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Catholic Church investigating 'background' of prominent figure's sex offences, looking at releasing more info

SINGAPORE — In light of a high-profile case where a prominent member of a Catholic order here sexually abused two boys more than a decade ago, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore said on Wednesday (May 11) that it is working with the offender’s religious order to investigate the background of the case.

Archbishop William Goh (centre) addressing a congregation at Church of the Risen Christ in Toa Payoh in 2017.

Archbishop William Goh (centre) addressing a congregation at Church of the Risen Christ in Toa Payoh in 2017.

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  • A member of a Catholic order here was jailed for five years for sexual offences against teenage boys
  • The Catholic Church said that it is working to investigate the background of the case and checking if it can release more information
  • It said earlier that the archbishop only learned in October 2020 what had happened
  • The offences took place from 2005 to 2007 and the perpetrator had confessed to his religious superior in 2009

SINGAPORE — In light of a high-profile case where a prominent member of a Catholic order here sexually abused two boys more than a decade ago, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore said on Wednesday (May 11) that it is working with the offender’s religious order to investigate the background of the case.

In a statement released on its website in response to concerns from the Catholic community, Archbishop William Goh’s communications office added it is also “concurrently taking steps” to see how more information can be publicly released in light of a gag order from the court.

The perpetrator, who is in his mid-60s, pleaded guilty last Thursday to engaging in sexual acts with two teenage boys sometime between 2005 and 2007.

He was sentenced to five years' jail, and cannot be named due to a gag order imposed by the courts to protect his victims’ identities.

He is part of a religious order, which are communities where people take vows to lead consecrated or religious lives. TODAY understands that he is not a priest.

Immediately after the sentencing, Archbishop Goh, who is head of the Roman Catholic Church in Singapore, apologised on behalf of the Church and said that he was “dismayed, shocked and ashamed”.

The police later told TODAY that it issued a written advisory to a 64-year-old man, believed to be the perpetrator’s religious superior to whom he had confessed his offences in 2009, for not reporting the sexual crimes to the police after learning about them.

The archbishop’s office also said that Archbishop Goh learned about the case only in October 2020. He then gave instructions to report the matter to the police, among other actions.

However, the office declined to answer several other questions from TODAY at the time, saying that some were specific to the perpetrator and that responding to them would lead to him being identified, thus contravening the court order.

On Wednesday, the archbishop’s office said that it acknowledges and understands “the concerns of many faithful members of our Catholic community” since the news emerged.

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.
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore statement

"Religious orders and boards of Catholic schools here “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”, the office noted in its statement.

All Catholic schools are required to follow the Ministry of Education's protocols and Singapore laws on reporting of such incidents, the office added.

Section 424 of the Criminal Procedure Code requires anyone who is aware that certain specified crimes have been committed or knows of a person’s intention to commit such crimes to immediately give that information to the officer in charge of the nearest police station, unless he or she has a reasonable excuse, the Law Society of Singapore's website states.

The law allows police reports to be filed by persons other than the victim. There is no legal requirement for a victim's consent to be obtained before a police report can be made, the Ministry of Home Affairs said in November 2020.

On Wednesday, the archbishop’s office said: “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.”

During the perpetrator’s court case, it emerged that he had committed the crimes after forging close relationships with the two victims, even going out for meals with the family of one of them.

In 2009, the perpetrator’s second victim confided in the sector leader of the Catholic order, who counselled him and offered to escalate the matter to the police. The victim declined to do so.

In the meantime, the man admitted his wrongdoing to a higher authority, the religious superior of the Catholic order, when asked about the victim’s complaints. The man was immediately suspended from school activities and prohibited from entering the school premises.

The man later went overseas to undergo a six-month therapy programme. He was not under police investigation because no report had been made at that time.

His conduct was brought to the attention of the school’s board in late 2020. Following an internal inquiry, the chairman of the board made a police report in May last year.

The police arrested the man in January this year after concluding their investigations. 

Related topics

Catholic Church court crime sexual crimes archbishop

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