without breaking the seal of the confessional, putting him at odds with Catholics.   

The Australian reports:

The Anglican Primate says the sanctity of the confessional should be examined by the royal commission into child sexual abuse called this week by Julia Gillard, which he regards as being a decade overdue.

Dr Aspinall’s predecessor as Archbishop of Brisbane, Peter Hollingworth – who lost his job as governor-general after a scandal erupted over his handling of sex-abuse cases in the diocese – also backed the inquiry.

Dr Hollingworth warned yesterday that the abuse of children was “more widespread than previously thought”, and welcomed the royal commission as an important national initiative and a means to help victims.

Dr Aspinall told The Weekend Australian that pastoral guidelines for Anglican priests already stipulated that anyone who admitted sexually abusing a child during confession would not receive forgiveness unless they agreed to go to the police.

If the penitent refused, the confession was incomplete and, arguably, the seal of the confessional would not apply.

Only specified, senior priests could hear such confessions in the  Anglican Church, Dr Aspinall said. “These priests are specially trained  to require the penitent to report the matter to the police and even go  with them to support them while they do that,” he said.

“If they don’t do that, forgiveness will not be granted to them.”

Dr Aspinall is credited with cleaning house after taking over as  Archbishop of Brisbane in 2002 in the teeth of allegations that the  diocese had failed to deal properly with sex abuse cases in the 1990s  under Dr Hollingworth’s leadership.

Dr Aspinall, who was later elected Primate, said the announcement of a  national royal commission into child abuse came 10 years after he first  asked John Howard to call such an inquiry.

“Of the nearly 3.6 million Australians who call themselves Anglican,  statistically one in four women and one in eight men are victims of  abuse, so it is something that affects our church on many levels,” Dr  Aspinall said in a statement yesterday.

His support for the royal commission to review confessional sanctity  is in sharp contrast to the position of Australia’s most senior  Catholic, George Pell, who this week declared that the confessional was  “inviolable”, even for murder.

The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney said he would not hear the  confession of a pedophile priest if he had prior notice of it, but, were  it made, the seal of the confessional would remain.

In response, NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell, a Catholic, said he  struggled to understand how such information could not be reported to  police, while federal Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Bill  Shorten called for the royal commission to address priestly privilege.  Interviewed by The Weekend Australian, Dr Aspinall said mandatory  reporting of child sex abuse was policy in the Anglican Church.

He said the rite of confession was less frequently practised by  Anglicans, and was different from what took place in the Catholic  Church.

Senior priests had told him they hadn’t heard a confession for years, let alone one involving child sex abuse.

But he acknowledged that opinion was divided among Anglicans on what the confessional seal covered.

“Some people would say that anything said in a formal confession remains secret and sacrosanct,” Dr Aspinall said.

“Others would say, no, if the penitent has not followed through and  taken the appropriate action and received forgiveness, then the  confession is incomplete and the seal of confession does not apply.

“In that instance the person either reports the matter to the police themselves or the priest is free to do so.”

Asked for his personal view, Dr Aspinall said: “My view is that every  instance of child sexual abuse should be reported to the police.”

In nearly 25 years as a priest, he had never been put in the predicament of hearing the confession of a child abuser.

“I don’t think I ever will, because the reality is child sex abusers  hide what they do; they don’t come forward to reveal it,” Dr Aspinall  said.

Pressed on what he would do if someone confessed such a crime to him  and refused to have it reported to police, he admitted it would pose “a  real dilemma of conscience”.

“My heartfelt conviction is that all these matters should be reported to the police,” he said.

“If I found myself in a position of having to break canon law to do  it, I’m not sure what I would do. But my conscience, I think, would move  me to find a way for … proper action to be taken.”

While Cardinal Pell attacked sections of the media for exaggerating  the incidence of sex abuse by Catholic priests and for vilifying the  church, Dr Aspinall said reporting of the issue had mainly been  reasonable.

He praised the courage of victims in coming forward.

Dr Aspinall conceded that trust in the church had been affected.

“I think people are more shocked when it’s a clergy person or a  church worker who engaged in this behaviour because they have very high  expectations of people in the church,” he said.

“And I think that is right and proper.”


Australian Cardinal: Confessional Seal is Inviolable, Even in Abuse Cases

Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia, has said that while the Church will cooperate with a federal commission investigating child abuse, priests will not break the seal of confession.

