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Catholic Church priest Australian courts in recent years for sexual offences


Here is a list of Catholic Church leaders who have already been through the Australian courts in recent years for sexual offences. The list is not complete as some offenders slip through the courts unnoticed. The list includes 50 priesets and Brothers, plus 13 lay personnel (mostly teachers). Broken Rites supported the victims during these cases.


Fr Wilfred (Bill) Baker, Melb., 2-4 years;
Christian Brother Robert Best, Vic. (now at Parkville), served 3 months in jail 1998 (also had a 9-mths suspended sentence in 1996); Brian Cairns, Catholic schools principal, Qld., 7 yrs; Marist Brother Gregory Carter, Qld., 12-18 months; Fr Richard Cattell, Parramatta, 2-3 yrs; Fr Peter Comensoli, Wollongong, 18 mths; John Patrick Coogan, Catholic lay teacher, Geelong, 3-5 yrs; Fr Francis Derriman, ex-Brisbane (later Ballarat), 4-12 mths; Christian Brother Gerard William Dick, WA, 3 yrs; Christian Brother Edward Dowlan, Vic., 6.5 yrs after appeal; Fr Reginald Durham, Rockhampton, 7.5 yrs; Christian Brother Rex Elmer, Vic., 3 yrs 4 mths to 5 yrs; Fr Desmond Gannon, Melb, jailed 12 mths, 1995, plus suspended sentence 1997; Fr Michael Glennon, Melb., 7-9 yrs (released 1997); ex-Marist Brother Brian Gordon, Sydney & Brisbane, 12 mths min.; Patrician Brother Thomas ("Augustine") Grealy, Sydney, 4-7 yrs; James Richard Gunn, Vic., Catholic primary school principal, 3.5 yrs to 5.5 yrs; Phillip Hardy, Catholic teacher and trainee priest, NSW, 7 yrs; Ronald W. Hopkins, former trainee Christian Brother, SA, 2 yrs; Michael Lannen, Catholic psychologist, Qld., 4 yrs; De La Salle Brother Frank "Ibar" Keating, Melb. (later Qld. and SA), 8 to 36 mths; Fr Leo Leunig, WA, 7 yrs; St John of God Brother Bernard K. McGrath, 9 mths Sydney 1997 & 3 yrs New Zealand 1993; Fr Ronald McKeirnan, Brisbane, 1-3 yrs; former Marist Brother "Oswald" McNamara, jailed Brisbane 1995; Fr Gerard Mulvale, Pallottine order, Melb., 18-36 mths; Christian Brother Damian O'Dempsey, Qld, 18 mths; Fr Kevin O'Donnell, Melb., 15 mths; Fr "Joseph" Pritchard, St Gerard Majella order, Parramatta, 1997, 4-6 yrs; Fr David Rapson, Salesian priest, Vic, 2 yrs; Fr Gerald Ridsdale, Ballarat dioc., 15-18 yrs; Chr. Bro. "Greg" Francis Riley, NSW, 3 yrs; Fr Stephen Robinson, St Gerard Majella order, Parramatta, 18 mths min.; Fr Vincent G. Ryan, Maitland dioc., 2-4 yrs (1996) plus 11-16 yrs (1997); Jack Shea, ex-priesthood trainee, Melb., 1-3 yrs; Terence Simpkins, Catholic schools teacher, NSW, 3 yrs; Marist Brother Gregory Sutton, NSW, 13.5 yrs to 18 yrs ; Fr John Sweeney, St Gerard Majella order, Parramatta, 18-27 mths; Alan Swingler, ex-trainee Marist Brother , Vic, 5-7 yrs; Alan Walters, Catholic schools teacher, Sydney, 3 yrs; Fr Leo Wright, Qld., 3 yrs (1995) &18 mths (1997).

Other Jail Sentences

Catholic schools lay teacher Anthony Attard, Melb., 29 mths jail, suspended; Fr Bryan Coffey, Ballarat dioc., 3yrs jail, suspended; Fr Douglan Conlan, Bunbury dioc.,WA, 3 yrs jail, suspended; Gregory Coffey, ex-Salesian priesthood trainee, 1 yr jail (suspended) SA 1972 & 2.5 yrs jail (suspended) Vic. 1998; Fr Raymond Deal, Melb., 4 mths jail, suspended; Marist Bro. John Dyson, Vic., 12 mths jail, served in community; Fr Anthony b, Melb., 6 mths jail, suspended; Christian Brother Stephen Farrell, 2 yrs jail, suspended; Fr Kevin Howarth Sandhurst dioc., 3 mths jail, served in community; Fr Francis Klep, Salesian priest, Vic., 9 mths jail, served in community; former Christian Brother Terence Simpson, Brisbane, 2 yrs jail, suspended.

Non-Custodial Sentences for Sexually Abusing Boys

Marist Brother David Christian, ex-WA (now in Templestowe, Vic.); Fr Robert Claffey, Ballarat dioc.; Christopher D'Astoli, ex-priesthood trainee, Vic.; Mark Christropher Dean, Bendigo, Catholic school vice-principal; Christian Brother William Hocking, NSW; Ernest Anthony Jones, teacher, Catholic schools, NSW; Christian Brother "Fabian" John Jordan, Vic. (now SA); Marist Brother "Nestor" John Littler, NSW, 1993; Christian Brother William Marchant, WA; Fr. Victor Rubeo, Melb.; DeLaSalle Brother "George" A.M. Taylor, NSW; Fr John Treacey, Sandhurst dioc., Vic.

Non-Custodial Sentences for Sexually Abusing Females

Fr Desmond Joseph Brown, a Redemptorist, Vic. & NSW; Marist Brother Francis Hesford, formerly Vic., now WA.

