Case Study 43: Hearing room updates

Case Study 43 - Thursday 8 September 2016 - Day 7

Day 7 of the Commission’s hearing into responses to child sexual abuse in Maitland Newcastle commenced with Br Christopher Wade continuing to give evidence about the use of corporal punishment in Marist schools.

He told the Commission that over the years the level of corporal punishment had been reduced but while at Marist Brothers in Hamilton corporal punishment should be ‘reasonable and always administered on the palm of the hand'. He said however that he ‘didn’t restrict’ brothers in the administration of the cane.

“I believe it’s certain that on occasions, on too many occasions, there was excessive punishment,” he said.

He agreed that life in the school would have been a nightmare for any boy ‘targeted’ by Romuald for sexual abuse.

Asked by Hilbert Chiu, Counsel for a number of victims of Romuald, about an abuse complaint brought to him in 1972, Brother Christopher said he didn’t think his actions investigating the complaint had effectively been an attempt to conceal Romuald’s abuse.

Br Christopher was asked about the suicide of Andrew Nash in October 1974. He said that he didn’t see it in 1974 as his role to ‘lead the school’ through a grieving period for Andrew. He told the Commission that today this would not be his view.

Terence Skippen, a former student at Marist Brothers Hamilton told the Commission his parents were devoted Catholics and attended church regularly.

He started at Marist Brothers in 1960, the same year his father passed away. Br Romuald was his class master. Mr Skippen told the Commission that in the early part of 1960 Romuald put his hand down his pants in the class room and fondled his genitals. For the rest of the year, including after the death of Mr Skippen’s father, Romuald continued to abuse Mr Skippen in the same manner.

Mr Skippen told his wife in around 1982 about his abuse and in 1984 told a group of friends about it. He told the Commission he is currently very involved in the Church and a practising Catholic. In August 2012 he approached a Sister and told her about the abuse. The Sister organised Mr Skippen to go to Zimmerman Services where counselling was organised and the police were informed.

He believes he was the first to come forward about abuse by Roumald. He said a further 21 victims have come forward.

He told the Commission the emotional effect of the abuse has resulted in living life with frustration, over reaction, feelings of unworthiness and an inability to deal with day to day tasks. He finds it difficult to trust others.

Peter Russ told the Commission his family were devout Catholics. He started high school in 1971 at Marist Brothers Hamilton. Physical abuse was a routine part of school life. He continues to feel the abuse of the brothers.

He said it was well known among students that Brothers Dominic, Romuald and Patrick were “touchy”, and people should not be alone with them. In 1973 Patrick abused Mr Russ.

Mr Russ, who is now retired, said he spent his whole working life teaching in Catholic schools. He never told his father because of his strong faith and the impact it would have had on him.

The abuse has made Mr Russ feel worthless and that he has always felt unable to relate to authority and unable to achieve his full potential. He said that the victim support organisation, SAMSN, had been of major help to him.

Br Peter Carroll, Provincial of the Marist Brothers, made a statement to Commission about the death of Andrew Nash. He said Andrew’s family had honoured ‘Andrew’s memory’.

Br Carroll told the Commission that he accepted the death of Andrew was a suicide, that there was no involvement of any other family members and that the response of the Marist Brothers at the time had been wholly inadequate and hurtful. He said that he had started a process to try and establish what the student body had been told about Andrew’s death by the Brothers at the time.

“I acknowledge the pain carried by the Nash family for the past 40 years. I express my admiration for the way they have summoned the courage to give evidence this week. Andrew’s family has honoured his memory and expressed their enduring love and grief,” he said.

He reiterated the apology that has previously been made by the Marist Brothers regarding the sexual abuse of students in its schools.

“As a religious order we have failed to protect the young people for whom we were founded and for whom many thousands of men have dedicated their lives. Our commitment today is what it should have been in the past: full cooperation with authorities, thorough, professional and effective processes.”

Br Carroll told the Commission that the Marists are planning a research project to try to establish why sexual abuse by brothers was so prominent over so many years across the order.

He was asked by Commissioner McClellan about the influence of clericalism, celibacy and the confessional in providing ‘room’ for religious and priests to offend against children.

