The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Release
For immediate release: Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2009
For more information: David Clohessy 314 566 9790
Sex abuse victims want Catholic staffer fired
Twice, church employee has interfered with police
He's unrepentant and will likely do so again, group says
US-based organization says "If bishop doesn't act, he's endangering children"
A US-based support group for clergy sex abuse victims is urging Melbourne's Catholic archbishop to fire one of his employees who has twice tipped off suspected child molesting priests that they were being investigated by police and who essentially says he'd do it again.
Leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, calls the staffer's actions "extraordinarily hurtful to innocent children, wounded adults and the church as a whole."
He is Peter O'Callaghan and he works on clergy sex cases for Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart.
“Hart’s choice is simple – either keep O’Callaghan and show he cares more about criminals or fire O’Callaghan and show he cares more about kids’ safety,” said David Clohessy, SNAP’s national director.
According to a Dec. 3 article in The Age, O'Callaghan acknowledges alerting two accused predator priests that they were under investigation by civil authorities for suspected child sex crimes.
"We track cases all across the world, and this is one of the clearest and most egregious examples of on-going recklessness and callousness we've seen anywhere," said Barbara Dorris, SNAP's outreach director.
It’s very hard to get clergy sex abuse victims to contact law enforcement, SNAP says, and often hard for police and prosecutors to build strong cases against shrewd, well-educated child molesters. So it’s crucial, the group says, that “the independent, experienced professionals in law enforcement” are given the opportunity to do investigations without suspects being warned in advance.
“Kids are safest when predators are jailed, and that can only happen when police are given a chance to do their jobs without being undermined by biased amateurs,” said Dorris.
“Giving unauthorized and premature notice to suspected criminals gives them time to destroy evidence, threaten witnesses, intimidate victims, fabricate alibis, and even flee the country," said Clohessy. "It's irresponsible and arrogant to assume that as a church employee, you know better than the police how to handle criminal matters."
It’s bad enough that O’Callaghan has twice tipped off suspected sex offenders, SNAP says. But it’s worse that he basically admits he’d do it again.
''I would not (keep a police probe secret if asked) because of my duty to keep both parties (the priest and the complainant) apprised,” O’Callaghan told The Age.
“The only thing worse than twice engaging in misconduct is essentially pledging to do it again,” said Clohessy. “O’Callaghan is arrogantly thumbing his nose at the police and prosecutors because he feels some ‘duty’ to bend over backwards for accused child molesters.”
If kids are to be safer, SNAP says, victims must feel safe and confident enough to speak up. Given the allegations against him and O’Callaghan’s admissions, some victims will be skeptical about the Melbourne archdiocesan staff and choose to stay silent, the group believes. For that reason alone, O’Callaghan should be replaced, it says.
“If there’s doubt about the objectivity and motives of the church’s point person on abuse, fewer victims will step forward, fewer predators will be exposed, and more kids will be at risk of horrific crimes,” Dorris said. “In and of itself, this is sufficient reason to replace O’Callaghan with a person whose reputation is less tainted and who carries less baggage that might keep a victim trapped in silence, shame and self-blame.”
SNAP is America’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. It’s been around for 21 years and has more than 9,000 members across the US and the world. Despite the word “priest” in its title, SNAP helps people who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Its website is SNAPnetwork.org
Second priest in sex claim tip-off
NICK MCKENZIE - December 3, 2009
THE Catholic Church's chief sexual abuse investigator in Melbourne has for the second time tipped off a priest that he is the target of a covert police inquiry.
The action by Peter O'Callaghan, QC, has infuriated police and drawn a strong rebuke from Victoria's top sexual crime detective.
In the two separate cases, the priests were told by Mr O'Callaghan that they were under investigation without the consent of detectives, before police had interviewed them and while the inquiries were at a covert stage, leaving them open to potential compromise.
Mr O'Callaghan is appointed and paid by the Melbourne Archdiocese to privately investigate sexual abuse allegations made about priests and refer victims to a compensation panel.
The most recent tip-off occurred this year. It involved Mr O'Callaghan telling a Victorian priest, via his lawyers, that police were investigating him over sexual assault allegations first made to Mr O'Callaghan by a parishioner.
Mr O'Callaghan learnt of the secret police inquiry after a detective asked him to provide documents about the priest.
In 2007, Mr O'Callaghan tipped off now-convicted priest Paul Pavlou, telling him via his lawyers that allegations about Pavlou's relationship with a 15-year-old boy had ''been reported to the police and apparently police are considering the matter''.
At the time, police were investigating allegations - initially relayed to Mr O'Callaghan by the victim and his mother - that Pavlou had committed indecent acts with a minor and may have looked at child pornography. Pavlou later pleaded guilty to these offences in court.
Mr O'Callaghan's conduct has angered investigators and the victims' lawyers, with concerns it has cut across the work of detectives and risks compromising inquiries.
The barrister has defended his conduct, saying the priests had a ''natural justice'' right to be informed that he had stopped his church-sponsored investigations because police had begun their own inquiry.
But when asked about Mr O'Callaghan's conduct, the head of Victoria Police's sexual crime squad, Glenn Davies, said it was critical that it was left to police to tell suspects that they were under investigation.
''It would be better for police investigators to notify the suspect of the investigation in their own time,'' Detective Inspector Davies told The Age. ''It is advantageous that the suspect is unaware of the investigation until the police are in a position to interview them. This stops collusion between parties involved and ensures critical evidence is not destroyed.''
Mr O'Callaghan told The Age that even if police asked him to keep secret the existence of their inquiry - which he said they had not - he would refuse. ''I would not consent to such a course because of my duty to keep both parties [the priest and the complainant] in respect of the investigation I had been conducting fully apprised of relevant matters,'' he said.
But Inspector Davies stressed that detectives must be able to launch inquiries without the suspect knowing they were being targeted. ''In many investigations it is not ideal for the suspect to be notified of the investigation prior to police contacting them,'' he said.
Mr O'Callaghan has also stressed he tells all victims of their ongoing right to contact the police.
However, in at least one case, it is believed investigators are concerned at Mr O'Callaghan's advice to a victim that the allegations were unlikely to be held as criminal by a court. Police sources and lawyers have said the allegations, if proven, would constitute a sexual assault.
Inspector Davies said: ''Victoria Police urge anyone who is a victim of sexual assault to contact police and have the matter fully investigated. We are the appropriate authority to deal with these matters as we have the legislative powers.''
Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart said he ''always believed the police were supportive of [Mr O'Callaghan's] processes'', but said he would act on any police concerns.
In August, the archbishop dismissed calls to review the Melbourne Catholic Church's handling of more than 450 sexual abuse cases over 13 years.
The alleged victim in the more recent case declined to comment but the mother of the victim in the 2007 case remains angry at the church inquiry process.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests