Church clinic accused of protecting paedophiles

A call by the Catholic Church in Victoria for mandatory reporting by clergy who become aware of child abuse has coincided with a report that the Church’s Australian treatment clinic for priests shielded known paedophiles from police scrutiny.

According to whistleblowers closely involved with the now-defunct Encompass Australasia clinic — which some New Zealand priests attended — some paedophile clergy were diagnosed with a “mood disorder” so they could be treated at the Wesley Private Hospital in Sydney and meet private health insurance criteria.

Fairfax Media said a “well-placed source” aware of the status of some clergy treated by the Church clinic between 1997 and 2008 said he believed several did not have a mood disorder but were ”cold and calculating criminals” who bragged about their exploits with children to others while at the hospital.

Fairfax Media reported that several sources said the clinicians at Encompass Australasia ran a world-class treatment centre, but it was used by some Church leaders as a ”smokescreen” to hide paedophile clergy.

New South Wales upper house MP Gordon Moyes, who as superintendent of the Wesley Mission in the late 1990s was closely involved with the Encompass Australasia programme being set up at the Wesley Private Hospital, said that neither he nor hospital administrators knew the identity of clergy sent for treatment or the nature of their offences.

”In general we knew that they were largely priests of the Catholic Church who had engaged in various forms of serious sexual sins, particularly against children,” Moyes said. ”But Encompass was extremely secretive about all their business relationships.”

Encompass Australasia, which was set up by the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, treated about 1100 clergy for sexual abuse problems, depression and substance addictions before it was deregistered in 2010.

In a submission to the Victorian parliamentary inquiry on sex abuse, the Catholic Church in Victoria has proposed mandatory reporting by ministers of religion and a new protocol for reporting offenders to police that would protect the privacy of victims who want anonymity.

The Archbishop of Melbourne, Archbishop Denis Hart, said there should be an exemption for information received during the sacrament of confession.


The Age

Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne

Image: World News

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