Two Australian dioceses have jointly commissioned an independent inquiry by former Federal Court judge Antony Whitlam, QC, into the way they handled a priest who admitted abusing children.
The inquiry is in response to widespread media reports about the activities of a so-called Father F — which have also prompted calls for a royal commission into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in Australia.
The alleged abuse occurred in the dioceses of Armidale and Parramatta in the 1980s. Mr Antony Whitlam, the son of former prime minister Gough Whitlam, is a former federal Labor politician.
The dioceses said they did not intend the inquiry to supplant or replace any investigations the police or other authorities might undertake.
Father F, who has not been publicly named for legal reasons, reportedly admitted he “sexually interfered with” five boys aged about 10 or 11 between 1982 and 1984.
He made this admission during a 1992 meeting with three senior Sydney clergy — Father Brian Lucas (now general secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference), Father Wayne Peters (now vicar-general of Armidale) and Father John Usher (now chancellor of Sydney archdiocese).
Conflicting accounts of the meeting have emerged since the story first aired on the ABC’s Four Corners television programme. Father Lucas said admissions of “wrongdoing” were made, but Father F did not name his victims so the Church did not advise the police.
Cardinal George Pell of Sydney said he had been unaware of the meeting until contacted by the ABC. “I sought details and Monsignor Usher informed me, after contacting Father Lucas and Monsignor Peters, that the recollection of the three priests was that no admissions of actual criminal conduct were made at that meeting.”
Father F had his priestly faculties removed in 1992 and was laicised in 2005. He now lives in Armidale diocese.
Two of the boys he allegedly abused reportedly received substantial compensation payments from the Church but later committed suicide.
News category: World.