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restoring trust

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jun 23, 2004

Three days ago the Dallas Morning News reported that Australian child molester and Salesian priest Fr. Frank Klep had been slime-lined to Samoa.

In 1994, Father Klep was convicted on four charges in the assaults of two former students at a Salesians boarding school outside Melbourne during the 1970s. After he finished his sentence of community service, he came under investigation again. He was questioned and fingerprinted in 1996 but not arrested. While the case lingered, he moved to Samoa. Later in 1998, Victoria police filed five additional charges against him and issued an arrest warrant but did not seek extradition.

Salesian provincial superior Fr. Ian Murdoch denied the Samoa move was an obstruction of justice:

In a written statement earlier this week, Father Murdoch said the Salesians have not moved priests accused of sexual abuse from country to country "for the purpose of shielding them" from police. He said that the Salesians "have co-operated, and will certainly continue to cooperate, with any law enforcement agency."

The Samoan authorities believe the Catholic clergyman in authority, right? Wrong. Today the DMN reports that Klep is being deported. He has three days to leave the country.

"We can't help but think what was foremost was to have Father Klep evade the law by assigning him overseas," said Auseuga Poloma Komiti, the senior adviser to Samoa's prime minister and cabinet. "They were not thinking or giving two hoots about the children of this country."

But how can this be? These men are trained in the Faith That Does Justice.

When Father Klep first arrived in Samoa, he was required to fill out immigration papers stating whether he had any criminal convictions, Mr. Komiti said. But, he added, Father Klep "did not state anything."

More generous souls will suggest that Fr. Klep's convictions slipped his mind as he filled out the immigration papers -- all of us find it hard to remember every time we went down on a felony rap -- but I can't help but suspect that Klep's omission served his own purposes here. Call me "post-Pilarczyk."

Father Murdoch also continued to insist that Father Klep has no contact or ministry with children. But The News observed and photographed him handing candy to children after a Sunday Mass and interviewed teenage boys who said Father Klep had regular interaction with them -- from giving them money to tutoring one of them alone in his bedroom.

Where, apart from prison or a camp in Antarctica, could one state confidently that a man living in a different house, much less a different country, had no interaction with kids? By "contact with children," we were to understand "contact with children whose parents are capable of notifying the district attorney's office," presumably.

Clinton's defenders insisted that "everybody lies about sex," and those who find this reasoning persuasive may be willing to give Klep and his superiors a pass on their misstatements as well. But some people, Catholics among them, are uneasy at the lack of uneasiness with which their clergymen lie. If Father is fibbing when he says he's cooperating with the police, what are we to believe when he says,"Go in peace, your sins are forgiven"?

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