No formal reputation check on transferred priests

2210royalcom

There is no formal check on a priest's reputation when he is transferred from one diocese to another, the Royal Commission into Institiutional responses to child sex abuse has been told, reports AAP in The Brisbane Times.

The Catholic Bishop of Lismore, Dr Geoffrey Jarrett, said normal legal checks were carried out, such as the working with children check, and professional standards protocols were applied. But there were no specific reputation checks comparable to reference checks for other jobs, he said.

He was responding to questioning from Justice Peter McClellan, chair of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which is examining the church's Towards Healing process for dealing with abuse claims.

Dr Jarrett is the bishop in the diocese where Jennifer Ingham, now 51, was abused by Father Paul Brown between 1978 and 1982 when she was a teenager.

Fr Brown was removed from active ministry as parish priest in 1986 because of a longstanding alcohol problem, but that wouldn't be included on the diocesan clerical register, the commission heard.

Dr Jarrett said the information would be in the priest's personnel file. 'Things that are against the reputation of a priest are not necessarily entered in (the register),' he said. Justice McClellan asked whether priests talked about each other, as colleagues did in any other professions, and whether someone like Fr Brown would have been discussed.

'Many priests would be in contact with other priests, they talk a lot on pastoral matters and yes, we talk about each other,' Dr Jarrett said. But 'out of discretion, priests would not indulge in gossip about things that were damaging to a priest's reputation,' such as sex abuse claims.

TRUTH JUSTICE AND HEALING COUNCIL

At the beginning of week two (day 6) of the hearing, Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett of the Lismore Diocese took the stand as the hearing into the case of Mrs Jennifer Ingham continued. Mrs Ingham was abused by Fr Rex Brown, a priest of the Diocese of Lismore, between 1978 to 1982, when she was aged 16-20 years old. Fr Brown was removed from active ministry in 1986.

Bishop Jarrett discussed the processes in place when he took over as Bishop of Lismore in 2001.  By then Fr Brown had already been removed from office in Tweed Heads, due to alcoholic addiction.

The Commission asked about the  difference between the 'removal of faculties,' which is a lesser penalty than 'laicisation.'  Bishop Jarrett said that while Fr Brown had not been laicised, he had had his faculties removed and was unable to practice or present himself as a priest.  

The Bishop also said that where an accused person is alive, substantiated allegations of conduct against minors are referred to Rome, as only the Holy See can make the decision to return a priest to the lay state.

Bishop Jarrett said he has referred one case to Rome involving a priest who is no longer in active ministry.

Bishop Jarrett also gave evidence about the process of priests transferring from one diocese to another. He spoke about the checks required by civil legislation, including the Working with Children Checks, and the Church’s National Committee for Professional Standards protocol directed to checking priests and religious seeking transfer. The Bishop explained that unless the documentation was attended to, and it is was clear there were no issues with the priest, a transfer would not take place.

Bishop Jarrett was also asked about the meeting Mrs Ingham had referred which she said involved Fr Mulchay. 

Questions were also asked about the funding of Mrs Ingham’s payment, and the fact that $15,000 paid by the Diocese was later reimbursed to the Diocese of Lismore by Catholic Church Insurance.

Like other witnesses in these hearings, Bishop Jarrett said he felt separating reparation from the pastoral element of Towards Healing would lead to a better outcome for victims.

'I believe the pastoral element is paramount in the Towards Healing process,' he said.

After lunch, the third case study, which involved Marist Brother Raymond Foster commenced. The victim, known as DG to protect his identity, read his statement, which described the abuse he suffered, and the response of the Marist Brothers to his allegations.

Brother Foster committed suicide before he was due to face criminal charges in court.

DG noted he could not pursue civil action because the perpetrator had died.  He said he was made to feel he was harassing a sick old man, not a devious, drunken child molester.

The examination of Br Michael Hill, former Provincial, looked at the treatment of DG following his later complaint to the Marist Brothers.

The third case study continues.

For more information on the Truth Justice and Healing Council go to: www.tjhcouncil.org.au

For information on the Royal Commission go to: http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/

FULL COVERAGE

No formal reputation check on transferred priests (The Brisbane Times)

Victim felt like he was 'robbing the Church' when he applied for compensation (Yahoo7)

Priest referred to Vatican with 'no expectation' of when church might hear back (SMH)

Suicide note kept a secret to protect Marist Brothers (Daily Telegraph)

RELATED COVERAGE

Catholic priest confronted by victims in court (SMH)

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