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Suspended sentence for Tasmanian monsignor

Monsignor Philip Green, who was removed from active ministry last year after allegations of inappropriate behaviour, has been given a suspended three-month jail sentence on condition he behaves for two years.

Monsignor Green admitted in the Supreme Court in Hobart to groping the groin of a 22-year-old and forcefully tongue-kissing him in a car at Greens Beach, in the state's North, in 1977.

Chief Justice Peter Underwood said the crime was a gross breach of trust.

The court heard Green had been a family friend of the victim and had been consoling the family after the victim's sister had been killed in a car accident. Green had identified the sister's body for her family and interviewed police to pass on information about the accident to them. He attacked the man by grabbing his groin through his clothes and kissing him while he was sitting in his car trying to come to terms with the death of his sister.

Justice Underwood said a significant aggravating feature of the crime was that it was committed while Green was ministering to the man and his family, all traumatised by the death.

"You, as an ordained priest of the Catholic Church, held yourself out to this young man and his family as a custodian of moral values and a person in whom trust could be placed when in need," he said.

"Your public humiliation is complete for your former high standing has been transformed to disgrace and odium from which you are unlikely to recover."

Green's lawyer, Bill Ayliffe, told the court his client was 41 at the time of the crime and for reasons he could not understand he "crossed the boundary from appropriate conduct to sexual conduct". Ayliffe said Green, 69, accepted his public disgrace and deeply regretted the harm and hurt caused.

The court heard the man escaped from the car and walked away down the road. When he returned to the house he found Green and his father talking as if nothing had happened.

Prosecutor Daryl Coates, SC, said that in 2002 the man spoke to a priest about the incident and after a meeting in Launceston between him and church officials he understood Green would no longer act as a priest, and would have counselling.

But the following year he learned Green was still performing church duties, so he complained to police.

A spokesman for Catholic Archbishop Adrian Doyle said there would be no comment on the case.

A spokeswoman for Survivors Investigating Child Sex Abuse, Denise Cripps, said Green's victim had been vindicated.

Top priest avoids jail over grope (The Mercury 10/12/04)

Archdiocese of Hobart

Tasmanian priest on sex charges (CathNews 10/6/04)
Politician urges Hobart archbishop to step aside for inquiry (CathNews 10/11/03)
Tasmanian archbishop's remorse for complaints handling (CathNews 30/10/03)
Tasmanian archbishop backed on sex abuse stance (CathNews 27/10/03)

Priest convicted of indecent assault (The Courier Mail/Australian Associated Press 9/12/04)
Disgrace of the dedicated monsignor (The Mercury 10/12/04)

Texas Bishop Denies Telling Priest to Flee (Associated Press/ 9/12/04)
Priest sex conviction to spark new appointment (ABC News 8/12/04)
Church Abuse: Theatre Artists Go For the Ambiguous ( 7/12/04)
Spokane becomes third U.S. diocese to file for bankruptcy (Catholic News Service 7/12/04)
US: Record payout to abuse victims (Online Catholics 8/12/04)
Religious order to build memorial to abuse victims (Chicago Sun-TImes 8/12/04)
Former priest's two-year sentence (The Mercury 9/12/04)
Priest found guilty of teen sex charges (ABC/Yahoo 7/12/04)
Priest found guilty of sex charges (ABC Northern Tasmania 7/12/04)
Diocese in Spokane Files for Bankruptcy (The Guardian/Associated Press 7/12/04)

10 Dec 2004