Cardinal Pell Heard the Rape Complaint of A Grade 3 Student Against A Catholic Brother

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By Vittorio Hernandez | October 11, 2012 10:52 AM EST

Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Sydney, was present when a Grade 3 male student in a Ballarat school recounted he was raped by a Christian brother in the late 1960s.

That information surfaced at a Parliamentary inquiry on Wednesday as part of the Victorian government's probe into how religious and other organisations handled child abuse cases.

Cardinal Pell said he will attend the inquiry if he is asked about the incident which involved Charles Best, who was former principal and teacher at St. Alipius School. Mr Best was eventually convicted of 27 offences against 11 schoolboys, including two rapes. He was jailed for 14 years and nine months.

Besides Mr Best, two other Christian Brother teachers and the school chaplain from St. Alipius were also convicted of child sex offences years later.

Solicitor Dr Vivian Waller, who represented some of the sexual assault victims allegedly made by religious clergy, said the victim returned to his class after the rape by Brother Best and told his teacher, Brother Fitzgerald, of his experience. But instead of  comforting the victim, the teacher forced the student to retract and hit him until the victim took back his claim of rape.

The Grade 3 student then sought to speak to Fr Pell at the St Alipius presbyter but the priest refused to talk to the victim although he was present when he student recounted his experience to another priest, Ms Waller said in her submission.

Police are investigating 50 suicides by St. Alipius, graduates which they believe are linked to the sex offences committed by Brother Best and Father Gerald Ridsdale.

Based on her analysis, Ms Waller said the Christian Brothers did not refer the sex abuse case to the police or held an internal investigation.

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay, in a submission to the parliamentary inquiry, recommended that some of the church's action to prevent investigations be criminalised. The actions include dissuading the victims from reporting the crime to police, failure to inform the proper authorities and alerting the suspects of the charges against them which may have caused loss of evidence.

Police said that due to the typical delay in reports of sex offences within the church, they are expecting more reports of offences for the period 1990s to early 2000s in the coming years.

Ms Waller pointed out in her submission that no single complaint was referred to the Victoria Police even if the Melbourne Response said on its Web site that in the past 14 years, the Catholic Church paid compensation to 300 people who were victims of sexual abuse and identified 86 offenders, of whom 60 were priests.

Melbourne Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart said many of the victims prefer the matter to remain private and are hesitant to file a complaint with the police. However, the police insisted the different religious organisations they deal with often discourages the victims from reporting sex crimes and instead send the suspected offenders overseas or to other dioceses.

The police submission said that the Melbourne Response, established to assist victims but actually appears to be a substitute for criminal justice, advices victims to obtain ex gratia payment in exchange for sparing the church from further liability or disclosing the facts and circumstances of the abuse at the risk of facing a lawsuit from the church.

"This difficult matter requires a balance to be struck between the responsibility of the community to prosecute criminal conduct and protect the vulnerable, and the right of victims to privacy," Brisbane Times quoted Mr Hart.

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