2006 newspaper articles re James Shanahan

Priest Did ‘Ritual Killing’

The Courier Mail (May 26, 2006) by Gary Hughes

A CATHOLIC priest took part in satanic murders and rituals that included child sexual abuse. The Catholic Church’s Melbourne Archdiocese has accepted claims about the rituals as “substantially true” and paid $33,000 compensation to a man who was a victim of the rituals as a child. The archdiocese’s independent sexual abuse investigator, barrister Peter O’Callaghan, QC, described the details of the ritualised murders and sexual abuse provided by the victim as “extraordinary”. “…but I have no reason or justification for doubting his credibility,” Mr O’Callaghan said in a letter to the victim’s lawyers in 2000.

Earlier during a formal interview with the victim, Mr O’Callaghan said he was satisfied the man was telling the truth.”I see no reason why I shouldn’t accept what you say,” he said. “Amazing as it is, I accept it.”

The Melbourne Archdioceses Vicar General, Monsignor Les Tomlinson, said that Mr O’Callaghan told Victorian police about the allegations when he first learned of them in 1999. He was told that the victim had already notified police that he had been sexually abused and was a witness to murder.

The police advised that inquiries had been made with the homicide squad and their missing persons records and intelligence were unable to confirm the allegations and that there was no current investigation into the matter, Monsignor Tomlinson said.

In a sworn statement given to the archdiocese, the victim said he was first abused by the priest in Melbourne in the early 1960s, when he was serving as an altar boy at the Sacred Heart Church in Sandringham. The priest has since died. In his statement the 56-year-old victim, who wishes to remain anonymous, gave details of at least three deaths – a young woman, a young man and a child – that occurred during satanic rituals over a number of years. Two victims had their throats cut and a third was killed with an axe. Animals were also killed during the ceremonies. “I have some gruesome memories of killings,” the victim said. “I still feel totally overwhelmed and blown away when I recall these incidents. All these memories are extremely traumatic.”

Monsignor Tomlinson said he was not aware of any similar allegations having been made to the Melbourne archdiocese.

The independent compensation panel made a $33,000 ex-gratia payment to the victim in 2001 after his claims had been investigated by Mr O’Callaghan. The archdiocese is paying for counselling for the man, who has been diagnosed as suffering from complex post-traumatic stress disorder.


‘Extraordinary’ claims true: Catholic Church

NEWS.com.au (May 26, 2006, 12:02) by Gary Hughes

The most extraordinary thing about today’s allegations of murders during satanic rituals involving a Melbourne priest is not that they’ve been made, but that the Catholic Church admitted in writing that it accepted they were substantially true. Indeed “extraordinary” was the word used by the Melbourne Archdiocese’s experienced sexual abuse investigator Peter O’Callaghan QC to describe the allegations when they were put to him in 2000.

Documents on the case obtained by Gotcha show that Mr O’Callaghan, who has overseen claims for compensation by more than 200 victims of sexual abuse by Melbourne Catholic priests, accepted that the man making the allegations was telling the truth. (You can read today’s news story on the revelations here). 

“I see no reason why I shouldn’t accept what you say,” Mr Callaghan told the victim during a formal interview on October 9, 2000. “Amazing as it is, I accept it.”

And two days later in a letter to the victim’s lawyer offering compensation, Mr O’Callaghan said: “I confirm that the events which (the victim) describes are extraordinary, but I have no reason or justification for doubting his credibility.”

Mr O’Callaghan also acknowledged that what the victim told the Archdiocese was similar to what he had told his psychiatrist and that the psychiatrist “accepts what (he) has described was the fact”.

The statement provided to the Archdiocese by the victim, who wants to remain anonymous, makes chilling reading.

He details how the Catholic priest, who has since died, first began abusing him at the age of 11 in 1961 when he was serving as an altar boy at the Sacred Heart Church in the bayside suburb of Sandringham and attending a Catholic school, where the priest was chaplain. The priest got the victim alone in a room on the pretext of giving his a sex education lesson and sexually abused him.

Later the priest would sexually abuse the boy in his car and at the Sacred Heart Church’s presbytery, where the victim was lured on the promise of playing with toy soldiers.

But it’s the accounts of satanic rituals and the victim’s eyewitness reports of murders that are harrowing.

