Updated Pastoral Letter on the Royal Commission

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Dear friends of the Capuchin Friars,                                     27 July 2013/ Updated 22 May 2016

Update: The Royal Commission and the repairing of trust

Trust repaired is a combined work of God’s grace and human responsibility. That it is possible is contained in the Easter hope of Christ betrayed, denied, derided, degraded and killed but risen and fully alive, the promise of a new beginning, a new creation.

Trust is the foundation for healthy relationships between persons. We Capuchin friars have been entrusted with the pastoral care of different communities throughout Australia for many years, indeed for several generations. Many different friars coming and going over those years have worked with you for building up, nurturing and sustaining the local Catholic community and together we have worked for the common good of the wider society.

Sadly, a very small number of those many friars have betrayed your trust and the trust of their fellow friars in a most heinous way. They have preyed on the most innocent, vulnerable and powerless, on children and committed crimes of a sexual nature against them. They have used the very office of their priesthood and religious consecration as a means to this end. They have brought great injury to their victims and their families and have damaged that trust established over the many years between yourselves and us friars. They have brought great shame on us Capuchins and the wider Catholic Church.

The Royal Commission into institutional responses to allegations and incidents of child sexual abuse ushers in a specific period of truth, justice and healing for us all. We Capuchin friars desire to cooperate fully with the Commission. To this end, we stand ready to assist the Royal Commission in its work and will make sure all material requested is made available.

Suspicion works like a cancer in a community. To avoid causing you to be suspicious of who amongst the friars you know has been accused of these heinous crimes I give you the following information:

•    No allegation has been received against any of the lay brothers (a friar who is not also a priest).

•    Three priest friars have been accused of child sexual abuse. Update: another who was a priest friar but who is no longer with the Capuchins and no longer works as a priest was accused of ‘grooming’ a minor of age 16-18; the alleged matter took place in the late 1990’s when the accused was still a friar; he was reported to the police by the alleged victim.

•    Without revealing the identity of the victims who have come forward with the allegations, I have had the three accused friars reported to the police.

•    Accusations were received against one friar around 40 years after his death; he has been deceased around 60 years.

•    Accusations were made against another friar nearly 20 years after he left Australia in the late 1970’s to return to his country of origin. He is now deceased going on six years. Update: another historical accusation against this priest friar has been made during this period of the Royal Commission.

•    The only living friar of the three accused friars was removed from active ministry as a priest more than 15 years ago after a victim as an adult came forward with an accusation against him. Update: He currently lives in a house next to one of our friaries that has no parish school nearby under a monitoring regime. It is our way of ensuring the ongoing protection of children. The major concern of the victim who came forward was that he not be in a position to further harm children.
      o    People as adults or a close family member made the allegations. They chose not to report the matter to the police at the time of making the allegations.
      o    Update: He has recently been dispensed from the priesthood and the Capuchin friars by decree from the Vatican Congregation for Doctrine of the faith.
      o    Update: This ex-priest ex- friar has recently been contacted by the police and now has a matter of alleged sexual abuse of a minor before the criminal court.

I encourage any victims of child sexual abuse to seek the assistance of relevant agencies and to report the matter to the police. If you contact your local police station, they can directly assist you.

The Capuchin friars operate under the Towards Healing procedures and so are committed to assisting and fully complying with legal obligations. The Catholic Church has established Professional Standards offices throughout Australia, if you want to deal with the matter by means of a Catholic Church agency the phone numbers for the State Professional Standards offices are:

New South Wales / ACT          
1300 369 977

Tasmania 
1800 356 613

Northern Territory 
0418 736 890

Victoria 
1800 816 030

Queensland 
1800 337 928

Western Australia 
1800 072 390

South Australia 
1800 139 020

 

A helpful resource document of the Archdiocese of Sydney can be found at: http://www.sydneycatholic.org/im/home/ARC_Sexual_Abuse-%20Response_Website_3.pdf

I pray that these heinous crimes that these friars have been accused of may not be gravely injurious to the trust we friars have built up in the very many years we have lived and worked alongside of you and your families. I deeply regret the harm that has been caused by any friar and apologise to victims on behalf of the Capuchin friars. I trust that the grace of Jesus Christ risen may lead us forward in this period of deep purification for the Capuchin friars and the whole Catholic Church in Australia.

In the mercy of Christ,

Fr Gary Devery OFM Cap
Provincial Minister - Australia
Order of Capuchin Friars Minor