“Ex-bishop ‘deeply regrets’ response to abuse allegations at Neerkol orphanage” & related articles & VIDEO

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Brisbane Times

April 17, 2015 – 3:44PM

Miranda Forster

A retired Catholic bishop says he deeply regrets dismissing allegations of child sexual abuse against members of his clergy and admits he put the reputation of the church first.

Former head of the central Queensland diocese of Rockhampton Brian Heenan has told a royal commission his response to multiple allegations of child sexual abuse against priests at the Neerkol orphanage was inappropriate and wrong.

Historical allegations of widespread physical and sexual abuse by priests and nuns at the orphanage began emerging in 1993.

Former Rockhampton Bishop Brian Heenan.
Former Rockhampton Bishop Brian Heenan. Photo: Rockhampton Morning Bulletin

Bishop Heenan allowed a priest at the centre of the allegations to continue working with children until 1996 and in a widely distributed letter described the allegations as “scurrilous”.

“Can I just say I will regret having written this letter for the rest of my days,” Bishop Heenan told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on Friday.

“I was reacting wrongly and in a sort of inappropriate way to a lot of very bad publicity about the orphanage which I didn’t believe was all true.”

Asked by counsel assisting the commission Sophie David, SC, whether he had been more concerned with protecting the reputation of the Catholic Church than the impact on abuse victims, Mr Heenan replied: “Yes, I would have to agree.”

Former Neerkol priest Reginald Durham was allowed to continue an administrative position in the church until he was formally charged in 1997.

Now dead, he was convicted in 1999 of indecently dealing with a girl when he was the Neerkol chaplain. Durham was ultimately declared mentally unfit to face multiple further charges.

Bishop Heenan accepted that by allowing Durham to continue working he had placed other children at risk.

“I probably made the very wrong assumption [that] because of his age this wouldn’t be happening again but that wasn’t appropriate,” he conceded.

The hearing into historical allegations of child abuse at the Neerkol St Joseph’s Orphanage near Rockhampton, which was operated by the Sisters of Mercy until 1978, is expected to conclude next week.

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Former Rockhampton Bishop was protecting church’s reputation

The Morning Bulletin

Former Rockhampton Bishop Brian Heenan Former Rockhampton Bishop Brian Heenan Allan Reinikka

11.30PM: FR HEENAN has stated it could well have been the case he wasn’t trying to protect the reputation of the church, but was trying to put off former residents from coming forward with allegations.

He acknowledged he didn’t respond to claims made by former Neerkol resident David Owen until Bishop Malone of the Maitland Newcastle region responded to a letter sent by Mr Owen.

11.20PM: FORMER Neerkol resident Mary Adams walked out of the Rockhampton Courthouse feeling partly pleased with the evidence given by Brian Heenan.

She felt his testimony was genuine and honest, in relation to the way he reacted when he was first made aware of reports of sexual abuse at Neerkol Orphanage.

10.50AM: FR Heenan has stated he was trying to protect the reputation of the Catholic Church in 1996 when he publicly stated the sexual abuse allegations against his priests were “scurrilous”.

He accepted that was his reason for not considering the statements and allegations of the former residents who had suffered at the hands of his former parish priests.

10.45AM: IT took three years for the former Bishop of Rockhampton to “restrict” (Fr Durham’s) access to children, despite being made aware of child sex abuse allegations against the latter.

Fr Durham remained at the Neerkol Presbytery in an administrative position.

The Royal Commission heard the witness AYB had told Fr Heenan of sexual abuse allegations against Fr Durham while  while she was a resident at Neerkol Orphanage.

In 1996, Fr Heenan “restricted” Fr Durham’s access to children, as he remained at the Neerkol Presbytery and had access to parishioners.

However, Fr Heenan has accepted he did not supervise Fr Durham’s activities after the latter was restricted fr contacting children.

Fr Heenan also accepted he did nothing meaningful to stop Fr Durham’s previous offending.

10AM: BRIAN Heenan has stated he did not read a book published by a Neerkol Orphanage resident, detailing the sexual abuse at the institution, because he didn’t want to believe it.

The Royal Commission has heard prior to the former Rockhampton Bishop moving to the region in 1991, he did not have any training in respect of allegations of sexual assault.

