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By a Broken Rites researcher
Research by Broken Rites Australia has ascertained that a certain priest, Father F, became a danger to children in his very first parish (in 1982-84). But the Catholic Church authorities remained silent about this priest for THIRTY years until a television program (in July 2012) exposed the church's silence. Church leaders now need to explain why they remained silent for so long.
Father F belonged to the Armidale diocese (comprising two dozen parishes) in northern New South Wales, extending along the New England Highway to the Queensland border. Father F's first parish (from November 1981 to about April 1984) was the town of Moree (St Francis Xavier parish), where he assisted the Parish Priest, Monsignor Frank Ryan. Thus, Father F's first full year in Moree was 1982 — and this is when the 30-year silence began.
Ten years later, in 1993, the newly-established Broken Rites victim support group announced its Australia-wide telephone hotline. One of the first incoming calls was from a former altar boy of Father F at Moree, recalling certain things that allegedly happened in this parish in 1982-84. Soon, Broken Rites had similar phone chats with other Moree families.
Parishioners told Broken Rites that, in Moree in 1981-84, Father F paid particular attention to the altar boys, who were recruited from the local Catholic primary school.
By 1983, some of the parents spoke to Father F's immediate superior, Monsignor Frank Ryan, expressing concern about how Father F was handling some of the altar boys, who were aged about ten and eleven.
Thirty years later, in 2012, some of these parents spoke to the producers of the Australian television public-affairs program Four Corners. In an interview aired on 2 July 2012, one of the Moree parents (whom Broken Rites will call "Padraic" — not his real name) told Four Corners that his son ("Maximilian" — not his real name) was indecently assaulted on the genitals by Father in 1983. Immediately after the abuse occurred, Maximilian (an altar boy) told his father about it. The parent said in the Four Corners interview:
That is, the church received this complaint in 1983. The Four Corners program displayed a typewritten letter, from Monsignor Ryan to this parent, admitting that the church authorities knew in 1983 about the Father F complaints. Monsignor Ryan wrote in the letter: "I made discreet inquiries and liaised with families known to have children involved in the matters that were brought to our attention."
Padraic said in the Four Corners interview that, in 1983, Monsignor Ryan knew that Maximilian was not the only victim — Ryan knew that one of Maximilian's friends, also, was abused.
As well as being in charge of the Moree parish, Monsignor Ryan was the Vicar-General (that is, the bishop's deputy) for the whole of the Armidale diocese. The parents' concerns also reached the bishop, Most Reverend Henry Kennedy, who was located in the town of Armidale.
Parents have told Broken Rites that, in 1983 and 1984, Bishop Kennedy and Monsignor Ryan showed no surprise about these complaints regarding Father F (and they showed no concern about the welfare of the altar boys).
Admissions by Father FSo what was Father F doing to some of his altar boys in his first parish in 1981-1984? Father Wayne Peters, a priest of the Armidale diocese, wrote some answers in a church document in 1992. This document, which is a report of an interview with Father F, was revealed by the Four Corners program on 2 July 2012. In the document, Father Peters alleged:
In the case of Boy Three, Father F admitted "that he fondled the boy's genitals" during a car trip to Narrabri, an outlying town in the Armidale diocese. [There will be more about Boy Three, Damian Jurd, later in this Broken Rites article.]
Regarding Boy Four and Boy Five, Father Peters alleged:
It is significant that Bishop Henry Kennedy and Monsignor Frank Ryan seemed to ignore the concerns expressed by parents in 1982-84. And these leaders did not bother to find out what harm was suffered by the altar boys and (later) what harm was suffered by their families.
Transferred to new parishesIn mid-1984, seeking to protect the clergy's reputation, Bishop Kennedy "solved" the problem by abruptly "removing" Father F (overnight) from this parish. This removal, however, turned out to be merely a transfer to a series of other parishes (where the new parishioners would not know about the Father F matters of 1981-84). Bishop Kennedy allowed Father F to continue working in these other parishes for a further seven years, until 1991, making a total of eleven years in parish work.
The perpetrators of the cover-up in 1982-84Father F's early protectors — Bishop Henry (or "Harry") Kennedy and Monsignor Frank Ryan — were significant figures in the Australian church.