Someone who confesses sins involving abuse will not be reported to police by his confessor, the cardinal said. He explained that while an admission made outside the confessional would be reported, “the seal of confession is inviolable.”

Cardinal Pell said that if a priest is aware that someone has been guilty of abuse, “the priest should refuse to hear the confession.”

The cardinal said that he welcomed the federal investigation because it will “clear the air” and “separate fact from fiction” regarding the Church’s response to sex-abuse complaints. He has said that media reports have portrayed the Church’s role unfairly.



Hollywood Developing Movie About Catholic Church Sex Abuse Scandal

Over at The Deacon’s Bench:


Variety reports that Win Win director Tom McCarthy is directing an untitled drama about the reporters at the Boston Globe who uncovered the original conspiracy to keep these deeds quiet. Not exactly lighthearted material to help close out the week, but since it’s the “story behind the story” that’s being put in the spotlight here, it should be more interesting than just another damning exposé.

The story will follow Michael Rezendes, Sacha Pfeiffer, Matt Carroll, Walter “Robby” Robinson, Ben Bradlee Jr. and Marty Baron, the team of reporters at the Boston Globe who investigated thousands of pages of documents and conducted a myriad of interviews in the New England area to expose a scandal that rocked the Catholic Church. McCarthy has been working on this project in secret for over a year because of the “sensitivity of the subject matter,” and the tone of the screenplay by “The West Wing” writer Josh Singer is said to be similar to the classic Hoffman/Redford journalism film All the President’s Men.

Read more.


Archbishop John Hepworth the Martyr?

UPDATEFr Smuts trashes Archbishop Hepworth by Deborah Gyapong.

An interesting choice of words… But the gloves are mercifully not off… I must however add that I was simply responding to the flawed comments of a one ‘undisclosed Roman Catholic person’ on Fr Anthony Chawick’s blog. Up until this point (his posting), the line had been drawn in the sand. I’m not in the business of trashing anyone, but at the same time one cannot sit idly by while fanciful ecclesiastical legerdemain is left unchecked.  Now instead of emotive responses, what we need is to remain objective and simply stick to the facts, as they stand…


Fr Anthony Chadwick has the following posted today:

I have updated the TAC Archive , in its September 2012 page with material recently published in the Australian press concerning Archbishop Hepworth.

An undisclosed Roman Catholic person sent me this reflection:

Well, I think +John’s going to the Catholic authorities is what salvaged the little we have for TAC folks going into the Catholic Church. Without John Hepworth’s finding an ally in Cardinal Pell for pursuing the sexual abuse allegations and the findings of the Melbourne independent commission, which brought Archbishop Hart onside, the TAC would have remained entirely discredited as an organization led by a charlatan who would go so far as to make up sex abuse allegations, because that’s what the Adelaide diocese was spreading around with the help of megaphones like NNN. The destruction of his reputation went into full force after the AC came out and that’s when the TAC was effectively barred from any meaningful participation in implementation and Hepworth was out of the loop.

He has fought a bloody battle not only to regain his reputation which was in shreds but to get justice for those of us still standing. Thus we do have a TAC ordinary in Australia and a supportive bishops’ conference (…). I hope this all comes out some day.

There is no provision for comments on this posting.

Fine. Fortunately I have a blog of my own so I’ll comment over here (and anyone else who would like to comment is also more than welcome). See, you don’t get to post such, err… let me say, ‘stuff’, left unchallenged…

The above is all part of an increasing trend that I’ve noticed of late on the blogs that is intended to paint Archbishop John Hepworth as some kind of a martyr who sacrificed himself for the cause of the Ordinariate, which, if I may add, even I could buy into if he was to accept the Church’s judgment and in humility and obedience, be reconciled with the Catholic Church (as a layman) as he so promised (and is expected to do). But as late as June, he was trying to form a dissident ‘Saint Benedict Fellowship’, some kind of quasi-grouping with the intention of joining in ‘sacramental fellowship under the patronage of Saint Benedict, in order to minister to and sustain each other and those Anglicans who share [a] desire for the full, global implementation of the Apostolic Constitution…’ May I remind you that the formation of an Ordinariate in Australia was at this point, already well underway and he knew exactly where he stood in relation to it.

What is very clear is that Archbishop John Hepworth will never be a part of any Ordinariate. He is a Catholic priest who abandoned his priesthood. Laicization is his. To date, he has been unwilling to humble himself and follow through on his convictions and a previous public profession to be prepared to sacrifice his episcopal interests for the sake of unity with Rome. While some may have, we have not forgotten.

