The American Psychiatric Association states that "children cannot consent to sexual activity with adults," and condemns any such action by an adult as "a criminal and immoral act which never can be considered normal or socially acceptable behavior." Cases of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests, nuns and members of religious orders, and subsequent cover-ups, in the 20th and 21st centuries have led to numerous allegations, investigations, trials and convictions.
The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found that the average time it took between victims of Catholic sexual abuse being abused and reporting it, or seeking redress, is 33 years. The Commission revealed 7% of Australian priests between 1950 and 2009 were accused of abusing children, and that one Catholic order had 40.4% of their non-ordained members with allegations against them in this period.
The former 67-year-old priest is on trial for 18 charges of rape and acts of indecency allegedly committed against the girl in the 1980s, which started when she was 13. Many cases of sexual violence go back to the near or distant past because of the time that the victim usually needs to speak about abuse. The victim, who is now 44, alleged the priest (who cannot be named for legal reasons) first raped her in a Canberra church after she had finished violin practice. She was practicing a difficult Bach piece on her violin.
The padre applauded and then asked her about her dog, Lily, who had been hit and killed by a car. According to the teenager, he told her to stare at the altar and “pray hard” about Lily, so that maybe God would let her see the dog again. Then he began molesting her, saying, “It’s not like you haven’t done this before.”
"I thought if I stayed really still it would be over soon," she told the court. The court heard the priest muttered "please God forgive me" repeatedly during the alleged sexual assault.
The girl then walked outside of the church to greet her mother, who was waiting in a car outside. The priest allegedly followed her, telling her mother her violin playing had not been very good and that she was "in a mood".
The priest pleaded not guilty. The court will hear and consider further testimony in the coming days.
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