The St John of God Brothers welcome the final report of the Royal Commission.  We acknowledge the important work the Commission has undertaken to expose the failures of the past and to help ensure the protection of children now and in the future.

The shocking revelations of the Commission have had a devastating effect on the small and elderly community of Brothers in Australia.  But we know that this cannot be measured against the vast pain and suffering of those betrayed while in our care.  To them and their families, we repeat our unqualified apology and our commitment to respond with compassion and fairness.

The St John of God Brothers have co-operated fully and openly with the Commission.  We will carefully consider the Commission’s final report and its recommendations relevant to us. 



Martin Crew

Martin Crew tells why his Catholic faith is stronger than ever

Hawkesbury Gazette
Justine Doherty
17 Feb 2017

Picture: Geoff Jones

North Richmond Catholic Martin Crew.
A Catholic parishioner from North Richmond has stepped forward to defend his faith in light of last week's figures released by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The Royal Commission's findings - that 4444 people have come forward as having been abused in the Catholic system over 35 years, with 1880 perpetrators identified - have been a "monumental blow" according to the Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge.
The Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher said "as Catholics we should all hang our heads in shame", but Martin Crew said that while he was "hurting like all other Catholics", he was not questioning his faith.
"I get really disappointed when people say they're walking away," he said. "That's not true faith. We're all sinners. Because of the sins of human beings they're lumping it on the church and saying 'it's not for me'.
"There's nothing in God's word that says that behaviour [named in the Royal Commission] is OK. Religious people who have sinned greatly need to face the consequences of what they've done.
"But this has only strengthened my faith. If we all walk away then how strong is our faith? This is a time when we need to go back to God and pray to God - for the victims, the sinners and those who haven't done anything wrong.
"I've seen guilt by association. If you mention the word 'priest' to people, the first word that comes to mind now is 'paedophile'. The majority of people in the church are good, decent people."
When asked how his church had reacted to last week's revelations from the commission, he said the priests had said anyone suspected would be taken to the police. "They're acknowledging it's a horrible thing. The Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher has put up a video where he apologises and explains what is being done to move forward."

Issue of cover ups

Addressing the issue in the media of allegations of abusers' activities being covered up by the church for decades, he said he couldn't believe that known paedophiles were simply moved elsewhere in every instance. He said there may have been other extenuating circumstances.
"Maybe the perpetrator's confession was heard and it was believed they were genuinely penitent and they wouldn't do it again. But we have a greater  understanding of it now.
"Those who had to make those decisions at the time the majority of these allegations occurred, likely wouldn't have had sufficient training in personnel issues, and certainly not in reporting alleged sexual offences. As such it is possible they weren't trying to cover it up. Priests do get moved around all the time."

St John of God Brothers

Regarding the allegations from the commission that 40 per cent of St John of God brothers had been named as abusers, Mr Crew was particularly pained. He was an altar boy at the chapel at St John of God Hospital at North Richmond from the age of 10, becoming an acolyte (a similar role) as a teenager.
He has been going to that church and St Monica's all his life and is named after one of the St John of God brothers.
''I've grown up around the St John of God brothers and I have a very strong and dear relationship with them. To hear them spoken about as the worst order of brothers -I absolutely disagree.
"It's hurtful it's gut wrenching. They're suffering tremendously. My experience has been nothing but great and wonderful around the brothers of St John of God.
"My father worked at the hospital teaching nursing to the brothers. If they're such horrible people, my father and I never saw it. The sisters took over the hospital financially and they worked closely together withthem.
He said he wondered where the commission obtained the figure of 40 per cent of the order 's brothers, as a good friend of his is a St John of God brother who told him the figures known within the order.
"In the history of St John of God brothers in Australia there have only been 113 professed brothers - since 1947. So far they've had one brother jailed and released, one ex-brother charged and one in jail now - three confirmed. There have been eight other allegations, which are unproven.
"So of those 113 brothers, the top number [of alleged abusers] if all accusations were proven true is 11 - less than 10 per cent of brothers. I'd like to see how the commission gather their facts. I can't see how unproven allegations can be called facts.
"This commission is investigating all cases , whether they are guilty, alleged or unproven. All they're doing is looking at every little accusation."
He said it was very hard for his friend who is a St John of God brother. "He has been questioned by his family and he told them if all known accusations are true, the most it could possibly be is 11.
He said the nature of monastic life meant the brothers were like family to each other. "More than a family. They share their work and personal lives. They live together. Because of that they are suffering greatly. I'm not saying it didn't happen, but I'm firmly convinced all my friends [amongst the brothers] are wonderful, great, decent servants of God. Beautiful men."
He said it mustn't be forgotten the St John of God brothers are some of Australia's leaders in mental health facilities, and that the hospital at North Richmond they ran until 2007 is a "really impressive facility" with an "amazing PTSD clinic and drug and alcohol rehab program along with many others".
"Their current hospital at Burwood, along with all of their mental health facilities, are also second to none." Overall he feels the way ahead for him as a Catholic is clear.
"As horrible and traumatic as these experiences have been for all concerned , rather than turning away from the church. people should turn back to God and pray to him for help.
"We should pray for victims, their families, the perpetrators and any of the clergy. In this day and age in a society that has a lot of horrible things happen, we need more than ever to turn to God.
"Ask for his help and he will help. Leave it in his more than capable hands and we will make it through this, and any hardship. God's grace is wonderful."


