Category Archives: Child Abuse

Priest Sex abuse victim told to ‘go to hell’

MELBOURNE Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart told a woman who had been sexually abused by a priest to “go to hell, bitch” in conduct labelled appalling by a Victorian magistrate.

Archbishop Hart later apologised to the woman in the Melbourne Magistrates Court for what magistrate Anne Goldsborough described as ”appalling words of abuse”.

But last night Archbishop Hart repeatedly claimed that he ”did not recall” his comments or the magistrate’s rebuke in mid-2004. ”It was a number of years ago, I don’t recall precisely,” he told The Age.

Abuse: A victim’s story

A nun who was abused by a Catholic priest tells her story.


When put to him that he would surely recall the comment because it had become an issue in court, he again said: ”I don’t recall.”

Court documents confirm the archbishop’s outburst after he was granted an intervention order against the woman, who had pursued him over her abuse by priest Barry Whelan in 2001.

The magistrate said that a ”very, very angry” Archbishop Hart had told the woman to ”go to hell bitch” after she knocked on his door at 1.20am in March, 2004. The woman was the subject of an earlier intervention order after she had thrown stones through a window of the archbishop’s house and hassled him and his staff.

Delivering her findings in June 2004, Magistrate Goldsborough said: “Archbishop Hart has apologised for this appalling and ungracious act directly from the witness box in my presence.”

The magistrate said she “did not consider he [Archbishop Hart] was fearful or had any apprehension for himself or others” when he found the woman on his doorstep – but also described her conduct as unacceptable.

The magistrate found that the archbishop was angry that his privacy had been significantly breached as a result of the early morning visit.

But Ms Goldsborough rejected the archbishop’s lawyer’s claim that the victim’s abuse was not a relevant factor in the intervention order court case.

”I am assured … by the archbishop himself that [he] … has a good understanding of the complex set of circumstances in which [the victim] finds herself at least in part caused by her … abuse by former father Barry Whelan.”

In her findings, the magistrate also said that after attending the archbishop’s house, the woman had later asked for an apology from the archbishop over his comments and told his staff over the phone that she wanted to kill him. Ms Goldsborough found that the woman ”had no intention to carry out this threat”, but said it was ”threatening and alarming”.

”[The victim] says all of the behaviour illustrated in her phone conversations is borne out of her hurt and frustration,” Ms Goldsborough found.

”While that may be entirely understandable in one sense it is absolutely unacceptable behaviour in all other senses.” Whelan abused the woman in 2001 after his suspension as a priest in the 1990s for abusing another woman had been overturned.

Over several decades, five women have accused Whelan of sexually abusing them, including a woman who was 13 at the time of the alleged abuse and a woman who claims to have had Whelan’s son. The church reached a confidential settlement in 2006 with the woman involved in the 2004 court case.

While being unable to recall his comments to the woman and his dressing down by the magistrate, Archbishop Hart yesterday detailed some of the events that led to the court case. ”I put my cassock on, I went down to the door and I was very annoyed … [she was] ringing and ringing and ringing, I had just got to sleep, I was very tired, I was about to go off to Rome and I went down and I am sure I would have spoken strongly, but what I said I don’t recall.”

The Age reported yesterday that a St Patrick’s Cathedral newsletter last month named Barry Whelan as a ”living treasure”, despite the church’s own investigator finding that he had abused several woman. The archdiocese has said this was a mistake and has apologised.

The Age investigation into the Melbourne Catholic Church’s handling of sexual abuse claims has also reported:

? That a priest accused of abusing a minor was told by a church investigator that he was the subject of a covert police probe.

Archbishop Hart said yesterday he had accepted Peter O’Callaghan’s denial that he was told not to tell the priest about the police inquiry.

? Comments from Melbourne Vicar General Les Tomlinson that there is a church sex abuse ”victims’ industry” that seeks to exploit victims to make money – which the Archbishop yesterday said ”weren’t helpful”.

? Calls from a victims collective, who are backed by two interstate bishops, to review the Melbourne archdiocese’s handling of complaints. Archbishop Hart said there was no need to review the system. ”I would much rather concentrate on the compassion that we need to show to victims … They are people who should have expected more from priests and it is a tremendous suffering to be let down by people they trusted.”


Catholic mother killed newborn baby from ‘shame’ after giving birth alone

A Catholic mother, who did not know she was pregnant, killed her newly born son within moments of giving birth alone, an inquest heard.

Elizabeth Tevenan, 30, who later died from severe blood loss, gave birth in November 2008 in the downstairs lavatory of the home she shared with her parents in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Miss Tevenan, who was an only child with a strict Catholic upbringing, is believed to have been unaware of the pregnancy until she gave birth.