Father F's backgroundFather F grew up (and went to primary and secondary Catholic schools) in the town of Armidale. He served as an altar boy in Armadale. As Armidale is the town where the regional bishop is located (at the Cathedral of St Mary and St Joseph), young "F" grew up knowing three successive Armidale bishops: Bishop Edward Doody who was based at Armidale until "F" was 15; Bishop James Freeman who was based at Armidale briefly during F's mid-teens (Freeman later became cardinal archbishop of Sydney); and Bishop Henry Kennedy (who took over in 1971, when "F" was 18).
When he was a young adult (evidently in his twenties), Mr F was endorsed by Bishop Henry Kennedy to go to seminaries at Springwood and Manly in New South Wales to be trained for the priesthood.
After being ordained, Father F belonged specifically to the Armidale diocese and normally he would be expected to spend his career in the various towns of this diocese.
Father F in 1984-87In early 1984, after being removed from the Moree parish, Father F spent a short period of leave staying in the presbytery of another priest, Father Rex Brown, in the Lismore diocese on the New South Wales north coast. [Father Rex Brown was a child-sex offender, who is the subject of a separate article on the Broken Rites website.]
About the end of July 1984, Father F returned to the Armidale diocese, where Bishop Henry Kennedy appointed him as an assistant priest at St Nicholasís parish in Tamworth under the parish priest-in-charge, Father Gerard Hanna. (Tamworth is the biggest town in the Armidale diocese). The families in Father F's new parish were not told about the trouble of 1982-84.
The story of one altar boy, Damian JurdMeanwhile, in 1984-87, one of Father F's former altar boys in 1983-84 (Damian James Jurd, born on 7 March 1972) was having troubles of his own. By mid-1984 (aged 12) Damian ceased being an altar boy and refused to go to church any more. His behaviour deteriorated at home and at school. Damian's parents could not figure out what was troubling the boy.
Eventually, in 1987, Damian ended up on the streets of Sydney, homeless and in distress, aged 15. He was interviewed by child-protection workers and by a children's psychiatrist. While asking Damian about his past, these experts discovered that Damian had allegedly been sexually abused by Father F while he was in this priest's custody in 1983, when he was aged eleven.
Damian's Catholic family had presumed that the child would be safe while in the custody of a Catholic priest. Damian felt unable to tell his "very Catholic" family about what allegedly happened during his weekend with this Catholic priest.
The child-protection experts agreed that the alleged sexual abuse (plus the alleged breach of trust and the accompanying Catholic Church cover-up) had disrupted Damian's adolescence, resulting in severe personal damage.
The church shuns the policeUntil mid-1987, the church authorities had protected Father F from coming to the notice of the police. However, the Sydney child-protection experts referred the Father F matter to child-protection detectives in the New South Wales Police Service in Sydney.
Specialist detectives from Sydney visited Moree and contacted some of Father F's former altar boys and their families but these families were reluctant to help the police. A note written by Bishop Kevin Manning (dated 9 October 1991 and quoted by a church-appointed barrister, Antony Whitlam QC) refers to "the silencing of witnesses in Moree by Monsignor Ryan."
Therefore, the detectives were hamstrung. They could proceed on behalf of only one of the alleged victims — Damian Jurd. The church's silencing of witnesses protected Father F and the church's reputation and assets, but it created problems for Damian Jurd and other altar boys.
Police charges re a car-trip to NarrabriOn 11 August 1987, the detectives arrested Father F in Tamworth and charged him with having committed sexual crimes on Damian. Damian's police statement alleged that these incidents occurred during a weekend car-trip to Narrabri (St Francis Xavier parish). Father F and Damien stayed in Narrabri overnight, so that Father F could conduct the weekend Mass for a priest who was away. Damian acted as the altar boy.
On the advice of the parish's Catholic solicitor, Father F refused to answer various questions (about the alleged incidents) which were put to him by the police.
Early on the evening of 11 August 1987, the arrest of Father F was reported on the Tamworth local regional commercial television news bulletin. The news item gave the priest's full name, plus the charges. But, meanwhile, on that same date, the church's lawyers obtained an injunction from a Supreme Court judge, preventing the next morning's newspapers (such as Tamworth's Northern Daily Leader) from publishing the name of the defendant or any details. Thus, the newspapers could not mention the Catholic Church or the fact that "the man charged" was a clergyman. However, many people had already heard the priest's name on the earlier TV bulletin.
Court caseSupported by the church leadership, Father F indicated that he would plead "not guilty" in court. Father F's defence team was well resourced. It was headed by a prominent Sydney Queen's Counsel, who has also conducted the defence for prominent criminals in Sydney courts. Monsignor Ryan and Bishop Harry Kennedy arranged for payment of this QC's fees.