The hearing concluded shortly after lunch.


Case Study 43 - Wednesday 7 September 2016 - Day 6

Day 6 of the Commission’s hearing into responses to child sexual abuse in Maitland Newcastle commenced with Br Michael Hill continuing to give evidence about complaints he had received regarding abuse of school students by Brothers Patrick, Romuald and Dominic.

Br Hill gave evidence about decisions to move brothers, appointments and other issues associated with offending brothers.

He gave evidence about the decision by the Brothers to reverse a decision to appoint Br Dominic as the principal at Marist Brothers Hamilton in 1997.

Bishop Michael Malone objected to the proposed appointment on the basis of rumours reported to him about inappropriate conduct by Dominic.

Br Hill said the minutes of a subsequent Marist Provincial meeting referring to Dominic’s ‘health problems’ misrepresent the real reasons for the decision to reverse the appointment.

Br Hill gave evidence about how he dealt with Dominic as he became increasingly aware of his boundary violations and inappropriate behaviour including being sent to a facility know as Wellsprings. Br Hill told the Commission after returning from Wellsprings Dominic had little understanding of why he had been sent there.

Brother Hill said by about 1997 he believed that abuse had been widespread in the Order and not just a ‘temporary hiccup’.

He said he was embarrassed now that in 1999 he had taken the subsequently disgraced Brother Romuald at his word when he said he had been wrongly accused of physical abuse. He said he had been ‘naïve’ to have believed Brother Romuald.

Br Hill told the Commission that as Provincial he had come to the conclusion that there were multiple brothers who as Commissioner McLellan described ‘were off the rails’ within the Order.

Scott Hallett told the Commission how he had been abused by paedophile Priest Vince Ryan as a nine-year-old altar boy. The abuse included masturbation, anal and group sex with other boys.

‘At the time I didn’t know what Father Ryan was doing was wrong,’ Mr Hallett said.

He said he became angry about the church and what had happened to him and began stealing money from poor boxes. He told the Commission he had broken into and vandalised his school.

As an adult, he found it hard to keep jobs and although he had done well academically he would become frustrated with fellow workers and management.

In 1995, after speaking to another of Ryan’s victims he told his wife and then spoke to the police about the abuse. After more victims came forward, Ryan was charged and convicted of sexual abusing 33 boys and sentenced to 14 years jail. Mr Hallett received $360,000 in compensation from the Diocese.

Mr Hallett said he had attempted suicide in late 1995 and early 1996 and still considers suicide. ‘I am still very shy and don’t feel comfortable talking about the abuse,’ Mr Hallett said. ‘But I have got to the stage now where I just think: ‘You have just got to get the word out there so people can be aware of what can happen and make people more vigilant about protecting the kids.’

‘Once a child is broken, they can’t be fixed,’ he told the Commission.

CQS, a former student at Marist Brothers Hamilton, told the Commission about being abused by Marist brothers Romuald and Patrick in the mid-1970s.

CQS said that in year 8 in 1974, his maths teacher, Brother Patrick had ‘put his hands down my shirt and into my pants. I believe he was trying to fondle my genitals and I remember pushing his hand away,” CQS said. He said Brother Patrick targeted smaller, quieter boys.

He said Brother Romuald was a very strict disciplinarian who caned and punished aggressively and that he was very scared of him.

CQS told the Commission that Romuald during rugby training regularly put his hands between the legs of students. ‘I have had a lot of rugby coaches before and after and none ever used such a technique at training.’

He told the Commission how Romuald had made him undress in front of other boys, supposedly to show them how to find the femoral artery, and how he walked around the showers at the Merewether baths change rooms with an erection.

He eventually told his parents about Romuald and a few days later he and his father met with Br Christopher Wade, the headmaster.

He said his marks went downhill but at the end of the year, it was announced that Brother Romuald was leaving the school and the following year, in third form with the encouragement of a female teacher, he got some of his self-confidence back and was able to concentrate on his studies and sport.

William Henry Wade, known as Br Christopher, taught in ten different Marist schools and was principal at five schools. He was principal of Marist Brother Hamilton from 1971 to 1976.  He said that he had a recollection of only one sexual abuse complaint against Br Romuald.

