A SECRET police bugging operation caught a senior Catholic figure on tape saying it was not up to him to report a paedophile priest and encouraging a victim not to go to the authorities for fear of bad publicity.
Abuse victim Peter Murphy has told the Herald that police wired him up to record a meeting between the church leader and victims as part of a 1994 investigation into the paedophile priest Father Peter Chalk in Melbourne.
Murphy, who was abused by Chalk, said he met the head of Chalk’s order, Father Brian Gallagher, and the victims to discuss what the church was doing about the allegations.
The existence of the tapes, which have remained a secret since the 1990s, comes as the Church faces allegations in NSW and Victoria of failing to assist in bringing paedophile priests to justice and as a Victorian parliamentary inquiry into abuse of children by religious orders and other organisations gets under way.
Chalk was accused of abuse while working as a priest in Melbourne for the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, an international Catholic order that operates schools and parishes in Australia.
Mr Murphy said during the meeting the missionaries’ then head, Father Gallagher, told victims that Chalk had admitted to abusing up to eight Victorian children during the 1970s and early 1980s in the outer-east Melbourne suburb of Park Orchards.
Despite Chalk’s admissions – which Mr Murphy reported to senior leaders in 1987 – neither Father Gallagher nor anyone else reported the priest to police.
Mr Murphy, who has a clear recollection of the meeting independent of the recording, said he and two of Chalk’s other victims asked Father Gallagher to report Chalk to police in 1994.
But he said he and the other victims recalled Father Gallagher telling them to ”try and work out some other way of resolving it without having to go to courts and all the publicity and exposure”.
”I remember the day … I asked him [Father Gallagher] if Chalk had admitted doing what he did. Gallagher said he had,” said Mr Murphy, who was 12 when he was abused in his home by Chalk.
In a written response to the allegations, Father Gallagher said he did all he could to support Mr Murphy and other Chalk victims.
Asked last week about the recollections of Mr Murphy and other victims of him expressing a wish for police not to be involved, Father Gallagher admitted ”I would say that sentence quite differently now”.
Police did not pursue Chalk, who moved to Japan in 1981. However, his details were given to Australian immigration officers so he could be detained if he returned to Australia. He left the order in 1995, changed his name and became a teacher. He died in 2010 after being confronted by media about the allegations.
In the late 1990s Cardinal George Pell, then the archbishop of Melbourne, apologised to three of Chalk’s victims who also received compensation after their complaints were upheld by the Church.
Father Gallagher said he first learnt of Chalk’s abuse of children in 1993. He told the Herald he offered every support, including financial assistance for counselling, to victims, including Mr Murphy.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.