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Catholic order explains delay in reporting Singapore sex abuse

Religious order says child victims refused to file complaints with police for privacy reasons

The Catholic order cannot be named because of a court gag order

The Catholic order cannot be named because of a court gag order. (Image: Unsplash)

Published: June 07, 2022 03:04 AM GMT

Updated: June 07, 2022 03:52 AM GMT

A Catholic religious order in Singapore has explained its 13-year delay in reporting the sex crimes of one of its members, a month after the man was sentenced to five years in jail.

The religious order, which cannot be named because of a court gag order, said in a statement that it delayed reporting the offender to the police “out of respect for the stated wishes and requested privacy of the victims.”

The statement, published on June 5 on the website of Singapore Archdiocese, said that in 2009 the religious order came to know about the sexual abuse of two minors that took place between 2005 and 2007. It provided counseling to the victims and asked them and their families to report their cases to the police. But they refused, the statement said.

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“They [the victims] were repeatedly told that they could make a police report and would be accompanied to the police station to do so. Both victims refused to do so and were insistent in wanting to keep the matter private,” the statement said.

“We are deeply dismayed, ashamed and sorry for the incidents, and remain committed to supporting the victims. We are committed to zero tolerance for such behavior.” 

The religious order’s response came after Singapore Archdiocese sought an explanation on the abuse case, said a note posted by the archdiocesan communications office just above the order’s statement.

Singapore Archdiocese’s note said it requested the court to lift the gag order to ensure accountability and transparency in the case

On May 5, a court in Singapore jailed the offender, a man in his sixties, after he pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation including carnal intercourse against the order of nature.

The court’s gag order also bans revealing the identities of offenders, victims and organizations linked to them.

Singapore Archdiocese’s note said it requested the court to lift the gag order to ensure accountability and transparency in the case.

But the Attorney General’s Office “informed us that they had carefully considered our request but were unable to accede to it,” the archdiocese said.

The archdiocese, however, made public the statement from the religious order to provide further information on the case without violating the court’s gag order.

The Catholic order said the incident was reported to its superior in 2009 by the victims after they had left their school. They were interviewed and provided with counseling.

The superior immediately initiated an investigation by a two-person committee composed of the superior and a local leader. The offender was removed from his position and banned from entering the school premises, it added.

“The Church takes very seriously the provision of a safe environment, especially where children and young persons are present"

As the victims refused to lodge complaints with the police, the offender did not face legal action. However, he was sent to the United States for intensive six-month treatment, therapy and rehabilitation.

Following his treatment, the offender was never posted in any setting that would involve working with minors as advised by the treatment center.

In 2020, the school board conducted another inquiry into the case and with instructions from Singapore Archbishop William Goh, the chairman of the school board lodged a police report on May 10, 2021.

Singapore Archdiocese said the religious order fully cooperated during the investigation of the case. The archdiocese also reaffirmed its strong stance on the protection of minors from abuses.

“The Church takes very seriously the provision of a safe environment, especially where children and young persons are present." Its Professional Standards Office “regularly reviews the protocols for the protection of our young,” the archdiocese said in its note.

Catholic schools and their governing boards and managers “already adhere to Ministry of Education protocols and Singapore laws on reporting incidents involving sexual abuse of minors,” it said.

“The Church will not tolerate behavior by clergy or religious that will put others at risk.” 

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