Melbourne archbishop prioritized church interest over clergy abuse victims, Royal Commission finds

The former Melbourne Catholic Archbishop had prioritized the interest of the church over the welfare of its clergy abuse victims and covered up the allegations by transferring offending priests to other locations, the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse has found.

(Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse / Jeremy Piper / Handout via REUTERS)Officials from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse arrive on the opening day of their public hearing into the Anglican Church of Australia in Sydney, Australia, March, 17 2017.

In a recently released report, the Royal Commission shared how the late Archbishop Frank Little went to certain lengths to hide the sexual abuse allegations against priests under him. The investigating body made the conclusion after it heard the accusations against seven ministers in the Melbourne Archdiocese, ABC News relayed.

In addition, the commission found that Archbishop Little had transferred Father Peter Searson from the Sunbury Parish after accusations - including those of sex abuse and rape - had surfaced in the years leading to 1984. Even after he was transferred to Doveton Parish, similar complaints still followed him there.

"We are satisfied that, by October 1986, the complaints that Archbishop Little was aware of in relation to Father Searson's conduct with children were sufficient for any reasonable person to form the view that he ought to be removed from the parish ministry," the commission said in its report.

"He chose to do nothing. In doing nothing, he failed to protect the children of the Parish and the Holy Family School [in Doveton]," the commission added, in reference to Searson.

Holy Family School's former principal, Graeme Sleeman, said their campus was not a safe environment for children because of Father Searson's presence in the parish. He also expressed hope that the findings of the commission would result in changes in the church.

Last month, the national body of the Baptist Church in Australia issued a formal apology to victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. It acknowledged the church's ignorance and failure to care for these individuals, ABC said in a separate report.

Aside from the Baptist church, other congregations including the General Anglican Synod of Australia, the Sydney Anglican Synod, and the Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania had already apologized to victims of domestic violence.