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Catholic church in new sex abuse row

Dioceseis shaken as former altar boy takes legal action claiming thatnegligence exposed him to priest who was 'a danger to children'

Antony Barnett, investigations editor
Sunday December 17, 2006
The Observer

TheCatholic church faces fresh allegations of turning a blind eye topaedophilia after an Observer investigation revealed that one of itspriests was allowed to continue working despite warnings he posed adanger to children.

The priest, Father David Crowley, went on to rapea 10-year-old altar boy, whom he continued to abuse until 1995. Now thevictim has spoken publicly for the first time about his ordeal in orderto expose the 'scandalous' way he says the church has behaved. He hasaccused the Rt Rev David Konstant, former Bishop of Leeds, of failingto stop Crowley despite having evidence that the priest was a sex riskto children. In 1997 Crowley was jailed for nine years after pleadingguilty to abusing boys for more than a decade.

Konstant was Bishop of Leeds for 19 years, chairman of the CatholicEducation Service and headed the church's international affairscommittee under Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop ofWestminster.

Documentsshow that in 1987 while Konstant was Bishop of Leeds, he was told of anincident where Crowley had 'facilitated' sexual activities betweenyoung boys in Huddersfield after allowing them to drink alcohol. Aletter seen by The Observer shows that on 12 March that year, Konstantwrote to Crowley telling him that 'the grave scandal' means 'it willnot be possible for you to work again as a priest in this diocese'.

Achurch report that month stated: 'He [Crowley] does not fit into theusual psychological profile of a true paedophile. The behaviour wouldnot be too alarming in an early adolescent boy. In an adult [33 yearsold] who has a sacred trust and is a member of the clergy it is ofcourse enormously serious and utterly inappropriate and a bar to hispractising his priesthood. He has already been told that there is nopossibility of his ever functioning as a priest in the diocese ofLeeds.'

A later report concluded that although he behaved in a'grossly unsuitable way, he is not a paedophile'. It said his behaviourwas primarily caused by the misuse of alcohol and 'emotionalimmaturity'.

Rather than report the incident to the police,Konstant, who had suspended Crowley, sent him for 'counselling'. Withina few months Konstant helped Crowley to find a new post in Devon. Hewas made to sign a contract to restrict his contact with young people,but went on to abuse in Torquay and Barnstaple. Even though concernswere raised about his continued contact with young boys in the south ofEngland, he was allowed to return to Yorkshire - despite Konstant'searlier pledge that he would never again work as a priest in thediocese of Leeds - and entered into another period of sexual abuse.

Paul(not his real name) was among Crowley's victims when the priestreturned to Yorkshire. He was raped by Crowley as a 10-year-old altarboy. Over four years from 1991, Paul was subject to frequent sexualabuse by the priest who got other boys to perform sex acts on him. 'Hewouldn't care what was happening,' Paul said. 'Even if there was afuneral taking place or a wedding, he would wait for his opportunity.Sometimes he would be very aggressive, pushing me down on the floor andassaulting me.'

Paul only went to the police in 2004 after he hadplucked up the courage to tell his family. By then, Crowley was inprison. He had been arrested while working as a hospital chaplain inBradford and was jailed in 1998 for nine years after admitting a stringof sex attacks on young boys over an 11-year period. He pleaded guiltyto 12 offences of indecent assault on boys under 16 and three ofindecency with a child. In prison Crowley admitted to the police thathe had abused Paul, but the Crown Prosecution Service decided there wasno public interest in staging another trial.

Paul is now takinglegal action against Konstant and the diocese for negligence, but theyare refusing to admit liability. The church argues that at the timethere were 'no allegations of paedophilic activity' made againstCrowley and they took appropriate steps. Lawyers for the trustees ofthe diocese claim the events happened too long ago and they have beenadvised that Konstant is extremely ill and unable to assist. This ischallenged by Paul and his lawyers who say Konstant has been involvedin a number of public activities since retiring. Konstant, 76, suffereda minor stroke in 2001, but continued working as Bishop of Leeds until2004. In July this year he received an honorary degree from theUniversity of Bradford, where he made a speech and attended a dinner.

Anacademic present at the dinner has said in a witness statement: 'Heappeared to have no problems in speaking or walking around. There wasno visible indication he was suffering from any form of illness orinfirmity.' In October, Konstant presided at a celebratory Mass to markthe 20th anniversary of the opening of St Joseph's church in Wetherbyand last month he spoke at the reopening of the cathedral church of StAnne in Leeds. However, illness recently prevented him attending aspecial Mass for his successor as Bishop of Leeds.

Paul isfurious at how the church has behaved as he has attempted to getjustice and an apology. Two years ago he attempted suicide. 'Thephysical side of this was terrible,' he said, 'but the way the churchhas behaved since I decided to come forward has been even worse. It hasbeen a kind of excruciating mental torture. Why don't they just saysorry and offer to help me and my family? They knew this priest was adanger to children but did nothing, and he went on to destroy the livesof dozens of boys, including my own.'

Paul's lawyer, RichardScorer of Pannone, a Manchester law firm, said: 'Considering all thepublic engagements Bishop Konstant has been involved in over the pastfew months, I was astonished when they told me he was too ill to assistthe court.'

The Observer tried to contact Konstant, but herefused to talk on the phone or be interviewed. He said: 'I havenothing to say about this. I am retired.'

A spokesman for thediocese of Leeds said: 'Neither Bishop David Konstant, nor the dioceseof Leeds, has been asked whether the bishop's state of health preventedhim responding to questions about this litigation. The suggestion thathis health had become an issue has come as a complete surprise both tothe bishop and to his successor, Arthur Roche.

'The Crowley casedates back to the Eighties and Nineties. The diocese reported thematter to the police when it first became aware of the allegations.'

Thisis not the first time the diocese has been involved in a sex abusescandal. Earlier this year, The Observer reported how it had covered upthe criminal past of paedophile priest, Neil Gallanagh, and gave him ajob in a school for deaf children, where he went on to sexually assaultvulnerable young boys.

Related articles
29.06.2002: Teachers obliged to report abuse
21.06.2002: Child protection agencies failing to protect, report warns
31.05.2002: Father's abuse warnings unheeded by council
26.05.2002: The hunt for Britain's paedophiles
21.05.2002: 'Police trawling draws false abuse allegations'
24.04.2002: Early warning
06.04.2002: Teacher who preyed on children jailed
04.04.2002: Police stand by five year 'trawl' for child abuse
23.01.2002: Profile: Eileen Shearer, first director of Catholic church child abuse prevention unit
31.12.2001: Woolf backtracks in paedophiles row
27.12.2001: Lock up untried child abusers - Woolf
19.12.2001: US mother who reformed sex offender law

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Pedophilia and sexual abuse of children in Australia