Crime

Pedo confessional priests: Lawrence researchers pose as sex abuser priests

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Contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence conducted research in the mid-1990s into the Catholic clergy and the confessional, she organised for researchers to pose as priests, Christian brothers and lay teachers to enter the confessional box to "confess" they had sexually abused children.

“BLESS ME FATHER, it is a week since my last confession. I am a priest and I have been raping little boys and girls and forcing them to masturbate me and suck my cock and I have penetrated their vaginas and anuses, sometimes with foreign objects, including the crucifix.”

“Perhaps we should meet and discuss this in person,” says the confessor to the penitent.

Both priests agree to later meet in person.  Not for spiritual or other counselling. Or pastoral guidance. Not at all. And certainly not to persuade the penitent to go to the police. But rather to exchange names and grooming techniques of their respective child victims. And to get their rocks off recounting sexual exploits.  

Unlikely? More common than we think. How do I know? Please read on.

CHURCH RESISTS BREAKING SEAL OF CONFESSION MORE THAN

BREAKING THE SEAL OF VIRGINITY OF LITTLE CHILDREN

It is distressing writing about child sex abuse, as it is reading about it. So how distressing must it be for those who have actually been the victims of it. Free from some of the shackles of the past, we are long overdue for truth telling.

The scenario above is but one of the codex of communications between paedophile clergy. It is not apocrypha.

While it is not the only reason of course, it is one of the internecine reasons why the Catholic Church continues to resist calls to break the Seal of Confession more earnestly than it does for the breaking of the seal of virginity of little children.

LAWRENCE RESEARCHERS POSE AS SEX ABUSER PRIESTS IN CONFESSION

In critical forensic research and intelligence gathering I conducted in the mid-1990s into Catholic clergy and the confessional, I organised for researchers to pose as priests, Christian brothers and lay teachers to enter the confessional box to "confess" they had sexually abused children.

I make no apology for doing so.

On occasion, we kept the "confession" oblique – impure deeds perpetrated upon children, impure thoughts, inability to control one's desire – plagued by impure thoughts about children. Confession by rote. 

Other times, the "confession" was explicit and unambigious. Sometimes, the script mentioned excessive drinking, drug taking and plying young people with these as well.

CONFESSOR  INVARIABLY BLAMED THE DEVIL AND NOT PERPETRATOR

It was certainly not a large survey and research was confined to Victoria but findings were disturbing.

Almost to a man, the priest invoked the name of the Devil, shifting the onus of responsibility for the abuse onto the Black Prince rather than the perpetrator. Get behind me Satan. The Devil made me do it. That sort of thing.

The priest would say something like: “That is the Devil's way of hurting Christ through you.”

LITTLE CONCERN FROM PRIESTS ABOUT THE SAFETY OF THE CHILD VICTIMS

The emphasis was on capitulating to Satan and temptation. Little concern or compassion was ever expressed about the health, welfare and safety of the children. Or the gravity and consequences of such criminal activity.

Nor was there any attempt to counsel the penitent to seek psychiatric help, or give himself up to police, consult the school principal, or leave the school and the priesthood, et cetera.

SEX ABUSE "PERPETRATORS" ABSOLVED FROM SINS

CHURCH RUBBER STAMPING CONFESSIONAL'S CODE OF OMERTA

In all instances, penitents were asked if they were truly sorry and told not to sin again. And, in all instances, were granted absolution.

Basically, the Church was rubber-stamping the seal of approval on the confessional's code of omerta.

In interviews with clergy, I learned that “pedo” priests knew one another and, in some instances, were friends with Anglican priests and other denominational leaders, such pedo rings a squalid  version of ecumenism.

CONFESSION A GET-OUT-OF GOAL CARD FOR PEDO PRIESTS

As it stands, the Confessional remains not only a sort of speed dating and baiting conduit for paedophile priests, but it's also a get-out-of goal card for lone wolf predators including those who travel to parishes far away from their own in order to confess their recidivist sins to a "stranger" priest — a perverse parody that might well be called "The Gospels of Clergical Sex Abuse of Children according to the Apostles of Predators".

The only Catholic Church-specific recommendation from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse that the Church has rejected is this one:

Recommendation 16.10

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference should request the Holy See to amend canon law so that the pontifical secret does not apply to any aspect of allegations or canonical disciplinary processes relating to child sexual abuse.

We hear clergy, their lawyers and apologists euphemise rape and sexual abuse of children. The raw ugliness of these crimes is still coddled in terms designed to mollify the gravity and extent of sexual abuse. Churches/religions/institutions of all creeds and none are guilty of this.

