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Broken Rites Australia helps victims of church-related
By a Broken Rites researcher
The Catholic Church has accepted — and settled — a complaint from a former altar boy (Damian), whose life deteriorated after an encounter with an Australian priest (Father F) at the age of 12.
Despite the settlement, Damian never completely recovered. He died in tragic circumstances on 1 January 2001, aged 28.
This was not the only tragic death among Father F's altar boys. On 25 November 2007 another of Father F's altar boys (named Daniel, from a different parish) committed suicide, aged 28.
This article is about the earlier boy, Damian. At the bottom of this article you will find a link to the second altar boy, Daniel.
In memory of DamianBroken Rites first interviewed Damian and his friends and supporters in 1993, when Damian was aged 21. We have continued researching since then.
Broken Rites has a policy of not publishing the real names of victims. However, Damian told us that he WANTED his name to be published when his story is told.
So we publish this article in memory of Damian James Jurd, an innocent altar boy who did not deserve his tragic death.
The priestThe priest, Father F, grew up in a regional city in New South Wales. As a young adult, he was selected by his local diocese (which we shall call Diocese Number One) to begin training for the priesthood. This diocese eventually ordained Father F in the early 1980s and then appointed him as an assistant priest in one of its parishes (which we shall call "Harvest Town") — a wheat and wool-growing area. The Catholic Church in New South Wales is divided into eleven dioceses, with each diocese being responsible for recruiting its priests and assigning them to various parishes or other postings.
At Harvest Town, Father F paid special attention to the boys of the parish, developing a big pool of altar servers. One of those boys was Damian Jurd but, at this time, Damian said nothing negative about Father F. The first complaint to be aired about Father F came from a different altar boy, "Max". In 1984 Max's father complained to the church authorities that Father F had sexually abused Max. This complaint was lodged discreetly, without other families knowing about it at first.
The diocese quietly went into damage control, so as to protect the priest and the diocese. It granted Father F a period of leave from parish work. During a part of this absence, he lived with Father Rex Brown in the presbytery of St Joseph's parish at Tweed Heads on the New South Wales north coast, near the Queensland border.
After Father F's departure from Harvest Town, the church authorities were tight-lipped. They neglected to find out if any of Father F's altar boys boys needed help or counselling.
Then various families began exchanging stories about Father F's behaviour towards boys. Some of these parents were prepared to talk to the church authorities but none wanted to contact the police.
Broken Rites knows the names of six of these silent families. The silence of these families was understandable. Two of the mothers had jobs in local Catholic schools and neither of these mothers wanted to jeopardize this employment. And another pair of parents helped priests to serve Communion at the altar and did not want to fall out with the clergy. And, in a country area like Harvest Town, there was embarrassment that "the neighbours might find out" about the sexual abuse.
Thus, Father F was saved from a police investigation in 1984. And, instead of getting rid of this troublesome priest, the diocese brought him back from his period of leave and gave him another appointment in one of its parishes — in a different regional city which we will call "Big Town". But the parishioners in Big Town were not told that about Father F's record in Harvest Town.
The story of DamianAlthough some boys in Harvest Town told their parents about being abused by Father F, other boys remained silent — because these boys were afraid to say negative things to their Catholic parents about the Catholic clergy.
One silent boy was Damian Jurd. The following information is taken from official documents (and Broken Rites possesses copies of these documents).
Damian James Jurd was born on 7 March 1972, the youngest of four children in a devout Catholic family. According to his relatives and friends, Damian was originally a conscientious, enthusiastic pupil who achieved well at primary school and in sport. By early 1984, when he was turning twelve, he was thrilled about being selected as an altar-boy in Harvest Town and he began talking about joining the priesthood.
Damian soon had an unpleasant encounter with Father F but he told nobody about it because he presumed that no Catholics would welcome such a complaint about a Catholic priest. Therefore Damian suffered in silence.
From that time, Damian developed behaviour problems, disrupting his life at home and at school. His parents sent him to a Catholic boarding school, conducted by religious Brothers, but he clashed with the Brothers and priests there and was suspended from this school.
By age 14 (in 1986), he was associating with an anti-social peer group and he came to the attention of the police. Because his parents were no longer able to manage Damian, the New South Wales Department of Youth and Community Services arranged for him to live with a foster mother in Big Town.
There, Damian revealed to the foster carer something that he had not been able to tell his Catholic family — that he had been sexually assaulted by a Catholic priest.