Secondly, he has refused to be reconciled with the TAC College of Bishops in a Church that he formally led. By now, it is common knowledge that Archbishop John Hepworth stands accused of financial irregularities and the misappropriation of Church funds. Since his suspension, I have yet to hear of any cooperation or willingness to work with the College of Bishops on his part.

Archbishop Hepworth is indeed ‘out of the loop’ and in no-man’s-land. But that is in and of his own making. The sex abuse allegations dating to over four decades ago, in which he claims to have been raped by three priests, has nothing to do with the TAC or the Ordinariate. It is a personal matter. The timing of his revelation is what was most surprising and questionable… Why, when you are raped by three men as a 24-year-old, do you wait until you are well into your 60’s before laying charges? Contrast if you will, the opinionated comments of our ‘undisclosed Roman Catholic person’ (above), with this:

‘CONTROVERSIAL Anglican Archbishop John Hepworth has offered to drop demands for action over rape allegations against a senior priest identified in Parliament.

In exchange he would like help to return to the Catholic Church.’

Yes, we are all entitled to our opinions, no matter how wide of the mark they may be…

And, btw. if you’re looking for the ‘bloody battle’ fought, then look no further than this.


Archbishop John Hepworth to Ask Peter Slipper to Step Down

UPDATE:  Unbelievable: Peter Slipper Could Still Be Parish Priest (!) - Archbishop John Hepworth.

We reported on the gross allegations of sexual harassment against Fr Peter Slipper yesterday.

Archbishop John Hepworth – who has been very quiet of late – has now come out and is to ask Slipper to step down as Priest:

Embattled MP Peter Slipper will be asked to stand down from his role as a priest in the Traditional Anglican Communion while allegations he sexually harassed a male adviser and misused taxpayer money are investigated.

Australian leader of the Traditional Anglican Communion John Hepworth said yesterday Mr Slipper, an ordained priest, would be asked to stand down in the wake of the allegations made by James Ashby.

As chancellor of the breakaway TAC, Mr Slipper is the chief legal adviser to Archbishop Hepworth.

The move to suspend Mr Slipper from his church role came yesterday, soon after the Queensland MP stood aside as Speaker of the House of Representatives.

“It is right for anyone accused of serious misconduct in public life, whether in church life or political life, to stand aside until the processes of justice reach a conclusion,” Archbishop Hepworth said.

“Ministers of the crown and cardinals of the church have followed this sound principle in recent years in Australia; otherwise, the integrity of our core institutions is eroded, and our expectations of public morality further decay.

“As Peter Slipper’s archbishop, I applaud his decision to stand aside as Speaker, and am seeking a similar decision in relation to his public functions in the church.”

Archbishop Hepworth said it was not a decision he had taken lightly, but it was appropriate given the gravity of the allegations against the senior MP. “I have agonised over it because we have been friends for a long time and I greatly respect his work both in the church and in the parliament,” he said.

“I am a longstanding friend of both Peter and his wife, Inge, about whom I am extremely concerned. I also greatly respect his voting record in parliament on a range of contentious moral issues.”

Mr Slipper was ordained a priest of the Anglican Catholic Church in Australia, a member church of the Traditional Anglican Communion, in 2008 after serving as a deacon since 2003. While he is a priest, it is understood he is licensed by the church to celebrate only private masses.

Mr Slipper faced calls to stand aside as Speaker by Tony Abbott and Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie.

Federal Court documents show Mr Ashby has accused Mr Slipper of making “unwelcome sexual advances” and “unwelcome sexual comments”.

The Australian Federal Police will also be asked to investigate allegations Mr Slipper misused Cabcharge dockets.

In a statement yesterday, Mr Slipper denied the allegations but said it was appropriate to stand aside as Speaker while the allegations were resolved.

Last year, he backed the move by the Traditional Anglican Communion to join the Catholic Church, but would probably have been forced to choose between his roles in the church and state when the union was complete.

Ag nee man, sies!

Oh and could someone please explain what: ‘While he is a priest, it is understood he is licensed by the church to celebrate only private masses’ means?

You may also wish to look at: Peter Slipper RESIGN or GET SACKED you are an embarrassment at Aussie Criminals and Crooks.


TAC Priest Accused of Sexual Harassment

UPDATE: Archbishop John Hepworth to ask Fr Peter Slipper to step down here.

