Royal Commission releases findings on the responses of the Christian Brothers in Western Australia and the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong to child sexual abuse

Royal Commission releases findings on the responses of the Christian Brothers in Western Australia and the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong to child sexual abuse

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has published two reports; 'Report of Case Study 11: Congregation of Christian Brothers in Western Australia response to child sexual abuse at Castledare Junior Orphanage, St Vincent’s Orphanage Clontarf, St Mary’s Agricultural School Tardun and Bindoon Farm School' and 'Report of Case Study 14: The response of the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong to allegations of child sexual abuse, and related criminal proceedings, against John Gerard Nestor, a priest of the Diocese'.

Report of Case Study No. 11

This report examines the responses of the Congregation of Christian Brothers in Western Australia to child sexual abuse at Castledare Junior Orphanage, St Vincent’s Orphanage Clontarf, St Mary’s Agricultural School Tardun and Bindoon Farm School.

The four institutions operated from the late 1920s and closed down between the 1960s and 1980s.

During the hearing in Perth earlier this year, eleven men gave evidence and made allegations of sexual abuse against 16 named Brothers. The sexual abuse occurred in dormitories, in Brothers’ rooms, during movie screenings and in the grounds. It also involved Brothers watching boys naked in the showers. Most of the boys did not report the abuse; one of those who did was physically beaten.

The report found that from 1919 to the 1960s, the relevant Christian Brothers’ Provincial Council knew of allegations of sexual abuse against some Brothers in institutions run by the Christian Brothers around Australia.

The report also found that from 1947 to 1968, leaders of the Christian Brothers failed to manage each of the four institutions so as to prevent the sexual abuse of children living there.

The case study also inquired into the conduct and settlement of the class action brought against the Christian Brothers.

Read the full report.

Report of Case Study No. 14

This report, which examines the response of the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong to allegations of child sexual abuse and related criminal proceedings against John Gerard Nestor, highlights the complexity of canon law procedures and the difficulties for bishops seeking to have priests dismissed.

The report illustrates that from 1996 to 2009 there was confusion in both the Holy See and the wider Catholic Church about how to deal with allegations of child sexual abuse by clergy.

Nestor was a priest of the Diocese of Wollongong. During the 1990s, rumours spread about camps that he ran where boys were swimming naked, showering in the open and where Nestor had conversations with boys about the size of their genitalia.  

The report makes nine findings, including a finding that when Father Brian Lucas interviewed a cleric about allegations of child sexual abuse before a formal Church process had commenced against that person, Father Lucas should have made a contemporaneous record of what was said.  An outcome of Father Lucas’ practice was to ensure that there was no written record of any admissions of criminal conduct in order to protect the priest and the Church.

In 1996 an allegation of child sexual abuse was made against Nestor and he was convicted of aggravated indecent assault and an aggravated act of indecency on a person under the age of 16. In 1997 he was acquitted on appeal. 

Despite having been acquitted, complaints continued to be made against Nestor and questions arose as to whether he should be allowed to continue as a priest.

The report discusses the complex nature of canon law, and notes that it took 11 years and a number of steps before Nestor was ultimately dismissed from the priesthood by Pope Benedict XVI.

Specifically the report finds that it took nearly five and a half years for the Apostolic Signatura (the highest judicial authority in the Catholic Church other than the Pope) to make a decision in favour of the Diocese.

During this time Nestor went abroad and undertook some public ministry, including as part of a university chaplaincy. There is evidence that he also celebrated public mass at an aged care facility in Sydney when he returned.

Read the full report.