By a Broken Rites researcher (article updated 18 September 2015)
This Broken Rites article is the most comprehensive account available about how the Christian Brothers organisation concealed the crimes of Brother Edward Dowlan (now known as Ted Bales). From the start, the Christian Brothers knew that Dowlan was committing criminal sexual assaults against Australian schoolchildren but, instead of dismissing him, the Christian Brothers kept transferring him to more schools, thus giving him access to more victims. His victims were usually aged about 11 or 12 but some were as young as 8 or 9. In the 1990s, when some victims finally reported him to the police, the Christian Brothers supported Dowlan and tried to defeat the victims. The victims eventually won by getting him jailed in 1996 and again in 2015. Prosecutors considered Dowlan's 2015 jail sentence to be inadequate, so they lodged an appeal and gained a longer jail term. Many of Brother Dowlan's victims have had their lives damaged by the church's cover-up — and several of his victims ended up in suicide. Some other Dowlan victims have not yet contacted the detectives.
In the mid-1990s, twenty years after his first crime, Broken Rites arranged for one of Dowlan's victims to have a private chat with detectives from the Victoria Police child-abuse investigation unit, who then interviewed some more of Dowlan's victims. This resulted in Dowlan being jailed in 1996. After being released from jail in 2001, Dowlan changed his surname to "Bales" to avoid media scrutiny and, with help from the Christian Brothers organisation, he moved into a private residence of his own as Mister Ted Bales. In 2014, after more of his earlier victims finally contacted the police, Edward "Bales" pleaded guilty to some more of his crimes and was remanded in custody to await his next sentencing, on 27 March 2015, when he was given a further jail sentence. On 18 September 2015, the length of this jail sentence was increased.
It was Broken Rites that first documented the Christian Brothers policy of continuing to support any criminal member in their ranks, even after a court conviction. A senior Christian Brothers official explained this policy in the Melbourne County Court in July 1996, when Brother Edward Vernon Dowlan faced charges for indecently assaulting boys in Victorian Catholic schools. A Broken Rites researcher was present in court, day after day, taking notes during the 1996 proceedings. The following article is based on those notes, together with further notes made in court in 2014 and 2015..
According to submissions made in court in 1996, Dowlan was openly molesting boys (in the presence of other boys) at his first two schools (in 1971-72), and therefore the Christian Brothers' Victoria-Tasmania administration moved him to another school — a boarding school (St Patrick's College, Ballarat) in 1973, enabling Dowlan to commit more crimes on more boys, including boarders. The parents of at least one St Patrick's victim confronted St Patrick's head Christian Brother about Dowlan's offence. The Christian Brothers' headquarters then kept transferring Dowlan to more schools (and more victims) — until the police finally caught up with him in 1993.
Until the 1990s, the Christian Brothers (and other sections of the Catholic Church) managed to discourage church-abuse victims from revealing the crimes of priests and Brothers. But, in 1993, Broken Rites began researching this Catholic cover-up. Among the first church-victims who contacted Broken Rites in 1993 were former students of Brother Ted Dowlan. Broken Rites advised each victim that he had the right to have a chat with specialist detectives in the child-abuse investigation unit of the Victoria Police, with a view to bringing the criminal to justice. Thus, police eventually arrested Edward Vernon Dowlan and charged him in court. Broken Rites alerted the media, which published articles about the Dowlan court proceedings from 1994 to 1996, with television footage of him arriving at court.
In the 1996 court case, Brother Edward Vernon Dowlan was charged with indecently assaulting young boys while he was a teacher in Victorian Catholic schools between 1971 and 1982.
According research by Broken Rites, Edward Dowlan was born on 4 January 1950. He grew up in Melbourne, where he was educated by the Christian Brothers, with ample opportunities to absorb the Brothers' sexually-abusive culture. While he was in the Brothers' primary school at suburban Alphington (up to Year 8) , the school chaplain there was the prolific child-abuse criminal Father Desmond Gannon (later jailed). During Dowlan's secondary schooling (at Parade College, East Melbourne, near Melbourne's cathedral), the school staff included some sexually-abusive Brothers.