The inquest at Leamington Town Hall, Warwickshire, heard that her son was born alive and would have taken a few breaths before he died from having tissue stuffed down his throat.

The child who has now been named Nicholas Patrick Tevenan, weighed 6lb 13oz and was born at around 37 weeks.

In a statement read out by the coroner, paediatric pathologist Dr James Lucas said: “His lungs were expanded, he would have only taken a few breaths before death occurred.”

He described how a piece of tissue paper was found at the back of the throat.

“This constrained the entrance to the voice box, deliberately obstructing the upper airway, causing asphyxia which caused rapid death.”

The inquest heard that Elizabeth had been rushed to hospital after being found by her mother covered in blood, and showed signs of child birth upon examination.

Police then returned to the four-bedroom property to search for an infant where they found a baby concealed under a pile of towels next to the toilet.

PC Judith Wolsey from Warwickshire Police, told the inquest that she had entered the house and followed a trail of blood through the house to the downstairs toilet before finding the baby.

She said: “I felt physically shocked and “I remember saying ‘there’s a baby’ – I couldn’t believe what I’d seen.”

The officer told the inquest how they picked the baby up and tried to resuscitate him until the ambulance arrived.

Elizabeth’s parents did not attend the hearing, but the coroner read out a statement from her 58-year-old mother Bridget Tevenan.

In it Elizabeth was described as a “bubbly, happy” girl who loved reading novels, listening to Classic FM and watching Eastenders and Casualty.

Elizabeth was found by her mother in the bathroom on the morning of November 13 after she became concerned about her.

“She was in the downstairs toilet, I called to her through the door, ‘Are you ok’, and she said ‘Yes I’ll be out in 15 to 20 minutes’.

Shortly after Mrs Tevenan said when she opened the door she saw her daughter sitting on the toilet with blood all over her legs, at which point she rang the ambulance.

“I said ‘Oh my God you’ve haemorrhaged’ – she was white like snow and disorientated,” she added.

The inquest also heard that her mother tried to clean the blood from her legs because she wanted her to have “dignity” as she knew there would be men in the house.

Her mother said her family were Catholic and Elizabeth was “brought up very strict”.

She said she would have “loved” a grandchild and although she would have “hit the ceiling”, if she knew she was pregnant, she would eventually have “calmed down”.

The inquest was also told that Elizabeth’s mother knew she had a boyfriend, but she had never met him.

The father was identified as Noel Bannister, after DNA tests were carried out. He attended the hearing but refused to comment afterwards.

Coroner Sean McGovern said: “I am entirely satisfied she was unaware of her pregnancy. It is impossible to know when she became aware she was giving birth.

“If she’d been aware her water broke, it’s likely to me that early medical attention could have prevented her death.

“My verdict is that she died as a result of natural causes.

“I am satisfied the child was born alive but someone deliberately pushed tissue paper into the throat causing asphyxia leading to the death of the person.”

The coroner said they could have been “acting in a condition of complete panic” and recorded a verdict of unlawful killing.

Parents choose religion over their child’s life

OREGON CITY, Oregon (AP) – An Oregon judge has rejected defense claims of selective and vindictive prosecution in the manslaughter trial of a couple whose 15-month-old daughter died of pneumonia while they prayed for her recovery.

Clackamas County Judge Steven Maurer told lawyers for Carl and Raylene Worthington that the couple had a duty to seek medical care for their daughter, Ava, despite their religious beliefs. A state medical examiner has said the toddler, who died in March 2008, could have been treated with antibiotics.

The Worthingtons are members of the Followers of Christ — a small Oregon City church that advocates spiritual healing instead of medical care.

If convicted, the couple faces up to 10 years in prison.

Muslim faith school fails to meet standards

A TEAM of experts will be sent in to monitor the overhaul of a primary school which has been strongly criticised in the most damning inspection report ever issued by the Department of Education.

The unprecedented move follows a litany of shocking revelations contained in an inspection report into the North Dublin Muslim School in Cabra, which is housed in the former School for the Deaf.

Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe last night said the standards of management, teaching and learning at the school were “unacceptable” and that child protection policies were “inadequate”.

The findings — the most critical of nearly 3,000 inspection reports issued by the department — are set to cause alarm within Ireland‘s 32,000-strong Muslim community.

The report — seen by the Irish Independent — will be officially published tomorrow. It reveals:

  • Taxpayers’ money given to the school in the form of grants since it opened in 2001 is unaccounted for;
  • The quality of teaching of English, Irish and maths is “poor” or “very poor“, with teacher morale “very poor“;
  • Sanitary facilities are “inadequate;
  • The school is in breach of several pieces of legislation;
  • The school refuses to implement the music curriculum.

