It’s one of the oldest public relations tricks in the book – pretend that intentional, self serving secrecy is really just a “mistake” or “goof” or “failing,” when in fact it’s a deliberate move to protect wrongdoers.
It’s shameful to see a church official blaming lawyers for the cowardice and recklessness of his church colleagues. Even years ago, bishops knew that responsible adults call police when they see or suspect or know of a crime. Yet bishops didn’t – and often still don’t – involve law enforcement in these crimes, because they’re intent on protecting their reputations instead of our children.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact - David Clohessy (+1-314-566-9790 cell, SNAPclohessy@aol.com), Barbara Blaine (+1-312-399-4747, SNAPblaine@gmail.com), Peter Isely (+1-414-429-7259, email@example.com), Barbara Dorris (+1-314-862-7688 home, +1-314-503-0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com)
Church claims on sex case undermined
September 26, 2011 - 4:09PM - AAP
The Catholic Church has again denied a cover-up of sex abuse at a school for disabled children in Adelaide, despite new material uncovered by an ABC investigation.
The Four Corners program to air tonight said the church was given legal advice not to mention sex abuse charges when it sacked a bus driver at the St Ann's Special School in 1991.
The former principal of St Ann's has also told the program that he received instructions to maintain confidentiality on the issue when Brian Perkins was dismissed.
Perkins worked as a paid and later volunteer driver at the school from 1986 to 1991 and was charged with sex offences when police uncovered pornographic photos of children in his possession.
He was granted granted bail and fled to Queensland, stalling the case, with nothing more happening until 2001 when a group of parents discovered the abuse and demanded answers.
Perkins was subsequently extradited to Adelaide and in September 2003 was jailed for 10 years and six months with a non-parole period of six years.
He pleaded guilty to five offences involving unlawful sexual conduct with three students from St Ann's, even though the abuse involved 36 intellectually disabled students.
Perkins died in jail in 2009.
The Catholic Church also conducted an investigation into the abuse which found it failed to conduct a background check on Perkins, who had previous sex offences, and that the church and its agencies had also failed to properly exercise their duties in other areas.
Archbishop Philip Wilson said he was satisfied there was no deliberate cover-up of the abuse.
"It shows clearly that we made terrible errors of judgment and we need to make sure they can never happen again," he said in 2004 when the findings were released.
"People made wrong decisions, they did not see or respect the urgency and seriousness of the matter and failed to carry out proper processes to protect the children and the needs of the families involved."
But Four Corners said it had now uncovered documents that appeared to undermine those claims.
The program said the documents showed that the church was advised by lawyers to quarantine the then-archbishop - Leonard Faulkner - from knowledge of the abuse allegations.
The documents also supported claims from the principal at the time that he received instructions to maintain confidentiality and revealed that lawyers called for a severance letter to Perkins to be neutral.
Four Corners said the draft letter told the driver that there would be no need for him to attend the school premises, but made no mention of why his services were no longer needed.
It also said his contribution as a volunteer bus driver for disabled students had been appreciated.
Responding to the latest information Archbishop Wilson said he did not believe the letters indicated there was a cover-up.
"I don't think there was any intent to cover it up," he told Four Corners.
"I think that people were offering legal advice about these matters in the context in which they did; that is a context that no longer applies now."
© 2011 AAP
Church denies disabled kids' sex abuse cover-up
Updated September 26, 2011 23:08:06
New evidence has emerged indicating that the Catholic Church in Adelaide sought to cover up a police investigation into abuse of intellectually disabled children at one of its schools.
Twenty-year-old documents have revealed the church received legal advice telling it to avoid mentioning in writing charges of sexual abuse against a volunteer bus driver at St Ann's Special School in Adelaide.
The documents show that the church was advised by lawyers to quarantine the then-archbishop - Dr Leonard Faulkner, who was also chairman of the school’s board of governors - from knowledge of the allegations.
The documents support comments from the then-school principal in interviews with Four Corners that he received instructions to maintain confidentiality.
As a result, knowledge of the allegations was contained and no attempt was made by the school or the Catholic Education Office to pursue police investigations, which stalled.
However, current Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson has told Four Corners he doesn’t think the letters indicate there was a cover-up.
"I don't think there was any intent to cover it up. I think that people were offering legal advice about these matters in the context in which they did; that is a context that no longer applies now," he said.
The bus driver, Brian Bertram Morris Perkins, worked at the school from 1986 to 1991 and not only abused students himself but introduced them into a ring of paedophiles.
The legal letters refer to allegations against Perkins first raised in 1991, when police found pornographic photos he had taken of children from the school.
Days after police visited the school with photos of three students, the Catholic Education Office sought legal advice on how to deal with Perkins.
The legal advice says a severance letter to Perkins should be "neutral".
"In the event that the letter were for some reason to fall into media hands at some future time, it allows the Archbishop (Faulkner) to deal with the matter without being compromised by any previous correspondence," the advice says.
The draft severance letter to the bus driver tells him that there will be no need for him to attend the school premises, but there is no mention or suggestion why his services are no longer needed.
It also says his "contribution as a volunteer bus driver for disabled students has been appreciated".
One of the families involved has confirmed to Four Corners that they were told not to discuss the case with anyone, and no other parents of children at the school, apart from those identified in the photos, were told.
Four Corners uncovered the documents in a two-month investigation of the St Ann’s case.
The silence was maintained for a decade until 2001, when a group of parents discovered the abuse and pushed for answers. They discovered Perkins had been charged but skipped bail and had been living in Queensland. He was finally extradited, a decade after the allegations were first made, and convicted in 2003.
A number of parents are still in the process of suing the church, arguing that if they had known their children had possibly been abused, they may have been able to receive proper treatment and avoided long-term and continuing behavioural problems.
The documents undermine church claims – then and now – that there had been no cover-up.
Current Archbishop Philip Wilson was installed in his position just as the events came to light in 2001.
A report into the church's role in the handling of the abuse matter released in 2004 did not mention the letters.
The Sunday after the report was delivered, parish priests across the archdiocese were instructed to read a statement saying there had been no deliberate cover-up of the abuse.
Archbishop Wilson has told Four Corners he does not think the letters should have come out in the inquiry.
"I don't think it had any major role to play in the way that we responded to these issues in the time that I became Archbishop," he says.