“Sadly sex abuse was rising at the time and there was no adequate preparation until the reality began to dawn,” he said.

Fr Heenan was ordained in 1962. He assisted other priests in the archdiocese in Brisbane before becoming the parish priest of Zillmere.

He has told the Royal Commission one of the alleged assailants of sexual abuse at Neerkol Orphanage, Father Reginald Durham (deceased), retired in 1993.

He remained the parish priest in 1991. As the parish priest Fr Durham was still connected to children.

9AM: FORMER Rockhampton Bishop Brian Heenan will take the stand today to give evidence in the Royal Commission hearing into child sex abuse at Neerkol Orphanage.

Fr Heenan is expected to explain why he made his decisions when the victims of child sex abuse Neerkol Orphanage reported the abuse to Catholic Church and Police authorities in the early 1990s.

In 1996, following the reported allegations, Fr Heenan sent out a letter and media release stating the alleged child sex abuse reports were “scurrilous”.

This received much backfire from the former residents of Neerkol Orphanage.

He later retracted his comments.

Fr Heenan was expected to speak for a lengthy time in today’s hearing.

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Child abuse inquiry: Retired bishop Brian Heenan kept paedophile priest in parish, royal commission hears

ABS News (Australia)

17 April 2015

Photo: Retired bishop Brian Heenan said he had “acted at all times with honesty and integrity”. (Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse)

The retired Rockhampton bishop allowed a priest to stay on at a parish even though he knew he was a paedophile, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has heard.

Bishop Brian Heenan also admitted at one point he tried to protect the reputation of the Catholic Church rather than consider the victims of sexual abuse.

Bishop Heenan was cross-examined over the Church’s responses to the abuse allegations at St Joseph’s Orphanage at Neerkol, west of Rockhampton, from the 1940s to the 1970s.

He allowed one of the main offenders, Father Reg Durham, to continue working for the Catholic Church for three years despite a woman alleging in 1994 he sexually abused her since she was a child.

Father Durham was the administrator for the parish of Neerkol and had resided in the presbytery.

It took Bishop Heenan three years to restrict Father Durham’s contact with children and in 1999 he gave him a character a reference.

“He had a unique gift with youth,” the reference read.

During the cross examination, counsel assisting Sophie David asked: “Do you accept that placed other children at risk of further sexual abuse?”

Bishop Heenan replied” “I do”.

Photo: St Joseph’s Neerkol Orphanage in Rockhampton in central Queensland, date unknown. (ABC TV News – file image)

The Commission, which began hearings on Tuesday in the central Queensland city, was told that for more than three decades, children at the orphanage were raped, molested and beaten.

The Sisters of Mercy ran the Neerkol orphanage for half a century before it closed in the late 1970s.

Bishop Heenan had no training in how to deal with sexual abuse allegations, and when the woman who initially raised allegations wrote a book in 1994, he did not read it, the Commission was told.

In 1996, amid widespread reports about a history of horrific abuse at the orphanage, Bishop Heenan described the allegations as “scurrilous”.

It is a comment he later apologised for.

When asked by Counsel Assisting Sophie David whether the defensive measure was to protect the church, Bishop Heenan replied: “Yes, I would have to agree.”

In 1997 Father Durham was charged with 40 sexual offences against five former residents of the orphanage and pleaded guilty to six counts of indecently dealing with a child.

The inquiry has heard the Sisters of Mercy who ran the orphanage not only overlooked the abuse but were complicit in it being carried out during a period stretching from the 1940s to the1970s.

One witness says she was raped when she was 14 by a worker at the orphanage in 1965, another was sexually abused by a priest and forced to drink her own urine to stay hydrated.

Call for national compensation scheme

Care Leavers Australia Network spokeswoman Leonie Sheedy said she had not understood why the Federal Government had not introduced a national independent compensation scheme.

“Why do we expect this cohort of Australian citizens, who suffered heinous crimes, to go back to back to the past abusive organisations,” she said.

“We can find money for overseas Third World countries – and we should – but we can’t seem to find the moral compass to help our own Australian citizens – charity should begin at home.”

Ms Sheedy said child abuse was a national issue and should not be dealt with by a state government.

