December 5, 2017 | The Age - Victoria
A former Melbourne archbishop repeatedly did nothing about a gun-toting pedophile priest as he sought to protect the Catholic Church from scandal, a royal commission has found.
Archbishop Frank Little's inaction over Doveton parish priest Father Peter Searson left children at risk of harm, including sexual harm, and had catastrophic human consequences, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse said.
The inquiry found Archbishop Little, who died in 2008, also did nothing about child sexual abuse complaints against other priests who he allowed to resign or retire for health reasons, and tried to conceal that some were receiving financial support.
"We are satisfied that there was a prevailing culture within the archdiocese, led by Archbishop Little, of dealing with complaints internally and confidentially to avoid scandal to the church," the royal commission said.
"Complaints were dealt with in a way that sought to protect the archdiocese from scandal and liability, and prioritised the interests of the church over those of the victims."
There were numerous complaints about Searson during his time in the Sunbury and Doveton parishes in the late 1970s and 80s, covering child sexual abuse as well as his "unpleasant, strange, aggressive and violent conduct".
The commission said by October 1986, Archbishop Little was aware of complaints about Searson's conduct with children that were sufficient for any reasonable person to believe the priest should be removed.
The Archbishop Little, who held the post from 1974-1996, chose to do nothing.
"In doing nothing, he failed to protect the children of the parish and the Holy Family School," the commission's report released on Tuesday said.
While only the archbishop had the authority to remove Searson from the ministry, the commission also criticised the conduct of some church personnel and Catholic Education Office staff.
"The case of Father Searson is remarkable in terms of the volume of complaints against him and the number of church personnel to whom they were made," the commission said.
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