15 Jan 2011

Lawsuit against Australian diocese alleges 20 year neglect of child sex crimes, Bishop's statement revictimizes survivor

The Cairns Post - Australia October 30, 2010

I was abused by a priest, Cairns man claims

by Gavin King

A FORMER altar boy has launched an explosive lawsuit against the Catholic Church alleging years of abuse by a prominent priest and a subsequent failure to take any official action by fellow priests, nuns and one of Queensland's highest-ranking bishops.

A special investigation by The Weekend Post has uncovered a 20-year web of alleged sexual abuse and a repeated failure by high-ranking church officials to report the matters to police.

The Church also failed to remove the priest at the centre of the allegations from contact with children when they were alerted to the allegations of abuse.

In a sworn affidavit filed with the Supreme Court, a Cairns man claims he was regularly abused while he was a student and altar boy at St Joseph's School and Church at Atherton by Father Joseph Sultana between March 1979 and November 1982.

The Weekend Post can also reveal that another man who said he was abused by Father Sultana at the same school and church in the early 1980s took his own life at his northern beaches home in 1998.

Father Sultana left Atherton and moved to the Ravenshoe parish - which includes two churches and a primary school - shortly after a fellow priest was told about the abuse.

Father Sultana continued as a serving priest in the Diocese of Cairns for at least another 15 years before relocating to Malta in either 1997 or 1998.

In the book Golden Jubilee of the Diocese of Cairns: 1941-1991, Father Joseph Emmanuel Lewis Sultana is listed as being born in Malta and ordained as a priest in 1962.

The book says Father Sultana came to the Diocese of Cairns after serving as a priest in South America.

Another book titled The Years Between 1953-1985: Catholic Youth Movement details a visit by a youth group to Father Sultana's home at Ravenshoe in the early 1980s.

"On Sunday, 17 March, Atherton Catholic Youth Movement had an outing to Ravenshoe. We visited Father Sultana, our previous branch chaplain before his appointment to Ravenshoe, and then went to Millstream Falls. After a swim it was back to Father Sultana's for dinner," the author wrote.

In a sworn affidavit and statement to police, the Cairns man, now 38, said he and his wife revealed the abuse to Bishop James Foley in a phone call and subsequent meeting at their family home in November last year.

Father Sultana was still active as a priest in the Far North for at least five years while Bishop Foley was head of the Diocese of Cairns.

At the end of their hour-long conversation in November, the man said that Bishop Foley offered him prayers and religious counselling.

In his affidavit, the man said Bishop Foley did not advise him to contact police, but Bishop Foley yesterday told The Weekend Post he did tell the man to report the abuse to police.

Bishop Foley said he urged his lawyers to encourage the man's lawyers to report the matters to police.

In March, the man gave a detailed statement to the Cairns Police Child Protection and Investigation Unit and launched a civil suit seeking compensation against the Roman Catholic Trust Corporation for the Diocese of Cairns and the Corporation of the Sisters of Mercy for the Diocese of Cairns.

Cairns police are investigating the man's allegations and are awaiting information from the Department of Immigration to determine if the case against Father Sultana - who may be deceased - can proceed.

In court documents obtained by The Weekend Post, the man also said he told prominent Far Northern priest Father Patrick McKenna about the abuse while it was still happening in 1981.

But the man says Father McKenna became angry at the then eight-year-old and accused him of lying before ordering him to visit a school nun, where he was caned by a nun several times for lying.

According to the Diocese of Cairns website, Father McKenna is now the presiding priest of three churches in Cairns and the chaplain at Cairns Private Hospital.

He was not implicated in any allegations of abuse.

"I'm not prepared to discuss the matter,’’ Father McKenna said yesterday when contacted by The Weekend Post.

"All inquiries should be directed to the Bishop of Cairns."

