About Us

Our Catholic background

Broken Rites Australia is not connected with any religious denomination. However, each member of the Broken Rites executive team had a Catholic background and each of us has been hurt by Catholic Church sex-abuse - and by the church's habit of cover-up. We are therefore motivated to do research on this problem.

The first Broken Rites cases, which we began researching in 1993, resulted in a number of Catholic priests and religious Brothers being convicted in the criminal courts. This news prompted more Catholic survivors to send information to Broken Rites about other cases.

The Broken Rites executive team are semi-retired professionals, with experience in research and advocacy. We donate our time to do this research.

Our articles are written in a professional, non-sensational manner.

Our articles expose the perpetrator (and the cover-up) but we protect the privacy of victims.

Our research and findings

The Broken Rites case studies occurred in parishes, church schools, church youth clubs or church-affiliated children's homes. The offences involved priests, or religious brothers, or lay teachers in church schools, or other church personnel.

This Broken Rites research has found that:

  • When sexual crimes were committed against children by church personnel, the church authorities have concealed the crime from the police and other civil authorities. Thus, a criminal would survive in the church while their colleagues and superiors looked the other way. This encouraged the church's offenders to start (or continue) committing similar crimes. The offenders knew that their church status would protect them from being arrested and convicted.
  • The Catholic Church concealed these crimes from not only the authorities but also the vulnerable young parishioners (or school pupils) of the diocese. Too often, offenders were transferred to a new parish or a new school, where they were inflicted on additional victims. The offender's former parishioners (or students) were not told why Father X (or Brother Y) is leaving his old parish (or school), and the new parish (or school) was not warned why Father or Brother is arriving. Or the offender might be appointed to become a "chaplain" at a hospital. Thus, additional children and vulnerable adults have been put at risk.
  • Too often, pressure has been put on church victims to keep the crime confidential, often by bribing the victim with a token payment, while telling the victims (falsely) that the matter must be kept "confidential". This victim is to required to sign a Deed of Release, giving up their right to sue the church authorities for a  proper amount of compensation. This protects the church's reputation and assets.
  • Too often, the breach of trust (and the secrecy and silence) disrupted a victim's schooling or personal development. Victims felt hurt by knowing that their offender was being protected by the church.
  • Too often, a victim's later life has deteriorated, perhaps culminating eventually in psychological, sexual or marital problems, or substance abuse, or premature death or even suicide.
  • A victim's damaged life can impact on the victim's siblings and parents and, later, on the victim's spouse and the victim's children. Thus, three generations can be affected.

This culture of church sexual abuse was successfully concealed from the public until Broken Rites began exposing this cover-up in Australia in 1993. A similar exposure developed in the United States, especially, after the year 2000, but Broken Rites Australia was already a pioneer in this field.

Child and adult victims

Church victims include males and females.

Broken Rites has helped to make the Australian public aware of church-abuse of children. In 2013 this culminated in the Australian Government establishing a Royal Commission of Inquiry into how religious organisations have handled (or mis-handled) the issue of child sex-abuse.

And Broken Rites research has also unearthed a prevalence of church-abuse of vulnerable adults. For example, the victim might be a single or separated or unhappily married woman (or a sick or medicated woman) who talked to a priest (or hospital chaplain) for pastoral support and was then sexually abused in the course of this "counselling". A psychiatrist who did that to a patient would face de-registration, so why not a clergyman?

Obtaining justice

Here are the best ways for a church victim to seek justice:

Step 1: The victim is entitled to have a confidential chat with detectives in the Sexual Crimes Squad in the state police force to see if the police can prosecute the perpetrator. Some examples of these criminal cases are given in Section A on our Black Collar Crime page.

Step 2: Later, after the police have completed (or have decided against) a criminal prosecution, the victim can demand a civil settlement from the church authorities to make up for the hurt that the abuse (and the cover-up) caused to the victim's life. Some examples of these civil cases are given in Section B on our Black Collar Crime page.

This article will now examine these two steps in detail.

Step 1: Consulting the detectives

Some Australian states have a specialist unit of detectives to investigate sexual crimes and child abuse. These detectives are experienced at listening to a victim's story.