At Parade College, Ed Dowlan developed an "aspiration" to have a career as a Christian Brother. So, instead of doing Year 12 in a secondary school, he did it in a Christian Brothers "juniorate" and became a member of the Victoria-Tasmania province of the Christian Brothers. (At the time of the Dowlan jailing in 1996, there were three other Christian Brothers provinces in Australia — New South Wales; Queensland; and Western/South Australia.)
It was normal for new Christian Brothers to adopt another name (e.g., the name of a "saint" or the name of a a previoius senior Brother). Thus Edward Vernon Dowlan was listed in Christian Brothers documents as Brother "E.G. Dowlan". It is not known what the letter "G" stands for.
After doing further religious education plus teacher training, Brother Ted Dowlan taught at various schools including the following (this list was compiled by Broken Rites):-
The court was told that the police investigation began after several alleged victims, from different schools and acting separately without knowing each other, contacted the Victoria Police sexual offences and child-abuse team (now known as SOCIT) in 1993. The SOCIT unit soon found more alleged victims. In August 1993, Senior Sergeant Blair Smith interviewed Dowlan, but at this stage Dowlan denied the allegations.
When charged by police in early 1994 regarding a few of his victims, Dowlan faced 64 charges, including two of buggery, against 23 boys. At first, the church lawyers indicated that they would contest all these charges fiercely.
According to court documents, Dowlan indecently assaulted the boys in classrooms, sports rooms, showers and the boys' family homes. Typically, Dowlan would upset a boy (either physically or verbally), perhaps make him cry and would then cuddle and molest him.
He invasively handled the boys' genitals and sometimes inserted his finger into a boy’s anus.
Many of Dowlan's offences occurred at the back of the classroom, where other pupils where asked not to look back. Other offences occurred in empty classrooms where Dowlan would ask the boys to discuss family problems.
The prosecution alleged in court that, as a Christian Brother in a Catholic school, Dowlan had the power to intimidate a child into going to the place where the abuse would occur – e.g., at the rear of a crowded classroom during a lesson. He was able to do this under the guise of discipline. The victim was in a state of subservience and was unable later to make a complaint (or unable to get his complaint accepted). Sometimes, in a classroom, there would be 20 to 30 witnesses to the offence but these witnesses (the prosecution alleged) were also under Dowlan’s control. Therefore, as a Catholic religious Brother, Dowlan was confident about not getting into trouble, the prosecution said
The first school in Brother Edward Dowlan’s criminal charges was St Alipius primary school (pronounced Saint Al-LEEP-ee-us) in Ballarat in 1971, when Dowlan was aged 21. Dowlan was there at the same time as Brother Robert Best, who also was convicted in 1996.
Indeed, in 1971 the school's entire male personnel were child-sex offenders. The school had only four classrooms. Brother Best taught Grade 6, Brother Edward Dowlan taught Grade 5, a woman teacher taught Grade 4, another pedophile (Brother Gerald Leo Fitzgerald, now deceased) taught Grade 3, and the school's visiting chaplain was the pedophile priest Father Gerald Ridsdale (jailed in 1994). A later teacher, Christian Brother Stephen Francis Farrell, was also a child-sex offender. All these men (except Brother Fitzgerald, who died 23 August 1987) were later convicted of sex crimes.
The prosecution alleged that three St Alipius boys were each sexually abused by the same three offenders — Brother Ted Dowlan, Brother Robert Charles Best and Brother Gerald Francis Ridsdale.
Details of Dowlan’s offences were given in court documents in 1996, including a "statement of agreed facts" submitted jointly by the prosecution and the defence.
Court documents in 1996 indicated that the Christian Brothers administration knew about Brother Dowlan's offences early in his career but the Order continued to give him access to children.
In court, the defence admitted that, after a complaint in 1985, Dowlan was removed from teaching for a year to do a Diploma of Theology. He then returned to teaching at Geelong.
From the outset of the prosecution process (beginning in late 1993), the Christian Brothers Victoria-Tasmania management was determined to defend Brother Dowlan (and also Brother Robert Best), thereby defeating the victims.
At one of Dowlan’s early court appearances (in the Melbourne Magistrates Court in 1994), his counsel foreshadowed a lengthy contest and commented to the magistrate: "Expense is not a problem, your worship."
After police first summoned Dowlan to appear in court in early 1994, the Christian Brothers’ solicitors hired private investigators to do make inquiries about victims, the court was told. A female investigator telephoned and visited three of the Ballarat victims, questioning them about their proposed evidence. Police said this interference in the criminal justice system was "highly inappropriate".