We need to know and give utterance to what the phrase "inappropriate behaviour" actually means in each case. We need to tell it as it was and as it is. Now and forever. Amen.

TO EUPHEMISE SEX ABUSE IS TO EUTHANISE PAIN, SUFFERING OF VICTIMS

To euphemise sex-abuse is to euthanise the enduring pain, suffering and suicides of victims and their families; the physical and mental excoriation that sex abuse has on those directly involved and the wider community.

If a priest/brother/nun/lay teacher confesses to the priest that he/she "behaved inappropriately" with a child/student it could mean anything from giving students too much homework, or plying them with drugs and alcohol and sexually abusing them. 

Likewise phrases used in the confessional, that imply sexual misdeeds and are familiar to Catholics include the likes of  having 'impure thoughts' and committing “impure deeds.” These phrases could mask anything from lusting after someone to committing rape.

So when the Church sends a known paedophile priest or brother to another state or school, it must bear the consequences of its squalid actions in both a criminal and pastoral sense. Given that the Church has become little more than a product and a brand, knowingly manufacturing faulty goods, unfit for purpose. 

While the Church continues to mouth platitudes about love, compassion, reconciliation and feigns reaching out to victims and families, we see few acts of contrition, do we not?

CHURCH BEHAVES UNDER SEIGE BECAUSE IT IS UNDER SEIGE

It behaves as if under seige because it is under seige. There is no turning of the other cheek.

The "brand" must still be protected at any cost. There are too many money men in the temples.

The Church fights its own flock with lawyers and spin doctors. It laughingly refers to itself as "Mother Church" or the Bride of Christ. It takes the names of mothers and brides in vain. These terms are early examples of spin, febrile attempt to assuage the all-male mysogynistic heirachy that imposed celibacy on priests to stop women and heirs from inheriting land and property, and diluting its obscene wealth. 

Better to call itself  "Father Church". For that is what it is. And yes, the curia is comprised of mostly white men.

In the Vatican's take on celibacy, you won't find many women quoted or any serious writings about the real reason for celibacy technically known as the "law of continence". Another euphemism.

However the Vatican's shrewdness in engaging a female to deflect its fear and loathing of women is pertinent.

In her article on its website, the late Maria Adelaide Raschini, writing when Professor of Theoretical Philosophy at the University of Genoa, argued against assertions of the Church's misogyny. I didn't understand it. I'd be worried if I did. Please decide for yourself.

PARLOUS AND PITILESS DEEP STATE OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

The parlous and pitiless deep state of the Catholic Church, its cover-up and corrupt attendance to the industrial strength sexual abuse and cruelty towards children has diminished its authority.

On an international scale the various royal commissions, grand jury inquiries and other legal and political jurisdictions have implicated and indicted the Catholic Church.

Globally, including in Australia, it has responded with little more than platitudes and insincere mea culpa. It baulks at the criminal and compensatory aspects of this scourge.

POPE FRANCIS CALLS HIS BISHOPS TO ROME FOR SEX ABUSE SUMMIT

Pope Francis, still wincing from the tepid reception he got on his recent visit to Ireland has summoned all his Bishops to attend a summit in Rome in February next year, specifically to discuss sex abuse and no doubt celibacy and the seal of confession.

When he spoke at the Melbourne Press Club last month, His Grace Peter Comensoli, the newly appointed Archbishop of Melbourne was questioned about the seal of confession.

From the ABC's Ben Knight:

Asked if he would forgive a Catholic priest who confessed to sexual abuse, Archbishop Comensoli did not hesitate.

"Absolutely yes," he said.

"And not just then forgiveness — then I will see what we can do in terms of the action that goes with that forgiveness."

Archbishop Comensoli also ruled out breaking the seal of the confessional and was asked what he would do if a child reported sexual abuse in the confessional.

"I would immediately take the child outside the confessional and talk to them a little bit about the matter they have raised with me — and ask what steps can I take to help get you to safety," he said.

EILEEN PIPER SHOWS COMENSOLI PHOTO OF DEAD DAUGHTER

At our table, eminent lawyer, writer and campaigner Dr Judy Courtin and myself were flanked by the extraordinary Eileen Piper and Chrissie Foster, both mothers whose children were sexually abused by Catholic priests. Both mothers whose children had suicided as a result. Both mothers who, despite being brutalised and mauled by the abrasive tactics of the Catholic Church, continue to relentlessly fight for justice for their children and the children of others, many of those, of course, now adults, parents and grandparents.

Chrissie Foster and her husband Anthony, who died last year, are pivotal figures in the ongoing fight for justice for victims, survivors and families.