Br Christopher said he had confronted Romuald about the complaint which Romuald denied. However Romuald’s response to Br Christopher indicated that he may have engaged in inappropriate behaviour in the past. 

In response to questioning from Commissioner McClellan Br Christopher said he could not justify his failure to investigate further what Romuald had told him. Br Christopher said he was wrong in accepting Romuald’s word denying the complaint and accepted that his failure to do so had devastating consequences.

The hearing will continue tomorrow.


Case Study 43 - Tuesday 6 September 2016 - Day 5

The Royal Commission’s hearing (Case Study 43) into the response of Catholic Church authorities in the Maitland Newcastle region to allegations of child sexual abuse by clergy and religious continued in Newcastle today.

Day 5 of the hearing commenced with Br Alexis Turton continuing to give evidence about complaints he had received regarding abuse of school students by Brothers Patrick, Romuald and Dominic.

Br Turton was questioned about advice he received from Father Brian Lucas in relation to a complaint about Br Patrick from a survivor known as CQY. He was also asked about another complaint against Patrick, in September 1992 from CNJ. Br Turton told the Commission he did not speak to Br Patrick at the time.

Br Turton told the Commission that when he became aware of the complaints against Patrick he contacted the school in which Patrick was employed to advise the principal and a counsellor of the further claims. At the time Patrick was effectively retired and already under supervision at the school.

Following a third complaint in 1992 about Patrick Br Turton said that while he ‘recognised a pattern’ he didn’t think there was any need for more stringent controls on Patrick.

Br Turton was questioned about a number of other allegations against Patrick, how he responded and if the allegations were referred to Fr Lucas and Fr Usher.

Br Turton was asked about the use of corporal punishment at the time: “My understanding is that corporal punishment was within the law at that time, appropriate corporal punishment. One of the biggest issues that I faced was – there were two issues, severity and appropriateness and one of my biggest concerns was that physical punishment was used as a teaching aid,” he told the Commission.

He also told the Commission he had no real understanding of why it was that the Marist Brothers were particularly cruel to students. He agreed there certainly were a number of Brothers who were cruel, but not all.

Early in Br Turton’s evidence he provided the Commission with a list of 154 Marist Brothers who have been accused of or proven to have abused children over 25 years.

He told the Commission that he was aware that 10 people on the list, which was generated from data spanning from 1980 to 2015, had admitted to offences.  He also said he talked to 52 of them over a period of about 17 years as provincial from 1989 to 2005 and in his professional standards role from 2002 to 2012.

CQT, the bother of Andrew Nash, told the Commission that he and other students had been severely physically abused by the Brothers. He said he showed his mother the bruises in first form high school, saying ‘See how this guy is punching us?’ ‘And she would have a good cry but not do anything,’ he said.

By 1970 CQT said the treatment at school had led to him stealing and becoming involved with the police.

CQT told the Commission that Br Patrick had put his hand down CQT’s pants in the playground and that Patrick abused boys in the class room. CQT said he told his mother in 1972 while in Year 10 that the Brothers were abusing boys. 

CQT also gave evidence about boys being physically and sexually abused by Brothers Romuald and Dominic. 

He also told the Commission about the death of his brother Andrew in 1974 and the lack of support he and his family had received from the Brothers.

His experience at Marist Brothers destroyed his relationship with his parents. The abuse made him hate school and he became a juvenile criminal.

Mrs Audrey Nash, mother of Andrew Nash and CQT, told the Commission she has devoted her whole life to the church. She raised her five children Catholic and sent both boys to Marist Brothers Hamilton. She said she found the Marist brothers ‘pompous’ and that they looked down on her and others.

She told the Commission that around third form her son, CQT started to misbehave, drink alcohol and engage in risky behaviour.

She said she had grown up in an era in which the religious were to be feared and she never confronted the Brothers about CQT’s claims they were abusing boys both physically and sexually. She believed the Church ‘was right’ and could not be confronted even after being told by her son about the sexual abuse at the school.

She said her other son, Andrew, seemed to enjoy the school in his first year. In 1974, his second year at the school, Andrew’s behaviour started to change, he didn’t want to go to school and often claimed to be sick.