(Where did the church obtain this money for the QC's fees? Did any of it come from money that parents had put into the collection plate at Mass on Sundays?)
A preliminary hearing (called a "committal" hearing, to decide whether the case should be passed on to a judge and jury) was held in a closed courtroom at Narrabri Local Court on 18 February 1988. The magistrate who was listed to hear the case happened to be (surprise, surprise) a Catholic magistrate who was personally acquainted with Father F.
(Why did this magistrate not step aside from hearing the case?)
When Damian's family heard the name of this magistrate, they felt pessimistic about the outcome.
In court, the church's celebrity barrister gave Damian a hard time in the witness box.
On the other hand, Father F called no evidence and reserved his defence. (This sometimes happens in a preliminary hearing, when a defendant may decide to retain his/her side of the story until telling it to a judge and jury at a subsequent trial).
At the end of these preliminary proceedings, the Catholic magistrate refused to refer the case to a judge and jury. Explaining his refusal, he said that he preferred to believe "a Catholic priest" (who had pleaded not guilty and who had "no previous convictions"), rather than a troubled 15-year-old boy.
Accordingly, he discharged Father F, who then walked free from the court, continuing to have the status of "a Catholic priest" with "no convictions".
The media was banned from reporting the court case. Thus, the "good" reputation of the church (as of 1988) was protected.
After this victory over the altar boys, the Armidale diocese arranged for Father F to live in Bishop Henry Kennedy's house in Armidale, instead of ministering in a parish. Father F spent this time doing some university studies
He later spent some time in Sydney. For some months in 1989 (according to a letter written by Father F), he was living in the presbytery of the Carlingford parish (St Gerard Majella parish) in Sydney's north-western suburbs. (Carlingford was within the new diocese of Broken Bay and the priest in charge of the Carlingford parish was Father Finian Egan.)
Transferred to another dioceseIn late 1989 it was arranged that Father F would transfer (on loan) to minister in the Kenthurst parish in the Parramatta diocese, although officially he would still belong to the Armidale diocese.
The Parramatta diocese, formed in 1986 (with Bishop Bede Heather as its leader), comprised about four dozen parishes in Sydney's outer western suburbs. Parramatta proper is merely where the bishop and the cathedral are located.
Western Sydney is 500 kilometres away from Armidale.
Parishioners in the Armidale diocese were not told why Father F was not being given any more parishes in the Armidale diocese, and his new parishioners at Kenthurst in the Parramatta diocese were not told why he was arriving there.
Thus, Father F spent more than two years working in the Parramatta diocese:
One parent spoke to Father Roderick Bray (who was in charge of St Margaret Mary parish in Merrylands), and threatened to "go public" about Father F. Furthermore, someone in the Parramatta diocese heard about Father F's problems concerning 1982-84, and this information began to circulate in the Parramatta diocese.
In late 1991, while he was still on loan to the Parramatta diocese, the church authorities were finally forced to consider some damage-control regarding Father F.
After Bishop Henry Kennedy retired in 1991 (aged 76), he was succeeded as bishop of Armidale by Bishop Kevin Manning, who conferred with other church officials in Sydney about how to manage the Father F problem.
Crisis meeting in 1992By mid-1992, Father F had finished his term at the Merrylands parish and was seeking a new parish in the Parramatta diocese.
He was summoned to a meeting at the Sydney Cathedral presbytery, on
On 3 September 1992, attended by three church officials:
Father Peters wrote a letter to Armidale Bishop Kevin Manning (dated 11 September 1992), giving an account of this meeting. In the letter, Peters says that Lucas and Usher were representing the "Special Issues Resource Committee" of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.
In the 1990s, the term "Special Issues" was a euphemism for clergy sexual abuse. The Special Issues Committee had been established in conjunction with the church's own insurance company (Catholic Church Insurances Limited), which handles "confidential" compensation payouts to victims of church sexual abuse.
In his letter, Father Peters alleges that Father F made the admissions at this meeting about how he committed sexual actions (such as "sucking off boys' dicks") upon children in his custody in 1982-84.
The church leaders explained to Father F that it would be too risky for the church to appoint Father F to a new parish because (as Fr Peters' wrote in his letter) "the possibility always remains that one or some of the boys involved may bring criminal charges against [Father F] with subsequent grave harm to the priesthood and the Church."
