The research showed their abuse was facilitated and reinforced by church hierarchy, including five successive archbishops of Melbourne from Daniel Mannix, appointed in 1917, through to George Pell (himself appealing against a conviction for child sex abuse) in 2001.
The researcher, Sally Muytjens, spent more than three years investigating “dark networks” of paedophile clergy in Victorian dioceses. She published the research late last year, receiving a doctorate from Queensland University of Technology.
Muytjens’ research found the largest and most active dark networks were at schools including St Alipius in Ballarat and Salesian College, Rupertswood, and orphanages including St Vincent de Paul’s in South Melbourne and St Augustine’s in Geelong.
Her study also identified Christian Brother Rex Francis Elmer as a member of two paedophile networks. The Sunday Age last week revealed that Elmer taught at Catholic schools in regional Victoria and Africa for decades after his order first knew he had abused children at a Melbourne orphanage.
In her thesis, Muytjens used a research method called social network analysis, which can reveal hidden patterns and ties between members of groups and provide insights into how they operate.
Using SNA enabled her to identify connections between clergy perpetrators and specific locations in Victoria from 1939 until 2000, unearthing what she described as a pervasive “sexual underworld” that had the potential to destroy Victorian dioceses.
Elsewhere, SNA has been used to map links between terror cells involved in the September 11, 2001, attacks and 2005 London bombings, and to track child sex trafficking networks in Britain, Italian money-laundering rackets and an Australian amphetamine trafficking ring.
It has also been employed to track the spread of contagious diseases, as well as population displacement after natural disasters.
Muytjens also drew on material from the Victorian parliamentary inquiry and the Commonwealth Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse, victims’ advocacy group Broken Rites and media coverage of criminal trials involving clergy, to map links between clergy child sex abusers in Victoria over six decades.
Her thesis examined the responses of the Catholic Church to such criminal activity, describing the institution as a “grey network” that repeatedly facilitated abuse.
“One of these patterns was promoting known clergy perpetrators of child sex abuse to senior positions which not only provided further access to victims but also placed them in positions where they were better able to protect the dark network from exposure,” she wrote.
The code of silence among Catholic clergy in Victoria mirrored patterns of behaviour exhibited by groups including crooked police and the Mafia, Muytjens added, and that “extended to a refusal to give evidence to the police”. “Similar methods were utilised by clergy perpetrator networks within the Victorian Catholic Church to maintain silence.”
Click here for Muytjens’ research: https://eprints.qut.edu.au/132822/