Priest, 88, jailed for raping an altar boy
An Australian victim support group is outraged that it took more than 40 years to bring James Henry Scannell into the dock.
BERNARD Barrett, from the victims’ support group Broken Rites, said Scannell was still working up until early last year, when he was suspended by the Church pending the result of the trial.
Dr Barrett called on the church to explain why Scannell’s offending was covered up for so long.
According to this report, Scannell will spend at least one year in prison for sexually assaulting a boy in his care more than 40 years ago.
In June he was found guilty of a single count of buggery related to his attack on the altar boy who was aged between 11 and 13 and was working at the priest’s then home in Kew for pocket money between 1970 and 1972.
The court heard Scannell took the boy into his bedroom, told him to undress and sexually assaulted him. Afterwards he ordered the boy to shower, to take confession and to never tell anyone of the assault.
Scannell, who has worked as a priest across Melbourne for half a century and was a chaplain at Kew Cottages, was jailed this week for two years. He must serve a minimum of 12 months.
Scannell, who is of poor health, had trouble getting to his feet and used a walking stick when led out of the County Court dock by security, as some of his large group of supporters cried.
Questions need to be asked of the Melbourne archdiocese about why and how this sort of thing could have happened and how it’s taken all these years for it to come out. Why is it that victims always feel they must remain silent when the offender is a priest or some sort of church person?
It’s all covered up until one brave victim finally agrees to talk to detectives. Most church victims are intimidated into silence for 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years.
It was not until 2010 that the victim disclosed details of the attack, after he learnt Scannell was to conduct the funeral of the victim’s aunt, who had years before arranged for her nephew to work at the priest’s home.
Judge David Parsons said the offending was a breach of trust of the victim and his aunt “in a most shocking way” and that prison was the only appropriate punishment. He said jail would weigh heavily given the man’s age and poor health, but that general deterrence was the most important factor to consider in sentencing.
The judge said the victim had battled years of alcohol abuse and was left feeling devastated whenever he returned to church to attend weddings or funerals.
The man said in a victim impact statement.
I have lost my religion. I lost this on the day I was molested.
The court heard Scannell had worked with autistic children and the terminally ill, but now faced the shame and ignominy of ending his career in prison. He continued to deny the offence, Judge Parsons said.
Earlier this year a predatory Australian priest was sentenced to eight years in prison for raping a young girl 40 years ago. A second priest allegedly looked on when the attack took place.
In passing sentence Judge Michael Rozenes told Gerald Ridsdale:
Although it does not directly involve you, Mr Ridsdale, there is a further disturbing aspect to this incident, namely that this complainant believes another priest was present for a short time while you were sexually assaulting her and must have been aware of the assault but did not intervene.
I raise this merely to make an observation: namely that this behaviour appears to be demonstrative of the Church’s approach to sexual abuse at the time which ultimately – and unfortunately, for your victims – allowed your criminal behaviour to go unchecked for so long.