Other Non-Custodial Sentences Include

Fr Rex Brown, ex-Lismore NSW, now Palm Beach Qld; child pornography; Fr Peter Colley, Warrnambool West, indecent assault of adult male; Fr Edward Hewitt, WA, wilful exposure; Michael Kehoe, religion teacher, Clairvauax-MacKillop College, Brisbane, imported child pornography; Fr Bruce Little, Brisbane dioc., now at Noosa, indecent act with another male in a public toilet; Fr Tabusz Swiatkowski (Society of Christ order), Brisbane 1994 (now at Mayfield West, Newcastle), soliciting a prostitute.

Committed Suicide During Prosecution Process

Christian Brother Michael Evans, NSW ; Marist Brother Raymond Foster, Qld and NSW; former Christian Brother John Gladwin, Qld; Fr Jack Gubbels, Melb. and Townsville; Fr Daniel Hourigan,
Sale dioc.

Other Deaths During Prosecution

Fr Herbert Balding SJ; Fr Nazzareno Fasciale, Melb.; Marist Brother "Malcolm" Hall, Vic.; Fr John O'Regan (Oblate Fathers, Qld & WA).

Other Offences

Fr Peter Searson, Doveton, Vic., physically assaulting an altar boy, good-behaviour bond; former Marist Brother "Oswald" McNamara, physical assault of a schoolboy, good-behaviour bond, Sydney 1999. The following were jailed for financial misappropriation: Fr Brian King,
Wollongong; Fr Vincent Kiss, Wagga Wagga and Melb.; Fr Brian Wallis, Melbourne.

Church Hid a Priest's Crimes for 30 years

The Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane has been harbouring and protecting a high-ranking paedophile priest, Father Ronald McKeirnan, for 30 years since it first learned that he was committing criminal offences against children. The church covered up the crimes and continued to give him access to children. It even permitted him to live at a children's hospital.

McKeirnan, 60, the former director of Catholic Education in Brisbane, pleaded guilty in the Brisbane District Court recently to sexually abusing nine boys in his care. The offences occurred between 1964 and 1977 when McKeirnan was acting as an assistant parish priest or as a school chaplain at various Catholic schools or as a scoutmaster. Some serious charges were dropped in a plea bargain. McKeirnan was sentenced to three years' jail, with parole after one year.

Even in his first parish (Sandgate) in the early 1960s, there were complaints that McKeirnan was interfering with boys from a local Catholic school. The complaints went to
Brisbane's Archbishop Patrick O'Donnell but were ignored.

In McKeirnan's subsequent parishes, further complaints reached the hierarchy about McKeirnan interfering with boys. In 1974, to pacify parents, the hierarchy sent McKeirnan to the
United States for treatment as a sex offender. On return, the hierarchy appointed him to Brisbane's Catholic Education Office, where he spent the next 20 years, as deputy director.

During 1975-95, the church continued to give McKeirnan access to young people, and some of the charges relate to this period. For example, he was evidently a pan-time chaplain at St Laurence's
Christian Brothers College at South Brisbane. He also lived for some years at the Christian Brothers training college in Indooroopilly. In the 1990s he lived at Xavier Hospital for crippled children, Coorparoo.

In 1996, McKeirnan was chairman of the Archdiosesan Planning and Staffing of Parishes Committee, which was responsible for taking the archdiocese into the 21st century.

Furthermore, as the coordinator of Faith Education Services, he was in charge of religious education and sex education for all
Brisbane Catholic schools. People who spoke to the diocesan authorities about McKeirnan were told that the hierarchy would act only on written complaints. The complainants, however, were reluctant to write for fear of retribution in their job. This enabled the hierarchy to dismiss the allegations against McKeirnan as "unsubstantiated gossip".

Several times, when people complained to the church authorities about McKeirnan in accordance with the church's complaints procedure, the authorities tipped off McKeirnan about the complaint, including the name of the complainant. This enabled McKeirnan to threaten the complainants with a defamation action.

Clergy say that the hierarchy sometimes acts on a complaint about other priests - eg, by transferring them to a new parish against their wishes. However (the clergy say), the authorities were always reluctant to consider the complaints against McKeirnan. It is not clear why the church authorities were protecting McKeirnan. Was it because he knew too much? Did he possess potentially embarrassing knowledge about senior clerics?

Finally, in 1996, the
Brisbane Courier Mail began exposing the protection of McKeirnan. The hierarchy panicked, and McKeirnan publicly stood down from his positions. A senior priest, who had responsibility for handling sexual abuse allegations about clergy (including McKeirnan), resigned from this responsibility.

In 1997, McKeirnan appeared in
Brisbane Magistrate's Court, charged with 27 counts of indecent assault and indecent dealing, involving 13 boys, aged between 12 and 15. At first, McKeirnan contested the charges which involved either groping or masturbating the boys. The court was told that McKeirnan gave alcohol and cigarettes to boys while on camping trips and then, after they had loosened up, he molested them. He also molested boys during choir practice, while swimming, while teaching them to drive a car, and even while waiting for a church service. He allegedly inserted a thermometer into the anus of a boy during a first-aid course.

In the
Brisbane District Court on 19 October 1998, McKeirnan finally pleaded guilty concerning nine boys (in 1964-5 and in 1975-7) and was jailed. Archbishop John Bathersby immediately issued a press statement, saying that the Catholic Church [unlike the rest of the community] had previously had "no clear understanding of sexual offences against children and minors".

[However, Archbishop Bathersby must be aware that sexual abuse of children has always been against the law, and that such crimes ought to have been reported to the police 30 years ago. Instead, the church protected McKeirnan until the police busted the cover-up in 1996.] In addition to these charges of under-age sex, there have been complaints about McKeirnan by senior staff at the
Australian Catholic University, Brisbane. He also disappeared from the part-time staff of Brisbane's Banyo seminary.