Our top stories
Black Collar Crime
Current court cases
Priest on the run
Article in The Bulletin magazine, Australia, 8 August 2006By Paul Daley
The Air Force officer is unusually distracted, fidgeting and anxious. He chain-smokes as he sips black coffee. He's always been an engaging and optimistic bloke, never one for public shows of negative emotion or introspection such as this.
Bathed in the milky mid-afternoon sunlight of a clear August day, we sit at one of many outdoor tables that punctuate, in defiance of our Canberra winters, the latte and boutique district of Kingston, but this seasonal glory is lost on RAAF Squadron Leader Mark Quilligan.
His mobile chirps. He listens, nodding intently.
"It's OK, mate, I understand. Yes, I promise. I'll be there. I'll see you soon. Of course, Luke," he responds. "And Luke I ... love you. I love you."
Tears stain his cheeks as the call ends. Face in hands, Quilligan sobs. People stare.
Questions are superfluous.
"My baby brother, Luke. He's dying. Any day now. He's scared," he volunteers. "You wouldn't believe this guy's life."
Heroin addict, jail-bird, small-time crook, thief, father of five. From 13 years old, Luke Quilligan was inexplicably lost to his middle-class Catholic family. No one knew why he, unlike his three older, educated, responsible brothers, chose an itinerant life of welfare, drugs and crime. Or, perhaps, why such a short, sharp, angry life chose him. .
Only towards the end did his tragedy begin to make sense. Only when he became the accuser.
As Luke Quilligan lay dying in Caritas Christie, a Catholic palliative care hospice in Melbourne intended for people twice his age, on the outskirts of Rome a priest prayed for him.
He is Father Julian Fox. The accused.
Luke had accused Fox of raping him six times while he was at Rupertswood, a private boys' school in Sunbury, Victoria, run by the Catholic order of Salesians of Don Bosco. Rupertswood was an infamous haven for several pedophile priests in the late 1970s and early '80s.
Fox strenuously denies the crimes. But his refusal to face his accuser, or return so detectives can interview him, casts, in the words of his Australian superior Father Frank Maloney, "a shadow" over his innocence. Maloney wants Fox - a talented linguist who rose to become head of the Australian order before fleeing overseas in the late '90s - to return.
But Fox has vowed to stay in Rome. His order maintains he's a virtual prisoner in the Salesians' nondescript headquarters on the Via della Pisana on Rome's semi-industrial outskirts, where, since about late 2003, he has worked in the Salesians' international communications office. The Salesians could, of course, send him home.
That they choose to extend his sanctuary is as confounding as the claim that he leads a spartan life and rarely leaves the Rome headquarters. This year alone he has visited Warsaw and Nairobi. Trips to Germany, India and elsewhere are planned.
"I requested the return of Father Julian Fox from Rome in about March 2005, via the Salesian order in Australia," says Detective Sergeant John Raglus of the Victoria Police Sexual Crimes squad. "The request was passed on to him and it was made clear to me that he had no intention of returning to Australia."
Pitting the word of a dying junkie against that of a holy man with a formidable intellect and benevolent reputation was never going to be easy. But Quilligan's allegations and the supporting evidence of psychologists and his mother, Margaret Quilligan, made them impossible to ignore.
The Church certainly knew better than to do so when Quilligan, then in Port Phillip Prison, first made them to a Catholic nun in late 1998. They eventually became the subject of correspondence between the then Archbishop of Melbourne, George Pell, and Margaret Quilligan. Pell recommended she contact the police, which she did. But their correspondence did not begin until after the Salesians had already paid Luke $36,000 in a secret settlement in October 2000.
At the time, he and his wife had raging heroin habits. "It was a death cheque, to make sure I checked out," Luke told a psychologist.
He spent like a dying man (which, he'd soon find out he was) on smack for himself and his wife, or gave the money to other junkies and street kids.
"He and Sue went on a heroin haze holiday with the Salesians' hush money," Margaret Quilligan says matter-of-factly. "Fancy giving a heroin addict $30,000 cash."
In fact the total was $36,000. But $6000 was deducted: expenses accrued by Luke and his wife while they stayed in a suburban motel while being psychologically evaluated for the settlement process.
