Catholic priest Hugh Edward Murray was a danger to young boys

  • By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 28 June 2018

The Catholic order of Vincentian priests knowingly harboured a pedophile priest, Father Hugh Edward Murray, for 50 years while he remained a danger to young boys in schools and parishes around Australia. These boys were forced, by the church's holy image, to remain silent for many years -- and this silence disrupted their later lives. In recent years (with help from Broken Rites), some of Murray's victims have finally extracted settlements from the Vincentian Order to compensate them for their damaged lives. Compared with other Catholic religious orders in Australia, the Vincentian priests and brothers have included a higher-than-average number of offenders against children. Father Murray's schools included the notorious St Stanislaus College at Bathurst, New South Wales.

Many years ago, after being contacted by various victims of Fr Hugh Edward Murray, Broken Rites began researching this priest's career.

Born about 1930, Murray was ordained in the late 1950s as a Catholic priest in the Vincentian Fathers religious order, which is also called the Congregation of the Mission. This is an Australia-wide order with addresses in several states.

Father Hugh Murray ministered at various Vincentian addresses, mainly in Sydney (at Eastwood and Marsfield). He also spent time in Bathurst, ministering at St Stanislaus College (a boys' boarding school, which was a haven for paedophiles). His other appointments were in Victoria (at Bendigo and Malvern) and in Western Australia (at a parish in Medina, Perth). See more details of his career later in this article.

Court case in 2009-2011

In 2009, Hugh Edward Murray appeared before a Sydney magistrate, charged with multiple counts of indecently assaulting boys between 1966 and 1978. The events, allegedly involving three boys, allegedly occurred in Sydney and Bathurst. The police investigation was conducted by detectives from Bathurst.

The magistrate sent the case on to the Sydney District Court, to be dealt with by a judge.

The case came up in the Sydney District Court in September 2010. Murray's lawyer told Judge Greg Woods that Murray, then aged 81, was suffering from serious health problems and dementia. The lawyer claimed that, therefore, Murray was unfit to stand trial. A medical witness, appearing for the defence, said that because of the dementia, Murray's "capacity to give evidence under the stress of cross examination about matters from several decades ago ... would be deemed to be seriously compromised."

The defence doctor said: "To ask Father Murray about events that had occurred previously is, in terms of my view ... entirely inappropriate."

On 9 September 2010 Judge Greg Woods concluded that Hugh Edward Murray was unfit to face the proposed trial, which would have been a lengthy one. The Crown case involved three separate cases and it was proposed to call evidence from possible "tendency and coincidence" witnesses.

"The possible Crown witnesses alone may total 43," the judge said. The trial could run from one to three months.

While Murray may be fit to appear for a quite short trial, the judge concluded he was unfit for the proposed hearing, even if the court sat for only an hour or two each day.

"Let me make plain my view that this is a regrettable and frustrating outcome," Judge Woods said. "It is, nonetheless, an outcome which the evidence and the law requires."

While it was not his role to explore how or why the claims were not raised decades earlier, Justice Woods noted material showing the "numerous transfers and movements" of Murray during his career.

"I emphasise, however, that nothing in this judgement is a criticism of the complainants in relation to the long delay," he said.

But the judge spoke of the possibility that the Catholic Church and "those who have directed Father Murray's movements over the years" may bear some responsibility for this "frustrating impasse".

Nonetheless, said the judge. the fact was that "at this point, the opportunity to conduct a fair trial of these allegations has passed".

Finally, on 29 July 2011 (by which time Murray was a year older), Judge Greg Woods granted Hugh Edward Murray a permanent stay (that is, a permanent stoppage of the case) on account of his age and health.

Murray's career in detail

After being ordained as a priest in the late 1950s, Father Hugh Murray spent time of various addresses. For example:

Research by Broken Rites has ascertained that, by 1959, Murray was ministering at St Vincent's College (a boarding school, now defunct) at Bendigo in northern Victoria, and he evidently spent several years there. He had another stint at this Bendigo school in the late 1970s.

During the mid-1960s, he was listed at St Vincent's parish in Ashfield (Sydney) and, next, at Medina parish in Perth.

Between 1967 and 1987, he spent about twenty years living often at Joseph's Seminary, in Eastwood, Sydney. which was the Formation House for the Australian Province of the Vincentians. This seminary was near St Anthony's parish church, Marsfield. Murray was not at Eastwood EVERY year: e.g., about 1971, he was at St Joseph's parish in Malvern, Melbourne (a parish staffed by Vincentians). The Eastwood seminary building was later re-born as "Curzon Hall", catering for weddings and corporate events

While stationed at the Vincentians' Eastwood residence, Murray was also a school chaplain at the Marist Brothers Eastwood boys' school (from fourth class through to Year 12) for several years in the late sixties and early seventies. He had close contact with the students, including hearing their private confessions. A former Eastwood pupil has told Broken Rites that Murray was sometimes referred to as "Huge" Murray because of his substantial stature.

Also, during his long career, Murray spent time working at St Stanislaus College, a boarding school in Bathurst, NSW, where he was certainly not the only paedophile Vincentian.

From January 1985 to December 1987, Murray also served as the Parish Priest (i.e., the person in charge) at the Marsfield parish.

After December 1987, Murray left the Marsfield parish to become a chaplain to people with HIV/AIDS, and he was based at Tempe House in Arncliffe, Sydney.

From 1995 onwards, Reverend Hugh Edward Murray was listed as "in retirement", living at a Vincentian communal house in Marsfield, Sydney.

After the Sydney District Court placed a permanent stay on Murray's criminal charges in 2011, he lived out his final years at St Catherine's aged-care facility, a short distance from his previous address) .

After he died in August 2017, there was merely a brief mention in the Marsfield parish newsletter, giving the date of his funeral (August 28) at Sydney's Rookwood cemetery, where a section is reserved for Vincentian clergy. Broken Rites could find no newspaper or other reference to Hugh Edward Murray's death and/or funeral. Was it all hushed up by the Vincentians?