She told the Commission about the night in October 1974 when Andrew took his own life in his bedroom. She said that Brothers Romuald, Christopher (principal) and O’Brien had come to the house on the night of Andrew’s death. She said Br Romuald had asked her if Andrew had said anything or left a note.

She said after the funeral none of the Brothers ever came anywhere near them or offered any pastoral or other support.

She said that many of the boys Romuald was eventually convicted of abusing were in Andrew’s class and that she had no reason to believe that Andrew had not also been abused.

She said she now no longer goes to Mass and that she feels ‘stupid’ that she had ever been so committed to the Church.

Following the conclusion of Mrs Nash’s evidence the Commission called Br Michael Hill, the Provincial of Marist Brother Sydney Province from 1995 to 2001.

Br Hill gave evidence about his involvement with Br Romuald including two rumours of misbehaviour in the 1970s at Marist Brothers Hamilton including ‘strutting around in speedos’ and feeling a boy’s leg in a biology class. He said he did not pass the information on to anyone despite thinking it was odd behaviour.

The hearing will continue tomorrow.


Case Study 43 - Monday 5 September 2016 - Day 4

The Royal Commission’s hearing (Case Study 43) into the response of Catholic Church authorities in the Maitland Newcastle region to allegations of child sexual abuse by clergy and religious continued in Newcastle today.

Day 4 of the hearing commenced with evidence from Fr William Burston who served as the Director of the Catholic Welfare Bureau from 1977 and Vicar General of the diocese from 1996 before retiring in 2015.

Fr Burston studied in the seminary with paedophile priest, Vincent Ryan and worked as assistant priest in the Maitland Newcastle Dioceses from 1971 to 1974.

Fr Burston was asked about the death-by-hanging of 13-year old Hamilton Marist Brothers student, Andrew Nash, in October 1974. Andrew’s year master at the school was Br Romuald who has been convicted of multiple child sex offences.

Fr Burston said that the statement that Andrew’s death was due to a prank gone wrong had come from Parish Priest Fr Cahill who in turn had heard that from the police.

Michael John Balk was a secondary student at St Gabriel’s Marists in Pagewood Sydney from 1964 where Br Romuald was class mater and in charge of the school cadets. Mr Balk told the Commission that he had been abused by Romuald in the school’s science lab, at the local pool and in the showers after swimming training. 

In 1967 Br Kevin, principal at St Gabriel’s, came to Mr Balk’s home where he spoke to Mr Balk’s father about another boy complaining about Romuald’s behavior. Mr Balk told Br Kevin about what had happened at swimming training. Br Kevin told Mr Balk that Romuald would be moved to another school. Mr Balk’s mother’s reaction to the abuse was ‘something that happened’ and that Romuald was a ‘bad apple’. 

Mr Balk reported the abuse to the police in 2013 and gave evidence at the trial of Romuald where he was sentenced to 16 years in jail.

Mr Balk’s abuse pre-dated the majority of cases that occurred in the Hunter area. He said that Br Kevin should have reported the abuse to the police. “To me, fault lies with Brother Kevin and his superiors who arranged to move Br Romuald to another school. Brother Kevin should have taken action to stop him. In my opinion, it was his fault that Brother Romuald continued to abuse more boys and it is his fault that more lives have been shattered,” he told the Commission.

He told the Commission the abuse has affected his career that he has few friends and fears being lonely and he has never reached his full potential. He said the abuse has had a big impact on his life

CNS grew up in the Newcastle area, in a family with devout Catholic parents, one of nine children. He was an altar boy, and started Marist Brothers High at Hamilton in 1969.

CNS told the Commission about being abused by Br Patrick at the school “Brother Patrick sexually abused me on numerous occasions during that year, but I always wore a tight belt so he was never able to get his hand right down inside my pants and on to my genitals. He would push his hand down as far as his fingers could reach, before my belt prevented him from going further”. 

He told the Commission that before leaving the school in 1972 he told the principal, Br Christopher Wade of the abuse. He said that he thought what he was telling Br Christopher came as no surprise.

In 2013 CNS reported the abuse at Marist Brothers to the police, in particular the abuse by Br Patrick.

