Catholics ‘shifted’ child sex abuser instead of telling cops
A top-level inquiry has found the Catholic Church shifted a paedophile Jesuit Brother from prestigious St Ignatius College at Athelstone to a college in Sydney when his offending was discovered.
A bombshell inquiry report has confirmed Jesuit Brother Victor Higgs was moved - rather than reported to SA police - to Riverview College in Sydney where his offending escalated and he sexually abused many more boys.
The inquiry was launched after The Advertiser last November revealed the Jesuit Order covered up Higgs' offending at Athelstone in 1970 and detailed the abuse of several students. At the time, the Jesuit Order said it had no record of any complaints about Higgs' and stated there was "nothing unusual'' about his move from St Ignatius to Riverview - despite the detailed information uncovered by The Advertiser.
But Former Victorian Chief Justice Marilyn Warren QC, who was appointed to review the allegations, has found that "at least'' three complaints were made to the then Rector at St Ignatius, Fr Frank Wallace SJ, regarding Higgs' illegal conduct at Athelstone.
Astonishingly, Ms Warren has also found "the substance of at least some of these complaints'' was conveyed to the then head of the Jesuits in Australia, Fr Francis Peter Kelly SJ, prior to Higgs' movement to Riverview.
She also found the fact of these complaints was a factor in the decision to move Higgs from Athelstone to Riverview in 1970.
Higgs, 81, was convicted in SA in 2016 of abusing boys at St Ignatius in 1970 and served 12 months' jail. In November last year he was convicted of 16 charges of abusing boys at Riverview between 1972-1980 and is serving 12 years' jail.
Australian Jesuits Provincial Brian McCoy said Justice Warren's report was received last Friday and its entire content was still being reviewed.
"It is with much sadness and contrition that I acknowledge and apologise for our failings with respect to these events some 50 years ago,'' he said.
"I thank those who gave evidence to the review. I appreciate that going over these matters can itself be a traumatic experience.
"I hope these findings help bring those impacted by the actions of Higgs at both Athelstone and Riverview, and who have lived their lives in the shadow of the pain that it caused may, in some small way, come closer to healing and closure.
"We continue to hold those who have been abused in our hearts and in our prayers and extend to them our unwavering support. We are deeply ashamed and sorry.''
Fr McCoy said "in the spirit of openness and transparency'' the Order was consulting with abuse survivors to seek their permission to release the report in its entirety.
"The abuse of any child is contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the value and mission of the Jesuits,'' he said.
"The Jesuits and our Jesuit schools are united in our commitment to child safety and have implemented best practices to foster a child-safe culture to best protect those in our care. "These measures include initiatives to encourage and listen to student voices, treat any report of abuse seriously, believe those who come forward with reports of abuse and the introduction of a publicly available code of conduct clearly setting out required behaviours.
"We will continue to review in detail Justice Warren's report, the reasons for her findings and any actions that may need to be taken as a result and strive to ensure that our schools provide not only safe but nurturing environments for the children they serve.''
*For 24-hour sexual violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636.