Prime Minister Tony Abbott gave a personal reference in court for the former priest Father John Nester in a child sex abuse case in 1997. Father Nester was later struck off as a clergy by the Vatican. Add this to Tony Abbott’s and the Liberal Party’s extremely close relationship with Cardinal George Pell who has admitted the church covered up sexual abuse and there is a major problem brewing in relation to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The problem we have is that there is instantly perceived bias by the new federal government regarding the future handling of the Royal Commission and any recommendations the Commission may make affecting the Roman Catholic Church.
The links between Tony Abbott, the Liberal party and Cardinal Pell has to leave any fair-minded person greatly disturbed and this post will explore that and some other related matters. What becomes obvious is that Tony Abbott and possibly others in the Liberal Party need to make a public statement that they will stand aside from any involvement in the decision-making process of any matter related to the Royal Commission.
Tony Abbott – reference for accused paedophile Priest Father John Nester
Father John Nestor and Tony Abbott both attended the Sydney’s St Patrick’s Seminary in the 1980s when Mr Abbott was planning on becoming a priest.
Father Nester “was a priest in the Wollongong diocese in NSW when he was charged with the indecent assault of a 15-year-old altar boy in 1991.”
“Father Nestor was convicted in Wollongong Local Court on February 18, 1997, and sentenced to 16 months in jail, with the magistrate describing the case as a ”gross breach of trust”.”
“In court, the priest admitted he had – while dressed in boxer shorts and a singlet – slept on mattresses on a floor in the presbytery with the boy and his younger brother some time between June and September 1991.”
On appeal in October 1997 the conviction was overturned. But Father Nester was never allowed to return as a priest.
“The then-Wollongong Bishop, Philip Wilson, now Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide, advised Fr Nestor in writing ”significant additional material that I have received … has been a cause of worry concerning your suitability for a further pastoral appointment in this diocese or any other”.”
“Fr Nestor appealed to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy, which decreed he be reinstated.”
“But in February 2001, the Wollongong diocese appealed and the decree was overturned.” (Click here to read more)
During the course of those proceedings Tony Abbott who was then a Federal MP gave a reference in court for Father Nester.
“Tony Abbott insisted on providing a character reference for a Catholic priest later struck off the clergy list by the Vatican following a child abuse case, the former priest says.”
“Mr Nestor told AAP at his home in rural NSW that Mr Abbott agreed to provide the character reference in 1997 after being approached by his barrister.”
“When the lawyer approached Tony Abbott, he said look, I know you’re a parliamentary secretary and you may feel that because of your position you don’t want to get involved in this case’.”
“Tony said, no, I’m coming down,’. He insisted on coming down and giving the reference, because he’s a man of integrity.” (Click here to read more)
Tony Abbott told the court Father Nester was a “An extremely upright and virtuous man. I guess one of things that I liked very much about John when I first him, was his maturity, intellectual, social, emotional he was, to that extent I guess, a beacon of humanity at the Seminary” (Click here to read the court transcript)
In an interview in March this year the victim questioned why Tony Abbott gave evidence:
“the alleged victim, who asked not to be named, said Mr Abbott should not have provided a character reference for Mr Nestor.”
”I was not aware of who Tony Abbott was at the time,” he said.
”While I do not necessarily believe that he has done anything wrong, in hindsight it may have been better if he had not involved himself in the matter.”
It is understood Mr Abbott communicated with Mr Nestor twice after the court cases, but has had no contact with him for almost 15 years.
”In 1997, Mr Abbott provided a reference for Mr Nestor in an open court. He was subsequently acquitted by a District Court judge,” a spokesman for Mr Abbott said.
The alleged victim queried why Mr Abbott hadn’t stayed in contact with Mr Nestor.
”If someone was of such good character, why has contact not been kept?” he asked.
He said Mr Abbott’s reference may have been a factor in Mr Nestor’s successful appeal.
”Certainly a character reference from a member of parliament would hold some sway, no doubt about it,” he said.
“It probably did play a big part, but there were other things that played a bigger part. For example, John Nestor never gave evidence at the trial. He was never cross-examined.”