Separate correspondence, also seen by the Irish Independent, reveals that the school failed to pay around €37,000 it owed to the department.

To recover some of the money, the department withheld payment of the capitation grant in June 2008 and threatened to do so again recently.


The patron of the school, Imam Yahya Al-Hussein, said the report was too critical and a bit “over the top”.

He said the current board of management, appointed last November, inherited the problems and was trying to solve them. The former board chairperson Shahzad Ahmed was unavailable for comment last night.

The draft inspection report says that no financial accounts are available since the school opened and there is little physical evidence of where state grants have been spent.

The current acting principal (the fourth since it opened) has still not completed the probationary process. All the mainstream teaching staff resigned last June and the board made 12 new appointments. No member of the teaching staff had completed the probationary period at the time of the inspection on November 28 — only four of them are fully qualified within the Irish system.

The report says that the school is unable to provide support for newly qualified teachers or those experiencing professional difficulties.

Several policies that relate to the care, welfare and protection of children have not been drawn up. The school is in breach of the Education Welfare Act (2000) and of the Rules for National Schools.

The report says there are no policies on attendance; child protection; social personal and health education and on the duties of special needs assistants. The Relationships and Sexuality Education programme has not been implemented. There are no plans for assessment; for English as an additional language; for visual arts, physical education; drama and music.

The North Dublin school is one of two schools catering for the Muslim community. Pupil numbers there have fallen significantly since 2006, the report says. However, the report found inconsistencies between class roll books, the attendance book and the register of pupils.

Since 2006 almost 3,000 inspection reports have been published by the department on its website. There are two kinds of reports: single subjects; and Whole School Evaluation (WSE) such as that prepared for the North Dublin Muslim National School.

The inspectors review the quality of school management, school planning and the quality of learning and teaching. There have been a few very critical reports, mainly at post-primary level, but none come anywhere near this one in terms of the directness of the language and the criticism.

It represents a significant step change in the approach taken by the department whose lawyers checked and double checked the report before agreeing to its publication.

– John Walshe Education Editor

Church can no longer remain untouchable

It is almost a month since the publication of the Ryan Commission report outlining the extent of child abuse in religious-run industrial schools for half a century. The outpouring of anger and grief that followed has set the political agenda in a most surprising way. The heads of religious orders have been summoned to Government Buildings, ordered to produce an inventory of their assets, and can now expect a bill of up to ¤500m to atone for the sins and crimes of their sisters, brothers and priests.

But we detect a mood in favour of more profound changes. Almost since its foundation in 1922, the Irish state has genuflected deeply before the altar of the Catholic church. Politicians have literally and metaphorically kissed the rings of bishops. Church and state were so closely intertwined that the republic could feasibly have been defined as a “theocracy” at one point.

It was the state’s deference towards the church that allowed the abuse in industrial schools to continue for so long. As Justice Ryan said in his report, the Department of Education’s “submissive” attitude towards the religious congregations “compromised its ability to carry out its statutory duty of inspection and monitoring of the schools”.

That deference, combined with the sclerotic slothfulness that generally characterises the Irish public service, had another effect: it allowed the Catholic church to take control of the Irish education and health systems. State laziness and indifference has allowed that regime to continue, despite the huge decline in the number of priests and nuns since the 1970s.

Pat Rabbitte, a Labour TD, probably went too far in the Dail last week when he said that “for the first time in our history, public opinion wants an end to the deference and a separation of church and state”. A majority of the public — 95% of whom are believers — may be happy enough with the status quo. But Mr Rabbitte’s party is correct to say this scandal should not go unpunished.

There are 3,200 primary schools in the country, but fewer than 100 of them are owned by the state, according to Labour, with the rest in the hands of the church. Many of these schools are owned by the 18 religious orders which have been indicted in the Ryan report. This is now clearly unacceptable. Those orders were not just guilty of physical, mental and sexual abuse of children for decades — they were also guilty of minimising and denying their crimes right up until this year.

They adopted an aggressive line with the state in the matter of compensation, securing a soft deal, and then didn’t even keep their side of a very lopsided bargain. Up to half the properties that were supposed to be given to the state as part of the infamous ¤128m indemnity deal struck in 2002 still haven’t been handed over. Contrition and atonement are key concepts in the Catholic catechism — we’ve seen precious little of either from most of the 18 religious orders involved.

The Department of Education has refused to answer questions about the precise ownership of the primary school system, even though it is funded by taxpayers. This is unacceptable. Batt O’Keeffe, the education minister, should now order his officials to draw up a full register of ownership and publish it. When that task is complete, the state will be better able to decide what steps it might take to end this decades-old relationship. In the meantime, justice dictates that those schools owned by the religious orders named in the Ryan report be handed over as a matter of urgency.

