A child abuse inquiry in Australia recently found that a senior Catholic cleric had failed to report an important conversation with a pedophile priest, which would have ensured the latter a jail sentence. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse released a report earlier this month that suggests John Gerard Nestor had in fact, assaulted minors in Wollongong during the 1990s. The report also reveals a senior cleric of the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong had made sure there is no written record of Nestor’s confessions of criminal conduct, because he wanted to protect not only the priest but also the church.
Even though there were reports of Nestor’s pedophilia from the beginning of the 1990s, the Vatican put at risk children’s lives by waiting over five years before finally removing the priest from the ministry in 2008, says the report.
The report states, “During the 1990s, rumours spread about camps that he (Nestor) ran where boys were swimming naked, showering in the open and where Nestor had conversations with boys about the size of their genitalia.”
Lucas, who now serves as the general secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, has been found guilty of not recording or reporting Nestor’s inappropriate conduct, which he gained an insight to after having a long conversation with the priest in 1993 itself.
“An outcome of Father Lucas' practice was to ensure that there was no written record of any admissions of criminal conduct in order to protect the priest and the Church,” the report said.
According to the report, Lucas had even told Nestor after that conversation, his entire confession would be confidential and no record would be made of the exchange between the two. According to Lucas, Nestor’s right to silence would be infringed upon if his confession was recorded or subsequently disclosed to investigators.
Nestor was first accused of having engaged in child sexual abuse in 1996, after which he was convicted of aggravated indecent assault as well as an aggravated act of indecency on an individual under 16 years of age. However, he was acquitted on appeal the next year. Despite Nestor being acquitted, complaints continued to be made against him and that is what led the church eventually to reconsider whether Nestor could continue as a priest. The report concludes when Nestor was eventually removed, it should have been made clear to the congregation that the church based its decision on the priest’s involvement in several child sexual abuse cases.
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