He told the Commission about the brutality of Marist Brothers Hamilton at the time: “I’ve come to the conclusion that the physical abuse in the form of the harsh punishment, the canings, the grabbing kids around the neck and by the tie and strangling them and punching them, ensured that we were constantly in fear of our teachers, and this enabled them to get away with it. We were too scared to stand up to them and say, ‘No, what you are doing is wrong’. 

CNV was born in Newcastle and started secondary school in 1972 at the local Marist Brothers High School in Hamilton. CNV told the Commission about being abused by Br Patrick at a sporting event in 1972 including Patrick putting his hand down his pants at a cricket match. 

In 1973 CNV told the Commission that Br Romuald had exposed himself to a group of boys at the Merewether baths. Romuald later told CNV that this was a ‘sex education’ activity. In 1974 CNV told his parents about the sexual abuse by Patrick and Romuald. His father went to the school and told the Principal. CNV said his father told him, years later on his death bed, that he told Brother Christopher about Patrick and Romuald.

CNV, who is now a Year 11 and 12 teacher, said the abuse had left him with a ‘spiritual void’ and that he had felt he had never lived up to his full potential.

CNQ started high school at Marist Brothers Hamilton in 1977 where he was regularly abused by Br Dominic. He said after the abuse he felt shame and could not tell anyone. He told the Commission the abuse occurred regularly, ‘every three weeks’. CNQ told the Commission that Dominic told him ‘he was special’, that he missed him and asked if CNQ had ever told anyone about the abuse. The abuse included masturbation and rape.

CNQ said Dominic raped him on the final time he sexually abused him. ‘I screamed. Brother Dominic then released me and helped me gather my clothes. He was rushing me to get dressed and literally pushed me out of his office,’ CNQ said.

CNQ said Dominic did not abuse him again, but sometime later when he walked into Dominic’s office he saw another student being sexually abused. 

CNQ told the Commission he has abused alcohol and other drugs. He contacted Zimmerman Services around 2013. Zimmerman Services helped CNQ contact the police and also organised and paid for counselling. 

He told the Commission the sexual abuse made him feel ashamed and confused. He developed a stutter which has never completely gone. He said he had two failed marriages and difficulty with relationships including with his children. He has suffered with mental health issues having spent time in hospital and continues to struggle with alcohol addiction. He said he feels his ‘life has been wasted’.

CNR started secondary school in 1969 at Marist Brothers Hamilton. He told the Commission he had several violent teachers in the four years at the school. He said the Brothers’ approach to the boys was to ‘break their spirits’. 

In 1971 in third form CNR had Br Dominic as a teacher. In the summer of that year Dominic abused CNR in the classroom by running his hand down his back into his pants. CNR told the Commission he saw Dominic abuse other boys the same way in Forms 3 and 4.

In 1972, while in Form 4, CNR had Romuald as a stand-in science teacher. Romuald abused CNR in the class room by putting his hand down CNR’s pants while at the same time talking to the class. CNR said he pushed Romuald away but no other boys in the class said anything about the abuse.  

‘There were around 56 or 58 students in the class who witnessed this as I made a big noise, and no-one said anything. It did my head in that no-one said anything and kept looking down.’ CNR said he didn’t tell his parents, who were devout Catholics, about the abuse. 

CNR said he lost interest in school because of the physical and sexual abuse. ‘Because of the abuse I left school as soon as I finished fourth form’. He told the Commission he would ride his motor bike at high speed not caring if he was killed.

After marrying CNR and his wife traveled overseas for three years working as a volunteer in India and Bangladesh. 

CNR said he hasn’t spoken to or socialized with anyone much for 20 years. In 2014 he was in full time psychiatric care for three months after attempting suicide. He told the Commission he is now heavily reliant on the care and emotional support of his wife. ‘Even simple decisions are too much to cope with by myself,’ he said.

Br Alexis Turton gave evidence to the Commission. Br Turton held senior positions in the Marist order including superior at Hamilton; vice provincial in 1983 and provincial from 1989 to 1995. He was made director of professional standards for the Marist Brothers from 2002. In that role he received complaints about physical and sexual abuse. 