It is the Hon Fr Peter Slipper, who is also Federal Speaker in Australia.

The Australian has the sordid details:

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was today joined by Independent Andrew Wilkie in calling for Peter Slipper to step aside as Speaker of the House of Representatives while allegations of sexual harassment are before the court.

Mr Slipper today denied claims published in The Daily Telegraph that he sexually harassed a male staffer and misused Cabcharge dockets.

The claims against Mr Slipper, made in court documents obtained by the newspaper, allege he recruited 33-year-old James Ashby for the sole purpose of pursuing a sexual relationship with him.

The application filed to the Federal Court says Mr Slipper, who occupies Australia’s highest parliamentary office, allegedly made unwelcome advances toward Mr Ashby and sent him explicit text messages making his sexual intentions clear…

But more to the point – for us as members of the TAC - Psallite Sapienter:

… with Slipper, who deserted his own Liberal National Party to gain the Speakership, thus shoring up the Government’s numbers – and who I read to-day in the newspapers is about to be prosecuted for harassing and propositioning a young male staffer with lewd messages and massages and worse.

Slipper, readers may recall, is a member and indeed an ordained priest of the Australian branch of the Traditional Anglican Communion – ordained, one assumes, by John Hepworth, who has recently resigned as head thereof, but, so far as I understand, is Archbishop of their Australian church.  As Hepworth has made public allegations of appalling sexual abuse inflicted upon himself by Catholic priests living and dead, it would seem that Hepworth – if he is still in charge of Slipper and other members of his flock – has a duty to instigate his own investigation into these accusations

Who will sink Slipper?


Vatican: Irish Catholic Trainee Priests Must Attend Child Protection Classes

The Guardian reports:

Every trainee Catholic priest in Ireland must attend child protection classes, the Vatican has recommended in a major report on how the church handled the republic’s clerical abuse scandals.

Vatican Radio released the findings of the Holy See’s widespread investigation into seminaries and dioceses across the island of Ireland. It was ordered directly by Pope Benedict XVI as Rome sought to address the child abuse crisis that has severely undermined its reputation and authority in the republic.

The apostolic visitation led by the archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, noted that there had been some “progressive steps” towards reforming church structures and in particular the handling of allegations of child abuse. Several Irish judicial inquiries found the Catholic hierarchy had covered up allegations of abuse, often by moving accused priests to other dioceses or even out of the country.

The Vatican proposed new restrictions and vetting procedures on entrance to seminaries for priests, and new child protection training for all would-be clergy in Ireland.

It has also recommended restructuring the number of dioceses in Ireland as part of the church’s internal reforms, although at this stage it gave no details on how many dioceses would be merged.

The statement, released through the Catholic church’s official radio station, said these measures were needed “to ensure that the tragedy of the abuse of minors would not be repeated”.

The report said that it must be acknowledged that within the Christian community innocent young people were abused by clerics to whose care they had been entrusted, while those who should have exercised vigilance often failed to do so effectively.

Praising recent changes to child protection policies in the church, the report said: “The visitators were struck by the efforts made throughout the country by bishops, priests, religious and lay persons to implement the guidelines and to create a safe environment.”

The investigation by a high-powered team of foreign Catholic clerics was promised two years ago by the pope in his letter to Catholics in Ireland.

In his letter the pope expressed horror and dismay in the wake of the Ryan and Murphy reports, which revealed a 70-year history of child abuse by a significant number of priests, brothers and nuns and cover-ups by their religious superiors.

The Holy See tasked six teams with investigating the implications of the abuse scandals in each of the country’s four archdioceses, in religious orders and congregations based in Ireland and abroad. They also visited a number of seminaries training priests both in the republic and in Northern Ireland.

Cardinal Sean Brady, the leader of Ireland’s Catholics, welcomed the publication of the findings of the visitation. Brady said the church expressed a heartfelt plea for forgiveness from victims and from God for the terrible sins and crimes of abuse.

The Irish Catholic church is hosting a major international religious conference – the Eucharistic Congress – in June which Pope Benedict will address via live broadcast. Catholic leaders in the country are hoping it will reinvigorate the Irish church after two decades of scandal and major decline in its temporal power in the state.


The Truth About Falsely Accused Priests

The accused are often presumed guilty until proven innocent, while the media distorts the narrative of child abuse in the US.