“Children who are abused by the state government, in state government-run homes, shouldn’t be required to go back to the state government to get justice and redress,” she said.

“We want the Federal Government to establish the national independent redress, and if they have to introduce new legislation in order to take the power away from the states, then so be it.”

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Former Catholic bishop tells inquiry he failed to adequately protect children

Brian Heenan admits to royal commission that he did not do enough to keep a priest accused of child sexual abuse away from children

The Guardian (Australia)

Friday 17 April 2015

Australian Associated Press

A public hearing for the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse in Rockhampton.

A public hearing for the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse in Rockhampton. Photograph: Royal commission/AAP

A retired Catholic bishop has admitted that he failed to protect Queensland children from a priest who was later convicted of child sexual offences.

The former bishop of the Rockhampton diocese, Brian Heenan, conceded at the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse that his response to multiple allegations of historical child sexual offences against members of his clergy was inappropriate and inadequate.

Heenan was head of the Rockhampton diocese when former residents of the notorious Neerkol orphanage came forward in the 1990s with claims they had been sexually abused by priests.

One of those at the centre of the allegations, Reginald Durham, was allowed to continue working in an administrative role in church, including alongside primary school students.

Durham was later convicted of indecently dealing with a child resident of the Neerkol orphanage.

Heenan said he had wrongly assumed children would not be placed at risk due to Durham’s age.

“I didn’t see the inappropriateness of it. I do so now,” he told the royal commission on Friday.

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Pedophile priest had ‘gift with youth’

The Australian

April 17, 2015 9:22PM

Retired Catholic bishop Brian Heenan

A retired Catholic bishop (pic) has been forced to defend a reference for a pedophile priest. Source: AAP

A RETIRED Catholic bishop described a pedophile priest as having a “unique gift with youth” in a character reference for the man’s court sentence.

FORMER head of the Catholic diocese of Rockhampton in Queensland Brian Heenan told a royal commission on Friday he regretted parts of the 1999 reference letter in support of the disgraced former member of his clergy, Reginald Durham.

Durham, who is now deceased, was allowed to continue teaching religion to primary school children for more than two years after several people came forward with claims he’d abused them as chaplain at the Neerkol orphanage in the 1960s and 1970s.

But he wasn’t forced to resign as a church employee until he was formally charged in 1997, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heard on Friday.

He was later convicted of six counts of indecently dealing with a girl under 17, but ultimately avoided further charges after he was declared mentally unfit.

Bishop Heenan told the commission his comments about Durham’s “unique gift” had referred to the former priest’s interest in the cadet movement and sporting activities at the orphanage.

“I would probably write it differently now,” he said.

Former Neerkol residents gave harrowing accounts of extreme physical, psychological and sexual abuse inflicted by nuns and priests at the orphanage at a public hearing in Rockhampton this week.

Facing a full day of probing cross examination, Bishop Heenan admitted many aspects of his response to their initial claims were inadequate or inappropriate.

He said he would regret “for the rest of my days” describing the allegations as “scurrilous”, and that he had wrongly considered Durham too old to be a risk to children in the 1990s.

The bishop admitted he’d been trying to protect the reputation of the Catholic church but denied shielding his fellow priests. In 1998 he issued a formal apology to victims.

Later the diocese and Sisters of Mercy, who ran Neerkol orphanage, jointly paid almost $791,000 to 72 former residents in an out-of-court settlement.

Bishop Heenan is expected to return as a witness when the inquiry resumes on Monday.

The hearing into historical allegations of child abuse at the Neerkol St Joseph’s Orphanage near Rockhampton, which was operated by the Sisters of Mercy until 1978, is expected to conclude next week.

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A retired Catholic bishop (pic) has been forced to defend a reference for a pedophile priest. A retired Catholic bishop (pic) has been forced to defend a reference for a pedophile priest.

A retired Catholic bishop described a pedophile priest as having a “unique gift with youth” in a character reference for the man’s court sentence.

Former head of the Catholic diocese of Rockhampton in Queensland Brian Heenan told a royal commission on Friday he regretted parts of the 1999 reference letter in support of the disgraced former member of his clergy, Reginald Durham.