Thus, the church officials were worried about possible harm to the church (that is, harm to its corporate brand-name and its assets), rather than harm that may have been done to the altar boys.
The church officials showed no interest in checking among the altar boys in Father F's former parishes to find out if any of them needed help.
And the church officials did not consult the Sexual Crime Squad of the New South Wales Police.
Still a priestBy late 1992, Father F was back his his home-town, Armidale, living in a private house this time (not the bishop's house). Although now living as a private citizen, in the eyes of the Catholic Church he was still a priest (a priest without a parish).
Despite his record, the Armidale diocese allowed him to continue playing an active role (as a layman) in church affairs in Armidale town.
And (according to Antony Whitlam QC) church records state that in May 1997 Father F heard confessions one weekend at a parish in the Broken Bay diocese (in Sydney's north) where a seminary classmate was parish priest. Did these parishioners realise exactly to whom they were confessing their sins?
Father F's status, as a priest without a parish, continued for another ten years.
Compensation for Damian JurdMeanwhile, during the 1990s, Damian Jurd of Moree was feeling hurt by damage which (he alleged) had been done to his life by the church's protecting of Father F. He hired a Sydney legal firm to tackle the Armidale diocese for compensation. The church resisted this application but it eventually was forced to make a confidential financial settlement with Damian (then aged 26) in 1998. Such settlements serve a business purpose — in order to end (and limit) the diocese's financial liability to the alleged victim.
Damian used his compensation as a deposit to buy a house for his partner and his two young children.
Death of Damian JurdDespite receiving compensation, Damian was still feeling damaged by the church's victimisation of him. At the end of 2000, his depression became particularly bad and he was feeling worn out. He had lost the will to continue living. He was found unconscious in bed. He died on New Year's Day, 2001, aged 28, leaving two children - a boy then aged nine and a girl then aged eight.
When the story of the "Father F cover up" became public in July 2012, this son and daughter were aged 20 and 19 (and they are still feeling hurt about what the Catholic Church did to their father).
George Pell knew in 2002Another altar boy,"Bill" (not his real name) re-surfaced in 2002. Bill had encountered Father F in the Moree parish in 1982-84. Bill's experiences with Father F began at the age of eight but the church culture intimidated Bill into remaining silent for many years. Finally, in 2002 (when he was in his late twenties with children of his own), Bill wrote a letter to Sydney's publicity-oriented new archbishop, Cardinal George Pell, complaining about how Father F (and the church's protection of Father F) had disrupted Bill's life. Pell replied that this was a matter for the Armidale diocese.
So Bill's complaint was flick-passed to the Armidale diocese, which then took an evasive attitude towards Bill. Thus, Bill felt intimidated into not pressing the matter further.
Despite Bill's complaint in 2002, none of the church leaders in 2002 gave him the telephone number of the Sex Crimes Squad of the New South Wales Police. Why not? This squad has a team of detectives to investigate such matters. It is not the role of the Catholic Church to "investigate" its own crimes.
Daniel Powell, altar boyMeanwhile, trouble was brewing for another of Father F's altar boys. Daniel William Powell (born on 28 May 1979) was aged 12 when he encountered Father F in the Merrylands parish in the Parramatta diocese during Father F's final months there in 1991-92.
In 1997, aged 18, Daniel's life was in a mess. He contacted Father F, telling him how the priest had damaged the boy's life. According to Daniel, Father F paid money to Daniel on the understanding that Daniel would not go to the police. Unwisely, Daniel accepted this money from Father F. (Instead, Daniel ought to have tackled the church headquarters, not the priest, for compensation.)
Father F arranged for the police to charge Daniel with the crime of demanding money with menaces.
The matter first went to court for a preliminary ("committal") hearing in October 2003 when Daniel was aged 24. The matter then proceeded to a jury trial in 2004.
To demonstrate that Daniel had been seeking reparation (rather than committing extortion), Daniel's defence barrister (Philip Massey) recited to the court a 24-page statement by Daniel, alleging multiple incidents of sexual abuse by Father F which had disrupted Daniel's life.
The church in damage control in 2004During Daniel Powell's jury trial in 2004, Daniel's defence barrister revealed (and quoted from) Father Wayne Peters' letter of 11 September 1992, in which (according to Fr Peters) Father F allegedly admitted that he had committed oral-sex actions on altar boys.
