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Abuse: Int'l investigation implicates Salesians/Australia

The Dallas Morning News multi-media website
A newspaper located at the ground zero of the US Bishops historic meeting in Dallas two years ago to respond to the US abuse crisis has published a major investigation alleging religious orders and the Church have moved priests from country to country in attempts to avoid police investigation or civil prosecution. The Dallas Morning Post investigation has been taken up and broadcast further as a major story by many of the quality investigative news agencies around the world including all of Australia's quality broadsheets and the ABC.

There are two major allegations being levelled at the Church as a result of the investigation. One is that the attempts to cover-up were international in nature. The second is that Rome's knowledge of what has been going on extended back much further in time than hitherto appreciated.

The Australian connection is that it is alleged that the Salesians moved a priest convicted of abuse in Melbourne to Samoa in order to avoid further police investigation and charges. The Age newspaper quotes both Victorian and Federal Police spokespersons confirming that the priest, Fr Frank Klep (60) "left Australia after being charged but before his case came to court" and that attempts have been made to contact Samoan authorities. It is reported that Australia does not have an extradition agreement with Samoa.

The Age reports "Father Klep - former principal of the Salesian College in Sunbury, who later ran a youth centre in Brunswick - was convicted in 1994 of four charges of sexual assault. Those charges and the 1998 ones relate to incidents during the 1970s."

The Australian Congregational Head of the Salesians, Fr Ian Murdoch, was not responding to media interviews and hung up on a reporter from the ABC's PM program but issued a media statement denying the Order had placed priests overseas to shield them from police or victims. His statement says: "We have co-operated, and will certainly continue to co-operate, with any law enforcement agency... and to assist victims in every appropriate way." It also said the Salesians were "deeply sorry for the sexual misconduct of some of our members and for their violation of the young".

ABC Radio's PM program broadcast an interview with one of Fr Klemp's alleged victims. The Dallas Morning Post as well as their text reports from the hard copy edition of the paper has produced a sophisticated multi-media interactive web-based overview of their investigation.

Further unrelated reportů

In an unrelated report, the Los Angeles Times is carrying a story on a 375-page report by the controversial US priest who helped blow the whistle on the abuse scandals, Fr Thomas P. Doyle, and two former monks Richard Sipe and Patrick Wall. They contend that "the church has recognized the problem of abuse by priests for at least 1,700 years and has failed to address it successfully". Spokespeople for the Church in the US countered to the newspaper "that the three authors are allied with or paid by lawyers representing molestation plaintiffs", and charge that the report "is a ploy to strengthen their hand in court".

Financial scandalů

The woes for the Church do not stop there. An Associated Press story originally published last Friday is beginning to be picked up by other media outlets concerning a financial scandal surrounding financier Martin Frankel in Connecticut.

The financier, who initially fled to Europe, came to Mississippi and pleaded guilty in 2002 in Mississippi to stealing $208 million in five states. Mississippi Insurance Commissioner George Dale, who is pursuing the matter has filed a lawsuit, which is moving toward a jury trial in U.S. District Court in Jackson, in which he claims Vatican officials violated the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Dale alleges Damages, if he prevails, could be more than $600 million.

The news agency reports "A Vatican spokesman denies the Roman Catholic church profited from business dealings with Frankel or accepted funds he stole. The church has filed a motion to dismiss the suit for lack of jurisdiction, and a ruling is expected this summer."

Dallas Morning News - Convicted sexual abuser and fugitive works with kids under his religious order's wing
Dallas Morning News - Multi-media interactive presentation
The Age - Pedophile priest stays out of reach
ABC Radio PM - Priest with paedophilia conviction relocated to Samoa
ABC Radio PM - Alleged sex abuse victim speaks out
LA Times - Vatican Aware of Abuse for Centuries, Study Says
AP/Newsday - Suing Vatican bank, insurance official charges racketeering

Salesian Australian website

22 Jun 2004