In the statement he details at least three murders – a young girl, a youth and a young child. He says the victims were mostly drugged and appeared to be in a daze before having their throats cut or being hacked with an axe.

He says he was forced to take part in the rituals and was sexually abused during them by the priest and others involved in the ceremonies.

While claims of satanic rituals and ritualised sexual abuse by victims are nothing new, what makes these allegations different is the Melbourne Archdiocese’s acceptance of the claims as being true. To our knowledge, it is the first time the Catholic Church in Melbourne has done that in writing.

Some of the rituals, which occurred over a three year period, took place in an old house owned by the Catholic Church in Sandringham. The house was later demolished and a new Sacred Heart Church built on the site.

“It would have been impossible to sprinkle enough Holy Water on that site to purify it before building a new church on it,” the victim told Gotcha.

Other rituals took place at other locations around Melbourne. The victim would be driven to and from the locations by the priest. The victim said during one of the final sexual assaults by the priest he was threatened with a carving knife and told he would be killed if he ever talked to anyone about what he had seen or what had been done to him.

The victim first contacted Victoria Police in 1998 and was told details would be passed to the homicide squad. He says he heard nothing more. In his interview with the victim, Mr O’Callaghan confirmed that details contained in the statement “is a series of criminal offences, but it doesn’t appear that anyone has ever been apprehended for those offences, or will be”.  Mr O’Callaghan independently contacted Victoria Police in 1999 over the allegations, but was told that homicide and missing persons records had been checked and there was no ongoing investigation.

The victim finally escaped the priest’s clutches at the age of 14, when he was old enough to start avoiding him.

In accepting the compensation payout, the victim had to agree not to take further legal action against the Archdiocese.

In a letter to the victim dated January 5, 2001, the then head of the Melbourne Archdiocese, Cardinal George Pell, apologised for the “wrong and hurt” he suffered at the hands of the priest.

The victim’s decision to speak out follows the conviction in the United States earlier this month of Catholic priest Gerald Robinson for the ritualistic murder of a nun. He said he believed there were other victims of ritualised abuse in Australia who were too afraid or embarrassed to speak out. Robinson was charged with the murder of the nun 26 years ago after a female victim of child sexual abuse went to authorities with claims that the priest had been involved in satanic rituals.

Here are extracts from the documents on the Melbourne case:

 Extract from letter to victims lawyers, October 11, 2000:

“I refer to our conference with Mr (name of victim) and yourself on 9 October 2000 and confirm that I am satisfied that Mr (victim) was a victim of sexual abuse…substantially in the circumstances described by mr (victim) in the statement he made to you in November 1999, and which statement he verified at the conference today.

I confirm that the events which Mr (victim) describes are extraordinary, but I have no reason of justification for doubting his credibility. In that context I note that an experienced psychiatrist…has accepted what Mr (victim) has described was the fact.

I accordingly enclose herewith an application for compensation which I invite you to have your client complete and return to me.

Yours sincerely

Peter O’Callaghan

Independent Commissioner

Extract from transcript of conference between the victim, his lawyer and Independent Commissioner Peter O’Callaghan, October 9, 2000:

O’Callaghan: …I have read a statement that you made…could you just look at that please. I don’t want you necessarily to read through it, but do you remember making that statement?

Victim: Yes, this was written up from material and it’s correct.

O’Callaghan: Yes, so the contents of that statement are true and correct.

Victim: Yes.

O’Callaghan: Alright, well now look the…I appreciate what (victim’s lawyer) was saying that the matters are harrowing in your recollection, but what you’ve told Dr (name of psychiatrist), is that also true and correct?

Victim: Yes.

O’Callaghan: And the thing I’ve got to frankly say is yours is an amazing story. But you tell me it’s true.

Victim: Mmm.

O’Callaghan: You saw Detective (inaudible) at one stage, didn’t you?

Victim: I spoke to him twice on the telephone.

O’Callaghan: Yes. And he, when was the last time you spoke to him?

Victim: When?

O’Callaghan: Yes. Approximately.

Victim: Maybe two or three years ago, I imagine.

O’Callaghan: Right, alright well, what you relate is a series of criminal offences, but it doesn’t appear that anyone has been apprehended for those offences, or will be.

