Writing the biography of Ms Forgotten Australian led me into a foreign world, one of abusive Catholic clergy and the ominous power of the Catholic Church. Ms Forgotten Australian spent her childhood in the now infamous St Joseph’s Orphanage, Neerkol. Sadly her time there included child sexual abuse by priests and systemic cover-up by the Church.
In May 2018 Archbishop Phillip Wilson was convicted of the cover-up of sexual abuse of altar boys. Priest Jim Fletcher abused the boys in the Hunter Region of New South Wales during the 1970’s. Last month Magistrate Robert Stone found Wilson guilty of concealing a serious indictable offence of another person. This is a landmark Australian case due to the precedent it set. The conviction opens the door for possibly hundreds of similar cases against senior Catholic clergy where the Church has failed to protect child sexual abuse victims by not reporting criminal activity to police. Sentencing will be handed down on 19 June 2018.
The trauma a victim of sexual abuse experiences is magnified and solidified by those that disbelieve their story, and by those who actively work to hide the victim’s truth. The protection of the perpetrator, rather than the victim, is a heinous crime which has dire psychological consequences for the victim. The crime should not go unpunished.
Finally, in Australia, we are seeing high ranking Clergy called to account for their past sins. We have Cardinal George Pell, who I wrote about in Lucky Cardinal Pell, standing trial for historic child sexual abuse and now this conviction of Archbishop Phillip Wilson. Wilson has now stood down from his position as Archbishop of Adelaide and plans to appeal the offence. He has requested that the people of the Diocese of Adelaide “continue to pray for him”.
If you want an interesting insight into the insidious world of Catholic cover-up watch Spotlight. This 2015 American biographical film tells the true story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe investigation into widespread systemic child abuse in the Boston area by numerous Catholic priests. The Spotlight team made visible the cover-ups by religious, legal and government establishments. St Joseph’s Orphanage Neerkol, is one of the 207 institutions named in a poignant roll call as the film closes. A sad list of places where child sexual abuse and cover-ups took place. The movie is compelling, shocking and well worth watching. Ms Forgotten Australian and I both wept as we watched.
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