Church scandal: Paedophile monks released

By Michael Dickison

Bernard Kevin McGrath was found guilty of 22 charges against nine victims. File photo / Simon Baker
Bernard Kevin McGrath was found guilty of 22 charges against nine victims. File photo / Simon Baker

Two paedophile monks jailed for New Zealand's most notorious Catholic sexual abuse scandal have been released on parole, each serving less than half their sentences in prison.

One of the men has been brought back into the fold of his Catholic Order, which will give him a home in Australia once his parole period is up.

The Order of St John of God says it is the best way to care for and supervise him, but a former member of the Order's professional standards committee says he is being hidden and protected.

The man, Rodger William Moloney, was head of Christchurch's Marylands residential school for boys with learning difficulties, where more than 100 victims were systematically abused in the 1970s.

After case became public in 2002, about $5 million in compensation was given out, and 14 brothers who had been at the school were investigated and two convicted in the courts.

In 2006, Bernard Kevin McGrath was found guilty of 22 charges against nine victims aged 7 to 15 and was sentenced to five years in jail.

McGrath was released on parole in February 2008, just less than two years into his five-year term. It is understood he is living in Christchurch and his ties with the Order have been cut.

In 2008, Moloney was found guilty of seven charges of sex abuse against boys and also jailed. He was released in September 2009, 13 months into his 33-month sentence.

In making its decision to release Moloney, the Parole Board said even though Moloney continued to deny the offending, he was unlikely to reoffend because he would not be put in the same circumstances again.

It also cited his age, 74, and the fact that he had no other convictions.

Once Moloney's parole period finishes in about a year, he will be deported and St John of God would provide supervision and a home in Australia without being in active ministry, said the Order's spokesman, Simon Feely.

"The diocese and religious Order is like a family. And like an ordinary family, we stick by people through thick and thin," said Richard Dunleavy, chairman of the Marist Brothers' professional standards committee.

"It's really the best way because you care for them and you keep an eye on them."

Offenders released from prison typically struggled without support and offering care and supervision away from children was more responsible than putting them out on the streets, Mr Dunleavy said.

But a former member of St John of God's professional standards committee, Australian psychologist Michelle Mulvihill said the Order's decision was a cover up.

"Are they going to boot him out? No. They're going to protect him, smuggle him out to Australia and hide him inside the Order," she said.

"It's just another form of cover up."

Ms Mulvihill said the abuse had been extensive, having interviewed more than 120 complainants in New Zealand since 2002.

"It just kept going on and on and on. They were too scared to come forward because they were kids with problems and they wouldn't be believed."

Only a small fraction of the complaints got through the courts, she said.

"[The abuse] really screwed their heads up ... the evidence was so fragile."

She suggested St John of God should make a public apology in New Zealand.

When a complainant first came forward in the 1970s, St John of God shifted Bernard McGrath to Australia where he was put in charge of a boarding school and repeated his abuse.

The Order at the time paid one of McGrath's victims - a student with learning difficulties - $90,000 in compensation and for him to keep quiet.

Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust manager Ken Clearwater said victims still kept coming forward and the two convictions had not ended the matter.

"That was only the tip of the iceberg, even though people think it's all over and done with," Mr Clearwater said.

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