Victim: Mmm.

O’Callaghan: Alright, well look the position is that I am an Independent Commissioner and if I am satisfied that a person has been the victim of sexual abuse by a priest of the Archdiocese, then I can refer that person to Care Link, which you know about. I can also refer that person to the compensation panel and make an application for compensation, which I take it that you’re desirous of doing, are you?

Victim: Yes.

O’Callaghan: Well, what that entitles you to is an award of compensation up to a limit of $50,000. What I will do is to indicate that I am satisfied that you were the victim of sexual abuse. I see no reason why I shouldn’t accept what you say and it’s certainly supported by what you told Dr (name of psychiatrist) and indeed what you’ve told a number of people over many years. Amazing as it is, I accept it. And if on that basis, what I will do is I’ll send out…an application for compensation and you can fill that in…”

Melbourne Archdiocese response to news.com.au:

“The Independent Commissioner advises that after he was contacted by (the victim’s solicitor) in 1999, he advised (the solicitor) as follows:

‘Could you advise me whether these matters have been reported to the police and if so what action emanated therefrom. If they have not been reported to the police, then it would seem essential that they are…

‘I accept that you have forwarded this letter to me in my role as Independent Commissioner and on the premise (at least implied) that I will treat this matter in confidence. I confirm that this is certainly the position at this point in time, but I would certainly be urging your client to report the matter to the police…or alternatively I would ask his permission to myself report the matter to police.’

(The victim’s solicitor) subsequently advised that the matter had been reported to the police and authorised the Commissioner to contact the police.

The Independent Commissioner then contacted the police, who advised (the victim) had in 1998 advised the police that he was the victim of sexual assault and was a witness to murder. The police advised that enquiries had been made with the homicide squad and their missing persons records and intelligence was unable to confirm the allegations, and that there was no current investigation into the matter.

Accordingly the Independent Commissioner proceeded to deal with (the victim’s) application for compensation.”


Ritual abuse victim responds to critics

news.com.au, (May 29, 2006, 12:02) by Gary Hughes

On Friday we revealed that the Catholic Church had accepted as substantially true revelations by an abuse victim that a Melbourne priest took part in satanic rituals where murders took place. Some Gotcha commentators were skeptical about the victim’s experiences and questioned how they could be true. Now the victim wants to respond. Here is his side of the story in his own words.

“First of all, thank you to all the commenters for taking the time to read Gary Hughes’ article on my situation and for giving your reactions. A number of issues have been raised and I would like to respond to them in turn. These issues as I see them are:

  • the time I took to bring forth the allegations;
  • the issue of missing persons not triggering police investigations;
  • whether these “memories” are recovered by hypnosis or other means;
  • what evidence can I produce to support these claims;
  • did the Church pay out only for the sexual abuse of that priest or did it include payment for the ritual abuse;
  • what caused the Church to acknowledge my claim;
  • and whether the priest was acting outside his role as a Catholic priest.

To take the last point first, very clearly the priest was acting against the teachings of the Catholic Church…In no way can the Church be seen to be endorsing this abusive and abhorrent behaviour. However, if any organisation wishes, or in the case of the Catholic Church demands, authority over their employees, then it must accept some responsibility for their behaviour, otherwise order disintegrates and corruption ensues. In law, this is covered under “Duty of Care”, I believe.  The Catholic Church has been able to avoid this responsibility in the courts because it does not exist as a legal entity before the law, amazingly. This is doubly ironic when their persistent attitude of having quasi, if not outright, legal jurisdiction over this abuse issue and it’s investigation through their parallel process to the State police and court system is considered.

What caused the Church to accept my claim? An intriguing question, to be sure.  The Vicar General in The Australian newspaper on Saturday said: “Because he was believable and we gave him the benefit of the doubt.” This is a little less than their investigator Peter O’Callaghan QC said at the time. He said that he “had no reason to disbelieve” me and, presumably, that is what he communicated to the Compensation Panel. In the end, I cannot answer for them. I will say that Mr. O’Callaghan and the Church authorities had plenty of warning that I may make the allegations formal. I don’t think that their decision could be characterised as impulsive or “knee-jerk”.