The Bulletin has obtained the deed of settlement - which was negotiated through the Catholic Church's Towards Healing process - which specifically outlines the allegations against Fox. The document, signed by Luke Quilligan and his mother, specifies the settlement is made "with an express denial of liability and solely for the purpose of avoiding litigation".
Fox had already gone overseas - first to Fiji and then, in 2003, to Rome.
Luke Quilligan's mother and brothers don't much care how you judge him. He cheated them and stole from their homes. They paid his drug dealers and tried to look after his children while he robbed and did serious jail time. Between his 20th and his 40th birthday, Quilligan spent 15 years inside.
They wouldn't see or hear from him or his children - three of whom were taken by the authorities - for years on end. Then, suddenly, he'd turn up in jail or knock on the door when he needed them. They loved him unconditionally.
It's said we're all the sum of our experiences - a combination of nature and nurture - but there was something unexplained about Luke. Since her son's 13th birthday, Margaret Quilligan (an assertive, immaculately presented former schoolteacher in her early 70s who remains, perhaps inexplicably, a devout Catholic) - had soul-searched her role in his decline. It was her maternal instinct to blame herself. Her sons say she still feels enormous guilt. They can't begin to ponder her sadness.
But when Luke finally told his story while in jail in the late '90s, his pitiful, wasted life started to take context. "The only thing Luke was ever good at was having children," his mother says.
"He was a bloody nightmare ... basically a scared little boy who used heroin to dull the pain of the injuries the Salesians inflicted on him. He was a junkie, so he was always asking people for money. He was the kind of person you really didn't want to know," says Mark.
But the bigger brothers can also recall the innocent, happy boy. That ended when he was a 12-year-old, traumatised by the long, painful death from degenerative heart disease of their father, Barrie, who spent his later years as an invalid. After Barrie's death Luke went off the rails, running with a wild crowd around Eltham and, later, the old Olympic Village in West Heidelberg. Margaret received a small payout after her young husband's death. She decided to spend it on Luke's education.
The Salesians of Don Bosco - a Catholic order that had, since its inception in Italy in 1841, specialised in the physical, developmental and pastoral care of children - could be the answer, she was told. Her brother-in-law recommended Rupertswood, the Salesian boys' school in a farm setting north-west of Melbourne.
"All men and a farm - I thought, 'Oh, he'll be right here'. That was the end of him," says Margaret. "Luke's life was destroyed by what I did. Totally destroyed ... It was my one thing that I did to try and get him somewhere where I thought he'd get the help that he needed."
When Luke began at Rupertswood the acting head was the now notorious pedophile Father Frank Klep, convicted and jailed last December  for sexually abusing 11 schoolboys during the '70s. It is instructive that Klep was first convicted of seven child-sex offences at Rupertswood in 1994 but, rather than being expelled from the order, he was instead moved to Samoa where - contrary to the assertions of his superiors - he was in constant contact with children. It is equally instructive that, in the late '90s, the Salesians made an $80,000 settlement with one of Klep's victims over allegations for which he was ultimately convicted.
Father David Rapson was also at the school. In 1992, Rapson was convicted of sexually assaulting Rupertswood students and sentenced to two years' jail. He was later convicted of sexually assaulting boys at a Tasmanian school. The Pope was to personally expel him from the order.
Another Rupertswood priest, Father Jack Ayers, is the subject of similar allegations from a former pupil of a Salesian school in Adelaide. He lives in Samoa, where he is said to be gravely ill.
Luke Quilligan, desperate for emotional counsel and strong male role models after his father's death, was thrown into this. According to a statement he made to Victoria Police, Klep - notorious for drugging his victims before assaulting them in the school infirmary - inappropriately touched him. But his most serious allegations were against Fox.
"He told me that the first time it had happened, he had been in trouble, and was sent to Father Fox's office," reads Margaret's August 2004 statement which outlines the circumstances under which Luke first recounted, while a prisoner in 1998, the allegations.
"When he got there, he was directed by Father Fox to lean over the desk and drop his trousers. He told me he was expecting the strap, but instead got a penis up the backside ... after that, when Father Fox sent for him he knew ... he would be raped."