Br Turton told the Commission he worked with Br Dominic in Marist schools in Ashgrove in Queensland in 1965 and in 1977 in Hamilton when Br Turton was principal.

Br Turton told the Commission that some brothers had admitted to him they had abused children. Commissioner McClellan then asked him to write down the names of the brothers. Br Turton said that he would need to refer to lists but that over a period of 15 years there would be at least 10. The Commissioner asked Br Turton if all these admissions were referred to Fr Brian Lucas. Br Turton said: ‘I couldn’t say in every case, because every case depends on the circumstances in which it came up, but usually I would, yes.’ 

Br Turton was questioned about three abuse allegations he had received while Provincial, two relating to Dominic and one relating to Br Patrick.

Questioning ranged across file notes of complaints Br Turton had received at the time, matters he had referred to Fr Brian Lucas and the overarching responsibility for dealing with allegations of abuse.

Br Turton will continue giving evidence tomorrow (Tuesday).


Case Study 43 - Friday 2 September 2016 - Day 3

The Royal Commission’s hearing (Case Study 43) into the response of Catholic Church authorities in the Maitland Newcastle region to allegations of child sexual abuse by clergy and religious continued in Newcastle today.

Day 3 opened with evidence from Dr Peter Evans, a psychiatrist and former Franciscan priest. He ran La Verna Retreat House in Melbourne and Fr Vince Ryan was sent to see him in 1976 after admitting to child sexual abuse offences against pupils of St Joseph’s School, Merewether, in December 1975. Dr Evans said he agreed to assess Ryan but did not commit to treating him. After the assessment, Dr Evans conveyed to Fr Ryan that it was his responsibility to seek treatment for his personality disorder and that he should undertake the therapy in his home environment of Newcastle. Dr Evans was not asked to, and did not, provide a report back to the Diocese of the assessment he had made. It was a confidential assessment and it was Fr Ryan’s responsibility to go back to his referring doctor and Mons Cotter to report that the treatment should take place in Newcastle. 

Ms Maureen O’Hearn was next to give evidence. She has been a social worker for over 30 years and has been head of Healing and Support Services at the Diocese’s Zimmerman Services since 2007. 

She described the activities of Healing and Support Services, a unique, open-ended service which is run by the Diocese but operates independently of it. She said that Healing and Support Services provides a supportive response to those who have been directly affected by childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by personnel of the Diocese. She described the importance of trauma-informed care and the benefits of separating claims investigations from healing and support. “We don’t see our role as testing those allegations, we just accept what the person has said, welcome them, and offer them support”, she said.

Zimmerman Services enjoys a good working relationship with NSW Police and the police are probably the biggest referrer of cases to Zimmerman Services. Zimmerman Services is a model which other dioceses and religious organisations have examined for possible adoption in their areas.

Bishop Bill Wright has served as the Bishop of Maitland Newcastle since June 2011. He is co-chair of the National Committee for Professional Standards under Towards Healing and is a member of the Truth Justice and Healing Council.

In opening his evidence he was invited by Counsel Assisting to read the section in his written statement in which he apologised on behalf of the Diocese to all the men who had suffered, and had continued to suffer, from the abuse of Vince Ryan. He apologised also to the families affected by that abuse.

A critical issue in the case study is the extent of the knowledge of Ryan’s criminal behaviour that was possessed by Mons Cotter and Bishop Leo Clarke before Ryan was placed back into ministry from December 1976.

Taken by Counsel Assisting to a number of documents critical to the resolution of that issue, Bishop Wright said that it was clear that Mons Cotter had knowledge going beyond mere rumour of Ryan’s offending. What Mons Cotter said in interviews he gave to various investigators in the 1990s about his knowledge of that offending, was untrue.

As to Bishop Clarke’s knowledge of Ryan’s history of offending, Bishop Wright said that, to him, the evidence was equivocal as to what Bishop Clarke knew.

Counsel Assisting took Bishop Wright to his statement where he dealt with the question of whether it was appropriate to continue with the supervision arrangements for Ryan that had been put in place by Bishop Malone following Ryan’s release from prison or whether the step of seeking Ryan’s laicisation should now be considered. Bishop Wright said that there had been two developments which might now suggest that Ryan should be laicised. The first was that it had now emerged that Ryan might not have been totally frank in disclosing all the offences he had committed. The second was the growing expectation in the community that priests convicted of child sexual abuse offences should be laicised. 

