A FORMER NSW judge who studied to be a priest with a future notorious Hunter child sex offender has launched a devastating critique of the Catholic Church’s six popes, including two new saints, who covered up a global child sex abuse crisis for nearly a century.
Popes Pius XI, Pius XII, Paul VI, Benedict XVI and the recently named papal saints John Paul II and John XXIII ‘‘effectively facilitated child sexual abuse’’, retired acting NSW district court judge Kieran Tapsell argues in his new book, Potiphar’s Wife: The Vatican’s Secret and Child Sexual Abuse.
While canon law until 1917 required sex offender priests to be dismissed and reported to police, a series of canon law changes and papal decrees since imposed a ‘‘permanent silence’’ that continues to prohibit reporting of some matters in some Australian states even today, Tapsell said.
He reserved some of his most devastating criticism for Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, who blamed Irish bishops in 2010 after the release of damning reports into child sexual abuse in that country, but failed to mention bishops were prohibited from reporting cases to police.
‘‘The cover-up of child sexual abuse did not occur because of bad faith or incompetence on the part of bishops, albeit in some cases that existed, but because they were ordered to cover it up through canon law by six popes since Pius XI in 1922,’’ Tapsell said.
Benedict XVI ‘‘knew that he was part of the Roman Curia that was administering, confirming and entrenching a system of privilege of clergy that not only protected child sex offenders from going to jail, but that led to further sex attacks by them on children’’.
While Australian bishops in the 1990s had shown ingenuity and even courage in trying to deal with child sex offender priests including the notorious Hunter priest Denis McAlinden, that courage had ‘‘now gone out the window’’ because they refused to ‘‘face the truth about the six popes who have orchestrated a cover-up’’.
Tapsell trained to be a priest for six years in the 1960s. He remembers fellow trainee, the late Hunter priest Jim Fletcher, as ‘‘just an average sort of person’’ whose conviction in 2005 for child sex offences was a shock.
Pope Francis’s comments on the child sexual abuse crisis were a concern, but secular inquiries like the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry, the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry into Hunter cases, and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse would force change, Tapsell said.
‘‘Some things are already clear because of the royal commission. Towards Healing [the Australian Catholic Church’s system of dealing with child sexual abuse cases] is finished. The days of the Church investigating itself are finished.’’
Potiphar’s Wife: The Vatican’s Secret and Child Sexual Abuse, ATF Press.