Church shuttered inquiry into abuse
Linton Besser and Joanne Mccarthy
Sydney Morning Herald
6th July 2012
Updated 6th July 2012
THE church prematurely terminated an investigation last year into the alleged failure of a top Catholic education official to take action over the sexual assault of an 11-year-old boy in the 1970s by a lay teacher.
A former principal of St Patrick's at Sutherland, Brother Anthony Peter Whelan, had been accused by Robert Lipari of failing to take action against a science teacher, Thomas Keady, after he reported being molested by the man at a caravan park.
Shortly before being employed at the school, Keady had completed a three-year jail term in Victoria for child sex offences.
The church commissioned an investigation by the former NSW Police assistant commissioner, Norm Maroney, who substantiated the 1976 assault, and the fact it was reported it to another senior teacher at the school, Brother John Vincent Roberts.
But Mr Maroney was told to stop his inquiries while he was still trying to substantiate the boy's claims that he had personally reported the assault to Brother Whelan.
''Unfortunately, as far as Brother Anthony Peter Whelan … the assessor is not in a position to make a final finding because of the cessation of the inquiry,'' Mr Maroney's August 2011 report says.
''Having already established that Robert [Lipari] is a credible witness, prima facie, and being aware that two of his complaints … have now been substantiated, it is almost an imperative to substantiate that element of complaint against Brother Whelan.
''The assessor intended to carry out further inquiries … in regard to the alleged reporting of the matters to Brother Whelan, however, on 27 July 2011, the assessor was advised by Brother Brian Brandon to cease the assessment.''
Two years after Mr Lipari was assaulted, Keady struck again,
molesting another four boys at St Patricks. This time, Keady was sacked after the incident was reported to Brother Whelan, but the school failed to report the matter to the police, and in 1994, Keady was convicted in Wyong of indecent assault in an unrelated matter.
The revelations come as there are renewed calls for royal commission into the cover-up of sexual abuse in the church in Australia.
Brother Brandon declined to comment on the fact Keady was not reported to the police, but maintained Brother Whelan had ''acted promptly to remove [him] from the school''. He also said the former principal had contacted the parents of the four boys about the matter.
This is at odds with the Maroney report, which says that Brother Whelan advised the boys to tell their parents of the assaults.
He also said the investigation was terminated because Mr Lipari began civil proceedings. ''The report was aborted because of the actions of the complainant [because he] decided at a certain point to take it to the civil arena.''
Brother Whelan went on to become one the most senior Catholic education officials in Australia. In 2005 he was appointed commissioner of the Catholic Education Commission of NSW, and when he retired in March he was the director of schools in the Broken Bay Diocese.
In 2008 Brother Whelan was granted an Order of Australia for services to education and work in ''professional standards development''.
Mr Lipari and the Christian Brothers reached a confidential settlement but earlier this year police forwarded a brief of evidence on the matter to the Department of Public Prosecutions.
The spokesman for the Australian Lawyers Alliance, Andrew Morrison, SC, said that in his view it appeared ''the investigation was ended prematurely in order to protect Brother Whelan''.
''It is very disturbing in circumstances where the investigation was almost completed and the overwhelming inference was that an adverse finding was highly likely against Brother Whelan … there were other potential witnesses, but he was not permitted to speak to them.''
He said the inquiry should be reopened and he called for the police to investigate.