Luke complained to the then principal, Father Terry Jennings, who, he claimed, branded him a liar who would be sent to prison if he repeated the allegations. He twice ran away and, when it was clear he was about to do so again, his mother took him from Rupertswood permanently after just 14 months in 1979.
"As I was taking Luke away, Father Jennings told me he was a rotten boy who would end up in jail," she says.
Jennings died in 2001 - not too late, perhaps, to reflect upon the prescience of his remark to this broken-hearted mother.
Father Frank Maloney, a renowned Salesian scholar, took over as head of the Australian order from Father Ian Murdoch late last year . Murdoch, who is overseas on study leave, signed the confidential settlement with Quilligan. He was also dragged into a global scandal - thanks mainly to Klep - concerning the Salesians' irresponsible handling of their alleged sex offenders. Murdoch was emotionally flattened by the experience.
Maloney is a thoughtful, good-humoured, forthright man. He readily volunteers his instinct is to protect Fox. He's also openly mindful of his order's reputation. It now has 115 members working with thousands of children, many of them severely disadvantaged, throughout Australia and the Pacific. He correctly says their many good works should not be marred by the acts of a sinful few.
He espouses openness and criticises the secretive Towards Healing process, in which he, as provincial, still participates. It has led to several secret settlements (he estimates five or six) between alleged victims and his order. (Other Catholic orders have also made many such settlements.)
"I find it impossible to think nothing happened. And it's common knowledge that at that same time at Rupertswood, there were two other people that have been convicted of abuse and so I think there was certainly a context of abuse that was going on in the place at that time," he says.
"My own personal tendency is to be somewhat defensive of Julian Fox as I know him and as I tend to see the good that he's done and the good that he is doing - and I also regard him as something of a victim in all of this, because he now finds himself basically a prisoner in a large administrative building on the outskirts of Rome which he barely ever leaves.
"My take on the situation is that you don't get tragic situations like Luke - a tough man like Luke - late in his life admitting that this happened to him as a young boy. My rule of thumb is, where there's smoke there's fire."
The Bulletin: "Do you wonder why Fox didn't come back when he had an opportunity to talk to the police?"
Maloney: "I do. That to me is the shadow that concerns me. You know ... he's got a great deal of integrity, and why it was that he didn't come and face a police interrogation that could have cleared up the whole thing once and for all - that puzzles me ... that remains a shadow in my defence of him."
The Salesians maintain that two psychological assessments of Fox - one in Australia, the other in Genoa - had "neutral" conclusions about his guilt. The order has also said an absence of other alleged victims mitigates strongly in Fox's favour. But that's not entirely true.
In the late '90s, another former Rupertswood student told his parents that Fox had abused him. The alleged victim chose not to pursue the case - but only after Murdoch flew to Fiji to confront Fox with two separate abuse allegations. "Each time he made complete denials and maintained his innocence," Murdoch said in 2004.
Of the Towards Healing process, whereby alleged victims of Catholic clergy can be paid large sums of money, Maloney says: "Not only is this a mistake in terms of facing the thing courageously and positively, but my personal feeling on this is that you don't put $30,000 in the hands of a drug addict."
The Salesians' participation in Towards Healing could ultimately prove even more counterproductive; it is understood that Klep's victims are preparing to mount a class action against the order that could ultimately cost it millions of dollars.
In response to The Bulletin's inquiries, Fox emailed Maloney to reiterate his innocence: "I was flabbergasted that anyone would want to make an accusation of the kind against me as I know that nothing of the kind happened. Like you, I had come to the conclusion that something had happened in the life of that young man and that for whatever reasons along the way, he had attached my name to it - wrongly, I believe. And one of the personal motivations that sustained me, even at the time of the initial information that I was being named in this regard, was that I felt no antagonism towards him, just puzzlement."
Fox said the case had been less a personal "tragedy" for him than a tragedy for the good name of the Salesians.
