A priest is charged with child-sex offences dating back nearly 40 years

On 22 August 2008, New South Wales detectives charged an 81-year-old Catholic priest with a series of child sex offences, dating back almost 40 years. The priest was issued with a summons to appear in Wollongong Local Court on a later date.

The charges include two counts of buggery and 10 counts of indecent assault (that is, indecent touching).

The charges relate to the repeated sexual assault of a former altar boy at a parish in the city of Wollongong. Police allege the offences occurred over a period from 1969 to 1976, commencing when the victim was 10 years old.

In the late 1970s, the priest was transferred from this parish to another parish in the far-north of the Wollongong diocese, bordering on Sydney's south-western suburbs.

In the 1988 Australian Catholic Directory, his address was given as care of the vicar-general of the Wollongong diocese, Fr Peter Moore.

The priest ceased having full-time or permanent parish appointments about 1988 but, right up until the charges were laid in August 2008, the Wollongong diocese continued listing him in the annual Australian Catholic Directory as one the diocese's "supplementary priests". Priests in this category are often available for casual or relieving or freelance ministry.

In the early 1990s, according to the Australian Catholic Directory, the priest was living in a unit in Warner Avenue, Wyong, north of Sydney. From 1996 onwards, he was living in a two-bedroom apartment owned by the Diocese of Wollongong in the Melbourne bayside suburb of Mordialloc. The diocese sold the unit in March 2008. A spokeswoman for the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference told a journalist on 22 August 2008 that this priest is no longer living on church-owned premises.

Police travelled to Melbourne to interview the priest.

The investigation was begun from the Warilla Detectives office, near Lake Illawarra, NSW.

Questioned by a journalist on 22 August 2008, the Bishop of Wollongong (Bishop Peter Ingham) would not say if the church knew of the alleged offences or any other allegations against the priest or whether the priest had been sanctioned over child-abuse allegations, saying that it was inappropriate to make any further comment because the matter is before the courts. 

Footnote

For legal reasons, this priest's name could not be revealed before the charges were officially filed in court. Later, as a result of the court proceedings, this priest was convicted. Therefore, Broken Rites can now reveal his name as Father Kelvin Sharkey. To see more from Broken Rites about Sharkey's court case, click HERE.