These detectives may be from the Criminal Investigation Bureau or (in some States) from the Sex Crime Squad. In Victoria in 2013, the Sex Crime Squad appointed a special team of detectives, called "Task Force Sano", to investigate sex-abuse crimes in religious organisations. In New South Wales, the Sex Crime Squad has appointed taskforces to investigate sex-crimes (and cover-ups) in a particular region of the state (for example, in the Newcastle region).

The detectives will have a confidential chat with the survivor and will tell the survivor whether or not a prosecution is viable.

Sometimes, when survivors consult the police, the police are already interested in this offender because previous victims have contacted the police. Thus, in many court cases, the offender was charged in relation to several (or many) victims.

Any victim has the right to opt out of the investigation process at any time. The police would then continue acting on behalf of the remaining victims in the case.

As a result of these police cases, a number of Catholic priests and brothers have been sentenced in Australian courts. Our Black Collar Crime page gives examples of some prosecutions.

In the majority of our Black Collar Crime court cases, the offender pleaded guilty.

In addition to the examples on our Black Collar Crime page, a number of priests and religious Brothers are currently before the courts or awaiting hearings. And others (not yet listed on our website) are currently under police investigation.

In Australia today, it is often possible for police to charge an adult regarding a child-sex crime even though the crime may have occurred many years ago. Australian courts recognise that church victims are often intimidated into silence for many years — usually until after they become adults.

Child sex-abuse is always a criminal offence and the offender (if prosecuted by the police) is not allowed to claim "consent" as a legal defence.

When a church sex-offender is convicted, this helps the healing process for victims. Every conviction encourages new victims to contact Broken Rites, alerting us to other offenders.

Even if the offender has died, it is still worthwhile for the victim to have a chat with the Sex Crime Squad because Australian police are now (at last) becoming interested in the cover-ups. Concealing (or aiding and abetting) a crime is itself a crime.

Step 2: Compensation

After the prosecution process (if any) is completed, a victim can demand a financial settlement from the church authorities for the damage that has been caused to the victim's life. The best way of doing this is if the victim's solicitor negotiates the terms of the settlement with the church's solicitor. But, for Catholic Church victims, the victim's solicitor must be one who has had previous experience in tackling the Catholic Church — and very few solicitors have had this experience.

In expectation of these settlements, the various Catholic dioceses and religious orders pay an annual premium to the church's own insurance company, Catholic Church Insurances Limited.

Gaining a settlement can give a victim a feeling of empowerment, especially if the offender has also been successfully prosecuted by the police — a double victory.

If the victim "does not need the compensation money", he or she can donate the money to a charity.

A warning about the "Towards Healing" system

Unfortunately, instead of first consulting the detectives in the state police force, many Catholic Church victims report the crime not to the police but to the criminals' friends and colleagues in the church through the church's in-house complaints system (the Professional Standards Office, or PSO, also known as "Towards Healing"). This mistake enables the church to "tip off" the offender about the complaint (thus thwarting any later police investigation). And the church authorities (or their lawyers) are able to remove any incriminating documents from church files before the police arrive.

The Towards Healing system is financed by the church's own insurance office, Catholic Church Insurances Limited. If a victim asks whether Towards Healing has received any previous complaints about Father X or Brother Y, Towards Healing is tempted to say "No". By making no admissions, the Towards Healing is limiting the church's liability and protecting the church's assets.

Many victims have found the Towards Healing system evasive and abusive. For example, Towards Healing is legally obliged to tell the victim: "You have a legal right to go the police." But the victim is left with the impression that "going to the police" means going to the reception counter at a local "cop-shop". The victim is also left with the impression that the prosecution process is a troublesome one.

Broken Rites, on the other hand, prefers the victim to have a confidential (and non-binding) chat with a police detective.

Towards Healing also leaves the victim with the impression that, instead of telling the police, it is "better" to get a "confidential" financial settlement from the church, through Towards Healing. Victims are warned that, if they talk to the police, the church will halt the settlement process.

Many victims wrongly assume that a "confidential" settlement is a "gag order", preventing them from ever telling anybody else about the abuse. In fact, however, the "confidentiality" really refers to the actual payout — that is, the number of dollars.

  • To see Broken Rites Australia's main article about the dangers of the Towards Healing system, click HERE.