On 18 March 1994, one of Dowlan’s schools (St Patrick’s College, Ballarat) circulated a newsletter about Dowlan to parents, inviting any affected families to ring a so-called "helpline" at the Christian Brothers headquarters in Melbourne.
This phone-in may have resulted in additional witnesses contacting the Christian Brothers (that is, the offending institution) instead of contacting the investigating authority, the Victoria Police. Some callers may have presumed that, if they gave information to the Christian Brothers, they did not need to give it to the police. It is possible that some of the information received proved helpful for the Christian Brothers’ defence lawyers, which is perhaps not what the callers might have intended. This 1994 phone-in was a forerunner of what developed (in 1996) into the church's "Towards Healing" program for all Australian Catholic dioceses and religious orders. [Too often, when victims give information to "Towards Healing", the information ends up in the hands of the church's lawyers, thereby helping the church to evade the victim.]
The Christian Brothers legal team tried many tactics to delay or frustrate or stop the proceedings. In March 1994, Dowlan requested (and was granted) a nine-months adjournment in the magistrate’s preliminary committal proceedings, so that he could have a trip to the United States to visit the St Luke "Institute" in Maryland (a Catholic accommodation-place for problem clergy). However, a Dowlan victim alerted the U.S. Embassy in Canberra and, as a result, the U.S. rejected Dowlan's visa application because he was facing criminal charges. Dowlan then stayed in Australia, still taking advantage of the nine-months adjournment. Dowlan's request for such a long adjournment made it impossible for the committal hearing to be held before the end of 1994.
What was the objective of the trip to the St Luke Institute? The institute accommodates clergy who have problems with sexual abuse or psychiatric problems. Fifteen months later, when Dowlan’s jail term was about to be calculated, the prosecutor asked Christian Brothers deputy leader Peter Dowling ("character" witness for Dowlan) if the St Luke Institute program was partly a preparation for progression through a criminal court case. Peter Dowling told the court that a part of the St Luke program was to build up a person's identity so that they could cope with what is happening to them.
Another advantage of a trip to the St Luke Institute is that, at the time of sentencing in court, a convicted offender can seek a lenient sentence by claiming that he has received "treatment" at the St Luke "Institute" and is therefore "unlikely to offend again".
Dowlan's preliminary ("committal") hearing by a magistrate was held in the Melbourne Magistrates Court in May 1995. This was a closed courtroom, with only lawyers, police and each witness present.
After an eight-days hearing, the magistrate declared that there was indeed sufficient evidence to seek a conviction in a higher court. The magistrate ordered Dowlan to appear before a judge at the Melbourne County Court in late 1995.
The Christian Brothers' legal team, however, managed to have the County Court case adjourned for months.
On 4 March 1996, County Court Judge Elizabeth Curtain finally began hearing pre-trial submissions from Dowlan’s defence team about what procedures should be followed in the case. These were the first of many days that were spent in legal argument. A Broken Rites researcher sat in court during those proceedings.
Then, on 13 March 1996, Dowlan secured a three-month adjournment on the "ground" that a Channel Nine "Sixty Minutes" program on 3 March 1996 had featured an item about priests in Ireland who broke their vows of chastity and who, in some instances, fathered children. In fact, however, the "Sixty Minutes" item was not about Christian Brothers and was not about Australia.
In June 1996, the County Court resumed hearing legal argument about aspects of the Dowlan charges. Simultaneously, in another courtroom in the same building, a different judge started hearing the case against Brother Robert Best. During adjournments in one of those courtrooms, a Broken Rites representative would visit the other courtroom to check on proceedings there.
To help Dowlan and Best, the Christian Brothers obtained a court order to prohibit television networks from showing three advertised television programs in Victoria:
The TV networks were allowed to show these programs in other states but in Victoria they had to fill these time-slots with a substitute program.
The church lawyers also applied to the court to have a separate jury for each of the complainants. (This tactic means that each jury would think that there was only one complainant and that the offence was an isolated incident, possibly resulting in a "not guilty" verdict regarding each victim from each jury).
