Church stopped inquiry into abuse

Royal commission calls: Robert Lipari as a child.
Royal commission calls: Robert Lipari as a child.

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 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 Patrick's.

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 at 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 of 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 to the Office of the Director 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".

He said the inquiry should be reopened and he called for the police to investigate.

Victims speak

By Emma Partridge

FORMER St Patrick’s College student Robert Lipari says he wants others to break their silence.

Mr Lipari said he urges anyone who was sexually assaulted during their school years to come forward.

‘‘It’s safe now,’’ Mr Lipari said. ‘‘[They] can’t hurt us any more.’’

He said he wanted victims to know there were police trained and willing to help, solicitors willing to guide them through the legal maze and counsellors there for support.

‘‘They [the victims] need to be guided to show them what avenues they have for their own healing, to help them on their journey.’’

He said the way victims were treated and the denials by the church gave him reason to keep fighting.

The Four Corners program dealing with abuse suffered by young boys made him feel ‘‘disgusting’’.

He said a royal commission into sexual abuse with the church was necessary and said the investigation needed to go into more depth than the Wood inquiry.

Sutherland police said at this stage they are not conducting further investigations.

Police said there are several ways people can report a sexual assault, including making a formal complaint to police or by filling out a Sexual Assault Reporting Option questionnaire.

Contact Robert Lipari at 0429 826 304.