Catholic Church accused of derailing Australian sex abuse inquiry

“PRO-CHURCH” members of the Australian police, in cahoots with top US Catholics, have been accused of derailing an investigation into a paedophile priest who fled to America where his is now under the protection of the Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

Bernard Hartman

Brother Bernard Hartman, now performing clerical work under a ”safety plan” that ensures he had no contact with young people or vulnerable women, is accused of raping several young Victorian children and teenagers in the 1970s.

Interference with the case manifested itself, according to this report in The Age, with the removal of the police sergeant leading the investigation, who claims he was taken off the investigation after a complaint from a high-ranking Catholic official in the US.

In a letter sent last month to one of the alleged victims of Hartman the officer also accuses church officials in America of ”actively hindering” his inquiry.

The 26-year veteran of the police force, whom The Age has decided not to name, was removed from the Hartman case by a more senior officer last month, only days after the sergeant initiated proceedings to have the Marianist brother extradited to Australia.

The sergeant stated in his letter:

I fail to see why anyone would move such a sensitive investigation from a very experienced investigator of 26 years to … [a person who will most likely be] a young inexperienced member. One can only speculate on the motive.

He added:

I know there are many ‘pro-church’ police members throughout our organisation and I hope [the senior US Catholic official] is not canvassing them and pulling strings to derail the investigation.

The letter identifies the church official who complained about the sergeant to the force’s Ethical Standards Department as one of the Marianist order’s most powerful US officials, Brother Joseph Kamis. Said the officer:

I do not know exactly why [Kamis has complained], except perhaps to try to intimidate me in my determined pursuit of Hartman.

The letter also reveals that Hartman is refusing to co-operate with authorities, based on the advice of a lawyer who:

Has been less than co-operative and is actively hindering the investigation, seemingly on the instructions of the church.

The sergeant said:

I believe this person [Hartman] needs to be brought to justice as soon as possible and these developments are of great concern.

In his letter to the victim, the sergeant also reveals his concerns about the church’s:

Very long tentacles of influence.

Hartman, 73, is a former Melbourne-based Marianist brother who returned to his native United States after working in Catholic schools in Australia in the 1970s. US law enforcement agencies were asked earlier this year by Victoria Police to arrest and question him.

That request came after several more alleged victims and a witness came forward following a report by The Age in December that revealed Hartman’s 1999 written admission to Melbourne woman, Mairead Ashcroft, whom he allegedly abused when she was aged between eight and 11 years old.

Meanwhile, it is reported herethat Japan is asking itself whether a Catholic priest who had abused a number of children in that country between 1961 and 1974, was just the tip of an iceberg.

Serial abuser Patrick Maguire

According to a fellow priest, Father Patrick Maguire – who admitted abusing at least 13 boys, ten of them in 1973 – was allowed by the Church to:

Slip out of Japan quietly.

The reason for Maguire’s hasty exit  to was a “problem” involving “young male children”. There was also:

A danger that the weekly magazines would latch onto a thing like that and blow it up out of all proportions.

So, fearing adverse publicity, the Church spirited him back to Ireland. A 2009 investigation into clerical sex abuse in Ireland, the Murphy Report, concluded that Maguire probably:

Abused hundreds of children in all parts of Ireland as well as in the UK and Japan.

The 2009 Murphy Report, which dealt with just one archdiocese, Dublin, found that bishops had effectively turned a blind eye to 46 abusing priests, including Maguire, over a 30-year period. In the same year, another government-commissioned report detailed a horrific catalogue of rapes and abuse at children’s homes and borstals run by religious orders nationwide.

Maguire’s is one of the first cases of clerical sex abuse to come to light in Japan. There have been a couple of other publicized cases over the past decade, but neither involved Catholic clergy. In 2006 Tamotsu Kin, 62, the founder of the Central Church of Holy God in Kyoto, was sentenced to 20 years for sexually abusing seven girls aged between 12 and 16 over a four-year period. The previous year, also in Kyoto, an Epicopalian priest, Fumio Harada, was convicted in a civil court of abusing a young girl and forced to pay damages. He was subsequently defrocked.

The report concludes:

The relatively small Catholic community here — there are just half a million members, less than 0.5 percent of the population — will be hoping that Patrick Maguire was an isolated rogue priest. Unfortunately, given the experience of other countries, that’s unlikely to be the case.

Hat tip: Bill Murray and BarrieJohn (Japan report)