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The Catholic sexual abuse scandal in Australia is part of the wider Catholic sexual abuse scandal. There have been 71 documented cases where Catholic priests have been convicted and jailed for child sex offences in Australia, as well as others involving non custodial sentences and inconclusive proceedings.[1] There are also numerous cases involving members of religious orders (both priests and brothers) and lay teachers. Other sources of concern in addition to the abuse itself was the failure of the church to prevent future abuse by clergy who had come to attention of religious authorities (of dioceses, religious orders or schools), transferring clergy and religious to further opportunities for abuse, the handling of allegations of abuse, and the continuing honouring within the church of known sex offenders.[2]

Specific cases

Archdiocese of Sydney

In 2007, Ross Murrin, 52, a former Sydney Catholic school teacher accused of indecently assaulting eight male Year 5 students at a Daceyville school in south-east Sydney in 1974, plead guilty to some of the 21 charges. [3]

Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle

The diocese has been referred to as the "epicentre of Catholic clerical sexual abuse in Australia"[4] due to a number of paedophile priests with extensive abuse records being jailed since 1997: Father Vincent Ryan (a $6 million compensation payout to victims setting a record for the Catholic Church in Australia), Father David O'Hearn (due to stand trial in June 2010) and Father James Fletcher (died in jail in 2006).[5] John Sidney Denham pleaded guilty to 29 child sex charges involving 27 boys under his care while a Roman Catholic priest in Newcastle in the 1970s.[6] It has been alleged that the Archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson, knew about clerical sexual abuse when serving in the NSW diocese of Maitland-Newcastle in the late 1970s and 1980s[4].

Diocese of Wagga Wagga

In 2002, Vincent Kiss, 70, was sentenced in the Sydney District Court to ten and a half years in jail (eligible for parole after seven years) for sex crimes against four teenage boys, aged 13 to 17, between 1966 and 1973 at locations including Albury, Yass and Sydney. He pleaded guilty to three charges of "the abominable act of buggery" and ten of indecent assault.[7]

Diocese of Wollongong

In 1993, the Illawarra Mercury exposed Gwynneville parish priest Father Peter Lewis Comensoli and Brother Michael Evans.[8][9] Comensoli was later named during the Wood Royal Commission.[10] At trial, he pleaded guilty to assaulting two boys aged 11 and 17 and admitted he used alcohol, pornography and gifts to ingratiate himself to his victims. He was jailed for 18 months in October 1994.[11]

In 2010, Kelvin Gerald Sharkey, 83, was sentenced in the Wollongong District Court to at least 15 months jail for sexually abusing an altar boy on three occasions between 1969 and 1975 when Sharkey was parish priest of St John Vianney's church at Fairy Meadow and at St Bernard's church at Batemans Bay.[12]

Archdiocese of Melbourne

  • Michael Charles Glennon - sentenced to 22 years jail with a non-parole period of 15 years for sexually abusing four Aboriginal boys between 1984 and 1991[13]
  • Wilfred James Baker - sentenced to four years in prison with a non-parole period of two years on 16 counts of indecent assault and one count of gross indecency involving eight boys aged 10 to 13 over a 20-year period between 1960 and 1979.[14]
  • David Daniel - sentenced to six years jail with a non-parole period of four years and six months for molesting four boys, a girl and an adult male. [15]
  • Rex Elmer - abuser sentenced in 1998 to five years jail with a non-parole period of 3 years and 4 months for molesting 12 boys at St Vincent's orphanage in South Melbourne. [16]
  • Terence Goodall, convicted of indecent assault in 2006 for a crime committed in 1982.

Diocese of Ballarat

  • Gerry Francis Ridsdale - has pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting a total of 41 children (comprising 40 boys and one girl). He is serving a total jail sentence of 28 years with a non-parole period of 19 years; he will be eligible for parole in 2013. [17]

Archdiocese of Brisbane

In 1998 Francis Edward Derriman sentenced to 12 months jail (suspended after serving four months) after being found guilty of indecently dealing with a teenage girl. [18]

Diocese of Townsville

  • Neville Joseph Creen - molested young girls while he served as a priest at Mount Isa, north-west Queensland (in the Townsville diocese), from 1973 to 1981. In Brisbane District Court on 12 September 2003, Creen (aged 63) was sentenced to three-and-half years' jail with a 14 month minimum after admitting to 34 indecent dealing charges involving 18 girls under the age of 13. One girl was aged just 5 when Creen abused her at a youth camp and later at the home of her grandparents. Creen pleaded guilty to a further six charges on 4 November 2004 and was sentenced to an additional two years jail.[19]

