The church recruited this child-abuser for training to become a priest

By a Broken Rites researcher (article posted 11 July 2014)

A seminary student, Paul Lane, committed child-sex crimes in the 1970s while he was training to become a Catholic priest in New South Wales. He eventually dropped out of the seminary. Forty years later, on 7 July 2014, a victim obtained justice by getting Lane convicted in court.

In Newcastle Local Court, Lane (aged  67 and living in Ashfield, Sydney, in 2014) was charged with four of incidents of indecent assault, committed against a 14-year-old boy in the Maitland parish in early 1975.  [Broken Rites will refer to this boy as "Basil" - not his real name.] Lane agreed to plead guilty to two of the charges, and therefore the other two charges were dropped.

In view of the guilty plea, the court hearing was brief and Basil's presence was not required, although he was certainly sitting at the back of the court, watching justice being done.

According to court documents (submitted to the magistrate), Lane was studying for the priesthood in the early 1970s at a Sydney seminary, aged in his mid to late twenties. When he was advanced in his training, Lane spent some time in the Maitland diocese, north of Sydney, gaining experience in parish work. Initially he stayed as a guest in the bishop's house, where several other priests also lived, servicing the cathedral parish.

A senior priest from the cathedral parish took Lane to Basil's house to introduce Lane to Basil's family, who then invited Lane to visit them for meals. Lane took a special interest in 14-year-old son Basil. When Lane dropped out of his seminary course, this family offered to accommodate him in their home. As good Catholics, the parents trusted a seminary student having access to their young son.

Court documents alleged that frequently, when Lane was alone with Basil, he would mis-treat the boy indecently. Lane would walk up behind Basil and would cuddle him before invasively placing his hand down the boy’s pants and mauling the boy's genitals. The boy felt unable to tell his "devout Catholic" parents about this clergy abuse and he was also unable to tell them that he did not want to be left alone with Lane. Therefore, the abuse continued, including later when his parents encouraged Basil to visit Lane at a private address which Lane moved to in Newcastle after giving up his seminary course.

In his police statement (submitted in the prosecution file), Basil (born in 1960) stated that, in 2003 (aged 43), he  reported the assaults to several senior members of the clergy in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese, but he did not receive any worthwhile support. Eventually, in November 2012, he had a chat with the Lake Macquarie Detectives Office of the NSW Police, based at Charlestown, near Newcastle. This unit had estalished a unit, called Taskforce Georgiana, which was investigating church-related child-abuse. This unit then investigated Paul Lane.

In a separate impact statement (handed to the magistrate for the sentencing proceedings), Basil said the abuse had a profound effect on him. He wrote:

"My devout parents always kept an ‘open house’ to the many clergy travelling through Maitland in offering a bed and a free feed. Paul Lane chose to abuse my parents' love and hospitality by sexually assaulting me. His actions made me never feel safe in the place I called home. His actions hid the protection my parents always believed they gave to me.

"Sadly I lost my trust in all that I had valued in the Church. It has affected my trust in others ever since the abuse occurred.

"As a young teen when this abuse was occurring I always knew this was so wrong, however I found it too difficult to tell Mum and Dad what was happening to me. Not because they would not believe me, but because I was too embarrassed and ashamed. I did not want to make them feel hurt.

"This was so much a troubling time of my life! In some way I was blaming myself, and it was very confusing.

"It was usual to spend time with the clergy and the fear of knowing that I would have to spend time at his residence and waiting for another assault made me feel sick, nervous, scared and alone . . .

"Since then my relationships have been affected. Being complimented  and  physically touched has made me feel uncomfortable and not at ease with myself and with people around me.

"Paul Lane’s actions have prevented me from being the person I wanted to be as his actions have haunted me every day.

"Through the support and encouragement of my friends I now speak of my assaults and feel relieved that these actions are no longer a ‘secret thing’

"I am no longer scared of the torments and assaults Paul Lane brought upon me and my family. But I want him to know that what he did was wrong. And I would not want it to ever happen to anyone else."

Sentencing Paul Lane, magistrate Michael Morahan noted that, in another court case in 2011, Lane was convicted for aggravated indecent assault involving a different child and was sent to jail (in 2011) for that crime. The crime in the 2011 court case had occurred some years after Basil's abuse.

Mr Morahan convicted Lane for the abuse of Basil. As Lane has already done his time in jail, Mr Morahan sentenced Lane to a two-year good-behaviour bond for the abuse of Basil.

Basil told Broken Rites later that he felt better now that Paul Lane has been brought to justice for the abuse that was inflicted on Basil in the 1970s.