Another intriguing question relating to this is whether or not any follow up investigation was done. This particular priest was known to have associations with other pedophilic priests and it would be reasonable for an investigator to question whether any of these or other priests were involved in the cult. Mr O’Callaghan didn’t ask me any questions along these lines, or any other lines for that matter, then or since.

Did the Church pay out only for the sexual abuse of that priest only or did it include payment for the ritual abuse? On the surface, it would appear to be for abuse including the ritual abuse, according to Mr O’Callaghan’s communications to me. But I would say that it would depend on what Mr O’Callaghan included in his report to the Compensation Panel.  There does appear to some disconnect between the acceptance of my claims of extreme abuse and the decision of the “Compensation Panel” to award 60% of the amount they were authorised to make. (Amnesty international has described Satanic Ritual Abuse as the worst example of human rights abuse there is.) But it may be a moot point anyway because “The Payment” as it is referred to in the signed agreement between myself and the Church is for my release of them from civil action for damages arising from the behaviour of that particular priest (who is unnamed in the Deed Of Release) characterized simply as “The Abuser”.  It was not compensation.  Elsewhere in their communications the payment is referred to as the “ex gratia payment” and in some places as “ex gratia compensation.” Legally there appears to be no responsibility taken for the abuse which would be implied if they described the payment as simply “Compensation”.  So, in the end, strictly speaking they haven’t compensated me for anything save my right to sue them over this priest.

Were these “memories” recovered by hypnosis or other means?  Were they repressed at any stage? It is very difficult to talk meaningfully about “memories” in this context because most people are unfamiliar with the term “abreaction”.  An abreaction (a term coined by Freud) describes a cognitive perception that has got itself jammed in the middle of its electrical/chemical journey through the various brain cortexes on it’s way to becoming what we would normally call a memory – a recollection of something that happened in the past and that is over, and thankfully so, if it was unpleasant.  An abreaction is the replaying of that cognitive sensation as if it is happening now.  Many of the physiological sensations and reactions that happened on the original occasion will manifest again.  So smells can be smelt and pain can be felt.  To give you an unpleasant example, I will sometimes get a sharp pain in my rectum that will lift me out of my seat.  There are physiological markers that can be observed externally such as lowered skin temperature and/or raised heart rate, things that cannot be duplicated through acting.  In other words, an abreaction is an experience, not a memory of an experience.

Another related question is “is it possible to forget something that has such impact?” and if so, “can it be recovered later?”.  This is rather simpler to deal with. You may remember that when Princess Diana was tragically killed in a car accident, her bodyguard was reported to have amnesia of the accident.  There were no howls of “nonsense” (or worse) because we all seem to know someone, or know someone who knows someone, whom has had this very experience in a car accident.  And what’s more, it’s common knowledge that recovery from this amnesia is also quite common though maybe less so.  (For further information on this, I would refer the reader to the Advocates for Survivors of Child Abuse report (linked previously by Gary Hughes) and in particular the section on False Memory Syndrome Foundation).

So with that introduction, I can say that I have always had some memories and experienced some abreactions but not enough to put it all together. One of these was an image of cannibalism.  But I had no context for it.  A flood of abreactions occurred directly after the caesarean birth of my third child at which I was present.  The enduring image I have of that time is of baby covered in blood and afterbirth being lifted up.  The child that was killed that is mentioned in the article on Friday was, in fact, an infant.  The birth of my daughter was a massive trigger.  The subsequent abreactions or recalled experiences occurred outside therapy.  There was no hypnosis involved.  I cannot abide it, in any case, as the priest used it on me to induce forgetfulness in me.   

There are other things involved here as well, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or in my case, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is permanent amongst other things, and Dissociation.  If you, the reader, would like to understand this important, and at times, fascinating area, you could Google the above terms to start with and read the ASCA document. A book I could recommend is “Ritual Abuse – What is it” by Margaret Smith, who is a research psychologist and a ritual abuse survivor.

What evidence of these claims can I produce? First and foremost, I am “Exhibit A”, if you like.  I am the smoking gun.  I have permanent physical and neurological injuries.  My conditions are verifiable scientifically and the symptoms cannot be faked convincingly.  My neurological conditions are only produced under extreme and sustained conditions.  To refute my claims, it would at least be necessary to propose a possible alternative explanation for my condition.

