Rockhampton priest molested children in confessional
A priest from the Diocese of Rockhampton molested a brother and sister in the confessional and behaved indecently with altar boys moments before conducting Mass, a court was told yesterday.
Michael Joseph McArdle, 68, pleaded guilty in the District Court in Brisbane to a total of 62 charges, involving 56 counts of indecent dealing against boys aged under 14 and six counts against girls aged under 14.
McArdle molested 14 boys and two girls aged between eight and 13 in parishes throughout Queensland between 1965 and 1987.
The centres involved were Rockhampton and Biloela, Longreach and Jundah in central Queensland, Farleigh outside Mackay in north Queensland and Fraser Island, Monto, Gin Gin and Bundaberg in south-east Queensland.
Prosecutor Michael Byrne said McArdle molested altar boys and girls in the presbytery, vestry, the confessional and on church and school camps.
Mr Byrne said he had one boy masturbate him just 10 minutes before celebrating Mass.
"It was through the authority of his office that he had access to the complainants and because of his perception in the community of being a person of high moral standing that it took many years for his offending to come to light," Mr Byrne said.
He said McArdle's victims came forward after publicity from interviews the priest gave to a journalist, in which he admitted some of the abuse and claimed the children had wanted it "to some extent".
"They didn't resist; to some extent they wanted it," Mr McArdle allegedly said. "I'm not saying it was their fault, (just that) they didn't object."
McArdle was ordained in 1962 and retired in 1988 but was still performing private prayer services in Bundaberg until 2000.
He said he had been confronted about molestation incidents three times during his priesthood.
The sentencing hearing before Senior Judge Warren Howell is continuing.
Bishop Renews Apology and Commitment of Support to McArdle Victims (Media Release)
Paedophile priest faces sentencing (The Age/AAP)
Former Catholic priest jailed for six years for paedophilia (ABC)
Multiple false abuse claims made against Christian Brothers (Irish Catholic)
Loyola Leader Quits After Sex Allegation (AP)
Police to quiz pedophile priest (21/6/02)
Public apology for Rockhampton priest's sex abuse (17/6/02)
Diocese of Rockhampton
9 Oct 2003