Former brother of St John of God, Bernard McGrath, will be eligible for parole in December 2044.
McGrath, who is serving two prison sentences in NSW for sex crimes against children, says his religious order and the Catholic Church covered up his offending at schools in Australia and New Zealand.
In the early 1990s, after decades as a sex offender, new reports emerged about McGrath’s behaviour at a residential school he’d run for street kids in Christchurch, New Zealand.
To learn how to handle the growing number of complaints against McGrath, the head of St John of God in Australia at the time took McGrath to meet Father Brian Lucas.
A priest and civil lawyer, Lucas was head of the Catholic Church’s Special Issues Resource Group, then tasked with the church’s response to the emerging scandal of child sex abuse by Catholic priests and brothers.
In an interview for the ABC series Revelation, McGrath says he told Lucas at their meeting that there would be further complaints of sexual abuse against him: “I told him I had offended … And I can remember him saying, ‘Would there be others?’ and I can remember saying ‘Yes’.”
Lucas acknowledged the meeting took place but said he could not remember the details of the exchange.
He also said he was not obliged to report McGrath to police: “Not when that conversation is premised on the basis that he has a right to silence and this conversation is confidential,” Lucas said.
“His order could have handed him over to the police. He could have given himself over to the police. His victims could have gone to the police.”
Sent overseas for ‘treatment’
Despite McGrath’s admissions, Lucas rejected the suggestion that by not reporting McGrath to police he had engaged in a cover-up. “You might call it a cover up… I don’t accept that,” he said. “We’re in a situation of a confidential conversation.”
Lucas has long defended his handling of some of the church’s worst paedophiles, saying it was his job to encourage priests or brothers to leave the church.
“What you can do is to entice him out of ministry with a view that in due course the criminal justice system will kick in,” said Lucas, who said that he had no legal responsibility to help the justice system pursue McGrath.
Bernard McGrath said that Lucas raised the prospect of “treatment” to address his abuse of children. When questioned, Lucas could not name any example of a paedophile being successfully treated.
“Some may not be cured, but some may learn how to manage their behaviour,” Lucas said.
Following the meeting, the head of the order, Joseph Smith, took McGrath out of Australia, accompanying him personally to a Catholic retreat house in Jemez Springs, New Mexico.
The retreat house was run by a Catholic order named the Servants of the Paraclete. Their services included a treatment course for paedophile priests and brothers.
At least one other prolific Australian paedophile was sent to Jemez Springs: notorious Victorian offender Gerald Ridsdale, who spent time there prior to his arrest in 1993.
For more information visit: https://amp.abc.net.au/article/12081228