Catholic Church's secret sex files
Cardinal George Pell during a press conference into the start of a Royal Commission. Photo: Anthony Johnson
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THE Australian Catholic Church holds thousands of pages of documents containing the psychosexual profiles of dozens of clergy accused of sexually abusing children and vulnerable adults.
The profiles, often sent to bishops, were created as part of the church's little-known 1997-2008 rehabilitation program for those it described as ''sexual boundary violators''.
Highly regarded ... retired Catholic Bishop Geoffrey Robinson. Photo: Ben Rushton
It is understood none of the clergy treated under the multi-million-dollar Encompass Australasia program run from Wesley Private Hospital in Sydney was referred to police for investigation.
This was despite senior church figures being aware of serious allegations - or, in some cases, admissions - that led to clergy being sent for treatment.
A NSW Police spokeswoman said that although police had received some abuse information from the church, no record of any referral from the Encompass program could be found.
Victoria Police deputy commissioner Graeme Ashton last month told a Victorian parliamentary inquiry that church leaders in Melbourne had not reported any abuse cases to police.
Sources familiar with the Encompass Australasia program told Fairfax Media that offending clergy were quietly ''transitioned'' out of the church, receiving generous payouts, accommodation and university education.
''There were some outrageous situations that would have been very embarrassing for the church had they become public," a source said. "Deals were cut. The whole operation was extremely confidential."
NSW District Court documents show that a former Marist Brother, Ross Murrin, who in 2002 admitted to church leaders that in the 1970s he had sexually abused eight primary schoolboys was sent to Encompass Australasia for six months' treatment. The court heard that many of the victims turned to drugs and alcohol. One died of a drug overdose. After admitting the abuse Murrin was removed from teaching and sent to Rome to work for the church as a translator.
Police did not learn of his crimes until mid-2007. The brother was charged soon after and returned to Australia where he pleaded guilty and received an 18-month jail term.
In another case, a Sydney priest treated by Encompass after he allegedly made a young woman from an ethnic community pregnant was paid to leave the church quietly. His accommodation and tertiary study were fully funded.
The woman and her child were sent back to her home country.
The revelation of the church's wealth of knowledge of the psychosexual make-up of many clergy and its failure to report abuse allegations comes after Australia's most senior Catholic, the Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell, this week said the church had been the victim of an exaggerated media campaign.
Cardinal Pell was responding to the announcement by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, of a royal commission into the abuse of children - a move he supports.
The Encompass Australasia program was established in 1997 and funded by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and the Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes to assess and treat male clergy for psychosexual disorders.
It was linked to Catholic Church Insurances Ltd, which provided secretarial support and was represented on the
Encompass Australasia board. The program treated about 1100 people, including hundreds of clergy from Australia and nearby countries, not all of whom were there for sexual disorders.
Church officials from other denominations were also treated, but they were far fewer in number. Clergy were also treated for depression and substance abuse.
Detailed psychological reports of patients were prepared and assessments made on the likelihood of reoffending. These reports were often made available to church leaders and lawyers.
Psychologists associated with the Encompass program have told Fairfax Media the clinical treatment was world class and the church’s decision to close it in 2008 was troubling.
‘‘It was a deluxe treatment program – highly expensive but highly effective,’’ said one. ‘‘It was designed to prevent reoffending and we’d make recommendations about who posed a risk to children or vulnerable adults.
“To my knowledge, [the Catholic Church] is the only institution that did not kick out paedophiles. It tried to help them. Any client that posed a risk did not leave the centre without a continuing care program.”
In 2005, Encompass Australasia had 160 clients in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region under continuing care programs.
Some clinicians, who asked not to be identified because of confidentiality agreements they had signed, have expressed concern over the failure of the church to report to police clergy who had made admissions of abuse or were accused of serious offences that led to their referral to Encompass Australasia.
“There is a balance between confidentiality and a duty to warn and inform. The duty to warn overrides confidentiality,’’ said one clinician who saw dozens of clergy with psychosexual disorders at the Sydney clinic.
Corporate records show Encompass Australasia was de-registered in 2010, after having begun to wind down operations in mid-2008 because of funding problems.
High-ranking Catholics Father Brian Lucas and the Archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson, who are being investigated by NSW Police over their handling of complaints about a serial child-abusing priest, were appointed to the Encompass Australasia board in July and September 2008.
Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, who has won plaudits for his efforts to improve the Catholic Church’s response to child sex abuse, led the Encompass Australasia board between 1997 and 2005.
Bishop Robinson told Fairfax Media that Encompass Australasia’s ability to treat clergy for psychosexual disorders would have been greatly compromised had those attending the clinic been reported to police.
“No one would come for treatment if they thought they would be referred to the police,” he said.
Bishop Robinson, who this week described Cardinal Pell as an embarrassment over his stance on child sexual abuse, said he was surprised to hear that clergy accused of abuse had been relocated after treatment under the Encompass Australasia program.
“There should not have been any moving of priests around over the last 16 years ... since the Towards Healing process was introduced,” he said.
The defunct website of Encompass Australasia describes it as “an independent company established by the Australian Catholic Church for the good of society’’.
Under its vision statement, Encompass Australasia said: “We believe that helping professionals are vulnerable in their service delivery if they are not attending to their own wellbeing’’.
“[We] continue to offer particular expertise in the specialist stream of professional sexual boundary violation through treatment, prevention and theory development.”
Clinicians who have worked in the Encompass Australasia program said the organisation and the church had amassed a significant amount of data on the psychological symptoms common to clergy involved in sexual abuse cases.
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