Commission requests Vatican documents

Royal Commission

The Royal Commission asks for Vatican documents, reports The Echo; while a new book by former Bishop of Toowoomba, Bill Morris, discusses Vatican responses to child abuse in Australia.

In a new book, former Toowoomba Bishop Bill Morris writes that the Vatican failed to understand the fallout from clerical sex abuse in Australia, The Brisbane Times reports. 

There was no depth of understanding of the devastating effects that clerical sexual abuse was having on the lives of families and communities throughout Australia,' Bishop Morris says.

He says he tried to 'explain how abuse damages the psyche of a community, having a debilitating effect on some individuals to the degree that they mistrust the Church and its ministers' but senior Vatican chiefs 'would have nothing of this.'

'They had no idea how it would be almost impossible for a person who had been sexually abused in the confessional or any other place to go back into a room, no matter how large, to have a one-to-one confession again,' he said.

The response, from one senior Cardinal, was that 'all priests are not like that' and victims 'should get on with their lives.' They wanted Bishop Morris to desist from any public absolutions.

He says he wrote to Pope Benedict asking for an extension to deal with mediation stemming from a terrible sex abuse case at one of the local schools.

'I added that it was important for the Church to care for the victims, to take the necessary steps to help them and to make sure they were looked after appropriately,' he writes. But the Pope denied his request.

Bishop Morris writes that the Vatican refused to divulge specific complaints or instances, or a secret report done on the Bishop by American Archbishop Charles Chaput, who was sent to Toowoomba to investigate his leadership. Pope Benedict told him that natural justice did not apply either, under Canon law.

His dismissal, as Bishop of Toowoomba - a diocese which runs to 487,000 sq km - prompted hundreds of people to attend protest vigils.

Sacked Bishop Bill Morris raised sex abuse case with Pope Benedict (The Brisbane Times)

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Commission chair, Justice Peter McClellan, has written to the Holy See's Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin, asking for a copy of all documents held in Rome relating to complaints of sexual abuse by priests and religious leaders in Australia.

Justice McClellan said he hopes the documents will shed light on how complaints were handled by the Church.

'We have asked for copies of documents which reveal the nature and extent of communications between Catholic congregations in Australia and the Holy See,' said Justice McClellan in Brisbane.

'From these documents we should be able to determine how Church authorities in Australia, under the guidance or direction of the Vatican, have responded to individual allegations of abuse.'

The Royal Commission has received some documents from the Vatican relating to its upcoming public inquiry of the Wollongong diocese.

But Justice McClellan says the Vatican has yet to respond to his request for documents relating to other sexual abuse complaints.

Abuse royal commission probes the Vatican (The Echo)

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Truth, Justice and Healing Council

Day three of the Canberra Marist hearing started with the former assistant principal of St Carthage's School in Lismore, Jan O'Grady, giving evidence about her experience with Br Sutton during his time as a teacher at the school between 1985 and early 1987.

She told the Commission that she had received reports of several incidents of inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour by Brother Sutton, and witnessed an incident of inappropriate behavior with some
female students.

Mrs O'Grady agreed that she had passed on various concerns about Sutton to the school Principal, Sister Julia O'Brian.

In early 1986, at the request of the then principal, Sr Julia, Mrs O'Grady drafted a letter to Sutton imposing conditions on Sutton's behaviour with students.

Following Sutton's receipt of the warning letter, Mrs O'Grady said she did not observe any changes in Sutton's behaviour.

She told the Commission the school had no control over the appointment and transfer of Marist Brothers teaching there.

She said that at the time she thought Sutton should have been removed from the school but this didn't happen. She thought this may have been because of the relationship between the Presentation Sisters who ran the school and the Marists brothers, but was not sure.

Mrs O'Grady said during her short time as acting principal at the school she had not contacted the Brothers to ask them to remove Sutton from the school.

Eventually, Mrs O'Grady took the concerns about Sutton to Mr John Kelly, then Director of the Lismore CEO in 1987.

Upon hearing of the concerns from Mrs O'Grady, Mr Kelly told Mrs O'Grady that steps would be taken and Sutton would not be returning to the school.

Following the conclusion of Mrs O'Grady's evidence Br Terence Heinrich, former Headmaster of Marist College Canberra, took the stand.

Br Heinrich, who was Headmaster from 1983 to 1988, said that during the hand over from the previous headmaster there was no discussion about the behaviour of any of the brothers or staff.

He said he was not briefed by senior Marist brothers about any concerns with any teachers or brothers at the school and that he was unaware at the time of any allegations of inappropriate behaviour made against Chute.

He agreed that Chute had a high degree of autonomy at the school. He was trusted to perform his teaching and extracurricular duties, which included running a photography club, coaching rugby teams and operating a pie van during the winter months, without close supervision.

He said that had he known about Chute's history he would have put in place greater supervision and would have registered strong concern about Chute teaching at the school with the Marist provincial.

He said that in 1985 or 1986 he received a complaint by the parents of a boy who said he had been touched by Br Kostka during the Friday night film.

He said he was shocked and could not believe such a thing could happen. He said that he confronted Kostka about the complaint in his office where Kostka treated the complaint with little gravity.

He said that Kostka said it was a misunderstanding and that nothing wrong had happened. He later took the complaint to the then provincial, Br Alman Dwyer, who told Br Heinrich to "leave it with me".

Asked by Counsel Assisting if he had taken adequate steps to protect the student he said at the time he said he had not, as he had not considered anything wrong had taken place.

Br Heinrich agreed that with hindsight, it would have been advisable to have referred the allegation made against Kostka immediately to the police.

Br Heinrich was asked about evidence from an earlier witness, Mr De Marco, that year 12 form master, John Doyle, had told Br Heinrich
about De Marco's reporting to him that he had been abused by Kostka.

Mr Doyle gave evidence on the previous day saying he had no recollection of any report of abuse from Mr De Marco.

Br Heinrich denied that Mr Doyle had told him about the allegation. He said the gravity of that sort of disclosure would have made it unforgettable. "I never heard that from John Doyle," Br Heinrich said.

READ: TJHC UPDATE 38

FULL COVERAGE

Marist principal says calling police to investigate Brother Kostka Chute out of the question (The Canberra Times)

Commission hears of sex abuse brother chasing and hugging student in classroom (The Canberra Times)

Marist head meets abuse victim (The Canberra Times)

140611 - UPDATE 37 - Royal Commision - Marist Brothers - Canberra.pdf

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http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/

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