Asked by the Commission Chair whether all leaders of the Church in Australia now understood the seriousness of the problem of child sexual abuse in the Church and the need to address the problems that gave rise to it, Bishop Wright said that some leaders had to think about these matters more often than others. He also said that the picture that emerged from the work of the Commission was that the great preponderance of offences occurred in the 1970s and 1980s and, since the 1990s, a great many things had happened in the Church and in society that could be expected to lessen the incidence of child sexual abuse within institutions. 

Asked further by the Commission Chair what the Church was doing to address the problem of child sexual abuse, Bishop Wright referred, amongst other things, to the decision taken by the Australian Bishops and religious orders to establish a national company to set child protection standards and to audit compliance of the dioceses and orders with the standards. 

Also in response to questions from the Chair, Bishop Wright gave evidence regarding the contribution to the child sexual abuse issue within the Church of clericalism, deficiencies in the formation and training of priests and religious and the limited role of women in the Church. Bishop Wright accepted that clericalism had contributed to the sexual abuse crisis in the Church. He said, however, that the status of the clergy had changed over time. He also referred to changes in the selection and training of candidates for the priesthood and the increasing involvement of lay people, including women, in key Church bodies and in conducting training and formation of priests.

Two child sexual abuse survivors, CQW and CNG, gave evidence after Bishop Wright.

CQW had attended Marist Brothers School in Maitland from 1959. In 1961 when CQW was in year 6, Br Romuald came to teach at the school. CQW described abuse perpetrated by Br Romuald, the impact on his life and faith and the time it took to disclose the abuse. He described his experience giving evidence at Romuald’s trial and the impact which the serious offences against other boys revealed in those proceedings had on him.

Around 1987 CNG became an altar boy at St Joseph’s, Cessnock, where Fr Vince Ryan was the parish priest. CNG described in his statement the abuse perpetrated by Ryan. He disclosed the abuse as a child to his grandmother, mother and a nun at the school. He finished school and went to university. He was married with four children when police approached him to make a statement because Ryan had named him as one of his victims. He described the devastating impact of having to recall the abuse after having moved on with his life. He welcomed the wonderful support he had received from Maureen O’ Hearn of Zimmerman Services since making his statement to the police.

The hearing will continue on Monday.


Case Study 43 - Thursday 1 September 2016 - Day 2

The Royal Commission’s hearing (Case Study 43) into the response of Catholic Church authorities in the Maitland Newcastle region to allegations of child sexual abuse by clergy and religious continued in Newcastle today.

Sr Evelyn Woodward, former leader of the Sisters of St Joseph’s of Lochinvar, continued her evidence in relation to her knowledge and what she did about claims of sexual abuse by Ryan in the Hunter in the mid-1970s.

Paedophile priest Vincent Ryan has served 14 years jail for abusing boys between 1972 and 1991. He was released in 2010 and is currently awaiting sentencing on separate child sex offences.

Sr Woodward has worked as a psychologist from 1975 and has worked on the Australian bishops’ committee for professional standards.

She said she spoke to Bishop Leo Clarke about Ryan in 1976 after allegations were made against him, and again in 1995 when Ryan was about to be charged by police.

While being questioned by Simon Harben, SC, for retired Bishop of Newcastle Michael Malone Sr Woodward conceded she might not have told Bishop Clarke that she knew of Ryan’s offending prior to Ryan being arrested in 1995.

Survivor witness CNE gave evidence to the Commission about being abused by Ryan: “My childhood was taken away from me, as well as my innocence. As a result, I have had to spend time in jail. My marriage has failed. I have attempted suicide, suffer from depression and struggle to have normal relationships with other people. It is not just me who has suffered, but also those close to me who are also victims,” he said.

Bishop Michael Malone gave evidence that he was ordained a Priest in July 1964. He was appointed Bishop of the Maitland Diocese following the retirement of Bishop Clarke in November 1995. He said that prior to his appointment had not had a good relationship with Bishop Clarke during the period that Bishop Malone was the Coadjutor Bishop. He told the Commission he had no prior knowledge of the offending by Ryan.