He said his case should be examined by the royal commission into child sex abuse. (Click here to read more)
The Nester case and Tony Abbott’s involvement at the very least show poor judgement by Tony Abbott given Nester was ultimately struck off as a Priest. More importantly though it raises the possibility that Abbott may be called to give evidence at the Royal Commission if the Commission decides to examine the case. If they do not examine the case then there could be perceived bias by the commission or a perception of political interference given that Tony Abbott is now the Prime Minister.
The case has all the variables that demand the Royal Commission do review the case. For starters, what was the further evidence that the church obtained that led to Father Nester being struck off as a priest? Was it evidence of criminal conduct that the Church concealed?
Cardinal George Pell
George Pell has a very close relationship with Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party. He has also had allegations made against him that he abused a child which has never been tested in court. Mr Pell has also attended court supporting paedophile priests but has refused when asked by victims to attend court to support them.
Mr Pell and the paedophile allegations
“A decade ago, a Melbourne man claimed he was sexually molested as a 12-year-old at a Catholic youth camp by a student priest he knew as “big George” and later recognised as the Archbishop of Sydney. After a church-appointed inquiry, Pell said he was grateful to God to have been exonerated.”
“In fact, retired Victorian Supreme Court judge Alec Southwell had said that both Pell and his accuser gave the impression they were speaking the truth. Taking into account questions about the accuser’s credibility (he had a criminal record) and the fact that the alleged incidents occurred so long ago, Southwell found he was “not satisfied that the complaint had been established”.”
“Tony Abbott hadn’t waited for the judge’s decision. “It should not surprise any Christian that there would be people who want to make unfair, wrong, mischievous, malevolent accusations against the strongest and most public Christian of the time,” the politician said when the allegations were first aired. “I’m more than ready to accept Pell’s testimony.””
The retired Victorian Supreme Court judge Alec Southwell was on the Church’s payroll as it was an internal Church inquiry so he was hardly impartial. The full report was put on the Churches website in 2002 but has since been taken down. Part of it can be read on the Broken Rites Australia website. (Click here to read)
Pell turns a blind eye to paedophiles and caught lying about it
“As archbishop of Melbourne, he allowed a priest found to have sexually abused a teenager after officiating at his mother’s funeral to continue working in another parish. In Sydney, he said in a letter to a man named Anthony Jones that the priest who sexually assaulted him had been the subject of no other complaints, when in fact Pell had written to another of the priest’s victims that same day. The letter to Jones was “badly worded and a mistake”, he said later.” (Click here to read more) It was not a mistake, it was clearly a lie and cover-up and Pell was caught out.
George Pell and the Victorian Parliament inquiry
On the 27th of May 2013 George Pell gave evidence to the Victorian Parliament inquiry into child abuse. Mr Pell has been widely criticised for that evidence. I watched part of it on TV and could not believe how much contempt he seemed to have for the inquiry. Some news reports are below:
CARDINAL George Pell has confessed false documents were created and priests took part in “reprehensible” cover-ups of child sexual abuse.
Cardinal Pell said the fear of scandals drove much of the reaction to rampant abuse in the 1970s and ’80s, but that a concern about money was also involved
In a victory for victims, Cardinal Pell said he would ask the Vatican to send all documents it holds on Victorian sex abuse accusations to the inquiry – a promise he had also made to the federal royal commission into abuse. (Click here to read more)
The question I have is what are the documents doing at the Vatican in the first place and why wouldn’t there be copies or the originals still in Australia. Sounds like further evidence of the cover-up to me.
“VICTIMS and support groups have called for Cardinal George Pell’s resignation following his appearance at yesterday’s parliamentary inquiry into child abuse.”
“Abuse survivor Stephen Woods, 51, who was sexually assaulted and beaten by three priests when he was a student at St Alipius Christian Brothers Primary School in Ballarat, said that Cardinal Pell should stand down.”
“The apology is political. It’s still about saving face, it’s still about saving the political power of the church, and that’s what they are afraid of losing,” he said.
“The little care for the victims that he showed, it shows that they still don’t get it,” he said.”
“Mr Woods slammed Cardinal Pell’s claims that he had always shown support for victims of child abuse.”
“If he had been on the side of victims, how come he admitted that he has never been to court with victims?” he said.
“He’s been to court with paedophiles, but he’s never been to court with victims.
