The crimes of this Franciscan Brother were covered up

  • By a Broken Rites researcher in 2008, updated on 9 September 2016

The Australian headquarters of the Franciscans (the Order of Friars Minor) have been forced to acknowledge that Brother Paschal Bartlett was a child-abuser. Brother Paschal joined the Franciscan Order in the 1920s, moving through parishes in Victoria, Tasmania, New Zealand and Sydney. He supervised altar boys for almost 50 years in these parishes, exploiting his position of authority to sexually abuse them.
 
For example, Brother Paschal was in charge of the altar boys at the Mary Immaculate Catholic parish in Waverley, Sydney, in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The parish, conducted by the Franciscans, had a large number of altar boys, some of whom were pupils at the Christian Brothers' Waverley College.

In 2002 a former altar boy, "Pierre" (not his real name), born in 1961, notified the Catholic Church's professional standards office ("Towards Healing") in New South Wales that Brother Paschal used to touch Pierre's genitals when he was aged from 8 to 13; and Brother Paschal used to make Pierre touch Brother Paschal's genitals. Pierre said that he finally revealed the molestation to his parents when he was 22. Pierre said that three other young male relatives of his were also molested by Brother Pascal. Pierre said he was concerned that this child-abuse had occurred and that it had been hidden from parents and the public.

In 2002, the Franciscans' Australian headquarters agreed to hold a mediation meeting with Pierre (who was then in his forties) but the Franciscans were evasive at this stage.

In 2008, Pierre contacted Broken Rites, and we advised him about how to tackle the Franciscans more successfully.

In 2008, Broken Rites found a second victim of Brother Paschal.

Brother Paschal's real name was Ernest Joseph Bartlett. Paschal was his religious name (there was a "Saint Paschal" in the Franciscans in Spain in the 16th century). Paschal Bartlett died in Sydney on 27 April 1994.

Update in 2016

On 4 September 2016, the Sydney Morning Herald website published an article about Brother Paschal Bartlett. Here is additional information from that article:-

"I genuinely believe there would be countless victims of Brother Paschal out there," said one former altar boy, who was abused by Brother Paschal at Waverley in Sydney in the 1960s and '70s. "He had access to altar boys for almost 50 years and it would appear he was never challenged."

Brother Paschal  had two lengthy periods of sick leave in the 1960s before returning to Waverley's Mary Immaculate Church where students from nearby Waverley College were encouraged to serve as altar boys.

It was there this former altar boy, who has requested anonymity, first encountered the man he describes as "without moral scruples".

Like many people who have suffered sexual abuse, this victim kept quiet about it for decades. After a private session with Australia's nationalRoyal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, he arranged a meeting with the Franciscan Friars Provincial Office in Waverley in 2016.

The now middle-aged victim was aware there were at least two other altar boys who were molested by Brother Paschal during his time at Waverley but he was convinced many more were yet to come forward about the friar, who died in 1994 without ever facing charges. He asked the Franciscan Friars to make a public statement about Brother Paschal to encourage others to seek support.

"I put to them that this was the tip of the iceberg," he said.

"It had taken me significant time to come forward and that came at significant emotional cost. I said, 'What about the other victims? You have to do something to ensure that there is care for these people. They would be contemplating suicide as we speak'."

According to Broken Rites, the church's Professional Standards Office was notified in 2002 about sex abuse allegations involving Brother Paschal and four boys.

The Franciscan Friars acknowledged the abuse but declined the man's request for them to make a public statement about Brother Paschal via a letter from their lawyers, Makinson d'Apice, last month.

"I got the impression they hoped I would just go away, and there were plenty of times I thought about that but, for me, a social justice imperative was at play," he said. "There were crimes committed on their watch. They now have a responsibility to victims. To do nothing is pretty dreadful behaviour."

The victim's lawyer, John Ellis, agreed that it was a disappointing response.

"The cynic in me would say from the church's perspective there are only downsides to alerting people," he said. "The more people know, the more people are likely to come forward, and then there will be a financial cost. It's easier to simply bury their heads in the sand and view it as an isolated lapse."

After being contacted by the Sydney Morning Herald in September 2016, the Franciscan Friars promised to act.

In a statement, Provincial Minister Paul Smith wrote: "This will be implemented initially by naming Brother Paschal in the Waverley parish bulletin, and asking anyone with a claim of abuse against him to come forward. Similar announcements about sexual abuse will be made in other parishes where the Franciscans currently serve and we will also ask for an opportunity to do likewise in those parishes where we once ministered in past decades."

He acknowledged that the Franciscans' Australian website needed a more prominent link to its professional standards statement.