This article was found at:



The Cairns Post - Australia November 1, 2010

Priest abuse source of 'endless years of pain'

by Gavin King

THE man at the centre of a lawsuit against the Catholic Church yesterday vowed to follow his legal claim "all the way through" in a bid to end decades of pain he suffered after repeated abuse by a Far Northern priest.

The Cairns man, now 38, yesterday told The Cairns Post he suffered severe depression before seeking professional counselling to come to terms with the abuse he suffered at the hands of Father Joseph Sultana.

"This matter has been pushed aside for so long, I’ve held it back for 30 something years," he said.

"It's been many, many endless years of pain and tragedy.’’

It comes as the Catholic Church moves to distance Queensland's highest ranking priest John Bathersby - now the Archbishop of Brisbane - from ever having knowledge of abuse claims against Father Sultana.

Archbishop Bathersby was ordained Bishop of Cairns in March 1986, about three-and-a-half years after the Cairns man said he told another priest - Father Patrick Mc-Kenna - about the abuse by Father Sultana.

Father Sultana remained as a serving priest in the Diocese of Cairns, including the parishes of Ravenshoe and Dimbulah, for the entire duration of Archbishop Bathersby's time as Bishop of Cairns between March 1986 and December 1991.

In a statement to The Cairns Post, [see below] Bishop of Cairns James Foley said Archbishop Bathersby did not receive any sexual abuse complaints about Father Joseph Sultana during Archbishop Bathersby’s tenure as bishop in Cairns.

The Cairns man launched the personal injury civil claim in the Supreme Court against the Roman Catholic Trust Corporation for the Diocese of Cairns and the Corporation of the Sisters of Mercy for the Diocese of Cairns.

In his sworn affidavit, the man said he was repeatedly abused while he was a student and altar boy at St Joseph's School and Church at Atherton by Father Sultana between March 1979 and November 1982.

He said the church failed to report the matters to police or remove Father Sultana from contact with children when they were alerted to the allegations of abuse.

The Cairns Post has learned that the Catholic Diocese of Gozo in Malta, where Father Sultana is believed to have moved to in 1997 or 1998, is investigating if he is still residing there.

Bishop Foley said he had spoken to other priests and nuns who all denied ever being aware of any sex abuse complaints against Father Sultana.

The Cairns man, who said he still has nightmares about the abuse by Father Sultana, yesterday said he was "strong and determined" to fight his legal claim.

"I'm determined to follow it all the way through and I hope it brings other kids forward," he said.

This article was found at:



The Cairns Post - Australia November 1, 2010

Cairns Bishop responds to abuse claims

by Bishop James Foley

I met briefly with the editor-at-large on Friday afternoon October 29: When these matters were brought to my attention, action was taken promptly and properly.

His information was largely drawn from documents filed in court containing, as yet, untested allegations.

I advised him that there were inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the complainant’s version of events which yet had to be aired and tested in potential legal proceedings.

While aware of legal restrictions and other sensitivities, I can state with certainty the following:

1: The first suggestions of child sexual abuse were raised with me, by the original complainant on 24 July, 1998, after I had already removed Joseph Sultana from ministry for other reasons.

2: In 1998, I had discussions with my predecessors in office: John Torpie (deceased 2002) and John Bathersby, which established that they had never received complaints of child sexual abuse by Joseph Sultana.

3: As to the allegations made in November 2009 by the second complainant, the Religious Sister implicated is now deceased.

Other Priests and Sisters would swear that they did not know, nor were they informed of any child sexual abuse complaints against Joseph Sultana.

4: I sat with and heard both complainants’ versions of events and each one of us genuinely struggled to establish the truth. However, there remain for me vagaries, contradictions and inconsistencies which can now only be resolved in the pending legal process.

5: To this end, and from the very beginning, I urged both complainants to take their concerns to the police. The second complainant alleges in his affidavit that I made no such recommendation in the course of our meeting. However, I certainly did press for police involvement at this meeting.

As I explained, Joseph Sultana had returned to Malta and only law enforcement authorities could compel his co-operation in any investigation of the complaint.

