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Jesuits push law aside in sex abuse u-turn

Australian Jesuit Provincial Fr Mark Raper said last night that the Order will ignore legal advice if necessary, in order to work for reconciliation with sex abuse victims on a pastoral level.

Fr Raper admitted to ABC-TV's 7:30 Report that he had previously been wrong to follow legal advice "against [his] better judgment".

Following legal advice last week, he had failed to honour an undertaking to be interviewed for a 7:30 Report feature on a case involving Lucien Leech-Larkin, who claims he was sexually abused by a teacher at a Sydney Jesuit school 35 years ago. The program asserted that the Jesuits had refused to offer him any form of reconciliation, despite his repeated efforts.

Last night's report portrayed Fr Raper's about-face as a remarkable change of heart.

"I was moved by Lucien Leech-Larkin, and also for me [viewing the 7:30 Report feature] was a moment of liberation I must say, because I'd been accepting advice against my better judgement," he told the program.

"The tactic has been if one comes to us with a legal attack, we give a legal defence ... but I am not at all content with that approach."

Fr Raper made it clear that the interests of victims will take priority over the Order's need to prevent the erosion of the order's assets by large financial payouts.

"The assets are not as important as the people that we seek to serve," he said. "What is the point of doing what we're doing if that's not the case?"

ABC TV 7:30 Report

Father Mark Raper speaks out against the Church's handling of sexual abuse (ABC Radio 'PM')
Church blocking abuse cases: Jesuit (AAP)
Jesuits admit blocking tactics in abuse claims (The Australian - payment required)
Jesuits nearer to adopting sex abuse rules (Sydney Morning Herald)
Jesuits act on criticism (The Age 27/6/03)
Another humiliating abuse lesson for the Church on national television (24/6/03)
Horror past of sexual abuses continues to plague churches (ABC TV 7:30 Report 23/6/03)
Fr Mark Raper SJ responds to 7.30 Report
Text of Fr Mark Raper's letter
Society of Jesus Australia

2 Jul 2003