Home > Human rights, Papua New Guinea > Will the Church sex-abuse scandal engulf PNG?

Will the Church sex-abuse scandal engulf PNG?

November 20, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Recently on the PNG Attitude blog, Peter Kranz asked whether the Australian Church sex-abuse scandal may have a PNG dimension. He noted with concern that a number of prolific abusers were, at one stage or another, stationed in PNG (see the list below).

We may now have further reason to worry following revelations in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald. It was reported that between1997 and 2008 the Australian Catholic Church dealt with paedophile priests internally, sending them on a rehabilitation program for “sexual boundary violators”.

Known as the Encompass Australasia program, it was funded by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and the Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes. Evidently hundreds of priests from “Australia and the Asia-Pacific region” accused of, or who confessed to, sex-abuse were treated on the program.

The Sydney Morning Herald claims, “none of the clergy treated under the multi-million-dollar Encompass Australasia program run from Wesley Private Hospital in Sydney was referred to police for investigation”.

It is a worry that priests from PNG may have been among those treated. But arguably of even more concern is that the Catholic Church in PNG had a similar program.

In a 2002 Post-Courier article – recently reposted on PNG Attitude – PNG Catholic Bishops Conference General-Secretary, Lawrence Stephens, acknowledged that “the church had a ‘recovery centre’ in one of the country’s provinces for its clergy as well as the public who had ‘mental problems’ which also included paedophilia”.

The article continues, “Mr Stephens said paedophilia like other sex offences was a criminal act even if members of the religious fraternity committed it”.

It is apparent then that the Catholic Church in PNG regards child sex-abuse as a criminal act. But what is not clear from this 2002 statement, is whether child abusers were actually reported to the police, or were they alternatively sent to this “recovery centre” for treatment. Given the Australian precedent, all signs point to the latter.

More recent statements by PNG’s Catholic Bishops Conference, shed little light on the issue. According to the Conference’s National Director of Right Relationships in Ministry, Paul Harricknen, “a pastoral response to issues of sexual abuse will place emphasis on pastoral care of the victims and their families, the community, and even the offender, the offender’s family, and the non-offending clergy…When incidents of sexual abuse arise, the Church must be able to respond in a way that shows the compassion, reconciliation, forgiveness and justice of Jesus himself, towards the victim, the affected communities, and the offender”.

There is no indication from this statement whether the Church, even today, is referring sexual abuse allegations, or confessions, to the police.

Of course, it is important to keep in mind that this is not an attack on religious belief – everyone has a right to faith – this is about powerful institutions protecting criminals who endanger children.

As scandals in Ireland and Australia have evidenced in painful detail, the Church hierarchy has placed its organisational reputation ahead of child abuse victims. One insider told the Sydney Morning Herald, ”there were some outrageous situations that would have been very embarrassing for the church had they become public. Deals were cut. The whole operation was extremely confidential.”

While we cannot assume the Catholic Church in PNG also ‘cut deals’ or shielded abusers, nevertheless, like in Australia it has a large institutional interest – arguably even larger given its quasi-governmental role in PNG – in protecting its reputation. Indeed were cases of sexual abuse proven to be systematic, this would be hugely damaging for the Church in PNG.

Lets hope in light of the Australian precedent a sensitive and transparent debate occurs in PNG. With the Church playing a critical role in the delivery of services, parents in PNG must know that their children are safe.

List of Paedophile Priests who Served in PNG

The list was compiled by the Australian victims support organisation Broken Rites.

Edmund John Haines, committed child-sex crimes but he was caught when someone found child porn on the priest’s mobile phone, a court has been told. Known by his middle name (as John Haines), he grew up in Geelong, 75km south-west of Melbourne, Australia. John Haines entered the Catholic priesthood via a “backdoor” opportunity in Papua New Guinea, where priests were scarce.

He later left PNG under mysterious circumstances and returned to Australia without clear career prospects. Then the Melbourne archdiocese, which was short of priests, accepted him for parish work in its Geelong parishes, thereby giving him access to children. The Melbourne church authorities did not look too closely into (or did not care about) Haines’ background. Haines pleaded guilty in the Geelong County Court in the state of Victoria to six counts of an indecent act with a child under 16, procurement of a minor for child pornography and possessing child porn.

Father Denis McAlinden was protected for 40 years by the Church while he committed sexual crimes against young girls in parishes around Australia and also overseas. For years, the Maitland-Newcastle diocese had been transferring McAlinden backwards and forwards between New South Wales and Western Australia after he abused children in each of those states.

The Maitland-Newcastle diocese also arranged for him to be “warehoused” in Papua New Guinea for several years, in the middle of his career. (He was based in Mendi diocese for 4 years.) The Church also arranged for him to spend a year doing parish work in New Zealand to protect him from exposure in Australia

Brother Rodger William Moloney was jailed in 2008 after the St John of God order to which he belonged spent over $1,000,000 on his defence. Moloney spent some time at SJOG’s operations in Papua New Guinea. He has been a member of the SJOG provincial council (administering the order’s operations in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific).

Marist Brother Malcolm Hall was charged with multiple sex crimes against boys and girls in 1998.  But before the case came to trial he collapsed and died. When the first allegation against Hall were made the Marist Brothers transferred Brother Malcolm out of Australia — beyond the reach of the Australian police.

Thereafter (according to details given in his death notice in the Herald Sun) Brother Hall worked in church institutions in Peshawar (in Pakistan) and in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands — places where sexual abuse by church personnel is more difficult to expose. There is no way of knowing about his behaviour in those countries. Thus, the Marist Brothers protected their brand name in Australia.

  1. Exposetheabusers
    December 12, 2012 at 9:39 am

    I have heard of abuses committed by priests working in PNG. In fact a certain rogue priest, who worked in Madang, Goroka, and now in Port Moresby is one such person. Can PNG Exposed can in touch with me. I will provide details of the particular priest and names of certain abused victims and you can dig up the rest. Im notified of follow-up comments by email so post your email here and Ill get to you!

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