Catholic priest showed sexual abuse victim a corpse to intimidate him into silence

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Survivors tell of being shown dead bodies and made to clean out coffins by ‘Australasia’s worst sexual offender’

Catholic priest showed sexual abuse victim a corpse to intimidate him into silence

A notorious Catholic priest forced one of his victims to confront a corpse in a morgue as a way of intimidating the boy into staying silent about the sexual abuse he was inflicting, an inquiry in New Zealand heard on Wednesday.

The harrowing testimony emerged on the first day of a week-long hearing into the sexual abuse of children who were in the care of the Catholic Church.

It came a day after Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who resigned in 2013 but still lives in the Vatican, expressed “profound shame and deep sorrow” for failing to confront predatory priests when he was archbishop of Munich between 1977 and 1982.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI expressed 'profound shame' for failing to tackle sexually abusive priests
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI expressed ‘profound shame’ for failing to tackle sexually abusive priests CREDIT: AP

The live-streamed hearings in Auckland focused on abuse by priests of the St John of God order at three Catholic institutions in Christchurch on the South Island– the Marylands School, St Joseph’s orphanage and the Hebron Trust.

One survivor from Marylands School spoke about how he endured abuse by Brother Bernard McGrath, a serial offender, for four years.


McGrath is serving a prison sentence of 33 years in Australia after being convicted of 64 offences against 12 boys there and is expected to die in prison.

The Catholic Church itself has described him as “one of Australasia’s worst sexual offenders against children.”

“I was also threatened by Brother McGrath to keep quiet about what was going on. Once he took me to the hospital morgue and showed me a corpse as a way of silencing me,” Donald Ku said in his testimony.

Another survivors said he was also threatened and intimidated by McGrath. “Once, Brother McGrath made me strip naked and clean out one of the coffins,” Steven Long said.

“He lifted the lid, grabbed me around the throat and said, ‘This is where you’re going to end up’ if I said anything about his abuse.”

The hearings are part of a wider Royal Commission of Inquiry that is looking into abuse in state-run and religious institutions in New Zealand.

An interim report on the inquiry released in December 2020 revealed that up to a quarter of a million children, young people and vulnerable adults were physically and sexually abused in New Zealand’s faith-based and state care institutions from the 1960s to the early 2000s.

“The abuse which occurred to children and young people while in the care of the Catholic Church is deeply shameful and should never have happened,” said Sally McKechnie, a lawyer representing the bishops and congregational leaders of the Catholic Church at the commission.

“The St John of God Brothers, and the leaders of the Catholic Church, deeply regret the failure to keep these children safe while they were in their care. The Church carries deep shame for this dark chapter of their history.”

A Royal Commission in Australia heard that 40 per cent of St John of God brothers were sexual abusers – the highest rate of any order. The inquiry in Auckland was told that the proportion of brothers who abused children in New Zealand was closer to 60 per cent, but could be even more.

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