Originally, in March 1996, Judge curtain granted this application. However, the Office of Public Prosecutions was opposed to this. In June 1996, Judge Curtain finally granted a prosecution application to amalgamate three complainants for the first jury, because these three cases involved similar incidents. This meant that Dowlan was less likely to escape a conviction on the first trial.
The prosecution and the defence team then had discussions about a compromise.
Finally, after many days of legal argument in the courts, the prosecution and defence reached a compromise. In a plea bargain, the prosecution withdrew many charges, including the more serious charges of buggery. Finally, Dowlan pleaded guilty on 16 counts of indecent assault, including two involving digital penetration, against 11 boys aged from 9 to 13, including two boys at St Alipius, three at St Thomas More, four at St Patrick's and two at Cathedral college.
On 17 June 1996, Dowlan entered his plea of guilty and the prosecution reduced the number of charges (and withdrew the buggery charges). The guilty plea meant that no jury was needed.
Dowlan was automatically convicted, and the court now merely needed to sentence him. Judge Curtain began hearing submissions (including "character" evidence from defence witnesses) about what penalty should be applied for Dowlan's crimes.
Because of Dowlan’s guilty plea in 1996, his victims were not required to give evidence in the County Court. However, several attended as observers. On some days, when there was a lull in the Dowlan proceedings, Dowlan’s victims (and a Broken Rites researcher) would adjourn to a nearby courtroom to observe the Brother Best case — and vice versa.
Broken Rites researchers were present in County Court every day throughout the Dowlan and Best proceedings, taking notes as part of our research.
After the guilty plea in 1996, the judge began hearing submissions from the prosecutor and the defence about what kind of sentence should be imposed on Dowlan. The defence asked for a lenient sentence.
During these submissions, representatives of the Christian Brothers submitted "character" evidence in support of Dowlan. They told the County Court that a convicted child-abuser was still acceptable as a Christian Brother.
One character witness was (Brother Peter William Dowling, not to be confused with the prisoner Edward Dowlan). Brother Dowling, who was the Victoria-Tasmania deputy leader of the Christian Brothers in 1996, was a pupil at Melbourne’s Parade College in the 1960s, one year ahead of fellow-pupil Ted Dowlan. Peter Dowling told the court that, if there were sex-abuse complaints about Brother Ted Dowlan in the 1970s, the Christian Brothers leadership at that time would certainly have known it.
Brother Peter Dowling told the court that the Christian Brothers "have no policy of excluding a convicted person" from the Order. Therefore, he said, Ted Dowlan would continue to be welcome as a member of the Christian Brothers, despite his conviction, "and we will continue to support him."
The Christian Brothers told the court that, even after being convicted of these crimes, Dowlan would not be expelled from the Order, but he would be offered work in "new ministries" of the Christian Brothers. The court was told that Christian Brothers were now less involved in operating schools. Most Christian Brothers (the court was told) now belong to "outreach" ministries, working with hospital patients, prisoners, Aborigines, young people in trouble, the disabled and missions in Third World countries.
Christian Brother Damien Anthony Walsh, who was aged 42 in 1996, told the court (while giving pre-sentence "character" evidence for Dowlan) that, in future, the role of the Christian Brothers would not be in teaching or in school administration but in other roles such as counselling. Damien Walsh said that he himself was a project co-ordinator for the Australian AIDS Fund. In court, Walsh did not, at first, identify himself as a Christian Brother but, when questioned by the court, he agreed that he is one.
Another defence witness, Brother Leonard Vincent Francis, who was retired and aged 69 in 1996, gave an example of his own changing role. Brother Francis told the court that, as a Christian Brother, he taught for 38 years in Australia and New Guinea but then spent years working in a "pastoral care" team at St Vincent’s hospital, Melbourne.
Brother Peter Dowling told the court that in 1996 the Victoria-Tasmania province of the Christian Brothers comprised 190 Brothers (some of whom were working in Fiji and Africa). He said the Christian Brothers were planning "the amalgamation of some of our ministries with other religious orders".
Brother Michael Godfrey told the media that the Christian Brothers would also retain another member, Brother Robert Charles Best, who was convicted in the same court (and around the same time) as Brother Dowlan for child-sex offences. (At one time, Dowlan and Best even worked together in the same school.)