The 2004 jury found Daniel Powell not guilty of the extortion charge.
After the 2004 trial, the church authorities realised that Father Peters' letter about the 1992 meeting with Father F could become a public-relations problem for the church. Therefore, after the 2004 trial, the church authorities took steps to officially "laicise" Father F (that is, remove his priestly status). Thus, he finally became "Mister" F (merely a "former" priest). But this was done to protect the assets of the church. This was 20 years too late for the altar boys.
And, still, no church official bothered in 2004 to arrange for any of Father F's former altar boys to make an appointment with the NSW Police sex crimes squad.
Compensation and death for Daniel PowellDaniel engaged a legal firm to tackle the church for compensation for his damaged life. The church resisted this claim but a "confidential" settlement was reached in 2005 when Daniel was 26.
Daniel Powell never recovered from the disruption of his adolescence and he took his own life, by hanging, on 25 November 2007, aged 28. He was the father of two young children.
The significance of Damian and Daniel
Damian and Daniel never knew each other. Damian was born seven years later than Daniel. Each of them gave up living at the age of 28.
Both Damian and Daniel were damaged not only by the church's culture of clergy sexual abuse but also because of the church's harbouring of Father F from 1981 onwards. And, by the time of Damian's death in 2000, Father F remained at large while the lives of the victims were spiralling downwards.
Damian and Daniel each left two children. Neither the Armidale nor Parramatta diocese has shown any concern for the future welfare of Damian's children or Daniel's children.
And, judging from Father Wayne Peters' letter about the 1992 meeting, the church officials showed no interest in trying to find out the names of all the altar boys who may have been affected. In 1993, however, Broken Rites easily discovered the names of these altar boys — the names that the church officials in 1992 did not want to know about.
Four CornersThe story of the Father F cover-up was finally revealed by the Australian television program Four Corners on Monday, 2 July 2012 — thirty years after Bishop Henry Kennedy and his deputy (Monsignor Frank Ryan) first ignored the complaints about Father F. Four Corners displayed the letter that was written by Rev. Wayne Peters to Bishop Kevin Manning about Father F's 1982-84 activities. This letter (dated 11 September 1992) is on the Four Corners website.
The church leaders' silenceThe church authorities have some explaining to do:
WHY did the church authorities remain silent about Father F for thirty years? Why did no church official ever arrange for any of Father F's altar boys to have an interview with the NSW Police sex crimes squad? In New South Wales law, concealing an alleged crime can itself be a crime.
WHY was it left to the television program "Four Corners" to reveal the Father F matters in July 2012?
DO the church authorities feel any responsibility towards the parents and siblings and (especially) the children of Damian Jurd and Daniel Powell? The lives of these families have been damaged by the church's behaviour in harbouring and protecting Father F. The next generation is still feeling the impact of the church's cover-up. Likewise, some of Father F's other altar boys (such as the above-mentioned "Bill") now have children of their own and the impact of the church's behaviour (in keeing quiet about Father F for 30 years) is being felt by these children, too.
The church investigates itselfAfter the Four Corners program, the bishops of Armidale and Parramatta announced that they would hire a senior barrister (Antony Whitlam QC) to investigate certain aspects of the Father F matter for the church.
It is not known how much the church paid Mr Whitlam for his work.
The church's Whitlam report was released to the media on 17 January 2013.
The Antony Whitlam inquiry was focussed on church correspondence (that is, whatever documents were made available), plus Mr Whitlam's interviews with some bishops and priests and Damian Jurd's parents.
Much of the Whitlam report's focus is on Damian Jurd but Damian was merely one of the five altar boys mentioned by Father F in Reverend Wayne Peters' letter of 11 September 1992. And Damian was not the first altar boy who encountered Father F.
Church leaders have claimed "not knowing" the names of Father F's other altar boys. But Broken Rites knows the names of some of these families - and now detectives from the New South Wales Sexual Crimes Squad, also, know those names.
The Sexual Crimes Squad has established a team of detectives (named Task Force Glenroe) to investigate the Father F affair. This is appropriate, because it is the job of the police (not the Catholic Church) to have an investigation of possible crimes, including the possible concealing of crimes. It is not appropriate for the Catholic Church to investigate possible church crimes and the church's possible concealing of crimes.
Perhaps Australia's new Royal Commission, into institutional responses to child sexual abuse, will be able to have a look at the Father F affair. Fortunately, the royal commissioners are not being hired by the Church.