“He has been asked to go to court with victims, but he has always declined,” Mr Woods said. (Click here to read more)
And: “CARDINAL George Pell has conceded it was “a mistake” for him to appear in court during the trial of convicted Victorian paedophile Father Gerard Ridsdale in the 1990s.”
“In 1994, Father Ridsdale was jailed after pleading guilty to numerous charges of sexually abusing children in his care in Victoria.”
“During the trial Cardinal Pell, the Australia’s only Archbishop in the Catholic Church, appeared in court supporting Father Ridsdale.”
“He said he now understood “how upsetting that may be”, saying he did not realise his support for Father Ridsdale would be taken as hostility to the victims.” (Click here to read more) So why does he not show up to court to support victims?
He defended his solidarity towards Ridsdale, who he lived with for 12 months and who he accompanied to court when he pleaded guilty to child sex offences.
Cardinal Pell has been questioned extensively on the issue of compensation for victims of Church abuse and over claims he thought it could “bleed the Church dry”.
He was asked how he is able to stay in a $30 million “palace” in Rome, when Australian victims of abuse are limited to just $75,000 in compensation. (Click here to read more)
The $30 million palace was paid for by the Church here in Australia. Money that could have gone to the victims.
George Pell and the Liberal Party connection
On the 31st May 2013, just days after George Pell gave his testimony and made the admissions that he did at the Victorian Parliament Inquiry into child abuse, Mr Pell was training Federal Liberal Party MP’s.
“MAJOR Australian personalities including James Packer, John Howard and Cardinal George Pell – plus a minor British royal – have been giving political pep-talks to Liberal MPs during secret luncheon meetings held across Sydney.”
“The exclusive gatherings, known as the “Chartwell Society”, have seen a cross-factional band of ambitious MPs taking tips from major figures on the world stage during regular, invite-only gatherings.)
“The most recent function was held on Friday at the Australian Hotels Association plush Macquarie St boardroom with Cardinal George Pell attending as the guest of honour at a gathering of 11 Coalition MPs.”
“Separate gatherings have been held at universities, churches and corporate boardrooms.” (Click here to read more)
The Friday above would have been the 31 May 2013, just days after Pell gave evidence to the Victorian Parliament. What was the Liberal Party thinking. They should have stayed right away from him until the Royal Commission has handed down its recommendations.
The politicians who met Pell are the same people who are going to have input into the governments response to the recommendations that the Royal Commission makes on the abuse of children. The Catholic Church will have adverse findings against them as everyone knows they were involved in a massive cover-up in Australia and globally for many years. How can any fair-minded person see these politicians as being impartial now. And what did Pell teach them?
George Pell is a very sick and perverted person of no moral fibre whatsoever given the above. The child abuse allegations against him need to be reviewed by the Royal Commission and if they fail to do so one has to wonder why. Will they put it in the too hard basket given Pell’s position in the church and his political connections? Probably.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
The Royal Commission can be affected by government decisions in many ways. The government could close it early or the Royal Commission could ask the government for further funding and if the government refuses then there would be a perceived bias by many given the relationship between Tony Abbott, the Liberal’s and George Pell.
Tony Abbott and George Pell have a history of working together in politics. Before the 2004 election Tony Abbott gave an infamous interview on the ABC’s Lateline where he was caught lying and deceiving in relation to a meeting with George Pell. A couple of days after the meeting George Pell was a signatory to a letter criticising the Labor Party. (Click here to read the transcript) or (Click here to watch on YouTube)
There are hundreds if not thousands of victims who have been waiting for justice for a long time and we know the precedent “Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.” R v Sussex Justices, Ex parte McCarthy ( Judges have to stand down from hearing a matter if there is only perceived bias, not actual bias. And so should Tony Abbott stand aside and have nothing to do with the Royal Commission decision making.
The terms of reference for the Royal Commission are fairly narrow given the subject matter and there will no doubt be many who are not satisfied with the outcome and will blame the government for any short comings of the Royal Commission. That is another reason why it is important that Tony Abbott and others who have a close relationship with Cardinal Pell abstain for any decision-making in relation to the Royal Commission.
This site will drive this issue for at least another post or until we get a result. I will send correspondence to the Royal Commission and Tony Abbott and see what we get back.
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Categories: Tony Abbott