Durham, who is now deceased, was allowed to continue teaching religion to primary school children for more than two years after several people came forward with claims he’d abused them as chaplain at the Neerkol orphanage in the 1960s and 1970s.

But he wasn’t forced to resign as a church employee until he was formally charged in 1997, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heard on Friday.

He was later convicted of six counts of indecently dealing with a girl under 17, but ultimately avoided further charges after he was declared mentally unfit.

Bishop Heenan told the commission his comments about Durham’s “unique gift” had referred to the former priest’s interest in the cadet movement and sporting activities at the orphanage.

“I would probably write it differently now,” he said.

Former Neerkol residents gave harrowing accounts of extreme physical, psychological and sexual abuse inflicted by nuns and priests at the orphanage at a public hearing in Rockhampton this week.

Facing a full day of probing cross examination, Bishop Heenan admitted many aspects of his response to their initial claims were inadequate or inappropriate.

He said he would regret “for the rest of my days” describing the allegations as “scurrilous”, and that he had wrongly considered Durham too old to be a risk to children in the 1990s.

The bishop admitted he’d been trying to protect the reputation of the Catholic church but denied shielding his fellow priests.

In 1998 he issued a formal apology to victims.

Later the diocese and Sisters of Mercy, who ran Neerkol orphanage, jointly paid almost $791,000 to 72 former residents in an out-of-court settlement.

Bishop Heenan is expected to return as a witness when the inquiry resumes on Monday.

The hearing into historical allegations of child abuse at the Neerkol St Joseph’s Orphanage near Rockhampton, which was operated by the Sisters of Mercy until 1978, is expected to conclude next week.

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Pedophile priest had ‘gift with youth’

Perth Now

April 17, 2015 7:22PM

By Miranda Forster

AAP

Retired Catholic bishop Brian Heenan

A retired Catholic bishop (pic) has been forced to defend a reference for a pedophile priest.

A RETIRED Catholic bishop described a pedophile priest as having a “unique gift with youth” in a character reference for the man’s court sentence.

FORMER head of the Catholic diocese of Rockhampton in Queensland Brian Heenan told a royal commission on Friday he regretted parts of the 1999 reference letter in support of the disgraced former member of his clergy, Reginald Durham.

Durham, who is now deceased, was allowed to continue teaching religion to primary school children for more than two years after several people came forward with claims he’d abused them as chaplain at the Neerkol orphanage in the 1960s and 1970s.

But he wasn’t forced to resign as a church employee until he was formally charged in 1997, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heard on Friday.

He was later convicted of six counts of indecently dealing with a girl under 17, but ultimately avoided further charges after he was declared mentally unfit.

Bishop Heenan told the commission his comments about Durham’s “unique gift” had referred to the former priest’s interest in the cadet movement and sporting activities at the orphanage.

“I would probably write it differently now,” he said.

Former Neerkol residents gave harrowing accounts of extreme physical, psychological and sexual abuse inflicted by nuns and priests at the orphanage at a public hearing in Rockhampton this week.

Facing a full day of probing cross examination, Bishop Heenan admitted many aspects of his response to their initial claims were inadequate or inappropriate.

He said he would regret “for the rest of my days” describing the allegations as “scurrilous”, and that he had wrongly considered Durham too old to be a risk to children in the 1990s.

The bishop admitted he’d been trying to protect the reputation of the Catholic church but denied shielding his fellow priests.

In 1998 he issued a formal apology to victims.

Later the diocese and Sisters of Mercy, who ran Neerkol orphanage, jointly paid almost $791,000 to 72 former residents in an out-of-court settlement.

Bishop Heenan is expected to return as a witness when the inquiry resumes on Monday.

The hearing into historical allegations of child abuse at the Neerkol St Joseph’s Orphanage near Rockhampton, which was operated by the Sisters of Mercy until 1978, is expected to conclude next week.

4 Responses to “Ex-bishop ‘deeply regrets’ response to abuse allegations at Neerkol orphanage” & related articles & VIDEO

  1. Anne Keane says:

    After hearing the evidence given at the Royal Commission I believe the the Catholic Church and the Queensland State Government have no alternative but to assist victims. One of the worst statements was that little children were given wrapped Christmas presents which turned out to be empty boxes. I feel that this could be used as an iconic interpretation of what the Church’s beliefs and teachings really mean. I see no evidence of God’s love in connection with this Royal Commission’s evidence gathering.

