Timeline Of Catholic Church Figure’s Sexual Offences Against Teenage Boys
Religious institutions are places of learning and protection for the more vulnerable in our community. It thus becomes even more serious when those tasked with guiding us commit grievous criminal offences within such premises.
On 5 May, a member of a Catholic religious order received a jail term of five years for committing sexual offences against two teenage boys.
More details emerged over the next few days, with media outlets reporting that the victims first brought the incident to light in 2009 — more than a decade ago.
The Singapore Police Force (SPF) has also issued an advisory to an individual, informing them of the need to immediately report the occurrence of criminal offences.
Archbishop aware of sexual offences in late 2020
According to Channel NewsAsia (CNA), the Catholic Archbishop of Singapore Reverend William Goh only became aware of the sexual offences in Oct 2020.
Once alerted, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore said he followed protocols by instructing the school board to report the incident to SPF and Catholic authorities in Rome.
“Religious orders within the Roman Catholic Church are separately constituted and are governed by their own judicial proceedings and administration of law,” the spokesman added.
The offender was a member of the Catholic Church and sexually abused two teenagers between Jan 2005 and Dec 2007. On 5 May, he was sentenced to five years’ jail.
Details about the man and his victims were not disclosed to the public due to a gag order.
The first victim reported the offences to a sector leader. When pressed, he did not want to make a police report at the time. Upon questioning, the man admitted to the sexual offences and was promptly banned from the school.
The man then left for a six-month therapy programme in the US in 2009. As neither victim lodged a police report, he was not under any police investigation.
In Mar 2020, the man returned to Singapore but was unable to fly back to his country of ministry due to the pandemic. In the later part of the year, he was reported to the school board. And after an internal inquiry, the chairman lodged a police report on 10 May.
Police issues advisory to 64-year-old man
On 6 May, The Straits Times (ST) reports that SPF issued a police advisory to a 64-year-old man for not reporting the abuse in 2007.
The police informed ST that the advisory was issued to remind the man of his legal obligations under Section 424 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), which requires individuals to report criminal offences or the intention to commit them to the police unless they have a reasonable excuse.
They also stressed that police investigations are confidential, and police officers are trained to manage victims in a sensitive manner.
Timeline of events
Here’s a timeline of the events that transpired, according to facts reported by ST, CNA, and TODAY:
2005 – First unlawful sex act committed against the first victim in lower secondary school.
2007 – Unlawful sex act committed against the second victim.
2009 – The second victim reports the incident to a sector leader of the Catholic order, but refuses to lodge a police report. The matter is brought up to the man who admits to the allegations. The school suspends and bans him.
Jun 2009 – The man leaves Singapore for a six-month therapy programme in the United States. No police reports were lodged by the victims.
Mar 2020 – The man returned to Singapore to renew his missionary visa. He couldn’t fly back due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Late 2020 – The school board became aware of the man’s past actions.
Oct 2020 – The school board informs Archbishop Goh of the case, and he instructs them to report it to the police.
10 May 2021 – The chairman of the school board files a police report following an internal inquiry. The police launched an investigation into the case.
18 Jan 2022 – Police arrested the man.
5 May 2022 – The man pleaded guilty to one charge of carnal intercourse against the order of nature and one charge of committing an indecent act with a young person. He was sentenced to five years’ jail.
7 May 2022 – ST reports that SPF issued an advisory to a 64-year-old man who did not report the abuse.
Everyone has a duty to report crimes to the police
The violation of a minor by a supposedly trustworthy adult is deeply concerning, even more so when it involves an institution of good repute.
Additionally, individuals in our society have a duty to report such crimes to the police. Not doing so puts other vulnerable members of our community in jeopardy.
Hopefully, the sentencing the man received will bring these victims the closure they deserve. We also hope that they are coping well with the trauma of the abuse, even though it’s been years.
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Featured image by MS News.