Archdiocese of Perth

In 1995, Gerard William Dick, a self-confessed sexually abusive Christian Brother, was sentenced to three and a half years jail for 10 incidents of indecently dealing with boys aged between 8 to 10 at a Christian Brothers' orphanage in Western Australia. [20]

Diocese of Bunbury

  • Adrian Richard Van Klooster - plead guilty to four counts of indecently dealing with children under the age of 13 and was found with child pornography on his computer under the heading, "Parish Business"[21]

Archdiocese of Hobart

Marist Fathers of Tasmania

On 15 May 2007, Gregory Ferguson was sentenced to two years jail (eligible for parole after 12 months) for offences in 1971 against two boys aged 13 at Marist College, Burnie, Tasmania. On 13 December 2007 he was sentenced to an additional three years' jail for offences against a third boy.[22]

Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn

In February 2008, a teacher at Marist College Canberra, Brother John William Chute, (also known as Brother Kostka), pleaded guilty in the ACT Magistrates Court to 11 charges of indecently assaulting students of the college during the 1980s.

Pope Benedict's statement

On 19 July 2008, before a congregation of 3,400 assembled in Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral, Pope Benedict XVI lamented that child sex abuse had taken place and the pain it caused. He also condemned those responsible for it and demanded punishment for them. However, he did not state or imply that the institutional church, or any of its leaders, accepted any responsibility for what had taken place. His statement reads:

"Here I would like to pause to acknowledge the shame which we have all felt as a result of the sexual abuse of minors by some clergy and religious in this country. I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured and I assure them that, as their pastor, I too share in their suffering. ... Victims should receive compassion and care, and those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice. These misdeeds, which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation. I ask all of you to support and assist your bishops, and to work together with them in combating this evil. It is an urgent priority to promote a safer and more wholesome environment, especially for young people."

On 21 July 2008, before flying out of Australia, Pope Benedict met at St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, with two male and two female victims of sex abuse by priests. He listened to their stories and celebrated Mass with them.[23] The Premier of New South Wales, Morris Iemma, said that "Hopefully it will be a sign of righting the wrongs of the past and of a better future and better treatment by the church of the victims and their families."[24][25] Mark Fabbro, a victim of abuse and member of the Catholic Abuse Survivors Collective, said that while he was “happy to receive the apology, we still consider it indirect and insufficient”. Chris MacIsaac of the victims' rights advocacy group Broken Rites said the Pope had taken his apology further than his previous comments on the issue as he has "never put it quite so strongly before", but expressed disappointment that the Pope had not made his apology directly to sexual abuse victims. One Australian victim of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest has stated in the media: Dealing with the church itself was a hell of a lot more traumatic than dealing with the abuse. [26]

See also


  1. Broken Rites. Black Collar Crime in Australia. accessed 6 Feb 2010
  2. "Broken Rites Top Stories". Broken Rites. Retrieved 1 November 2010.
  3. Catholic brother to plead guilty to abuse ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Sep 18, 2007
  4. 4.0 4.1 Stephen Crittenden and Suzanne Smith, Archbishop's handling of abuse claims challenged. ABC News accessed 16 May 2010
  5. Cases Against clergy in Maitland-Newcastle Diocese. ABC News accessed 16 May 2010
  6. Priest sex abuse sentence delayed. ABC News 5 Feb 2010 accessed 5 Feb 2010.
  7. Father Kiss pleads guilty to sex charges The Age, August 8 2002
  8. PANPA Bulletin, September 2005, pp.56-57. murder and more during the Mercury’s 150 years. By Rod Kirkpatrick
  9. Briefing: Wonderful Wollongong, ABC Radio National, 30 August 1998. Produced by Gareth Robinson
  10. 3: A tale of Wollongong's darkest hour, Illawarra Mercury, Jodie Minus, 4 June 2009
  11. [1]
  12. Church to deregister sex abuse ex-priest Australian Broadcasting Corporation News, 30 April 2010
  13. Applause as 'evil' priest gets more jail - National -
  14. Press Release - Sex predator: the priest who got away SINS OF THE FATHER
  15. Star News Group - Hear the truth - By Kath Gannaway
  16. 104 Australian Catholic clergy sentenced in Broken Rites cases
  17. Former priest pleads guilty to child abuse - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
  18. perpad
  19. Poynter Online - Abuse Tracker
  20. Politicians are being deceived
  21. Bishop's plea after priest convicted
  22. Pedophile May Get Parole after One Years Prison, Catholic News [Australia], May 17, 2007
  23. The Australian.2008 [online]. [Accessed 21 July 2008]. Available from World Wide Web:<,25197,24049778-601,00.html>
  24., Pope's Australia sex abuse apology not enough -- critics
  26. Nick McKenzie and Rafael Epstein. Priests kept working despite investigations Sydney Morning Herald May 17, 2010 accessed 16 May 2010

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