Damian receives helpIn 1987, because of his anti-social offences, Damian was held for three months in Minda Remand Centre (for boys under 16) in western Sydney. Hearing this, the former foster mother alerted the NSW Department of Youth and Community Services (Y.A.C.S.) about Damian being a sexual-assault victim. At the Minda centre, Damian was interviewed (in numerous sessions) by child protection worker Pauline Rockley (from the Y.A.C.S. Department) and also (in numerous sessions) by a psychiatrist, Dr W. Russell L. White, who specialised in treating children and adolescents. In these sessions, these counsellors obtained details of the sexual assault. Dr White accompanied Damian to the sexual assault centre at Westmead Hospital, where another doctor (Dr Paul Tait) also examined Damian. Dr Tait established that Damian had suffered trauma to the anus.
The counselling team agreed that that Damian had been harmed not only by the sexual assault but also by having to cope with the secret on his own. In addition, he had suffered the stress of being incarcerated in detention with anti-social youths, plus having to undergo several court appearances — all by the age of 15.
The psychiatrist Dr Russell White wrote in his report, dated 14 August 1987: "It is difficult to imagine a greater stress for a boy of his age and nature to have suffered... The effects on his life to date, I believe, have been disastrous, and this will have already taken its toll, maybe permanently, on his personality and identity development, over these vital first three years of early adolescence."
Child protection worker Pauline Rockley stated in a report (dated 17 August 1987) that, during these interviews, Damian "began to acknowledge his lack of trust in many adults". Damian began to recognize that "his criminal behaviours were a way of getting back at someone, anyone." The report recommended that Damian be dealt with as a child at risk, rather than as a juvenile offender. (This report is also signed by Neil Thredgold, district manager of the Merrylands Community Welfare Centre, western Sydney.)
The youth criminal justice authorities reported Damian's sexual assault to the NSW Police juvenile services bureau in Sydney. The psychiatrist Russell White was present while Damian was interviewed by police.
Police investigationThe police obtained a written, sworn statement from Damian, dated 23 July 1987. The Juvenile Services Bureau then instigated an investigation, conducted by Detective Sergeant Graham John Mulherin and detective Beth Louise Connolly.
The police made discreet inquiries in Harvest Town and easily found six other boys (including the above-mentioned" Max") who had complained to the church authorities about Father F in 1984. But these "loyal Catholic" families, including the parents of Max, refused to let their sons make a written police statement against a Catholic priest.
Therefore, the police were left to proceed with only one victim — Damian Jurd.
Damian's police statement
Broken Rites has obtained a copy of Damian's police statement, which is witnessed and counter-signed by Senior Constable Hugh Dundas.
The statement alleged that::
In his police statement, Damian explained why he had not reported the assaults in 1984: "I didn't tell anybody about what Father F****** had done to me because at that time I was very religious and he was my priest. My mum and I had talked about me becoming a priest when I got older and I really looked up to Father F******."
The church's cover-upWhen Juvenile Services detectives from Sydney began their investigation, they notified the police in Big Town, where Father F was now ministering in a local parish. However, the Big Town police did not show much enthusiasm for this case. A Big Town police officer (a Catholic who was acquainted with Father F) was heard commenting that Father F's accuser must be telling lies. Because of this inadequate police response in Big Town, the Sydney detectives decided not to rely on the Big Town police.
On 11 August 1987, the Sydney detectives arrested Father F at his new parish in Big Town. He was charged with indecent assault and with committing sexual intercourse without consent.
Meanwhile, Father F had acquired a legal defence team, which took action to protect Father F. On 15 August 1987, a small item appeared in a regional daily newspaper, headed 'Sexual assault case injunction application.' The item said that "solicitors acting for a man charged with sexual offences [no name and no mention of a Catholic priest] had "last night sought an injunction" restricting the reporting of the arrest and the charges. The report said that a Supreme Court judge was expected to hear the injunction application "late last night".
However, before the hearing of this application, the charges were reported on the local regional commercial television news bulletin, and Father F's full name was given in this report. Thus, the news about Father F spread around the diocese, even though the next day's regional daily newspaper was prevented from printing the name or any details.
Father F's defence team was headed by an eminent Sydney barrister (a Queen's Counsel) to defend Father F. The case, in a NSW local court on 18 February 1988, was heard by a Catholic magistrate who was personally acquainted with Father F — an apparent conflict of interest.
Magistrate's decisionThe magistrate's task was to decide whether, or not, to send Father F to a higher court (the NSW District Court) to undergo a trial before a judge and jury.
