Saturday, October 23, 2010

Known 19 years ago

Pedophile issues 'known 19 years ago' Rory Callinan From: The Australian September 27, 2010 12:00AM Increase Text SizeDecrease Text SizePrintEmail Share
Add to DiggAdd to del.icio.usAdd to FacebookAdd to KwoffAdd to MyspaceAdd to NewsvineWhat are these?THE former head of a Catholic order knew there were issues with an alleged pedophile priest in 1991.
The church leader had discussed him receiving therapy, according to an official letter obtained by The Australian.

The correspondence sheds new light on who knew about the abuse and how it was dealt with and whether those involved suffered any consequence as a result.

Former priest Peter Chalk remained a member of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart order from 1987 to the mid-1990s in Japan, despite him facing allegations he had abused children in Melbourne in the 1970s.

The MSC provincial from 1987 to 1992 was Jim Littleton, who is currently on the board of the MSC's prestigious Daramalam School in Canberra. He is also the assistant to the principal.

Father Littleton refused last week to speak about what action he took about Chalk and when he was first alerted to the allegations.

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The current deputy provincial, Paul Cashen, told The Australian Father Littleton had only found out about the allegations in 1992 and immediately travelled to Japan to confront Chalk, who denied them.

Father Cashen claimed he had no other correspondence suggesting Father Littleton knew about the allegations prior to 1992.

However, The Australian has obtained a letter by Father Littleton in which he wrote about Chalk in December 1991 and referred to an article by psychologist Leslie Lothstein, who specialised in treating sexually abusive priests.

The letter was written to Fred Van Gestel, who was working in Chalk's former parish. He was the first MSC priest to alert the church to the allegations involving Chalk and tried to get the issue dealt with.

Mr Van Gestel yesterday released part of the letter, which he says shows Father Littleton had discussed the matter with various senior advisers.

"Thank you for the opportunity to talk with you recently in Melbourne. I discussed the issue of Peter Chalk with (name delated) and (name deleted) and I would have involved (name deleted) had he been in Sydney at the time," writes Father Littleton.

"We agreed that I should ask (name deleted), (who will be returning to Sydney shortly) to talk with Peter in the light of the Lothstein article, but we were not agreed that we should impose further therapy on Peter until we had more information."

Mr Van Gestel also provided a letter he wrote to Chalk in early 1992 in which he refers to conversations he says he had with Father Littleton about the case in 1990.

The former priest first reported the allegations to Father Littleton's then deputy, Jim Fallon, in late 1987. Fallon, who has since died, wrote ordering Mr Van Gestel to drop the matter: "Fred, I see no need for Jim Littleton to be informed of this matter at this stage. I will take responsibility of seeing it through. If something eventuates whereby you believe higher authority needs to be involved, let me be that higher authority."

Mr Van Gestel says Father Littleton eventually became aware of the situation in 1990.

Despite the allegations, Chalk stayed on as part of the MSC's operations in Asia until the mid-1990s, around the time his alleged victims went to police.

Chalk quietly resigned to become a teacher and obtained Japanese citizenship, taking the name Shiraishi and making any Australian police investigation into the matter difficult.

The Australian has letters written by Chalk to his alleged victims' families and Mr Van Gestel from 1987 to 1992, where he mentions his "evil behaviour" and "addiction to young people".

Father Littleton is listed on Daramalan's school website as being on the school board, part of its policy review committee, and a member of the governance committee and development and facilities committee.

And he is also an adviser to the principal, Rita Daniels, who declined to comment last week. There is no suggestion Chalk had any connection to Daramalan.

Alleged Chalk victim Peter Murphy questioned whether Father Littleton should be able to hold such positions, given his awareness of the Chalk situation. "I have heard that Littleton just didn't know what to do about it (the abuse) and they (the MSC hierarchy) just left it," he said. "I reckon it's important that they are accountable for their actions."

Father Littleton declined to discuss the allegations Chalk is facing, when contacted last week.

"You should talk to the provincial," he said. "I have talked to you long enough. I have told you what our instructions are."

When asked if he had been gagged, he said: "I have listened to you long enough."

Chalk has denied abuse but admitted to some "crude behaviour" as an MSC parish priest in the Warrandyte and Park Orchids parishes in Melbourne's northern suburbs in the 1970s.

In response to questions about the matter two weeks ago, current MSC Provincial Tim Brennan has admitted "matters could have been handled in a more appropriate way in the past".

He has said: "In those days, police contact was felt to be a matter for the family and the victims whilst mandatory reporting to DOCS and other government departments was not common."

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