Catholic orders, school boards reminded to report sexual abuse cases

Religious orders and those overseeing Catholic schools have been reminded they must report such cases to the Archbishop. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: ISTOCKPHOTO

SINGAPORE - Following the sentencing of a man who was part of a Catholic religious order for sexually abusing two teens, religious orders and those overseeing Catholic schools have been reminded they must report such cases to the Archbishop.

In a statement on its website on Wednesday (May 11), the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore said it is working with the man's religious order to investigate the offences.

It added that it was taking steps to see how more information about the case could be publicly released in light of the existing gag order.

The statement said: "At the same time, the religious orders and boards of Catholic schools have also been reminded of their obligation to report to the Archbishop immediately once they become aware of incidents involving alleged offences against minors or vulnerable persons.

“All our Catholic schools are also required to follow MOE (Ministry of Education) protocols and Singapore laws on reporting of incidents involving sexual abuse of minors.”

The man committed the sex act on the first victim in 2005 and the second victim between April and December 2007. The boys were between 14 and 15 at the time of the offences.

The court heard last week that one of the victims had confided in the sector leader of the order in 2009 about the sexual abuse.

In the Catholic Church, a religious order is a community in which its members profess solemn vows and the orders include friars, nuns and lay persons.

The victim was asked if he wanted to lodge a police report but he refused.

The perpetrator was then questioned by his religious superior about the allegations, and he admitted them.

He was suspended and sent for a six-month therapy programme in June 2009 in the United States.

In a statement last week, the police said after its investigations into the case, it had issued a 64-year-old man with a written advisory to remind him of his legal obligations under Section 424 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Section 424 requires anyone who is aware that certain crimes have been committed or knows of a person's intention to commit such crimes to immediately give that information to the police unless the person has a reasonable excuse.

In late 2020, the sex offender's history was brought to the attention of the school board.

The chairman of the board lodged a police report on May 10 last year, following an internal inquiry. The police arrested the man on Jan 18.

Last week, a spokesman for the Archdiocese had said that Archbishop William Goh was informed of the case only in October 2020.

He added: "Religious orders within the Roman Catholic Church are separately constituted and are governed by their own judicial proceedings and administration of law."

On Tuesday, The Straits Times had asked the Archdiocese several questions about the case. These included if it was looking into how it structured its religious orders and who sent the man for treatment overseas.

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But the Archdiocese did not respond to them, referring to the statement it put up on its website on Wednesday.

In that statement, the Archdiocese said it acknowledges and understands the concerns of many members of the Catholic community about the recent media reports and comments made online about the case.

It added: "As the Church carries out its work to ensure greater transparency and strengthen measures to prevent future incidents, we humbly seek the understanding of our Catholic community and members of the public; to give us the time and opportunity to make the necessary investigations and reviews so that we are able to provide the truth that all are seeking and ensure greater accountability and the better protection of our young."

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