Vicar’s ban for sending sex texts

A Church in Wales vicar has been banned from office for sending text messages of a “sexual and intimate nature” to a teenage girl.

The Reverend David Waters, vicar of Gelligaer, near Caerphilly, went before a disciplinary tribunal last year.

The tribunal recognised the 61-year-old was “suffering from a mental illness” when he sent the texts.

The ban is to remain in force until he provides medical opinion he is no longer at risk of repeat behaviour.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Church in Wales confirmed: “The Reverend David Waters was referred to the disciplinary tribunal of the Church in Wales, in respect of an allegation of conduct giving just cause for scandal or offence committed during his time as an incumbent in the parish of Gelligaer.

“Having admitted the offence, Mr Waters has been inhibited (prevented) from holding a licence or obtaining permission to officiate in any diocese in the Church in Wales.”

‘Scandalous and offensive’

The Church in Wales said that at the Cardiff tribunal last October Mr Waters admitted, through his solicitors, that he had sent texts to the girl on various days before 31 May 2007.

A Church in Wales statement read: “The matter was heard in Cardiff on 31 October 2008 when, through his solicitors, the respondent admitted the offence that on various days before the 31 May 2007 he sent to a teenage female person under 18 years of age, inappropriate text messages, in that they contained words or phrases that were unseemly and of a sexual and intimate nature. He further accepted that such conduct was scandalous and offensive.”

The ban will stay in place until he can provide the written medical evidence to a bishop that he is no longer at risk of repeat behaviour.

At that stage, the church said, it would be up to the individual bishop to decide whether the ban should be lifted.

The church said it felt the ban was sufficient punishment, as no criminal offence was deemed to have taken place, and the incidents did not prompt a police investigation.

“However, it is clear that the Church in Wales took this matter very seriously, which is why he was suspended from his post in 2007, and the matter was referred to the tribunal,” added a spokesperson.

Technically, Mr Waters still holds the title of priest, as he has not been “defrocked”.

However, the tribunal’s decision means he is unable to officiate in any churches that come under a Church of Wales diocese until the ban is lifted.

Rabbi claims Jews are as bad as Catholics for Child Abuse

REFORM rabbi Brian Fox has made allegations of child abuse in Orthodox Jewish institutions.

After having qualified remarks he made in a recent sermon that Jewish society was “worse” in this respect than others, he said at Menorah Synagogue’s Ethics Seminar on Tuesday: “What we do know is the more we look, the more we find.

“It seems that institutions run by the Catholic Brothers in Ireland are by no means alone.”

He claimed that the head of a North Manchester yeshiva used to use a strap to beat his pupils and said that even his own grandfather used his sewing machine strap during the Pesach seder.

Rabbi Fox, formerly of Australia, said that the chairman of the Melbourne Jewish community had been proud of the fact that he had “beaten to a pulp” his child for breaking Shabbat. The child had had to be hospitalised.

Rabbi Fox added: “There is a cabinet in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem which displays instruments used for discipline in East European yeshivot.”

But he maintained that this “spare the rod, spoil the child” attitude was at odds with real Jewish values.

He said: “Triage is fundamentally incompatible with Jewish values and Jewish law. All life is sacred. It is in the values of Jewish education that we see Judaism’s attitude to caring for the child.”

Nevertheless Rabbi Fox claimed that more than 300,000 Israeli children were believed to be abused or were “potential victims of abuse”.

He said: “If we admit the problem, we are more open to addressing it.”

But emeritus professor of child health Sir Robert Boyd, who felt that media reaction had created a “numerically unbalanced” attitude to abuse incidents, queried the Israeli statistics.

He said: “Some of the incidents could be of slightly inappropriate behaviour. There is far too hysterical a reaction. A generation has been damaged by phobia of neighbours.”

Professor of child psychiatry Jonathan Green referred to “classical scapegoating within Jewish biblical tradition” with its current finger-pointing at professionals.

This, he said, pushed away “painful realities by loading them on someone and expelling them”.

While he admitted that evidence suggested that “partaking in communal religious practice” improved “social, family and thus child health,” he said he was concerned about religious conservatism and fundamentalism, which frowned on single and same sex parents.

Social worker Terry Tallis complained about the current scapegoating of her profession because of recent scandals.

She said: “Doctors are not expected to cure all their patients. Teachers are not expected to have all pupils pass all their exams. It is impossible to protect all children at risk when they are in the care of their parents.”

Adoptee Ruth Cohen who herself adopted two children, said: “Adoption has become almost a dirty word.

“Many more children should be taken away from drunken and drugged parents and given to people who can give them love. Love is more important than hereditary.”

Mrs Tallis agreed and complained about the ban of placing children for adoption with families of a different race.