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Salesian Provincial breaks silence on sex abuse

In his first interview since allegations against the Salesians surfaced worldwide, Salesian Provincial Fr Ian Murdoch revealed to The Age newspaper that he made two trips to Rome to persuade the Vatican to expel Fr David Rapson, who had been sentenced to two years' jail in 1992 for sex abuse of a 15-year-old student at the Salesian school Rupertswood, near Sunbury outside Melbourne.

The paper reports today that the Pope has "defrocked" Fr Rapson, who is described as "an offender of the worst kind". It says Fr Murdoch also revealed that he had prevented a former head of the order, Fr Julian Fox, from returning from Rome to Australia unless he agreed to face his accusers in a case of alleged sexual assault. The Salesians also paid $35,600 compensation following sex abuse allegations against Fr Fox.

Fr Murdoch sent the papers to Rapson at his last known address in Sydney for his signature, which is necessary to complete his expulsion. But he has not signed them and, Fr Murdoch says, probably never will. "He has disappeared. He is no longer a Salesian and no longer a priest."

After his sentencing, Rapson made veiled threats from Pentridge to the then head of the order, Julian Fox, that he had stories to tell that could implicate others in the order.

Fr Murdoch flew to Fiji to interview Fr Fox after allegations against him by two Victorians. "Each time he made complete denials and maintained his innocence," Fr Murdoch said.

The father of one alleged victim wanted to pursue the case, but the victim did not. In the other case, the alleged victim was disbelieved when he lodged a complaint, with tragic consequences for him and his family, according to Fr Murdoch. The victim became addicted to drugs and spent time in jail.

Fr Murdoch insisted that Fr Fox undergo a comprehensive, five-day psychological test. He said the assessment was not definitive. "But it asked a lot of serious questions and, on that basis, he would need to present for an intensive program to address these questions in more depth and for treatment."

Fr Fox was allowed to undergo this program in Rome, but once there he took a second assessment instead of the intensive program. "The second cast doubt on the allegations," Fr Murdoch said.

The Salesian order became engulfed in a sex abuse scandal after it was revealed recently that it had sent priest Frank Kelp to Samoa in 1998, despite him being investigated by Victorian police for sex crimes. This was two years before Fr Murdoch became head of the order.

Mission to defrock sex abuser (The Age 19/7/04)

Salesian principal faces abuse claim (CathNews 15/7/04)
Allegation causes principal to stand aside (ABC North & West SA 14/7/04)
Church reveals abuse figures (ITV 13/7/04)
Abuse claims hit Catholic church (The Guardian/Associated Press 13/7/04)
Austria probes priest sex claims (BBC 12/7/04)
Priests 'In Orgy' at Seminary (The Scotsman 12/7/04)
Child protection office launches annual report (Independent Catholic News 12/7/04)
Salesian priest leaves Samoa (CathNews 9/7/04)
Salesian Works in Samoa: Moamoa Theological College
Convicted priest continues direct contact with children (Samoa News/Tala Nei News)
Shelter for the shamed? (The Australian 6/7/04)
Abuser 'not moved to avoid police' (CathNews 1/7/04)
Priest warned students of perils ahead (The Age 1/7/04)
Probe into sex abuse of wards (Daily Telegraph 1/7/04)
Bishop 'Frustrated' by Vatican's Pace (The Guardian/Associated Press 30/6/04)
Samoa considers deporting priests (The Age 30/6/04)
Salesians 'knew of Klep allegations' (CathNews 29/6/04)
Salesian arrested at Melbourne Airport (CathNews 28/6/04)
Counting the cost of a priest's bad faith (The Age 26/6/04)
Father Klep refused bail (ABC Radio PM 25/6/04)
Father Klep back in Australia (ABC Radio The World Today 25/6/04)
Priest charged with sex offences (AAP/The Age 25/6/04)
Paedophile priest refused bail (Herald-Sun 25/6/04)
Paedophile priest arrested in Melbourne (ABC Lateline 25/6/04)
Catholic Priest Arrested in Australia (The Guardian/Associated Press 25/6/04)
Accused child sex priest in jail (The Australian 26/6/04)
Customs lets wanted priest pass (The Age 25/6/04)
Catholic Priest Arrested in Australia (Associated Press/Bucks County Courier-Times)
Fr Klep being deported from Samoa (CathNews 25/6/04)
Sex priest to return to Melbourne (The Age 25/6/04)
Priest given 48 hours to flee (The Australian 25/6/04)
Church accused of hiding pedophile priest (Sydney Morning Herald 25/6/04)
The Salesian Congregation rejects the accusations in "The Dallas Morning News": we condemn every kind of child abuse (ANS Salesian News Agency 21/6/04)
Samoa's pedophile anger (The Australian 23/6/04)
Church compounds the sins of the fathers (The Age 23/6/04)
Pedophile priest stays out of reach (The Age 22/6/04)
Australian Salesians

Austrian chancellor incensed by priest sex scandal (Reuters 17/7/04)
Reporting from Peru; Clergy sex abuse reports rock Europe (National Catholic Reporter 16/7/04)
California's Catholic bishops endorse challenge to abuse claims law (Associated Press/Sacramento Bee 17/7/04)
Blessed are the bankrupt (The Tablet 17/7/04)
Bishops back constitutional challenge to California sex abuse law (Catholic News Service 15/7/04)
Austrian bishops await Vatican move on scandal (Catholic World News 16/7/04)

19 Jul 2004