Clergy Crimes

April -
August 1997




MELBOURNE, New South Wales — Police are investigating the claims of a dozen men who reported being abused at a farm and workshop run by the Brothers of St. John of God over a 30 year period. The order cares for some 500 intellectually disabled men in homes around Melbourne. The alleged victims are now between 40 and 60 and are still being cared for by the order, but it is feared that the total may be much higher.

Broken Rites, a support group for victims of clergy sexual abuse, has claimed the brothers assaulted boys at other institutions throughout the 1960s and 70s.

The Brothers themselves called in police after an internal inquiry uncovered widespread abuse claims. Two brothers are on leave pending the police investigation, and 4 others now out-of-state are likely to be questioned. (7/26)



PARIS — France has been shocked this summer by continuing allegations and revelations of the extent of sexual abuse of children in this country. Among the accused are some of the most trusted figures in French society, teachers, youth camp counselors and priests.

The French scandals came about in large part, according to law enforcement officials, due to the Dutroux affair which convulsed neighboring Belgium in horror last year. Marc Dutroux, 40, was charged with kidnapping at least 6 girls and sexually assaulting them in an underground cell he built. At least 2 of the 4 girls whose bodies have been recovered starved to death in their dungeon after Dutroux, a convicted child rapist, was arrested. The country was scandalized not only by the blunders of police and prosecutors but also by the high-level protection that Dutroux and his accomplices appeared to enjoy.

In June, in what was reportedly the largest police dragnet in French history, gendarmes in nearly all parts of the country — including the South Pacific territories of New Caledonia and French Polynesia — raided 815 homes of suspected purchasers of cassettes of child pornography. Five people committed suicide soon afterward, prompting accusations that the authorities were engaging in a "witch hunt."

Near Narbonne in the south, a stock of more than 200 videocassettes depicting child sex were seized from a clergyman's residence.

In the small village of Vavincount in Lorraine in eastern France, a popular boys' choir director, Abbot Jean-Marie Vincent, 63, was seized by police and charged with raping and assaulting his charges. He confessed soon afterwards. The cleric had received a bevy of government decorations for organizing summer youth camps and his work with a singing group whose third CD includes a song written by him, dedicated to the victims of "big bad men."

On the island of Corsica, prosecutors demanded a court injunction that would bar Fr. Jose Antonini, accused of fondling a 14-year-old boy spending school vacations in his home, from getting too close to children.

In July, New Age guru Guy-Claude Berger, 67, an advocate of eating only raw food, was jailed on charges that he sexually abused children at the chateau southeast of Paris that serves as headquarters for his cult.

The suspicions raised have worried the workers at the National Telephone Center for Abused Children, who fear that the media coverage of child molesters outside the family will detract from the even greater problems within.

In the meantime, said the hotline director, "Now in Paris, you feel that, if you smile at a baby on the Metro, people will get antsy." (7/25)



DUBLIN — The case that scandalized this country has finally been settled when Fr. Brendan Smyth, 70, died shortly after beginning to serve a 12 years sentence in prison after pleading guilty to 74 instances of the sexual abuse of 20 young people over a period of 36 years.

Smyth, dubbed "the most evil man in Ireland," had recently finished serving 4 years in a prison in Northern Ireland for similar offenses. His case achieved notoriety not only for his actions, but also because it brought down the government. Prime Minister Albert Reynolds was forced to resign after revelations that his attorney general had delayed processing requests from the British authorities in Northern Ireland for Smyth's extradition.

The case also embarrassed the Roman Catholic hierarchy for having failed to discipline Smyth after complaints were made by parents whose children had been abused. The church moved him from parish to parish in the hope, church officials said, that he would reform.
Based on estimates of payments the church has made in previous cases, Smyth's victims are likely to receive between $34,300 and $68,600.

Cardinal Cahal Daly, former primate of Ireland, apologized to the victims 3 years ago. A special telephone "help line" for victims of child sexual abuse by clergy went into operation the day Smyth began serving his term. (7/26)



ROME — The Vatican has denied a report that it was a repository for gold smuggled out of ethnically Catholic Croatia by Nazi allies at the end of World War II.

A newly declassified US document stated that approximately 200 million Swiss francs plundered from Jews and Serbs by a fascist organization that ran the Nazi puppet state in Croatia during the war.

The memo, discovered by the producers of a television documentary, from a US Treasury agent in 1946 quoted a "reliable source in Italy." Not only has the Vatican itself criticized the report but so has the US ambassador to the Vatican, Raymond L. Flynn. He wrote President Clinton in late July that "the available evidence for Vatican guilt is extremely weak," citing the vagueness of the memo and that it is the only document discovered so far out of the 15 million pages in the National Archives about Nazi gold that mentions the Vatican. (8/15)

See also Nazi Gold and the Vatican.



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