Catholic blames senior cleric for sexual abuse cycle

10:48, Dec 03 2012
Rodger Moloney
CONVICTED: Rodger Moloney in 1984.

A Catholic brother convicted of child abuse has described how a senior clergyman lured him to molest boys. Rory Callinan and Rick Feneley investigate.

Brother Bernard McGrath was a young trainee in the St John of God order when, as he recalls it, a superior brother approached him.

''Come here Bernard. You know I am gay. Come and give me a kiss,'' he alleges the brother said.

Bernard McGrath
GROOMED: Bernard McGrath at Marylands School.

Days later, the same superior brother, Rodger Moloney, an Australian, again approached McGrath, calling him into his office at the Marylands School for boys with learning and intellectual disabilities in Christchurch.

There in the office was ''some poor kid'', alleges McGrath, who claimed he was then invited to watch while Moloney - his scholastic master and the Marylands prior - molested the boy. Moloney then asked him to participate. The boy was fondled, not raped.

This would be the first of many horrific encounters with Moloney and children at the school in the 1970s, according to notes in a never-before-revealed account of McGrath's experiences that were sighted by Fairfax Media.


The revelations made by McGrath in 2002 to the order's then head, Brother Peter Burke, and documented by psychologist Dr Michelle Mulvihill, raise serious questions about the order's handling of abuse allegations and attitude to McGrath's alleged tormentor, Moloney, over decades.

They also provide a disturbing glimpse into life among the brothers in the order's home in New Zealand and shed light on claims of abuse that have emerged relating to the order's Australian operations.

McGrath's association with abuse should have been well known to the order as he had previously been convicted in New South Wales in 1993 for abusing a boy at the order's Kendall Grange school at Morisset on the central coast in the 1980s.

Yet it was not until 2002 - nine years later - that the order called him in to ask him about his role in abuse and discuss suspicions about Moloney, even though such fears were first raised in the 1970s.

Moloney, now 77, emphatically denied McGrath's claims at the time and continues to strongly contest them, the order says.

Police went on to arrest Moloney and two fellow brothers in Australia in 2003 in relation to the abuse documented by McGrath in the order's home in New Zealand.

But the order, despite having been informed of McGrath's observations, would then spend years - and hundreds of thousands of dollars - helping Moloney fight against his extradition to New Zealand. Moloney lost in 2006 and was convicted two years later.

He served a year in jail in New Zealand from 2008 for abusing five boys at Marylands but he is now back in St John of God's care in NSW and remains a brother of the order.

Last week, the order's current Provincial Brother Timothy Graham said: ''Brother Rodger Moloney declines to comment personally on the allegations.''

But he said Moloney was stood down from the ''active ministry'' in 2002 as a direct result of the investigations by Burke and Mulvihill.

Last week, Fairfax Media received correspondence from several individuals who said they were relatives of Moloney, who stated he denies ever abusing any child in Australia or New Zealand.

Meanwhile McGrath, who left the Brothers more than a decade ago, is being sought by NSW police in connection with allegations he abused other boys at Kendall Grange.

Fairfax Media revealed last week that authorities, however, had been slow to extradite him from New Zealand to Australia on yet another 252 sex abuse charges laid in June.

The slow extradition process enabled McGrath to travel to Sri Lanka, where he is reported be living on an organic tea plantation, complicating extradition proceedings. He was reported to still be there last week.

McGrath, 65, has already served two jails terms in New Zealand and one in NSW for his abuses.

The fresh charges allege he repeatedly raped, molested and abused dozens of young boys at church-run institutions in the Newcastle-Maitland diocese during the late 1970s and '80s.

It is understood that several of the charges relate to McGrath's time at the notorious Kendall Grange College in Morisset, where Moloney also worked in the late 1990s.

In his 2002 interview, McGrath said of his time at Marylands: ''I have witnessed many times when Rodger abused children sexually.'' He added: ''He often invited me to witness this.''

He alleged Moloney threatened him while he was a scholastic brother so he would never report the abuse.

''I can control whether you make solemn vows or not,'' Moloney allegedly said.

Moloney had also put sexual pressure on at least two other ''scholastics'', including a Brother Ray Garchow, whom he had ''moved on'' to another diocese.

And Moloney had become ''furious'' when he received a letter from a Brother Brian O'Donnell which contained an anonymous complaint about his behaviour. The prior had interviewed each staff member and demanded a sample of their handwriting so he could compare it with the letter of complaint.

Moloney left Marylands in 1977, so the order was aware of suspicions about him - even if they were anonymous - for at least 25 years before it took action against him.

In 2003, McGrath gave a rambling, six-hour interview to New Zealand police and this was played to his latest trial in 2006. He said he first encountered Moloney's sexual overtures towards trainee brothers when he began his studies in Sydney.

At Marylands, one of McGrath's alleged victims complained to Moloney. Both were soon transferred to other jobs. McGrath was sent to Morisset, where he would allegedly continue his abuses. Moloney, a pharmacist, was seconded to work in that role for the Vatican in Rome from September 1977 until March 1978.

But the ''sole reason'' was to replace a pharmacist who had resigned and any other ''implication'' was wrong, Graham said last week.

The order was unaware of any accusations of abuse by Moloney in Australia or of ''any ongoing police process'' involving him, he said.

Graham said that since Moloney's release from prison, he ''lives quietly, or as quietly as the media will allow, within a supervised environment with regular therapeutic support.''

Sydney Morning Herald