Tom Allard July 04, 2012
Questions to answer ... Brian Lucas. Photo: Nick Moir
THREE of Australia's most senior Catholic clergy failed to tell authorities of evidence they received that a priest had repeatedly sexually abused boys as young as 10 in NSW.
The three priests are Brian Lucas, the secretary general of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference; John Usher, the former head of the Australian Catholic Social Welfare Commission; and Wayne Peters, the vicar general of the Armidale diocese.
The priest, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told a court in 2004 he admitted in a meeting with the men he molested boys between 1982 and 1984.
The scandal has also ensnared the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, who defended the three men, apparently unaware there was extensive documentation backing the assertion the alleged paedophile priest outlined his conduct to them.
The saga has intensified calls for a royal commission into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and allegations of widespread cover-ups.
Patrick Parkinson, a University of Sydney professor of law who has advised the church on sexual abuse cases, said: ''We need a royal commission with subpoena powers.
''The files of the Catholic Church must be opened up.''
A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Sydney said the church was ''seeking further information'' about the meeting in which the admission was made. The head of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Denis Hart, also declined to comment.
Dubbed Father F, the priest was first accused of sexually abusing young boys in the early 1980s in Moree, ABC's Four Corners reported on Monday night. Arrested in 1987, he was brought to trial but the matter was dismissed by a magistrate because he judged the alleged victim Damian Jurd, who was then 15, as a witness whose credibility could not match the priest.
Father F was allowed to continue to serve as a priest in Parramatta, where he allegedly molested more altar boys.
The continued reports of sexual assaults at Parramatta prompted a meeting between Father F and three senior priests at St Mary's Cathedral in September 1992, Fathers Brian Lucas, John Usher and Wayne Peters.
Interviewed by Four Corners, Cardinal Pell insisted Father F made no admissions to the priests. A file note of the meeting proved this was the case, he said. The Catholic Church would not release the note yesterday.
A letter written by Father Peters to Bishop Kevin Manning of Armidale just eight days after the 1992 meeting with the priest describes in detail his admissions.
''He admitted there had been five boys around the age of 10 and 11 that he had sexually interfered with in varying degrees in the years approximately 1982 to 1984,'' the correspondence says.
Cardinal Pell's assurances were called into question after Four Corners revealed the priest
had also admitted under oath in a court case in 2004 that he had told the priests he had engaged in oral sex with young boys.
The court case involved one of the priest's alleged victims, Daniel Powell, being prosecuted for attempting to extort money from the priest.
Asked about the contradiction, Cardinal Pell said: ''I would take the word of the three priests against that allegation.''
In the minutes of the 1992 meeting, Father F ''indicated he wished to make certain admissions'', Father Peters wrote.
One of the boys he spoke of was Damian Jurd and Father F admitted to fondling ''the boy's genitals during a car trip from Moree to Narrabri''.
In relation to two of the other boys, ''he admitted that over a period of approximately 12 months he fondled genitals of each of these boys and to quote 'sucked off their dicks' ''.
The matter was never brought to the attention of the police or any relevant authority. Father F was banned from conducting Mass in 1992 but wasn't formally defrocked until 2005.
For Daniel Powell's mother, Renee, the saga has been devastating. Daniel, like Damian Jurd, killed himself after spiralling into a life of drug abuse. Both had received substantial payouts from the church but were haunted by their abuse and the fact the accused priest remained free.
''I want to see the mongrel prosecuted. The church should have stopped him in 1983,'' she said.
Claire Jurd, Damian's mother, said: ''He must be charged … he's not a bit regretful about what he's done.''
The priest lives in Armidale and is a prominent member of the community. He did not return calls, nor did Father Peters or Father Usher.
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