By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 2 March 2016
Since 1993, Broken Rites has been doing research about how Melbourne's Catholic bishops harboured a number of sexually-abusive priests. In the mid-1990s, Broken Rites began exposing these priests. Now some of these priests, from the Broken Rites list, are being investigated by Australia's national child-abuse Royal Commission. The Commission is asking ask Melbourne's former archbishop George Pell about some of these priests when it is questioning him (by video-link from Rome) this week. This article points you to the original Broken Rites research about each of these priests.
Here are some of the names from the Broken Rites list (to read a Broken Rites article on each priest, you can click on any of the following names).
- Fr Peter Searson. For many years, the Melbourne church hierarchy knew that Searson was committing sexual offences against children in parish schools but it managed to protect him from police prosecution. Obstinately the church kept him in the ministry but eventually the hierarchy was forced to put Searson on "administrative leave" to protect the public image of the church.
- Fr Wilfred (Bill) Baker. Baker worked in parishes around Melbourne — and he committed sexual crimes against children while his superiors and colleagues looked the other way.
- Fr Nazareno Fasciale (pronounced Fah-SHAH-lay). Church leaders, including George Pell, participated in a glowing tribute to this priest, who was one of the worst paedophiles in the Melbourne diocese. In 1996, when Broken Rites exposed this (and other) church cover-ups, George Pell's diocese went into damage control, hiring a public relations firm to announce the "Melbourne Response" (a forerunner of the church's "Towards Healing" strategy).
- Fr Kevin O'Donnell. During O'Donnell's life of crime, his superiors and colleagues looked the other way. In his final years, he even received public praise from one of his superiors, Bishop George Pell.
- Fr Ronald Pickering. The Melbourne church authorities protected Pickering for many years while he committed crimes against children in his parishes. Eventually he fled from Australia, evading justice. The Melbourne archdiocese then began sending retirement payments to Pickering at his new address in England but they didn't give this address to the police.
- Fr David Daniel. The church authorities kept ignoring complaints about the crimes of this priest, but eventually some of these victims spoke to Victoria Police detectives — and the police then charged Father Daniel, thus ending the church's cover-up.
- Fr Desmond Gannon. This is another example of how the church authorities protected a criminal priest for many years until some of his victims eventually spoke to Victoria Police detectives.
A vulnerable parish - Doveton
The Royal Commission public is also questioning George Pell about how the Catholic Church authorities sent a series of FOUR sexually-abusive priests to one Melbourne parish — Doveton. This low socio-economic area — on Melbourne's south-eastern outskirts near Dandenong — includes a large number of vulnerable families.
The sexually-abuse priests at this parish included:
- Fr Peter Searson. He was at Doveton parish in the 1980s and 1990s, while this region of Melbourne was under the supervision of Bishop/Archbishop George Pell. Broken Rites finally helped to bring Searson to justice in, thus forcing the archdiocese to abandon Searson.
- Fr Bill Baker. He was an assistant priest at Doveton parish in the 1970s. Archbishop Frank Little covered up Baker's crimes in various parishes.
- Fr Vic Rubeo. He was at Doveton parish in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The church harboured this offender in various parishes for three decades.
- Fr Tom O'Keeffe. He was in charge of the Doveton parish in the 1970s.