In an Independent Australia tribute to Anthony in May last year, I wrote 

For decades, Anthony and his beloved Chrissie have fought for justice, not only for their two daughters who, as little girls, were repeatedly raped by a Catholic priest while attending a Catholic school, but also for the thousands of other victims/survivors of industrial strength child sex abuse, perpetrated by the church's crack SAS (Sexual Abuse Squad) army of career paedophiles...

Disarmingly and brutally honest about the nature of crimes against their own and other children, they made one likewise determined not to euphemise the facts or euthanise the truth.

This couple lived with the anguish of knowing that the serial sex offender Father Kevin O'Donnell repeatedly raped their daughters, Emma and Katie at Oakleigh's Sacred Heart Primary School

Emma was later to suicide from an overdose when she was 26 years old, found dead on her bedroom floor clutching the teddy bear her parents had given her when she was a little baby. 

Like her big sister, Katie had also spiralled out of control and, after drinking heavily, she walked into a car travelling at high speed and is now permanently impaired — both mentally and physically....

Disarmingly and brutally honest about the nature of crimes against their own and other children, they made one likewise determined not to euphemise the facts or euthanise the truth.

This couple lived with the anguish of knowing that the serial sex offender Father Kevin O'Donnell repeatedly raped their daughters, Emma and Katie at Oakleigh's Sacred Heart Primary School

Emma was later to suicide from an overdose when she was 26 years old, found dead on her bedroom floor clutching the teddy bear her parents had given her when she was a little baby. 

Like her big sister, Katie had also spiralled out of control and, after drinking heavily, she walked into a car travelling at high speed and is now permanently impaired — both mentally and physically.

Three months earlier in IA, Judy Courtin also wrote about her now 93 year old client, Eileen Piper. Her daughter Stephanie suicided in 1994 after having been repeatedly raped by Catholic priest Father Gerard Mulvale, of the Pallottine order in Victoria's suburb of Syndal – yet another Catholic male entity that couches itself in female terms, describing itself as Regina Mundi – Queen of the World.

Our foreword to Courtin's compelling article included this:

'The Catholic Church have conspired to trash her daughter's reputation — and hold fast to the findings of the church's farcical self-investigation decades ago.'

COMENTSOLI SPEAKS WITH GRIEVING EILEEN, ACCEPTS COURTIN'S DOSSIER

Now at the MPC function, Judy Courtin took the microphone to ask His Grace if he would accept a legal dossier outlining Piper's case. In an emotionally charged and powerful scene, a grieving and shaking Eileen stood up and showed Comensoli a photo of her dead 32 year old daughter Stephanie, in her coffin.

Comensoli came to our table at the rear of the room and spoke with Piper and Foster and agreed to accept Courtin's dossier to review Eileen's case.

EILEEN PIPER'S "ME TOO" MOMENT, DAUGHTER SLUT-SHAMED BY CHURCH

In the Age, Ben Schneiders and Royce Millar quoted Courtin

Ms Piper would like the the church to see this, and to see what the church ultimately drove her daughter to do...Your grace, this is Stephanie Piper's 'me too' moment.

...Stephanie was told the alleged sex crimes never happened and that basically she was a liar... Stephanie was threatened, untruths were manufactured, seriously tarnishing her character or, using the present day vernacular, there was victim-blaming and slut-shaming.

I wondered then, as I do now, to whom did serial sex offenders Fathers Gerard Mulvale and Kevin O'Donnell confess ? 

RATHER THAN ASK CONFESSOR, ASK PEDO PRIESTS

WHO HEARD THEIR CONFESSiON? WHO ABSOLVED THEIR SINS?

I have a suggestion to make for police and prosecutors, regardless of the Confessor's seal, questions could be put to the alleged perpetrator and convicted perpetrators. Did you confess your sins? To whom did you confess? How many times did you confess? Were you absolved of the sin of child sex abuse? 

Not so much an inquisition, but certainly an interrogation is warranted.

And rather than skirt around hypotheticals to Archbishops and other priests, asking what they would do if someone came to them and confessed they were abusing children, it is time to ask them directly, if they have heard confessions from sex abusers? And what did they do about it?

God and not the Devil is in the detail. Let us leave no fire and brimstone unturned.

As Arthur Miller wrote in his ever prescient allegorical play The Crucible:

'... remember, until an hour before the Devil fell, God thought him beautiful in Heaven.'

The Synod of Bishops is meeting in Rome from 3 to 28 October.

Please seek help from Lifeline on 13 11 14 if matters mentioned in this article causes any distress.

DISCLOSURE: Tess Lawrence has worked for the Christian Brothers in Victoria. Lawrence is a prolapsed Catholic.

AFFIRMATION: There are many, many wonderful people in the Catholic Church, and many wonderful priests and brothers and I know some of them.

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