The Catholic World Report:

Dave Pierre is a journalist who operates, which examines anti-Catholicism and bias in today’s media, and the author of two books,  Double Standard: Abuse Scandals and the Attack on the Catholic Church and Catholic Priests Falsely Accused: The Facts, The Fraud, The Stories. Dave is also a contributing writer to, a blog of the Media Research Center covering media bias. In this Catholic World Report interview, he discusses his new book, Catholic Priests Falsely Accused, and offers his thoughts about the media’s coverage of the Catholic Church abuse narrative…

Give it a read here.


Archbishop John Hepworth’s Ambiguous Story

The Herald Sun has this opinion:


The more Archbishop John Hepworth talks, the more it seems a great wrong has been done. But perhaps not to him.

Hepworth is the primate of the breakaway Traditional Anglican Communion who claims he was raped by an Adelaide Catholic priest, who we will call X.

Since his allegations were made public three weeks ago, much of the media has treated them almost as proven already.

The headlines give the flavour: “One man’s life, and how the church he loved let him down”, “Clergyman’s long road to resolution” and “Abused Archbishop John Hepworth ready to forgive”.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon seemed so sure of Hepworth’s story that he was the first to name the alleged rapist — in the Senate, which means he cannot be sued for defamation.

And that may have been the smartest thing Xenophon did.

I don’t say Hepworth hasn’t been sexually abused. The Catholic Church has already paid compensation for the abuse he suffered from two priests, both now dead, when he was a teenaged seminarian in Adelaide.

But the allegations made against X are different.

Let’s first remind ourselves that “rape” generally means the victim was forced to have sex against their expressed will, usually because they were too weak to resist. The rapist must also know that the victim was objecting.

It’s a terrible accusation, and X has now had his reputation trashed. Who believes a Catholic priest is innocent when the hostile press brays that he’s a rapist or might be?

Yet even the most basic facts of this case raise grave doubts.

Hepworth says he was at least 24 years old when X allegedly raped him; X was one year older. This is not the stereotype of an older priest intimidating a boy.

Nor is it obvious that X could have overwhelmed Hepworth with his strength. Hepworth is 1.88m tall — or six feet two. X is shorter.

Hepworth doesn’t claim he was drugged or drunk, either…

Hepworth describes his reaction hours later as not one of anger, but guilt…

Couldn’t this suggest that Hepworth’s “no” was a quiet no from his conscience, not a loud one to his “rapist”? Indeed, Hepworth claims he was sexually assaulted by X up to seven more times, yet not once did this tall man forcefully resist. He says he felt “so weakened physically and emotionally” by his past abuse that he just gave in.

To the ABC, Hepworth told a similarly ambiguous story.

ABC: Why were you unable to stop it?

Hepworth: Even though I was six foot two and I was fairly light in those days, but I always thought myself a very small person, very weak person.

I was trying to befriend a few people, priests. I think it was out of a sense of loneliness, also a sense of an effort to belong. And then the experiences of (his past abuse) particularly, of overtures that I couldn’t resist and didn’t know how to, repeated itself a number of times…

Even on his evidence, there seems more reason to doubt Hepworth was raped than there is to believe it.

In fact, X strongly denies any rape, and at his press conference one parishioner called him “a good shepherd” and another, a retired judge, “a good bloke”.

Moreover, Hepworth’s credibility has been challenged in the past.

He concedes he faced a Ballarat court about 30 years ago, charged with misappropriating $1200 — a lot of money back then — from his Anglican parish to pay for his son’s baptism party.

“I pleaded not guilty. The magistrate refused to find any verdict,” Hepworth told the Canberra Times.

“I was trying to stop the marriage breaking up. My then wife wanted a big party and I could not afford it.

“The diocese brought (the charge) because I had wrongly used … (a parish account) and regretted it … I had paid an account intending to pay it back.”

Hepworth was also accused of financial irregularities at Glenelg, an Adelaide parish he administered in 1974, but says his bishop refused to confirm any allegations to an investigator.

Again, he denies any wrongdoing and we must give him the benefit of the doubt.

But who has given that benefit to the priest Hepworth accuses so curiously of raping him?

Even Senator Xenophon insists X is entitled to the presumption of innocence, but just to name him was already to punish him.

As X wrote to Xenophon: “For over 40 years I have served with integrity and honour as a Catholic priest … You irreparably smeared and denigrated my reputation.”

And on what flimsy, flimsy grounds.

The whole piece is here.

And it’s more than a tad nauseating.


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