After hearing evidence and receiving submissions, the magistrate announced his decision. He said that Damian's evidence should be examined in "the light of certain disadvantages", including the lateness with which the allegations were made (that is three years after the alleged assaults) and the fact that, since then, the boy had had trouble with the law for theft. The magistrate said that Father F, on the other hand, "has no previous convictions and he is a Catholic priest".
That is, "being a Catholic priest" was something in Father F's favour.
The magistrate continued: "Obviously, when deciding the weight to be given to [the boy's] account, it would be unnatural and indeed wrong if the jury were not to consider those matters ... and obviously the boy would come out second best."
Therefore the magistrate dismissed the charges, and Father F walked free from the court.
People who were familiar with the case commented later that the prosecutor (a Catholic) had not tried very hard to present a strong case against Father F.
Father F is transferredThe church authorities now wondered what to do with Father F. Iwas now known throughout this part of New South Wales that Father F had been in trouble about child sex-abuse in Harvest Town.
Despite the court's acquittal, the diocese withdrew him from parish postings, and he then resided for a while with the bishop in the bishop's residence, acting as an assistant to the bishop.
But in 1989 the bishop arranged to transfer Father F to another diocese (let's call this one Diocese Number Two) but still within New South Wales. This transfer involved a deal between the bishop of Diocese One and the bishop of Diocese Two.
Diocese Two needed to obtain a priest and Diocese One needed to get rid of one.
In Diocese Two, Father F was used as a relieving priest in one parish in 1989 and another parish in 1990-92. The congregations in these parishes were not told why Father F was not being given any more parishes in his original diocese.
Father F in trouble againIn his new diocese, Father F got into the same kind of trouble that he had experienced in his original diocese — that is, child sexual abuse. The story of one boy in Diocese Two, Daniel William Powell (born on 28 May 1979), is told in elsewhere (see the link at the end of this article).
In mid-1992 Father F left Diocese Two and went back to live with his parents in the regional city (within Diocese One) where he had grown up. The church authorities could not risk transferring him to any more parishes — or dioceses — because Father F could become a public-relations disaster. And he could become a financial liability if victims took action against the church in the civil courts, seeking compensation for their damaged lives.
So, Father F became a private citizen (that is, "Mister" F) and started doing university studies.
Broken Rites researchIn September 1993 Broken Rites established an Australia-wide telephone hotline, where victims could report cases of church sexual abuse. Among the early calls that we received was someone alerting us about the story of Damian Jurd in Harvest Town.
We also had a phone call from Damian, who encouraged us to keep researching. At this time, Damian was aged 21. He had a partner and two children. His life was in a mess. He was trying to recover but still faced enormous difficulties.
Broken Rites then interviewed various people who possessed information about Damian's case and the church's handling of it.
The death of DamianIn the late 1990s, Damien James Jurd demanded an apology from Diocese One for having had his life disrupted by Father F. The diocese accepted Damian's complaint and, in order to discourage Damian from suing the diocese for damages in the Supreme Court, it made a discounted out-of-court compensation payment to Damian. The diocese considered that this was a low-cost way to make sure that it had no legal liability for damages.
Damian used this money as a deposit on a house for his partner and children. But he was still dogged by psychological depression. At the end of 2000 the depression became particularly bad and he was found unconscious in bed. Later, life support had to be withdrawn and Damien Jurd died on New Year's Day, 2001, aged 28.
The story of BasilIn mid-2002 another male from Harvest Town ("Basil", then aged 29) wrote to the church authorities, complaining that he had been sexually assaulted repeatedly by Father F at Harvest Town. Basil's parents were well known in the Harvest Town parish. Father F was a friend of the family and used to visit the family's home.
Basil said the assaults began when he was aged eight and continued for two years. Basil's parents were among the families who (for various reasons) were reluctant to make police statements in 1987.
In 2002, Diocese One was evasive and defensive about Basil's complaint. Therefore, Basil gave up and did not pursue his complaint and further at that time.
Another deathMeanwhile, back in Diocese Two (to which Father F was transferred in 1989-92), another former altar boy of Father F (Daniel William Powell) was trying to repair his damaged life. In 2005 the church authorities accepted Daniel's complaint and gave him a discounted out-of-court settlement.
However, Daniel Powell committed suicide, by hanging, on 25 November 2007, aged 28. The story of Daniel Powell is told in another article on this website.
On the other hand, Father F — who is now plain Mister F — is alive and well, residing openly in a regional city in New South Wales.