"As for myself ... I am fortunate in being able to live well with a clear conscience beyond my usual sinfulness (like the rest of us!), fortunate in being a person who can adapt to any or most cultural and human environments ... I haven't ceased to contribute to the Congregation and haven't the sense that I'm languishing in some sort of useless limbo."
I am a Salesian priest, ordained in 1995 ... I have no way of understanding the pain you have endured over the years. Hearing about your story has affected me to the extent that I feel ashamed and have urges to leave the order myself ... Today Julian Fox is in Rome and in his own prison and won't come back. It's a very sad scenario all round.
Quilligan had just entered Caritas Christie. He was bloated and in chronic pain due to his failed liver. His lifestyle ruled him out of contention for a liver transplant. Reade would later visit the invalid in the hospice. Quilligan saw him once, demanded $1000 and told him to "fuck off".
A few months later Reade, apparently undeterred, wrote again, this time on a postcard with a tranquil landscape photograph: "At the risk of disturbing you and knowing the end is near - I just wanted to let you know you are not forgotten and a prayer group I attend are keeping you in mind."
Reade was right; the end was near and Luke was now experiencing a carefully managed death. Luke and his family celebrated an early Christmas, and he became a figure of great affection for the nursing staff and other patients. It confounds human understanding that he also began taking Communion.
He even rediscovered a passion for art - a genuine talent he had not indulged since early childhood. He painstakingly fashioned a ceramic meditation mandala in which he represented an idealised version of his life - as a bird. Encouraged by his carers, he entered it in a competition for palliative patents.
His brothers and mother sat with him often. "You know, we reflected on his life during that time," says Mark Quilligan. "I said to him that I could still remember him when mum and dad brought him home from hospital. He was 10lb, 10oz. He was a whopper. And for the first time during his life, he was absolutely at peace."
In mid-August, Mark gave his little brother a gold chain and crucifix. He proudly told the nurses and other patients how he treasured it. It was to be Mark's parting gift.
Four days later - pension day - Luke left the hospice for the day. He returned in the evening, dishevelled, after visiting friends. His wallet was empty, the chain and crucifix stolen. He spent the weekend distraught that he'd been so careless. Mark, he said, had always been so kind, so loving, towards him, while he'd only ever disappointed him. The next day, Monday, August 26, with two of his brothers and his mother by his side, Luke Quilligan's illness finally overtook him. He lapsed into unconsciousness in the early afternoon.
His 16-year-old son Daniel came by. Margaret suggested that maybe Luke could still hear. "Talk to him," she urged.
"Goodbye," Daniel said.
Luke Quilligan, who'd never won a thing in his life, had been awarded second place, worth $2000, in the art competition.
Maybe he heard that, too.
He died that evening, 40 years old.
While death ended Luke's physical and emotional anguish, his mother and brothers remain tormented by Fox's refusal to face them. The tragedy for Father Julian Fox and the Salesians is, of course, that now he will never be proven innocent - or guilty.
He must live on, in exile, under the shadow.
As Detective Raglus so succinctly puts it: "No complainant, no case."
Fox emailed: "To hear later that he had died saddened me, for all kinds of reasons, and has often led me to pray for him. There was never any contact between myself or him or the family throughout this whole sorry scene - I believe that the process avoids that anyway and counsels strongly against it, possibly amongst other things because in the end, if you have one who asserts it is false and another who asserts it is true, little is achieved. In some respects that becomes even more difficult if one of the partners is no longer there to assert his case, though I did wonder if it might not have been the mother's case rather than the boy's, and that is worrying."
Margaret Quilligan says: "If you're a dyed-in-the-wool Catholic, you can't believe a priest would do this. Well, I'm a Catholic. Friends say to me, 'How come you still go to church?' And I say, 'Because I don't blame God for some of the arseholes in his Church. He's as mad as I am'."
Mark, who is now a practising Baptist, says: "I can forgive Klep or Fox or any of them. But I can't forget. They were the shepherds of the flock. The Church had better start looking after the flock rather than the shepherds."
This story must end, as it began, with Mark Quilligan, who sat tearfully in the winter sunshine that day a year ago having just told his dying brother he'd be there when the time came.
But Mark couldn't make it to Luke's death. That's why he gave him that gold cross and chain.