6: The Church hopes to reach with the second complainant a satisfactory resolution of this matter which is alleged to have occurred over 30 years ago.

The premature and sensational reporting of this matter may have caused further pain to the complainants and/or their families. Fortunately, at least, they have not been identified by name.

When these matters were brought to my attention, action was taken promptly and properly.

Implications to the contrary do not help in ascertaining the truth of these matters nor do they assist in healing any harm which may have been done.

This is an unedited statement from James Foley DD DPh Bishop – Catholic Diocese of Cairns in response to questions from The Cairns Post.

This article was found at:



The Cairns Post - Australia November 2, 2010

Sex abuse reform call following Father Sultana revelations

by Gavin King

PRIESTS should be forced by law to report every allegation of child abuse to authorities and end the cycle of trauma suffered by young victims and adult survivors of clergy sex abuse.

Child safety advocates and victim support groups yesterday called on the State Government to immediately upgrade mandatory reporting laws to include ministers of religion.

In Queensland, the only professions mandated to report suspected abuse to authorities are doctors, nurses, Department of Communities officers and employees of licensed residential care services.

School principals and teachers are required to report suspected abuse in line with Education Queensland policy, but they are not legally mandated to do so.

South Australia is the only state in Australia to include ministers of religion in its mandatory reporting legislation, with an exemption for disclosures made in the confessional.

The call for changes to the state’s mandatory reporting law follows revelations that a Cairns man has launched a civil suit against the Catholic Church for abuse inflicted by Father Joseph Sultana at St Joseph’s School at Atherton between 1979 and 1982.

The man, now 38, told Cairns Bishop James Foley about the abuse in a meeting in November last year, but Bishop Foley did not report the matter to police.

Support group Adults Surviving Child Abuse spokeswoman Cathy Kezelman said the response by Bishop James Foley, published in full in The Cairns Post yesterday, was inadequate, insensitive and out of step with community expectations.

"Sadly, this story in The Cairns Post is reminiscent of so many stories that we’ve seen globally of the church not responding appropriately at the time or later when an adult is finally ready to confront the abuse," Dr Kezelman said.

"Generally, the victim is in fact being revictimised by the church closing ranks and treating it like it’s secret church business.

"The victim is the last one the church responds to with compassion.

"These are criminal acts and perpetrators need to be brought to justice.

"Victims need to be acknowledged, validated, heard and listened to and given appropriate and independent care outside of Catholic Church counselling services.

"We absolutely support priests being mandatory reporters in Queensland."

This article was found at:

Victims of sex abuse in Quebec revictimized by statute of limitations and lack of therapy services

U.K. Catholic child protection head says Vatican response inadequate, statute of limitations ignore long term effects of abuse


  1. Catholic church failed to tell police of sex abuse

    by Nick McKenzie & Richard Baker, The Age Australia December 6, 2011

    A CATHOLIC brother has escaped justice for more than three decades over his alleged serial abuse of Victorian children and teenagers in the 1970s and '80s, due partly to the failure of the church to notify police of complaints about his conduct.

    More alleged victims of Brother Bernard Hartman have contacted The Age after Saturday's report about the fight of alleged victim, Mariead Ashcroft, to have Brother Hartman charged by police for his alleged sexual abuse of her in the '70s.

    The emergence of several alleged victims greatly increases the ability of Victoria Police to extradite Brother Hartman from the United States to face sexual abuse charges.

    he Age can reveal that the church failed to tell Ms Ashcroft or the police that she was not the only complainant about Brother Hartman's alleged paedophilia.

    Ms Ashcroft reported Brother Hartman to the Catholic church in 1999 and also received a written apology from the brother, who in the '90s left Australia for the US where he remains working as a Marianist.

    But The Age has learned that another female victim, who asked for her identity to be protected, claims she told several Melbourne Catholic church officials in about 1993 that she had been sexually abused by Brother Hartman.
    The woman claims she was told by church officials that Brother Hartman would be ''monitored'' by the church in the US.
    But she insisted that the church did nothing to ensure he would be held accountable in the Victorian criminal justice system and that church officials did not pass on her allegations to police.

