Sexual predator abused children — and treated priests who did the same

Sexual predator abused children — and treated priests who did the same
Dr. Robert Browne, a prominent Honolulu psychiatrist, abused more than 30 children while he served as a consultant to Kamehameha Schools. (Image: Archives)
Dr. Robert Browne, a prominent Honolulu psychiatrist, abused more than 30 children while he served as a consultant to Kamehameha Schools. (Image: Archives)
Anthony Long was among a number of victims of a Big Island priest who has since been defrocked. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Anthony Long was among a number of victims of a Big Island priest who has since been defrocked. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Anthony Long said his parents, both devout Catholics, regularly donated to the church, handing the cash to the very priest who was abusing him. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Anthony Long said his parents, both devout Catholics, regularly donated to the church, handing the cash to the very priest who was abusing him. (Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Long-hidden documents show how the same man, prominent Honolulu psychiatrist Dr. Robert Browne, played a central role in two of Hawaii's biggest sex abuse scandals.

Browne is accused of sexually assaulting more than 30 former students at Kamehameha Schools over nearly three decades, from 1958 to 1985.

And, the documents show, he was also treating Catholic priests in Hawaii who had been caught abusing children.

Those priests weren't turned into the police, but were often instead sent for psychiatric treatment — to be "cured" of their pedophilia problem. Not surprisingly, one priest in particular who was getting therapy from Browne went on to molest kids for decades.

'I could not believe God allowed this to happen'

For the dozens of Hawaii children who were sexually assaulted by men of the cloth, houses of worship became places of hell.

Chesjoy "Anthony" Long knows that only too well.

He was abused by Father George DeCosta, a priest from a church in Keaukaha. It was 1970 and Long was 14 years old.

The abuse spurred him to stop going to church, a heartwrenching decision for a young man raised in the church.

"I refused to have anything to do with church, i don't believe in God," he told Hawaii News Now. "I could not believe God allowed things like this to happen."

In 1998, court documents say, Decosta was orderd by the bishop to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

And that, experts say, was part of a pattern.

"It wasn't unusual for the church to send perpertrators off for treatment, be it with somebody local for treatment or there were various centers on the mainland," said attorney Mark Gallagher, who represents more than 50 church sex assault victims.

Altogether in Hawaii, about 125 victims have filed civil suits against the church, after a state law opened a four-year window for them to come forward and make claims — no matter how much time had passed since the abuse.

Records obtained as a result of the lawsuits reveal that Browne, a sexual predator himself, was one of the psychiatrists who treated pedophile priests.

Among those who went to Browne, starting in the late 1950s: Father James Jackson, who worked at Maryknoll and St. Anthony Church on Oahu, and in parishes in Laupahoehoe, Kona, and Hilo on the Big Island.

A document signed by Browne notifies church leaders that Jackson had a "surgical correction ... on his left testicle." Browne blames that procedure for his abuse of boys, saying that afterwards Jackson "began to notice strong, obsessive feelings to touch the genital areas of male teenagers."

Court records show that Browne treated Jackson for years, saying the priest has shown "slow, but steady improvement" and that the "sexual preoccupations have practically disappeared."

He said he did not "feel that they present a potential problem or risk."

Jackson went on to molest boys for the next 25 years, until the 1980s.

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'Everybody knew it was wrong'

For years, Browne was sexually abusing boys in the same St. Francis Hospital office where he was treating pedophile priests.

"Everyone knew it was wrong when it happened," Gallagher said.

"If you knew about what was going on with Dr. Browne when it happened, you knew it was wrong. If you knew what was going on with some of the priests in those cases when it happened, you knew it was wrong, and yet nothing was done about it in many of those cases."

Other letters obtained by Hawaii News Now show church leaders were well aware that priests in Hawaii were abusing children.

One, dated June 4, 1987, was from Father Francis Diffley to Rev. George Delaney. "As you know, we had a problem with that in this region," Diffley writes.

He also says that he views pederasty "and other forms of sexual abuse as illnesses ... that resemble alcoholism."

"At any rate," he continues, "we would appreciate some advice in this matter."

Most of the Hawaii priests accused of sexual abuse have since died. But not DeCosta, who abused Long and other boys.

DeCosta still lives on the Big Island, on a property on Old Volcano Road. He didn't come to the door when Hawaii News Now knocked recently. After the abuse came to light, DeCosta was forced into retirement and, five years ago, was finally defrocked after failing a polygraph.

'Shame on them. Shame on them'

Long said he gets "disgusted" when he thinks about the priest.

"I think to myself, 'You disgusting man you, what you did to me. My parents adored you and this is your thank you to them.""

Long's parents worshipped at Malia Puka o Kalani. They gave a $100 donation every week, Long said, handing the envelope directly to DeCosta.

"They came from very strong Catholic families, Hawaiian families," Long said. "I could never ever tell my parents what happened. It would kill them. "

The Catholic Church settled with a number of DeCosta accusers, including Long.

He said he got himself "a nice little house that you see here. A nice little car. But I would have been just as happy if nothing came to me and they all went to prison every single one."

And there were many, something Long still struggles to understand.

"Shame, shame, shame on Kamehameha Schools. Shame, shame, shame on the Catholic Church," he said. "Shame on them. Shame on them."

There's no evidence in court documents that the Catholic Church knew Brown was sexually abusing Kamehameha Schools students while providing so-called treatment to pedophile priests.

The Diocese of Honolulu did not return calls for this story and blocked the release of a videotaped deposition by a church leader taken during the mediation process.

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