Archbishop Frank Little led from a culture of secrecy in the Melbourne archdiocese designed to hide the child abuse allegations against several priests and protect the reputation of the church, the child abuse, the royal commission concluded.
The archbishop Little did I know about a litany of accusations against Sunbury and Doveton parish priest, Father Peter Searson, ranging from child sexual abuse to complaints about its unpleasant, strange, aggressive and violent behavior.
He did nothing, even when Searson pointed a hand gun at two people, threatened a girl with a knife and showed it to the altar boys of a corpse in a coffin.
The archbishop dismissed serious and credible complaints, support of a priest I knew who had allegedly raped a woman in 1974 on the issue of the parishioners and the parents.
He did not do anything. Frank Little died in 2008. Image: News Corp
The research concluded the Archbishop Little, who died in 2008, also did nothing about child sexual abuse complaints against other priests he allowed to resign or retire for health reasons, and tried to hide the fact that some were receiving financial support.
CATASTROPHIC HUMAN CONSEQUENCES
The 1974-1996 Melbourne archbishop course of inaction had tragic and catastrophic human consequences, the commission said.
“We are satisfied that there is a dominant culture within the archdiocese, led by Archbishop Little, to deal with complaints internally and confidentially to avoid scandal to the church,” he said in his report, published on Tuesday.
“Complaints are addressed in a way that sought to protect the archdiocese from scandal and liability, and give priority to the interests of the church above those of victims.”
While only the archbishop had the authority to remove Searson from the ministry, the commission also criticized other staff of the church and some Catholic Education Office (CEO) staff to take the position that the allegations were not proven or were unfounded.
THE LEVEL OF “INFAMY”
“The case of Father Searson is remarkable in terms of the volume of complaints against him and the number of staff of the church to which they did,” he said.
“This was not a history of serious, but isolated allegations being reported to the archbishop or the vicar general.
“Rather, Father Searson enjoyed a level of infamy within the parish and … within other parts of the archdiocese.”
The director of Doveton’s Holy Family Primary School, Graeme Sleeman, he resigned in 1986 in the frustration, in the archdiocese of inaction on Searson.
SERIOUS RISK TO CHILDREN
At the end of 1986, the Archbishop Little did I know enough about Searson to show that he should be removed, and which poses a serious risk to the safety of children, the commission said.
Father Peter Searson, who was found guilty of sexual abuse, who died in 2009 — a year after the Archbishop who protected him. Photo: Supplied
“Not to remove Father Searson, Archbishop Little I am unable to protect the safety and well-being of the children within the parish.”
In the case of Fr Wilfred Baker, the commission agreed with the current Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart that the archdiocese failed to act on credible information about criminal abuse by a priest, which led to more children being abused. The archbishop also did nothing about child sexual abuse allegations against priests, Nazareno Fasciale, Desmond Gannon, Ron Pickering and David Daniel, who was allowed to resign or retire for health reasons.
The commission said the Archbishop Little they tried to hide Pickering and Gannon continuous financial assistance from the archdiocese.