NZ whistleblower calls for religious order's closure

A psychologist formerly employed by the Australasian St John of God brothers has called for the order to be closed down, accusing it of being in a state of denial over abuse allegations.

Stuff.co.nz reports that former complaints manager for the brothers, Michelle Mulvihill, a psychologist and former nun, has blown the whistle on the order's crisis, after quitting as head of its professional standards committee for nine years.

"My impression is that there is a culture of collusion inside the province which is deeply ingrained, and which makes it almost impossible for the truth about these matters to be dealt with."

The final straw for Mulvihill came in March when four out of five of the Australasian province's newly elected leadership team had been or were the subject of historic sexual or physical abuse allegations.

She quit the next week.

"I tried to hang on for the sake of victims ... I had to resign because I could not stand dealing with this any more.

"Unfortunately, the chapter (meeting) at which the leadership was elected did not seem to consider the implications of electing leaders who were, or still are, subject to serious complaints."

Mulvihill has written to the order's Superior General in Rome, Br Donatus Forkan (pictured), flagging serious problems she saw in the brotherhood. She wants the Australasian order shut down and its assets seized by its parent group in Rome.

Maitland-Newcastle Bishop Michael Malone has also asked Br Forkan to investigate, after he was visited by Mulvihill and another committee member.

The order's public relations man, Br Timothy Graham is the only member of the newly elected leadership who has not faced or is not facing allegations himself, the paper claims.

"The St John of God Order on the whole believe they are the target of a vicious smear campaign," said Mulvihill.

In response to Mulvihill's letter, Br Forkan said that if any culture of collusion among the brothers was proven "I would be the first to insist on the most radical action".

He said the brothers were planning an independent and external audit of the handling of abuse issues in the province.

More charges for Victorian priest

Meanwhile, the ABC reports that a Victorian court has been told that a Catholic priest charged with the rape and assault of a girl 30 years ago will now face three additional charges.

Most of the 16 counts against 77-year-old Adelrick D'Cruz relate to offences against a girl between 1969 and 1978.

D'Cruz was the assistant priest at Yarrawonga's Sacred Heart Church in the late 1970s.

He has also worked in parishes at Bendigo, Benalla, Corryong and Cohuna.

He will face a committal hearing in the Shepparton Magistrates Court next month.

The Brothers of St John of God
Insider calls for controversial Catholic order to be shut (Stuff.co.nz, 19/6/07)
Priest faces more sex charges (ABC News, 19/6/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
St John of God Brothers (National Vocations Directory)
The Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God

Five years jail for St John of God brother (CathNews, 28/4/06)
John of God Order condemns tactics of NZ law firm (CathNews, 6/8/03)
St John of God Brothers to pay out $3.6 million (CathNews, 13/6/02)

20 Jun 2007