I do not love thee, Dr Fell

Ninglun has quoted this famous rhyme, which is originally about a celebrated disciplinarian dean of Christ Church, Oxford.

In fact, there is still a Dr Fell around the place, who is the Chairman of Opera Australia and a Trustee of Sydney Grammar – and a smooth operator he is, though from recollection some of his big ticket financial ventures are not going so well just now.

But it is to Dr Pell of course, Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney, that Ninglun adapted the rhyme.

Which brings me to the latest blow-up about sexual abuse and the case of Fr Terence Goodall. There has been much loose reporting here.

The issue is the accusations made by Anthony Jones against Father Terence Goodall that Goodall sexually abused him in 1982.

Jones was a 29-year-old school teacher at the time. Goodall was a priest whom he had met through his employment as a religious education teacher at a church school and related social activities.

They had a candle-lit dinner together (admittedly only Chinese takeaway), after which Goodall suggested they go for a swim at the sea-baths at Cronulla. This is the account Jones gives in the recent Lateline program, interspersed with the journalist’s narration:

ANTHONY JONES: The water wasn’t that deep so I crouched down so that the water was up to my shoulders and then the next moment, hands come around from behind me, and a hand goes down in to the speedos that I had been loaned by Father Goodall, and he became to fondle my penis. He had his other arm around me so it was hard to move away.

CONNOR DUFFY: Anthony Jones did break away and swam to get out of the pool. With his clothes back at the presbytery however, Jones had no choice but to drive back there with Father Goodall. He says when they got back, the priest ambushed him while he was getting dressed.

ANTHONY JONES: I thought at the time that he wanted to apologise to me because my actions of moving away from him in the pool indicated to him that I did not consent to what he had done or what he did and that I did not approve of what had happened. So I sat on the bed. A few moments passed and he pushed my shoulder down and lifted my legs on the bed and within a flash he had taken the towel off me, he pulled his own towel off, and he had the full weight of his body upon my body and he was rubbing his erect penis up against mine, and then he placed his penis in between my legs and was rubbing his penis up against my anus and my scrotum. I couldn’t believe that this was happening. I was speechless. I was in shock. I was frightened that this was happening to me.

CONNOR DUFFY: Anthony Jones says Father Goodall only let him up after the Priest had ejaculated. I quickly got dressed and he said to me, “Oh, I’ve been seeking a gay relationship on the quiet.” And I said, “I’m not into this whatsoever.” And I grabbed my wallet and just walked down the stairs. I felt so angry, and got into my car and I just felt like driving to Cronulla Beach and drowning myself. Then when I got home I stood under the shower for three hours washing my body.

Jones complained at the time, but his complaints were not responded to. Many years later, he pursued the matter further, both with the church and the police.

The church undertook their own investigation of the matter. At the time they also investigated another complaint against Goodall, involving a 9-year-old altar boy. The investigator found that both complaints were substantiated, but ultimately Pell accepted the complaint in relation to the boy but rejected the complaint in relation to Jones. The basis for rejecting the complaint in relation to Jones was that it was just Jones’s word against Goodall’s, and apparently (though this is shrouded in some mystery), Goodall said that the sexual activity with Jones was consensual, or at least denied that it was non-consensual.

This mystery is that the documents of the investigator appointed by the church, though finding the complaint substantiated, are equivocal as to what exactly Goodall had said. Pell now says that he spoke to Goodall and that Goodall told him this.

Jones (or somebody) has now produced to Lateline police phone taps, made some time after Jones had received the brush-off from Pell, where Goodall denied to Jones that he had told the investigator that the sex was consensual. He admits that he forced himself on Jones. This is the portion of the transcript of that conversation which Lateline included last night:

ANTHONY JONES (from Police Telephone Intercept Transcript, 26 August, 2003): And do you believe that at the time it was consensual?

FR GOODALL: No, I don’t think so, no.

[CONNOR DUFFY: And later]

ANTHONY JONES: And you can categorically say to me that you do not believe that it was a consensual act on my part, I need —

FR GOODALL: No, I think, I, I think not, no, definitely not.

ANTHONY JONES: I need to hear you say that to me, you know.

FR GOODALL: Yeah.

