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Catholic Church says archbishop of Singapore was informed in October 2020 of sex offence cases involving prominent figure

The police also said on Friday they have issued a written advisory to a man for not reporting the offences to the police after learning about them.

Catholic Church says archbishop of Singapore was informed in October 2020 of sex offence cases involving prominent figure

File photo of the Catholic archbishop of Singapore William Goh.

SINGAPORE: The archbishop of Singapore William Goh was informed about sex offence cases involving a prominent Catholic figure in October 2020, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore said on Friday (May 6).

During the man's trial, it emerged that his offences had been uncovered in 2009 by a leader of the Catholic order of which he was a member - at least 11 years before the archbishop was said to have been informed of the cases.

On Thursday, the man was sentenced to five years' jail.

Separately, the police also said on Friday they have issued a written advisory to a man for not reporting the offences to the police after learning about them.

Once alerted to the cases, the archbishop gave instructions for the matter to be reported to the police and to Catholic authorities in Rome.

In response to CNA queries, the archdiocese said: "The Roman Catholic Archbishop was only informed of the case in October 2020, during which time he gave instructions that the matter be reported to the police as it was a criminal offence and that a report be made directly to the Dicastery for Consecrated Life in Rome and to inform and update the Archbishop of the Diocese where the offence was committed in accordance with Vatican protocols.”

Archbishop William Goh became leader of the Catholic Church in Singapore in May 2013, taking over from former archbishop Nicholas Chia, who held the top post from 2001 to 2013.

In 2009, one of the victims had told the sector leader of the Catholic order in Singapore about what had happened.

The sector leader counselled the boy and offered to escalate the matter to the police. However, the boy refused.

The offender was questioned by his religious superior about the victim's allegations, and he admitted that they were true. He was immediately suspended from his responsibilities.

In June 2009, the offender left Singapore to receive treatment under a six-month therapy programme at an institute in the United States.

"As no police reports were lodged by the victims, he was not under police investigation then," court documents stated.

On Friday, the police said upon completing the investigations, they have - in consultation with the Attorney-General’s Chambers - issued a written advisory to a 64-year-old man to remind him of his legal obligations under Section 424 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

"Organisations and members of the public are advised to report sexual crime cases to the police," they said.

"Police investigations are confidential, and police officers are trained to manage victims sensitively and appropriately."

The Archdiocese said on Friday that religious orders within the Church, such as the one the man belonged to, have their own systems of governance.

“Religious orders within the Roman Catholic Church are separately constituted and are governed by their own judicial proceedings and administration of law,” the archdiocese said.

“The Archdiocese regrets that we cannot offer more information than what has been provided because of the gag order imposed by the courts.”

After completing the therapy programme, the man was posted to a different country where his work did not involve minors.

He would return to Singapore for one to two weeks at a time to visit his family, and had no further contact with the victims.

In March 2020, the offender came back to Singapore to renew his missionary visa, which was expiring. However, he was unable to return overseas due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In late 2020, the offender's history was brought to the attention of the board of a school to which he was linked.

On May 10 last year, following an internal inquiry, the chairman of the school board lodged a police report.

The police started investigations and arrested the offender on Jan 18 this year. He was charged in court two days later.

On Thursday, the man was sentenced to five years in prison for sexual offences against two teenage boys.

He had 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. Two more charges for similar offences were considered for sentencing.

The offences took place sometime between January 2005 and December 2007.

The identities of the victims are protected by gag order. The man cannot be named due to gag orders prohibiting the publication of his name, designation, appointment and a school to which he was linked.

On Thursday morning, Archbishop Goh said that he was "dismayed, shocked and ashamed" over the case, adding that the incident was a "wake-up call for us all to take our spiritual life seriously".

"As Archbishop and leader of the Catholic Community in Singapore, I humbly apologise on behalf of the Church," he said in a letter posted on the Archdiocese's website.

"My heartfelt sympathy to those who have suffered on account of this crime. I pray that they will find healing and closure, and we journey with them as a Church through this pain. May justice be rendered accordingly."

Source: CNA/kg(ac)

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