  2. Grant says:

    OMG $701,000 to 72 former residents. This is less than $10,000 per victim. I read that some former children are now deaf from being beaten around the head by Nuns. $10,000 would not pay for a cochlear implant, or replacement hearing aides for life. And this is from a wealthy Order of Nuns. An Order where no doubt the Superiors and hierarchy travel Business class when they travel. Neerkol Orphanage sits empty and derelict, it could be sold off. But that does not take into account the wider picture of a very wealthy Order in Australia, asset rich with prime real estate..

    Hopefully the Royal Commission recommends that previous compensation payments be re-opened for proper compensation amounts. It is time to sell off surplus Church properties and sue the monies recouped appropriately.

  3. Samilya Muller says:

    I am one of the elderly now who was in that home reading this is a good thing finally the truth is believed. I used to think it was in my head for years came out in the 1990s about the orphanage and went to court and then told he was too old to stand trial. yes it was shut up money it was not compensation I have my illness from what happen to me. As for Christmas presents or birthdays their was none. who told that to the commission was not true. I was a nearly two when I went in, and came out at 12years old looking at a world I never saw and food. I am not angry anymore but as for what some of you have written I do believe in compensation and stop this roller coaster of a court case and it is spending money on the commission, it is now the truth and it should be a step forward now but its not, it is now focus of todays abuse which is good, it should fix the past first, as this is the truth and we need to believed in now. not when we are dead and looked after now.

  4. jg says:

    Samylia…
    It is so important for those affected by this scourge to speak up. Your few words have a special connection to what we have lived through as a family….
    “…yes it was shut up money it was not compensation”! Your words are so true. They tried to shut people up with money, just like any little criminal would, to keep “going on”. Sad, isn’t it that they fell down so hard.
    Sorry if I am reprinting so much of what you wrote but you are right on the mark:…
    “I am not angry anymore but as for what some of you have written I do believe in compensation and stop this roller coaster of a court case and it is spending money on the commission, it is now the truth and it should be a step forward now but its not, it is now focus of todays abuse which is good, it should fix the past first, as this is the truth and we need to believed in now. not when we are dead and looked after now.”
    So true! My father passed away 5 years ago, the 10th of July 2010 at the age of 95 without getting so much as an apology, which is all I really wanted for him to start with: a 15 minute drive to the hospital for the Bishop in his chauffeur driven car! That was not to be! They dragged on and finally celebrated when they heard of his passing.
    The ” peanuts” they shelled out(!!!) were just to try to keep us/me quiet and were paid to a lawyer(who was instrumental in getting this much justice and I thank him for it…(Rob Talach)) and a charity! They wanted a receipt for tax purposes, on top of the other insults! One of the conditions I put forward is that I would not keep quiet about it and I haven’t and never will. All these years they tried to pass off the blame and the shame onto their victims . They own it all, hook line and sinker!
    I hope you get a minimum of empathy from those abusers and that you do get some kind of compensation, a little victory in a life of turmoil and pain, I’m sure.
    It doesn’t matter where on the planet this evil abuse seed was thrown into the wind, it is obvious it was nothing short of the plague for the victims and their families. I hear you and feel for you as I still do for my Father and my siblings.
    My Father was Elie Theriault and his abuser whose name is on this site under the “accused” page was Leon Gagnon.
    An Ocean away and across two continents I send you my Love and Affection and hope you get some justice before you pass away and thus allow the evil to believe they are still winning.
    “Fix the past first” is what you said above…So true and so needed to regain a semblance of “Family unity”…which is what “The church” claimed to have been doing for centuries. Their delaying, denying tactics are doing the exact opposite; they continue to tear us apart with the help of the court…”the Justice System”…
    The Justice system…so ironically unjust!
    You are not alone and if any of this helps only one child, young or aging, it will be worth it.
    Be at Peace and without shame or guilt. The misguided “elders” were to blame and may you get your due as they get theirs!!
    Now!
    jg

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