During the handover with Bishop Clarke, Bishop Malone asked if there was anything else he needed to know. Bishop Malone told the Commission that Bishop Clarke responded saying ‘Oh no, you will find out. So I eventually found out.”

Bishop Malone told the Commission that after Ryan was arrested at Taree and charged with child sex offences he moved to address the needs of survivors of the abuse.

“Our primary concern must be the victims who have suffered such indignities, many of whom, if not all, still carry the scars of sexual abuse. Earlier when the problem in both church and society was poorly understood, such abusive behaviour was treated as a moral problem. We know a great deal more now than we did, of the complex nature of sexual abuse, and the assistance that all survivors and the community need in the healing process.”

The hearing will continue tomorrow


Case Study 43 - Wednesday 31 August 2016 - Day 1

The Royal Commission’s hearing (Case Study 43) into the response of Catholic Church authorities in the Maitland Newcastle region to allegations of child sexual abuse by clergy and religious commenced in Newcastle today.

The case study focusses on the response of the Diocese to allegations made against Fr Vincent Ryan and the response of the Marist Brothers to allegations made against Francis Cable (known as Br Romuald), Thomas Butler (known as Br Patrick) and Darcy John O'sullivan (known as Br Dominic). Ryan's major offending occurred when he was an assistant priest in 1973-75 at the Merewether Parish. Each of the three Marist Brothers the subject of the case study was, for a time, a teacher at Marist Brothers Hamilton.

In his opening statement Counsel Assisting, Stephen Free, said that the data available to the Royal Commission indicated that the Diocese had received claims or complaints of child sexual abuse that were subsequently substantiated from 158 people. The claims related to 31 different alleged perpetrators. Of these, 58 per cent were priests and 6 per cent were members of a religious order. The Diocese had, to date, paid out a total of $25.7 million in compensation.

The first witness to provide evidence was Gerard McDonald. He attended St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School Merewether completing year 6 in 1976. He was abused by Ryan twice a week for almost a year in 1975 when he was a 10-year old altar boy. He described abuse of other altar boys, and the fear, shame and powerlessness he felt. He described efforts to report the abuse, and the response of diocesan and school officials. He reported the matter to the police in 1995.

He described the impact of the abuse on his life, saying he lives with substance abuse and is often overwhelmed by rage, shame and guilt.

‘I want to speak for the children of the past present and future. I want this to never happen again to another child. I want the survivors of this abuse to be believed and understood. I want the shame and guilt to be put where it belongs, with the abusers and those who did nothing or lied to protect them,’ he said.

CNA the mother of two sons abused by Ryan at St Joseph's School, gave evidence of her experience when she complained to the parish priest, Monsignor Cotter, about Ryan's abuse. He was shocked but he seemed to believe what she said. However she thought to herself what could she do: it was the word of two little boys against that of a priest.

Sr Margaret Ann Geatches of the sisters of St Joseph of Lochinvar then gave evidence. She was the Principal of St Joseph’s School when a number of boys at the school disclosed to their parents in December 1975 the abuse they had been suffering from Ryan. She described her interaction with the class teacher Mr Hallinan who had also been told of the abuse by the boys. She described her lack of understanding, at the time, of paedophilia and the absence of protocols at the time for dealing with complaints of abuse. Her main concern was to keep Ryan away from the children. She spoke with Sr Evelyn Woodward, another member of her congregation about how to go about reporting what she had been told. Sr Evelyn was a trained counsellor. Sr Evelyn said that she would report the matter to Mons Cotter. She understood that this happened and Ryan was removed from the parish to go to Melbourne for treatment.

Sr Evelyn Woodward was the last witness to give evidence. She said that she had at that time never encountered an incidence of clergy sexually molesting children. She said that she was horrified when she heard what Ryan had done. When she spoke with Mons Cotter he asked for her advice about what he should do. She advised that Ryan should be sent to Melbourne for treatment by priest psychiatrist, Dr Peter Evans.

Sr Woodward will continue giving evidence tomorrow.

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The Council concluded its work on 30 April 2018 and is no longer distributing any material about its work.