    ''I'd like him returned to Australia and to be charged and jailed. That is what the victims deserve from our justice system,'' she said.
    The Melbourne Catholic archdiocese last night said it had no record of any complaints made about Brother Hartman.

    The woman and a third victim who contacted The Age yesterday have agreed to speak to Victoria Police investigating Ms Ashcroft's allegations against Brother Hartman in the hope that it may strengthen any criminal case against him.
    Youth worker Les Twentyman, who taught at Altona school St Pauls with Brother Hartman in the '70s, has also come forward to speak about his concerns over the brother's suspicious conduct with students.

    Mr Twentyman said several students complained to him of Brother Hartman's inappropriate behaviour, including him allegedly showing students photographs of genitalia and masturbating in front of a young female in his care. ''The fact that he is still in the church in a position of power as a brother makes a mockery of the whole thing,'' he said.

    A senior US Marianist, Brother Joe Kamis, told The Age last week that Brother Hartman was still working with the Catholic church in Dayton, Ohio, but was on a ''safety plan'' to prevent him being alone with children.

    The fresh allegations against Brother Hartman come after a manager of the church's social welfare arm, CatholicCare, Alan Baker blew the whistle on Saturday about what he claimed was the church's inadequate handling of sexual abuse allegations. ...

    read the rest of the article at:


  2. Child sex abuse victims retraumatised by counselling services, royal commission hears

    by Paul Bibby, Sydney Morning Herald Court Reporter March 27, 2015

    Victims of child sexual abuse are being "retraumatised" by inadequate Medicare-funded counselling services that are plagued by a shortage of properly trained practitioners, the Australian Psychological Society has told the royal commission.

    As the commission continued to examine the issue of redress for victims on Thursday, the Psychological Society's executive manager of professional practice, Louise Roufeil, said the maximum of 10 private counselling sessions provided for people with mental health issues under Medicare were nowhere near sufficient to support abuse victims.

    "Commencing a therapeutic relationship with a survivor and offering hope and then not being able to carry the treatment to fruition represents a failure again for the survivors," Dr Roufeil told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

    "The treatment response is itself retraumatising. This cannot be allowed to continue."

    Dr Roufeil said there were very few counselling services in the country which had practitioners who were properly trained in assisting victims of child sexual abuse.

    "There is an issue of survivors struggling to find practitioners who have the appropriate knowledge, skills and experience to work in an effective and respectful manner and there are simply not enough services that can provide effective clinical care," she said.

    "Specialist services are overburdened and cannot prioritise adult survivors."

    She joined with the head of the Australian Association of Social Workers, Gladys Wilkinson, in arguing strenuously that rather than setting up a new body to provide counselling and support, a substantial expansion of the existing system was needed.

    This put them in direct opposition to the federal government which has told the commission it does not support an expansion of the public provision of counselling and psychological care.

    "We believe the Medicare system is an excellent platform on which to build this new service system," Ms Wilkinson said.

    "We don't need a new system. We have people already working in that system."

    Earlier, the Catholic church joined with victims' advocates in expressing disappointment at the federal government's lack of support for a national redress scheme.

    "It is surprising to say the least that the Commonwealth government initiated the calling of the royal commission and yet the government has so quickly discounted itself from one of the most fundamental issues we have to address," the chief executive of the church's Truth, Justice and Healing Council, Francis Sullivan, said.

    "You would think that any government that was setting up a royal commission of this nature would know that a redress scheme would be one option."

    The federal government stated in its submission to the commission that a national scheme would be too complex, time-consuming and costly.

    Mr Sullivan said the church supported a national scheme with a cap on compensation of $150,000, and a limitation period of 25 years for abuse victims to come forward, taken from the time of their 18th birthday.

    The hearing continues.