The question of missing persons not triggering police investigations. Thousands of people go missing every year without a trace including children. In America a large number of children are reported missing every week. The child in the murders I mention was, as I said, an infant and I doubt very much whether there was any record of it being born. This is a common practice in cults.  I was led to believe that the infant was mothered by one of the cult members, who was also subsequently murdered. I was also led to believe, subsequently, that I was the father, though this was impossible (although I didn’t think so at the time) because I had not reached puberty by then.

There are also lots of ways to dispose of bodies. If you cannot think of any, you are not trying!  Priests also have access to cemeteries and crematoriums.  On reflection, I think you will see it’s not that difficult to avoid suspicion particularly if your association with the victim is clandestine. There is also the question of collusion by the police. Police corruption is a fact of life. No force is exempt from it.  Gary Hughes’ reporting is largely focused on this issue and there seems to be no shortage of stories. 

One of the commenters, Dyson Devine, mentioned Dr Reina Michaelson who has fought long and hard against sexual abuse and police corruption.  If you visit her website you will find credible allegations of police involvement in Ritual Abuse at a Mornington kindergarten and it’s cover-up.  Dr Michaelson has published the fact that she has an audio tape of an interview with staff from the Office of Police Integrity where one of the officers says that they are not interested in pursuing an organised pedophile ring even if it is still in operation.  To my my knowledge this is still the case.  

Dyson also mentions Dr Michaelson’s legal battle with a group known as the Ordo Templis Orientis (OTO). If you visit their website and affiliated sites, as Dyson and another commenter, Mary Wilson, said it is quite instructive as to “what is out there” in plain view.

There is also a related problem for Satanic Ritual Abuse survivors in contacting the Victoria Police and that is their badge! It prominently features an upside down five pointed star. This inverted pentagram is only used elsewhere in Satanic symbolism. The upright pentagram is used in Satanism but also by a lot of other organisations and bodies. For instance, the Mormon Church, Secret Societies and the US and the now defunct USSR military amongst many others. But the inverted pentagram is only seen in connection with Satanism and, unfortunately, the Victoria Police.  If it was an innocent mistake by the founders of the Police Force, then it is a particularly unfortunate one. Satanic Ritual Abuse survivors are familiar with the cults including in their number many people who are in authority in civil life and so would find this badge/symbol particularly off-putting. If on the other hand, if it was not a mistake, it could go some distance in explaining the apparent paradox of the reluctance to pursue organised pedophile rings.

And finally, the time I took to bring forth the allegations. Most of this I have already answered, but I will add that 25 years ago, when the perpetrator was still alive, the dots were not sufficiently connected up for me take action.  Plus, think for a moment that if my allegations are outrageous now, how would they have sounded back then? I am disappointed, to say the least, that the perpetrator is now deceased.  He would be in his seventies now.  He died in his sleep when in his early fifties.  As far as I know, there was no autopsy done but perhaps the Vicar General could establish that.

I have spent most of my life just trying to function. Fortunately, I am quite intelligent and have been able to get by, but usually in low paid jobs.  It hasn’t been a lot of fun. Coping with defending these allegations was out of the question.  Even at the time when I came forward a few years ago, I was not up to it, really.  I suffered much distress and dissociation throughout the process.  I entered the formal side of the Churches system because Mr O’Callaghan said it would be difficult for him to continue to fund my therapy if I did not make a formal complaint and so formally enter the process that they had set up after my therapy had begun to be funded by a previous office of the church, which did not require “victims” to be vetted by a lawyer first.

I hope I have addressed the main issues raised. If I haven’t or there are other questions that need to be raised, please feel free to do so in the comments here and I will be happy to respond.

Finally, I would like to especially thank those who have experienced Satanic Ritual Abuse and took the time to comment and to “Ken”, who is a relative and supporter of an abuse survivor who spoke eloquently about the problems that survivors face, such as feeling inhibited about talking about myself. I would also like to thank you, the reader, for reading this far and taking the time to interest and educate yourself in this very unlovely topic.  If everybody were educated to it, I’m sure this abuse of vulnerable adults and children would cease. To that end I urge you to click on the link to the ASCA document and take the further time to read it and read it perhaps more than once.”

James T.