ANTHONY JONES: And then to apologise to me so I can let go of it.

FR GOODALL: Yeah, well, that’s true and I apologise again. I apologised didn’t I, on the afternoon when I came to your home?

ANTHONY JONES: Yeah.

FR GOODALL: And that was an apology because I thought I’d forced myself on you.

ANTHONY JONES: Yes.

FR GOODALL: Mmm.

ANTHONY JONES: O.K. Well I —

FR GOODALL: No, it was really, it was a very, very wrong thing to do and I was taking advantage of another man and it was very bad.

Now the interesting thing to me is that the police had these phone taps before they charged Goodall, but they did not think that this constituted a sufficient admission to charge Goodall with sexual assault in the nature of a rape or a non-consensual activity. To me they are capable of a number of readings, including (which could well be a basis for a civil claim) that Goodall had abused his position of trust and influence. You might also wonder about Jones’s statement that he needed to hear this from Goodall so that he could let go – though that apparently was not enough to stop the material going in as evidence on sentence, unless it went in as part of the agreed facts.

Police charged Goodall with indecent assault on the basis (controversially) that he had sex simpliciter. Consent was irrelevant to the charge because in 1982 all sex between men was still totally illegal. Goodall pleaded guilty to this.

Goodall’s counsel submitted that no conviction should be recorded. Judge Philip (“Tinker”) Bell (who has also had his travails with this aspect of the criminal law) apparently took into account (partly on the basis of this phone tap) that Goodall should have realised that his actions were unwelcome and that there had been an impact on the victim. Goodall was, sentenced to the rising of the court – a nominal but nevertheless symbolic sentence.

Various criticisms are made of Pell.

First, that he wrote that there were no other cases where Goodall had assaulted someone, whereas, that very day, he had written to the altar boy admitting the charge. I think this shows the difficulty which is caused by the various meanings of assault. Pell says that what he meant is that there was no other case with an incident corresponding to Jones’s account of the second incident, and that he wrote another letter soon after clarifying this. I expect this is true, because nobody has produced that letter yet to say that is not the case.

Secondly, it is said that Pell spoke to Goodall before making up his mind, but not to Jones.

I think this complaint shows how what children of the church think or want to think “Towards Healing” is about is not really quite what it can ever be about. The children of the church are not giving up their rights to sue in the civil courts. Jones had given his account. Pell says he asked Goodall for his account and got a different story. Looking at it as a lawyer, Pell was not a judge in the cause, but a party deciding whether or not it should concede a point. The problem still is that the loyal children of the church think, or hope, that the prelate acts in these circumstances as a judge, and I don’t think the church is in too much of a hurry to disillusion them.

Thirdly, the police phone-tap is brought out to show that Goodall didn’t tell Pell this. That is not what the tap shows. The tap shows what Goodall said to Jones. I’ve already commented on the ambiguity of this, and of course Goodall may well not have told Jones on the phone everything he said to Pell. I think you can assume that at that stage he was trying to deflect Jones from pursuing the criminal proceedings and was being as conciliatory as possible. He was also asked to give his view as of now, retrospectively, and his statements may well have been influenced by god knows what are his own mixed feelings of guilt or regret.

Quite a lot of the problems in this case seem to relate to feelings of guilt, as well as betrayal (on Jones’s part), presumably induced at least in part by religion, which apparently is permitted to be instilled in children at a very tender age without their ever being in a position to consent to it. But that is a whole other topic for another day.

Update: more loose reporting

In a sequel in today’s SMH, this paragraph:

Early this week Dr Pell asserted that the sexual encounter between Mr Jones and Father Goodall was consensual.

That is not accurate and so it is not fair. What Pell said was that this was his understanding of what Goodall said had happened and that given that Jones’s account was uncorroborated he couldn’t find the complaint substantiated. Of course, to the mob, this is a fine and even casuistical distinction, but it is not a trivial one. Doubtless, like the higher pay for railway workers, something else may well happen in the heat of the moment, but I do not think much of the way in which the press is pursuing this matter is living up to its best traditions, hypothetical though those may always be.

One Response to “I do not love thee, Dr Fell”

  1. Tysen Woodlock Says:

    Interesting article.

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