Sexual abuse allegations continue to be revealed within the Catholic church worldwide. The issue hit close to home for Australians earlier this year, with the sexual assault allegations against Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s highest-ranking Roman Catholic, and the conviction of Archbishop Phillip Wilson of covering up abuse by fellow priests almost 50 years ago.
In a sexual abuse report last year, an Australian government commission made the recommendation that the church remove the celibacy requirement in the clergy and that any abuse revealed in confession should be reported.
A recent case dates allegations back to the 1960s and 1970s. The alleged abuse took place in a Catholic school, Marist College Penshurst, located south of Sydney.
Background and allegations
The plaintiff was attending Marist College in 1976, the year the alleged abuse occurred. The plaintiff claims that he suffered sexual, physical and emotional abuse from the teachers at the school, which were made up of the Marist Brothers, a Catholic order that aims to focus on Christian formation.
The Provincial of the Sydney Province and the Provincial Council were responsible for the schools operated by the Marist Brothers, and oversaw any abuse allegations and related actions to address them. However, according to the report in the proceedings, there were no written records regarding sexual abuse kept by the Provincial prior to 1983.
There are ten defendants in the case, three of which are still alive. One of defendants is the Trustees of the Marist Brothers. According to the Royal Commission’s inquiry into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which was cited in the case, in the late 1960s, one of the Marist Brothers was given a warning for admitting to sexual abuse of a child and was transferred to eventually become the principal of Marist College Penshurst.
However, from 1962 to 1993, no reports of sexual abuse allegations were made by the Marist Brothers. It is alleged that the principal and other officials in the school had failed to address sexual abuse with the young boys and the risk of it continuing.
Complicated question of responsibility
The case has presented further issues around who is, was, and should have been responsible to address sexual abuse in the school. In addition, it is unclear who among the Marist Brothers was aware of the alleged behaviour. The plaintiff has submitted amendments to the statement of claim, and further amendments to the claim are to be forwarded to the defendants by the end of July.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault or child abuse, talk to our legal team at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers. We are happy to provide free consultations, whether over the phone or in person.