Dowlan and Best are merely two of a number of criminal prosecutions involving Christian Brothers in Australia. In addition to convictions, the Christian Brothers administration has made out-of-court civil settlements with a number of victims, so as to limit the Christian Brothers' civil liability regarding those victims.
During pre-sentence submissions (and also at the sentencing), Judge Elizabeth Curtain said that Dowlan had failed to show any remorse or regret for his crimes and he was not offering any apology. She said there was little evidence that Dowlan was concerned about the adverse impact of his crimes upon his victims. She said this attitude caused doubt about Dowlan’s prospect of rehabilitation.
Judge Curtain said that, although Dowlan was being sentenced on only 16 selected incidents, these incidents must be seen in the context of a constant practice of gross misconduct.
Before the sentencing in 1996, victims had submitted written impact statements to the court, explaining how Dowlan’s abuse (and the church’s cover-up) had disrupted their adolescent development, causing problems that persisted into their adult years.
Some victims stated that they never went near a Catholic Church again and they would make sure their own children kept away from Catholic clergy.
The judge quoted one victim who wrote that “the Catholic Church has aided the commission of the offences” by covering them up.
Dowlan, then aged 46, was sentenced to nine years and eight months jail (with a non-parole period of six years).
The church lawyers appealed against the severity of this sentence, and the Victorian Court of Appeal later reduced Dowlan's maximum sentence to 6.5 years jail (with parole possible after four years).
The Dowlan and Best cases finished almost simultaneously in late July 1996. Until both cases were finished, the County Court had forbidden the media to report (or even mention) the court proceedings, because the Brother Best case involved jury trials.
After both Dowlan and Best had been convicted, Broken Rites learned that the media-suppression order lapsed. Broken Rites alerted a Melbourne Herald Sun journalist about this "breaking news" and therefore the Dowlan and Best convictions were featured on the front page of that newspaper on the next morning, 24 July 1996. A day later, on July 25, there was further coverage in the Herald Sun (plus other newspapers throughout Australia). Broken Rites arranged for a senior journalist to interview some of the victims, and these victims' stories (without their real names) were featured on a double-page spread in the Herald Sun.
Thus, the Christian Brothers' cover-up was exposed. And the victims felt empowered. And Broken Rites continued working on other cases.
Eventually, Edward Vernon Dowlan finished his jail term — and now the Christian Brothers are developing their “new ministries” for hospital patients, prisoners, Aborigines, young people in trouble, the disabled and missions in Third World countries. These groups include some very vulnerable people.
What sort of credibility will the Christian Brothers “new ministries” have?
Lawyers estimated that, by July 1996, the Christian Brothers Order had spent about $400,000 in defending Dowlan and Best. The costs included: 56 days in court; two Queen's Counsel; a team of barristers and solicitors; legal office staff; private investigators; and psychiatrists, psychologists and other paid experts who gave character evidence on behalf of the offenders.
Later, more money was spent on appeals.
By the year 2001, Edward Dowlan had been released from jail. He was still a member of the Christian Brothers organisaton, on leave while he considered his future. The Christian Brothers head office continued to look after Dowlan financially but, because of the Australia-wide publicity about his crimes, the head office realised that it would be a public-relations disaster if Dowlan was seen to be working again in any of the Brothers' schools or even in their new non-school "missions".
Also, as a result of the publicity, some more of Dowlan's victims were now contacting Broken Rites and/or the Victoria Police (instead of merely contacting the church). More police charges could create more bad publicity for the Christian Brothers. Therefore, damage control would be needed.
It was in the interests of the Christian Brothers to be generous to Dowlan, because he would know some "dirt" about other Brothers and about the custom of cover-up.
In early 2014, Dowlan (then aged 64) was arrested by detectives from the Sano Taskforce, which was established by the Victoria Police Sex Crime Squad to investigate allegations arising from a recent Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child sex abuse.
On 29 April 2014 he appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates Court, under his new name of "Edward Bales". Detective Senior Constable Colleen Connolly was present in court on behalf of the Sano Taskforce. At this hearing, Bales faced 48 charges of indecent assault and gross indecency against 14 boys in the 1970s and 1980s while he was working as a Christian Brother.