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Response to Sydney Morning Hearld
"Paedophile scoutmaster employed at boys' school"



It is unfair for Fairfax Media to continue to paint the St John of God Brothers as "a notorious order of paedophile brothers".

Since its inception in Australia in the late 1940s until now some 260 men have served as Brothers in the Australian Province.  In that time four Brothers - one now deceased, one ex-Brother (for more than 17 years), two in retirement - have been charged with criminal offences, specifically child sexual abuse, two of whom were convicted and have served jail sentences.  Currently, the ex-Brother referred to is the subject of an extradition order from NZ to answer further charges in Australia.  To refer to the St John of God Brothers, particularly those now serving, as Fairfax does is unfair, unreasonable, unworthy, in short, just plain wrong.

Child abuse is abhorrent to the St John of God Brothers - to have had even one case of a child in our care abused in any way is one too many, but we shamefully admit it did happen and we continue to live with that shame even though we have dealt with each victim justly, generously and compassionately.

Following its charism created in Europe centuries earlier, St John of God in Australia established institutions for residential education for intellectually-impaired children.  Subsequently, as its children grew into adults, St John of God established and ran sheltered workshops, to use the terminology of the time, in one case in Victoria a farm for both vocational education and enjoyment of said intellectually-impaired adults.

In 1992 the first complaint of abuse of a child in our care was made. Since that time, with reporting requirements now in place throughout the Province, each complainant has been urged to take their complaint, as well, to the Police.  Many did, some chose to deal directly with the Order, many elected to work through lawyers.  Civil, amicable, generous settlements have been made with complainants over time in Victoria, in New South Wales and in New Zealand, where the Australian Province ran a residential school at Christchurch.
It's true there have been a significant number of complaints, most of which come to light many, many years after the event.  It is untrue to suggest there have been a large number of offenders.  The very nature of the crime of child abuse, as we all are now coming to know, is of highly-organised, corrupt individuals working alone and, in so many cases, with multiple victims, who are afraid, sworn to secrecy or made to feel so ashamed they cannot bring themselves to even mention the event(s) to their parents or carers.  It has become a sad fact that so many victims, or survivors as many quite rightly prefer to refer to themselves, only bring their stories to light after their parents are deceased.

The St John of God Brothers applauds the Federal government for establishing the Royal Commission.  We encourage anyone, everyone, who has a tragic story to tell to tell it to the Commission.  We as a society can only strive to deal with this travesty, this scourge, once we know and understand the extent of it in the community and the extent of the damage it has caused to innocent, trustworthy individuals for the rest of their lives.

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Response to Sydney Morning Hearld Article
"Brother accused of child abuse left unsupervised"



A Sydney newspaper had been "stalking" an elderly man for weeks since late 2012. When they finally discovered his address they waited until they could entrap him, reporting in the Sydney Morning Herald Thursday 14 February that this "Brother accused of child abuse (had been) left unsupervised".

In 2005 Br William Lebler, of the St John of God Order, was charged with sexual abuse by New Zealand Police, who applied for his extradition.

The application failed in the NSW Local Court with the Sydney Magistrate finding that Br Lebler would not get a fair trial due to his infirmity and the passage of time.

Since that time Br William Lebler, now 90 years of age, has lived in complete, supervised retirement, for the last several years at a gated nursing home at Surry Hills.

It was from the nursing home on Monday 11 February, on a regular visit the short distance by taxi to and from an AA meeting in the CBD, that Br Lebler was "sprung" by the Sydney Morning Herald, whose representatives filmed him, photographed him, tried to interview him, his sponsor and another companion from AA.

The newspaper claimed "that Br Lebler's outing has raised concerns that even as inquiries into child abuse involving religious institutions get underway in NSW and at the national level, suspected paedophiles associated with religious orders are still not being properly supervised".

Br Timothy Graham, the head of the St John of God Order in Australia, said this regular visit to Alcoholics Anonymous is akin to therapy and a long way from what was implied "that some monster, some threat to humanity, was on the loose …."

Br Graham said categorically that accommodation and supervision paid for by their Religious Order should and does in most cases offer absolute comfort to the community.

"It is misleading and mischievous to write at such length and with such prominence in Sydney's leading daily newspaper that this matter was a threat to anyone," Br Graham concluded.

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Brother Timothy appeared on the program on December 6 2012.


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