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Newspaper publishes statistics on complaints against clergy

Almost one in 10 Catholic priests and brothers have been accused of sexual and emotional abuse according to the Church's records.

Figures obtained by The Sun-Herald in Sydney show that, over the past five years, 81 priests and 78 brothers in NSW and ACT were accused of sexual and emotional abuse. This means complaints have been made against 9.18 per cent of the 1732 priests and brothers in religious orders in NSW and ACT.

The paper points out that in the general population, just 0.035pc of the adult male population is charged with sex offences in NSW a year.

Church records reveal that seven priests, seven brothers and four Catholic teachers were found guilty of serious charges of sexual abuse of minors in the past five years.

A total of 230 complaints were made against the Catholic clergy in NSW and ACT over the past five years. The majority - 190 - were substantiated. Half involved sexual and emotional abuse of minors, adolescents and young adults.

The figures were revealed by John Davoren, director of the Catholic Church's Professional Standards Office for NSW and ACT.

Meanwhile a priest accused of sexually abusing a 13-year-old schoolgirl was allowed to continue ministering in Melbourne parishes until just over a week ago, after the Vatican overturned his 1996 suspension by the then archbishop, George Pell.

Fr James Barry Whelan, 67, successfully appealed to the Vatican under canon law and was reinstated to his parish in West St Kilda. He resigned late last month as the archdiocese investigated new allegations of sexual misconduct against him. Fr Whelan has denied all of the allegations.

A statement released on Friday on behalf of Dr Pell and the present Archbishop, Denis Hart, said Dr Pell did take action against Fr Whelan, suspending him from duties. However, it said the requirements of natural justice permitted a suspension for only a limited period. After that Fr Whelan resumed his appointment at the West St Kilda parish under strict conditions.

Friday's statement, by the vicar-general of the archdiocese, Monsignor Christopher Prowse, said Fr Whelan's resignation on 27 June had been accepted with immediate effect. "Fr Whelan is now officially retired," the statement said.

Sun-Herald/The Age

8 Jul 2002