During another mention in court later in 2014, the court was told that four more alleged victims had contacted the police to make complaints against "Bales", resulting in eight additional charges. The alleged offences in this 2014 case occurred in these places
This April 2014 hearing was an administrative procedure. The court was told that Bales was convicted and jailed in the 1990s for sex-offences committed during his career as a Christian Brother. His defence lawyer told the court that Bales had changed his identity to avoid publicity because his name came up whenever the media reported on crimes involving the Christian Brothers. Bales' previous name was not disclosed during this April 2014 court hearing.
The court released Edward Bales on bail for the duration of the prosecution process. During another mention in court later in 2014, the court was told that four more people had contacted the police to make complaints against "Bales", resulting in eight new charges.
In court again on 9 October 2014, Bales pleaded guilty to a large number of charges after some other charges were withdrawn. Bales was immediately taken to a remand prison to await his sentencing, to be held in early 2015.
After this guilty plea, no jury was required. The media was allowed now to reveal that Edward Bales was formerly named Dowlan.
On 6 February 2015, Dowlan appeared before a judge in the Melbourne County Court for pre-sentence proceedings. The court learned that he was pleading guilty regarding 20 boys. The charges included 33 counts of indecent assault and one count of gross indecency.
Crown prosecutor Brett Sonnet told the court that Dowlan had used his position as a Christian Brother to prey on his victims. Mr Sonnet described Dowlan as a "trusted religious figure" who had been extraordinarily brazen in his conduct because he was confident that, as a Christian Brother, he would never be challenged.
Mr Sonnet said that the Christian Brothers were aware of the offences that Dowlan was committing on boys but did not act to stop him. He said that Dowlan was moved from school to school, which only "aggravated the problem".
Mr Sonnet told the court that one victim was at a local Ballarat swimming pool in the 1970s when he saw Father George Pell (who was then a Ballarat priest) at the pool. The victim allegedly told Father Pell that something had to be done to stop Dowlan abusing young boys at St Patrick's College, Ballarat.
According to the victim (in documents tabled in court), Father Pell allegedly replied: "Don't be ridiculous."
George Pell, who became archbishop of Melbourne and later Sydney and then moved to Rome as a Cardinal, has denied knowing that children were being abused in Ballarat by priests and Brothers during the time he was there. According to statements made in court, however, the custom of church-abuse was indeed known among Ballarat's priests and Brothers who expected (back in those days) that the custom would never be publicly exposed.
On 27 March 2015 (22 years after Broken Rites began helping the victims of Edward Dowlan), Melbourne County Court judge Richard Smith conducted the sentencing for Edward "Bales". He gave a lengthy account of Bales' behaviour and the new charges.
Judge Smith said that, in his role as a Christian Brother, Bales had been in a position of authority and trust and had believed he had "some right of entitlement" to abuse the boys in appalling circumstances because he had power over them and they were unable to resist him.
The judge described Bales' offending as brazen and said he did not believe he was remorseful.
He said that Bales' victims had suffered an ongoing psychological reaction to the abuse that was still affecting them 30 to 40 years later.
The judge gave Ted Bales another six-years jail sentence for the new victims, with parole possible after three years.
Ted Bales was then removed from the court, to be transported to prison.
Some of Bales/Dowlan's victims were present in court (accompanied by representatives of Broken Rites) to see him jailed but no church representative attended to support the victims.
The victims were supported by a representative of Victoria's Office of Public Prosecutions, who afterwards spoke sympathetically to a gathering of victims in the corridor outside the courtroom.
The prosecutors and the victims all agreed that the jail sentence (with parole after only three years behind bars) was inadequate.
After the March 2015 sentencing, the state's Director of Public Prosecutions (the DPP) then launched an appeal against the jail term, arguing that the actual time behind bars was inadequate. In court documents, the DPP emphasised the profound impact the abuse had on Ted Bales' victims. The DPP also said that Bales "has not expressed any remorse or contrition for his offending".
On 18 September 2015, the Victorian Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the DPP. The Appeal Court stated: "The respondent's absence of remorse, coupled with the number of victims and the period over which the offences took place, warranted a non-parole period that was significantly more than half of the head sentence."
The Appeal Court re-sentenced Bales to eight years and five months' jail, with a five-year no-parole period.
Broken Rites is continuing its research about Australia's Christian Brothers organisation, and how it supported criminals such as Brother Edward Dowlan, alias "Ted Bales".